A 21-year-old County Galway model has been invited to spend the summer in Los Angeles with Playboy boss Hugh Hefner.
Shahira Barry, who works with Assets Model Agency in Dublin, will travel to the United States in June and will spend weekends at the magazine publisher’s lavish mansion.
The Athenry model first visited his Californian headquarters in September following an invitation from Mr Hefner (86 ) who got married for the third time on New Year’s Eve. His new bride is 60 years his junior.
She said then she had a few misgivings initially about meeting the Playboy boss because she did not want “everybody thinking that is the route my career is going”.
“I know lots of girls dream of this [modelling for Playboy] but it has never been my dream,” said Shahira who holds a degree in primary school teaching.
But after visiting the mansion, with her best friend, she said it was the highlight of her working holiday. She said she had a great time - far better than she could have imagined.
The 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.
“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 and had dinner with Hef.
“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. 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 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 said then 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 has been modelling since April 2010 having been 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 former Celebrity Big Brother star Georgia Salpa.
She is looking forward to her summer trip to LA. “I was always aware I had an open invite back to the mansion but would have thought I had to arrange in advance, etc. However now my name will be on an exclusive list with mansion security which will allow me to come and go as I please every weekend for the duration of my stay in LA.
“I am really excited as so many cool people hang around the mansion on weekends,” she enthuses. “My favourite rapper Snoop Dogg had his birthday there just a couple of months ago on a Friday night and to meet him would be amazing. My exclusive invite will allow me to attend the array of lavish parties that will be held throughout the summer. I am most excited to watch the firework display on the 4th of July and to attend the Mid-Summers Night’s Dream Party which is the biggest annual party at the mansion and is known to attract a bevy of A-listers from Chris Brown to the Kardashians and all in-between. ”
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.”