Pmate Hunter

Something special is happening in Florida: Flip through your Playboy issues of the past few years and you'll notice a surprising number of Sunshine Staters appearing as the Centerfold. The latest is Kelly Carrington, who was born in New York and spent a couple of years in Sweden before putting down roots in the small seaside town of Stuart, Florida. (Also known as -- anyone? Anyone? The Sailfish Capital of the World.) "Everyone there is passionate about the ocean, whether it's deep-sea fishing, water sports or just congregating on sandbars and islands," says Kelly. "Every weekend I was out on my dad's boat, or in high school I'd go out on my friends' boats." On dry land the 22-year-old studies public relations at the University of Florida and gives it up big-time for the Gators. "The best thing about my college is football season," she says. "People get dolled up for the games and decked out in orange and blue. Everyone tailgates. It's the thing to do here." Though she loves being in the stands on game day, Kelly isn't afraid to step into the arena: She's an accomplished athlete who played lacrosse and volleyball competitively. "In eighth grade I won a four-foot trophy as female athlete of the year," she recalls. "It's my most prized possession." Kelly's latest accomplishment is becoming Miss October, an honor she may never have earned if not for E!'s The Girls Next Door. "That show changed my whole perception of Playboy," she says. "I was conservative when it came to my body and how it related to who I was as a person. I felt the series portrayed Playboy in a really girlie, fun, all-American way. I was watching the show with a male friend who said I was just as hot as the Playmates on it. He sent in some pictures of me, and Playboy called me for a test shoot. When I got to the studio, I was so excited to meet the photographer and see those life-size pictures of all the Centerfolds. I was pretty nervous, but everyone made me feel really comfortable. The rest -- meeting Hef and the Girls Next Door and staying at the Mansion -- has been just dreamy." Currently taking a break from her studies, Miss October is living at the Playmate House in Holmby Hills and sampling the left-coast lifestyle -- to an extent. "I'm not here to party," she says. "I'm focusing on work and setting up meetings. I've always been interested in acting." Yet Kelly isn't dead set on Hollywood by any stretch. She has numerous creative impulses to follow. "I like making clothes," she says. "I've made curtains, too. I go to thrift stores to find old shabby-chic furniture. I make homemade cards, and I paint. I especially love photography. That's something I would like to do more with. [Editor's note: Being a Playmate counts as "doing more with" photography, wethinks.] Basically, I should have gone to art school." Just when we have Kelly pegged as the typical model-actress-painter-photographer-fashionista-upholsterer, she hints she could be happy with domestic bliss in Stuart. "I'm an aspiring housewife," she says, laughing. "I never got to see my parents together or in love, and being in love is something I want more than anything. In high school I dated all different kinds of people: a redneck, an emo, a band guy. They were all little experiments because I don't have a type. I like a gentleman who has goals and is driven, family-oriented and romantic." Until she finds the right guy, she's happy to chill with her girls. "We like going to jazz clubs or a martini bar," she says. "But I also entertain at home. I love to hold wine tastings. I'll have five or six girlfriends over, and each of us will bring a different type of wine. I find it a lot more interesting than going to some thumping hip-hop club." Speaking of nightlife, as the October Playmate, Kelly will need a dynamite costume for the Mansion's Halloween party -- and she's a bit stumped. "I was a bumblebee three years in a row," she recalls, "and then last year I was a ballerina princess -- a ballerina with a tiara. I feel pressure to have a really good costume because the party is at the Playboy Mansion. I have a lot of brainstorming to do."

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