Last fall, we put out the call for aspiring models to compete in our first-ever, reader's choice Maxim Cover Girl contest.
More than 10,000 beautiful women entered for the chance to be featured in Maxim magazine (the winner, Olivia Burns, graced the cover of the January/February issue). Meet the the top nine finalists here:
Carla Tempesta, Runner-up
Hometown: Conneaut, Ohio (currently living in Los Angeles)
How I got my start: I was discovered by a photographer on the set of a film.
First time in front of the camera: I'd been acting since my early teens, so my comfort level in front of the camera translated into a comfortability with modeling.
On social media: I post whatever I feel like posting. I don't follow a theme or a certain way of posting in order to garner more of a following. I'm just myself and I don't portray anything other than who I am.
For fun: My favorite thing to do is drive my '77 Trans-Am. I love muscle cars and anything '70s, so it gives me a sense of freedom. I love going to shows, going out dancing, and spending time with the people I love.
On the bucket list: Sing in a rock band. You might not know: I've been acting since my early teens, starting with musical theater, and I was a dancer from age 3 to 15, ballet and tap.
On being a finalist: It's really an honor to be in Maxim, among so many beautiful and accomplished women.
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
First time in front of the camera: To be honest, I didn't exactly "make love to the camera" immediately [Laughs]. Eventually I loosened up after telling myself, "They want to use you as their model, which means you have a look that is appealing. Just work it." Now photo shoots are second nature to me.
On being in the public eye: I'm very careful about which jobs I agree to. It can be daunting to know that thousands of people see you in magazines, clothing websites, catalogs, or even just on Instagram. I enjoy being a model, but I have standards for what type of job offers I'm willing to take. I make sure that each job I accept is something I will be proud of in the future.
On the bucket list: To see new parts of the world and experience different cultures. I think when you live in one spot for too long, you forget about all the different people and places that are out there.
You might not know: I'm not afraid to eat! Don't let the model job title fool you, I am a terrible sucker for chocolate, pizza, kebabs—you know, all the fattening stuff that tastes super good? In an ideal world, I'd have the discipline to diet, but you'll probably catch me eating dessert the night before a big photo shoot.
Hometown: Brighton, Ontario, Canada
How I got my start: I always had an interest in photography and art. One day I asked myself, at is it to be a model? It is to inspire, to spread positive energy, to show something to the world—and it could be anything.
On being in the public eye: I embrace being a public persona. I exude the confidence needed and feel that I am a role model.
You might not know: I have a passion for the study of the human brain, behaviors, and psychology. I also love to draw and paint. I use art as an expression of passion and beauty.
For fun: All good things are wild and free. I am always on the chase for the next adventure. I love to explore, try, and experience moments that come my way. Of course, my guilty pleasure is fashion.
On being a finalist: Being in Maxim is a dream come true. As a teenager, I never got to experience going to my own prom. I would often fantasize about what it would have been like. The feeling I got from making it through the competition and the thought of being published in Maxim gives me the same feeling of elation.
Hometown: West Orange, New Jersey (currently living in New York City)
On being in the public eye: You have to know what you stand for. You must constantly be honest with yourself and think, at do I want people to learn from me? How can I positively influence others? What can I do to inspire? It all starts from loving and believing in yourself.
For fun: My absolute favorite thing to do is to travel. I'm in love with seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures. I also love to cook, so when I travel, it's great to be able to take home new recipes.
On the bucket list: Learn how to play the guitar! I sometimes feel like I was born in the wrong decade and wish I could take a time machine back to the '60s/'70s and be front row at a Led Zeppelin concert, dancing and singing the night away. In the meantime, I will just have to settle for learning how to play all their music.
You might not know: I can be a bit of an adrenaline junkie. After skydiving a few times, I decided to take it to the next level and do a solo jump from 15,000 feet, but to this day, the craziest thing I've done has been running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
On being a finalist: There have been plenty of moments in life where people said to me, "You don't have the right look," but that's never discouraged me from keeping my eye on the prize. I've worked so hard to get where I am right now—to be featured in Maxim is living proof that nothing is impossible.
Hometown: Severna Park, Maryland
How I got my start: As a young teenager, I was scouted by an agent from a top NYC modeling agency while I was walking down the street eating pizza. At 17, I left my hometown in Maryland and moved to NYC by myself. It was terrifying, but nevertheless I persisted.
On being in the public eye: Sometimes people confuse you with your image. They see these sexy images and have no idea I went to an Ivy League college or actually have a sense of humor (or so I'm told).
You might not know: The main catalyst for moving to NYC was to pay for my college education [at Columbia University]. After graduating, I used my degree to start Valnoir, a women-run cashmere brand (@valnoir.nyc).
On being a finalist: I chose to enter the competition for three reasons: 1) to help build homes for wounded warriors, 2) to create a paradigm shift for a "beauty and brains" type of Maxim model, and 3) to raise awareness of my personal brand. But more importantly, I hope it galvanizes others to pursue their education and dreams, and also to give back to charities.
Hometown: Port Arthur, Texas
On social media: I probably don't utilize my social media to my advantage as a professional model. One of my goals this year is to dedicate more time toward expanding my fan base across all my social media platforms.
For fun: Fun to me is something you do that makes your heart smile. If you can make a person feel better about themselves, and give them something positive in this negative world, then you're helping to change the world, one heart and one smile at a time.
On the bucket list: To do an exotic "Jane of the Jungle" photo shoot in Plitvice Lakes National Park, in Croatia, with one of the most talented photographers in the world.
You might not know: I'm one hell of an airboat driver, and one of my biggest aspirations would be to obtain my boat captain's license.
On being a finalist: It's the biggest honor—I have tears of joy in my eyes.
Hometown: McDonald, Ohio (currently living in Cleveland)
In a nutshell: The definition of a Midwest girl, with a Midwest work ethic to match. The most competitive and sarcastic person you will ever meet. I love whiskey—but not as much as I love sports. Talk fourth downs to me.
On being in the public eye: I went through a period of time where I was so worried about other people's opinions about me. [But] I started to realize that it wasn't my job to please everyone else, and how important it is to do what makes me happy. Either I could let that define me or use my experience to encourage others to get through personal obstacles.
For fun: I love spending time with my dog, Spartacus D'Antonio, and watching a football game or Shark Tank with a glass of wine.
On the bucket list: One day I want to have a huge farm and adopt a bunch of special needs animals. I want to give them a home and the love that they deserve.
On being a finalist: Growing up as a small-town girl, you never expect an opportunity like this to happen—you hope, you work, you pray. It means the most to know that I had so many people helping me get here, who want to see me succeed
Hometown: Cut and Shoot, Texas
First time in front of the camera: My first experience was fun and playful. Everyone was professional and I felt very comfortable. I enjoyed working with the photographers to get the perfect shot.
On being in the public eye: The attention is not very intrusive except for a few negative Instagram comments, but that comes with the territory.
For fun: When I find time, my true passion is gaming. There's nothing like getting behind Mida Multi-Tool in a crucible match and collecting head shots. Especially when the [other players] find out I'm a girl with a higher [Kill Death Ratio].
On the bucket list: Before I die, I will backpack through Europe, starting in England, where I have family, and making my way through each country, trying new foods and soaking up the culture. I also want to start a pit bull sanctuary to save mistreated and misunderstood pit bulls from being neglected and unloved.
On being a finalist: I almost can't believe it happened. Thank you to everyone who voted for me and donated their money to Homes for Wounded Warriors.
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
How I got my start: My modeling career began when I was just 12 years old. There was a model search competition being held in my city, so I thought, why not enter? I ended up winning first place.
On social media: I travel a lot for my career, so social media is a perfect platform for me to keep in touch with friends and family about what I'm doing, what products I've been using, or anything interesting I've come across in my journey.
On being in the public eye: There will always be haters, but I've learned not to take things personally and to stay true to myself.
On the bucket list: I've always wanted to see the northern lights. You might not know: There's also a big part of me that's a tomboy. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty and I actually really enjoy roughing it every once in a while.
On being a finalist: Being a Maxim model has always been a dream of mine. I've always worked hard, focused on good health, and embraced who I am. To me, that's what being a Maxim model means: being confident, sexy, and independent.
Pick up the March/April issue, on sale February 20th, and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an issue.