Cover model talks to feminists
By Marsha Recknagel
The "best li'l ole honey in
Texas,"* Brenda Davis, has discovered that life in the Houston
ad world is not always sugar and
Speaking with a h'vely animation that comes from her
years of teaching deaf children,
Davis, 25, who has appeared on
the cover of Texas Monthly on
three occasions,* talks about her
"I have learned that not
everyone is sincere and trustworthy," explains Davis, who
found that out the hard way.
When she first started modeling, a photographer took stock
photos (similar to test shots) of
her. A year later her pictures
began to appear on the covers
of national confessional magazines. One of the cover photos
was headlined "I'm pregnant
with my brother's baby-and
the worst is yet to come." She
sued the photographer who sold
her photos (for $100 each without her permission) to these
More recently she posed for
a health spa ad which appeared
in both daily papers over the
past months. She had agreed to
the ad but not to the bold headline on a profile figure of herself
which read, "I want your body.
And, I want it now."
Davis could not believe that
the Post and Chronicle would
even run "such* tasteless ads."
She protested by having her
female attorney write a strong
letter of warning to the health
"I see why feminists were
repulsed. I was repulsed," says
Davis, who is beginning to realize that feminists have been
offended by much of her modeling work.
For two years she has been
the calendar girl for a local utility ad, which resembles the WWII
pin-up calendars, with Davis pictured seductively over the ad's
appeal to call "the Cutest Little
Number in Town."* This is actually the number to call for information on the location of
underground power lines before
any construction begins.
"At first I was scared to
show the calendar to my parents, especially my father," grins
Davis, who says that now her
parents have the utility calendar
hanging on their wall. And even
her grandparents have it on their
wall in Louisiana.
"I want it understood," she
says "that I feel the calendar is
an excellent piece of work-done
with class. And, I will continue
to do it if asked."
Thumbing through her portfolio, Davis muses over her
various modeling jobs. "They
(feminists) would probably not
like these," smiles the brown-
eyed woman, referring to the
photographs that range from
cheesecake to sophisticated
evening wear shots, from jewelry
and the sleek high fashion look
to lolling in a bathtub with few
bubbles, to the mother role ads,
depicting Davis, with her hair
pulled back and high-necked
dresses stirring soup with photogenic hands.
Does she see herself as a sex
object? Thinking for a second,
she replies, "No, I have just
never really thought about it before. I lived at home through
college. Then dated for two
years and got married."
"I want to tell
feminists that this is
my job, it is hard work
and I take pride in it."
But the women's movement
has helped boost her confidence,
claims Davis, who believes the
movement has given her courage
in her career. Maybe an ironic
viewpoint from the woman
whose picture on July's Texas
Monthly greets you from the
newsstand with a sexy, c'mon
"I want feminists to understand that my Texas Monthly
work has helped my career, not
hindered it-and I want to do
She also has a desire to use
her past work as a springboard
to radio and television.
She laughs, recalling a
beauty pageant she entered five
years ago in Beaumont, Texas,
to win a college scholarship. She
did a pantomime act and then
faced the judges for the two big
questions, one funny and one
serious. She answered the humorous one and had the people
laughing. "Great! That went
well," thought Davis. Then the
judges asked her what she
thought of the feminist movement. Feminist movement? She
had no idea what that meant and
while she struggled with a response, she saw her boyfriend,
now her husband, squirming
down in his seat.
To the astonishment of the
audience she replied, "Well, I
like looking feminine. Dressing
up. Being lady-like." She found
out later she had blown it!
But that was years ago and
she now knows who feminists
are and refers to them as the elusive "they" who criticize her
work and take offense at some
of her photographic poses.
"I want to tell the feminists
that this is my job, it is hard
work and I take pride in it. I
am professional," emphasizes
Davis, whose usually high voice
lowers to a sterner tone at this.
"But in the last few months
I have become more aware,"
she explains. "I watch the television commercials, seeing the
women happily scrubbing floors.
I could never do that." Yet
asked if she would portray the
stereotypical housewife in commercials, there is no hesitation.
"Of course. If I could get
national coverage. That's a lot
of money," replies Davis, who
put herself through college
working as a Sears clerk.
Like other experienced and
professional models, Davis raises
her fee (per hour rate) in hopes
of sifting out "sleazy" ads from
"classy" ads. As a professional
model she wants to be taken
seriously. She carefully checks
out all aspects of each assignment before she agrees to model.
And ;he has learned to say 'no.'
She is amazed at the long
way she has come from the
sheltered girl who arrived in
Houston with a new husband
and a degree in speech and hearing therapy a few years ago.
There is a feeling that comes
from talking with Davis that she
has come a long way. In the
confessional magazines and
health spa ad she felt exploited.
For the first time she could identify with feminists. And she
took it upon herself to warn
other models about the photographers and ads.
"I wanted to tSilk to Breakthrough," says Davis, "because I
don't think they will rip me to
shreds as I feel the ad did."
As I leave, Davis leaves me
with a parting word. "I never
meant to offend anyone with
my work," she said, "and my
husband, who is in real estate,
hires women. Tell them he even
hires women painters," she adds
as an afterthought.
*Texas Monthly cover (July 1976).
Davis appears with the TM editor
who says "Hi! I'm Richard West
with the best li'l ole honey in
Texas..." He is sitting and holds up
a jar of honey. She is standing and
holds onto his knee...
*ln addition to TM, July 1976, Davis
was one of the three stewardesses on
the December 1975 cover (see Dead
Pans, Breakthrough, January 1976)
and she posed for an illustration of a
waitress on the May 1976 cover
(see Pats & Pans, Breakthrough, May
*See Dead Pans, Breakthrough, April
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