A County Galway model who was invited to visit Playboy boss Hugh Hefner’s mansion in Los Angeles says she is having the time of her life there.
Shahira Barry from Athenry, who works with Assets Model Agency in Dublin, was initially invited by the American magazine publisher’s private secretary to visit his headquarters in California in May.
However due to work commitments she was unable to take him up on the offer but decided to make the trip earlier this month accompanied by her best friend from Galway.
The 21-year-old model, whose grandmother was from Connemara and her grandfather from Bangladesh, had two photo shoots for another US magazine and a press shoot lined up before she left.
She said she had a few misgivings about meeting the Playboy bosses because she did not want “everybody thinking that is the route my career is going”.
“I don’t mind meeting them but I am not keen to be known for that especially,” she told this newspaper before she left Ireland. “I know lots of girls dream of this [modelling for Playboy] but it has never been my dream,” said Shahira, who graduated from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick in October with a Bachelor of Education degree.
But now she says visiting the Playboy mansion has been the highlight of her working holiday. “I’m having a really great time - far better than I could have imagined. It was nerve-racking going but I was delighted Playboy let me bring my best friend, Tina.
“We were nervous and intimidated going but the minute we arrived we felt right at home. Everyone from the staff to the other girls to Hugh Hefner’s friends and the man himself were all so welcoming and friendly. I have never met such lovely people. There was no sleaziness whatsoever as some may expect with Playboy. We lounged by the pool, danced in the grotto, had dinner with Hef and watched the premiere of the Rush which isn’t even out in cinemas yet.
“I was invited back whenever I like and we went back again on Sunday. We are also invited to a huge night time club party at the mansion on September 15 which is the day we fly out -we might try to find a way around it! The pool party was very exclusive, only approximately 15/20 people invited. We went on a private yacht another day with people we met at the mansion, we were also invited to a party on a luxury estate in the Hollywood Hills on Saturday last. That was great fun! Hef was a gentleman, so nice and welcoming he was just saying it was lovely to meet me and I'm very welcome any time. He was funny and kept shouting ‘It’s movie time’ before the film started. He didn’t mention Ireland but I told him how jet lagged I was from my long flight from Ireland and he was just sympathising, making small talk about the flight. His mansion is amazing - way better in person and the grounds are beautiful.”
She says she has not made a decision yet about posing for the magazine which featured the late movie star Marilyn Monroe in its first edition in 1953.
“As far as posing for Playboy I’d never say never, we’ll see how it all unfolds. But I’ve never been set on doing it and have a few other exciting things to work on too. However if anything meeting Hef and going to the mansion made me more for it than I had been previously. I was unsure what to expect and had a few worries going there but there was zero sleaziness whatsoever and I just felt that I fitted in straight away with the mansion staff and everyone there. They were all so lovely. I’ve never felt so welcomed and everyone loved my accent.”
The Galway model, who has graced the daily newspapers on a regular basis and has been named as the face of an international company based in China, has no regrets about turning her back on a career as a primary teacher. She was signed as one of Assets Model Agency’s New Faces after attending an open day organised by the company in the capital.
Her career has gone from success to success since then. She was one of the finalists in an international modelling competition, took part in a new RTE gameshow and has been compared by the Irish tabloids to the well known Greek-Irish model and Celebrity Big Brother star Georgia Salpa.
The Athenry graduate, who has been modelling since April 2010, says her career really “took off” in January of this year.
“I was on the front of the Irish Sun amd that sent my Facebook page up 1,000 likes in a day. Today I have 5,112 likes. I am still with Assets and got a lot of work over the summer. I did a National Lottery press call recently, I do a lot of press calls.”
She hopes modelling will open doors in entertainment for her. “I’ve dreamed of being on stage since I was three. I love doing modelling but didn’t grow up with dreams of being a model. It’s good to have different avenues to pursue, more strings to your bow.”
She is proud of her success and attributes it to drive and hard work. “I’m proud of it. I’ve worked for it myself, I was not handed anything on a plate.”