Amy Biviano, the Democratic challenger in a high-profile battle for a legislative seat representing Spokane Valley, is defending a 1995 topless photo shoot with Playboy magazine as a confidence-building experience while she attended Yale University.
In an interview Friday, following a conservative website’s disclosure that Biviano appeared in a “Women of the Ivy League” edition of the popular men’s magazine, Biviano said she doesn’t regret the photo shoot but wouldn’t do it again as a mother.
“It was one of the youthful college kinds of things. I was interested in pushing my limits,” Biviano said Friday. “This was my small act of rebellion.”
Biviano, who said she earned less than $500 for the pose, is running against incumbent Republican state Rep. Matt Shea, who called the revelations “alarming” in a news release on Friday.
When Biviano, then Amy Nabors, was a college junior, her Playboy debut sparked anger among some feminists on the Yale campus. But Biviano argued she was a feminist, too, and that she had a right to pose if she wanted.
Biviano, now 37, said her topless photo shoot already was known among her friends and her sons because she’s never tried to hide it. Her husband, Andrew Biviano, was her boyfriend at the time and encouraged her to do the shoot. Not long after her first son was born when she was in her early 20s, Playboy asked her if she’d be interested in posing again. She declined.
“I learned a lot from my college experiences,” Biviano said in a statement. “Since then, I have gone on to build an extremely happy marriage of 15 years, have been blessed with amazing children, have been active in my church, and have worked and volunteered to help my community while living with a disability.”
Biviano was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 18.
Her appearance in the magazine was revealed Friday afternoon on the website for the conservative Western Center for Journalism, which says it has been following Shea’s political career.
Shea did not return calls seeking comment but said in a statement distributed by email that he knew about Biviano’s photo but had instructed his campaign staff not to disseminate information about it.
“This type of negative campaigning is exactly what is wrong with politics today,” he said. “While these revelations are indeed alarming, my heart goes out to Amy and her family.”
Former state Rep. George Orr, the last Democrat to represent Spokane Valley in the Legislature, said that as an avid hunter who faithfully follows the laws on concealed weapons, he and Spokane Valley voters will be more worried about the gun charge Shea faces in Spokane Municipal Court than the photo of Biviano.
Shea was charged late last year with keeping a loaded gun in his pickup without a valid concealed weapons permit. Shea had let his permit expire. Police records indicate that Shea pulled his gun out of his glove compartment without pointing it at anyone during an incident in downtown Spokane.
“What’s worse, a woman going topless 15 or 20 years ago or a guy pulling a gun on somebody? How can the Grand Old Party get upset about that when their rock-star senator from Massachusetts was a centerfold?” said Orr, referring to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s 1982 chest-baring pose in Cosmopolitan.
Spokane County Republican Party Chairman Matthew Pederson said Biviano’s appearance in Playboy was well-known in political circles but that the party didn’t believe it was an issue.
“It’s something that we’ve known for a long time, but it’s not germane to the campaign,” Pederson said.
In a column she wrote in 1995 for the Yale Herald, Biviano says she knew her decision was likely to affect her future, but added that it helped give her a “sense of self-reliance.”
“Yes, it was fun to have my five minutes of fame both on the Yale campus and on the national scene. It is a nice little boost to the ego to know that some people consider me to be attractive enough to be in Playboy. But of course I know now, and I knew when I first chose to pose, that these benefits will fade, and they will only be remembered by a few people searching through dusty archives,” she wrote in the column.
“However, posing for Playboy has permanently changed me by making me think a little bit differently about myself – I’m now more of a risk-taker, fear social approval less, and know a bit more about what I’m capable of. I may never do something this controversial again, but it’s nice to know that I could and did.”