Kelly Monaco Sent Her Own Photos to Playboy, Immediately Became a Playmate

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Kelly Marie Monaco is a multifaceted legend. Perhaps you’ve heard of her as the first person to ever win Dancing with the Stars. Or maybe you know her from General Hospital. If you’ve been around long enough, you might remember that she made her first big step towards world fame by being in Playboy. It’s not the usual path for an actress or a world-famous dancer, but it was Kelly Monaco’s — and it worked!

Monaco Sent Playboy Her Own Photos in 1996 and Became Playmate of the Month in 1997

Kelly Monaco has got some serious tenacity. She was born on May 23, 1976. In 1996, she wanted to be a model. After taking years of theatre in high school and working as a lifeguard, the 5’3”, 95-pound wonder woman decided to send her own photos to Playboy. It worked. Shortly after, she was Playboy’s April 1997 Playmate of the Month.

Kelly grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania as the middle child of 5 sisters. Her family spent a lot of time outdoors, and so she did it all. She hiked, climbed trees, camped, swam, and even figure skated, thanks to being taught by her mom.

Kelly Monaco’s Career as a Lifeguard Inspired Her April 1997 Playboy Shoot

Playboy took the outdoor theme and the fact that Kelly had worked as a lifeguard for 5 years and ran with it. The magazine published a series of photos of Kelly Monaco in a barely-there white t-shirt that said “Lifeguard.” Bottoms were usually not present and if they were, they weren’t doing much. Sometimes, she had a whistle. She’s usually lounging poolside or looking like she means business, and I’m talking about the off-duty kind. Richard Fegley was the photographer.

“One night, I had to make three saves,” Monaco told Playboy. “There’s this adrenaline rush that I can’t explain.” She added that she’d revived an unconscious boy at one point. “It’s an amazing feeling to know that if you hadn’t been there, this person may have died.”

Playboy went on to pose a question that probably helped shoot Monaco to success:

“With four years of high school drama classes and five years of lifeguarding under her bikini, might Kelly be destined to follow the path of Playmate predecessors Pamela Anderson and Donna D’Errico to the set of Baywatch? Kelly would like that very much. But if it doesn’t happen, we’re sure she’ll find a way to make waves of her own.”


Monaco Was the First Person to Win Dancing with the Stars

As it happened, Kelly Monaco did go on to act in Baywatch. She did so that very year, playing the role of Susan. She also posed as Carmen Electra’s body double because Electra didn’t know how to swim! Monaco was on Baywatch for three episodes and then scored some small roles in films like Idle Hands, BASEketball, and Mumford. But her big break came in 2003 when she landed the starring role of Sam McCall in General Hospital. She’s still on the show today and has been in 2,154 episodes!

In 2005, Monaco became the first person to win Dancing with the Stars, winning the first season. She returned in 2012 and 2017, winning third place in 2012.

Kelly Monaco continued posing for Playboy, too. Her tiny petite frame and voluptuous breasts gave her an impossible physique that drove men wild. She has been featured in several special edition pictorials. One of them was the infamous February 2000 “Wet Dreams” shoot alongside August 1997 Playmate Kalin Olson and January 1996 Playmate Victoria Fuller.

The Playboy “Wet Dreams” Pictorial

The “Wet Dreams” shoot featured nude Playboy models scuba diving with dolphins in Fiji. Monaco and others were also photographed naked, adorned with island-style jewelry. She’s seen leaning against palm trees in a starfish belt and pouring water from a giant shell onto her stomach while wearing nothing but a tribal necklace. In some shots, she’s naked and lying in the sand or just lounging on the surface of the ocean alongside other models. It’s quite fitting for the lifeguard-turned superstar and she totally looks like she’s in her element.

On her Playboy Profile page, Kelly’s got some words of insight. She claims that most people don’t see her bold nature, but I have to disagree. Monaco calls herself “very daring. You don’t have to ask me twice. Success comes with bold and creative moves.”

It’s clear that Kelly Monaco is appreciative of her time with Playboy, too. After all, would she have ever been on Baywatch and eventually General Hospital if she’d never been Miss April? If you look at her social media, she’s posted throwbacks to her time with Hugh Hefner and her “Playboy Family.”

And as far as her words of advice, Monaco can fall back on true experience. “The straight paved road won’t always get you farther than the winding dirt road,” she said. If anyone could prove that to be true, it’s Kelly Monaco!

Read More: How Barbi Benton Became a Playboy Playmate

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