For the first two decades of her life, Cheryl Bachman stayed around her home town. Jacksonville, Florida, had everything she wanted as a kid - sun and beaches, family and friends. She bounced between her mom's house in town and the suburban home nearby where her older sister was starting her own family. The two strong women - Cheryl counts them as her "best friends in the whole world" - encouraged the pretty baby of the family to get out and make something of her life. "They kept telling me that if I sat around, nothing was going to happen. They knew I could do anything I wanted to do if I set my mind to it." They were right. A few months shy of her 21st birthday, Cheryl set mind and body on modeling - leading, she hopes, to an acting career on screens large and small. In short order, the hesitant beauty queen won a local swimsuit pageant and traveled across the peninsular state to compete in the finals. In Clearwater, 200 miles from Jacksonville, she remembers, "I cried myself to sleep every night. I had never been that far from home." Recalling her first wobbly steps to independence, Cheryl giggles with abandon. "I thought, Oh, my goodness! What am I doing?" She was doing just fine, thank you - made it to the top 20 - and grows more confident with each passing month. From Clearwater, she was flown to Jamaica for a modeling job, and from there, she jetted to Los Angeles for her first stay at Playboy Mansion West. Her plane arrived at night. Early the next morning, she took her first look at the city where she hopes to make her dreams come true. "I was in shock," she says, wide-eyed at the memory. "That was the first time I'd ever seen mountains. I was like, 'Look! There really are houses up on the hills! Look! There's the Hollywood sign!' It felt like I was in a movie just being here." Back in town this summer - her fifth trip to L.A. in five months - Cheryl relaxed in a girlfriend's apartment and talked about a future so bright she'll have to wear shades. "I know everybody in this city wants to be an actor or an actress - it's such a cliche! But when I do something, I like to do it with a little difference. I don't want to be like everybody else." Closing in on her 22nd birthday, Cheryl has her sights set on horror-movie stardom. "I want to be the last character left alive -- the one who has to go through all the struggles. At the end, people will be watching me and going, 'Look out! Get out of there!' The weird part about it is that I'm a real scaredy cat! I can sit through the scariest movie, but somebody had better hold my hand." Holding her hand recently on MTV was steamy Latin rapper Gerardo, who spotted Cheryl in an L.A. dance club and separated himself from a dozen women to get to her side. The attention she attracts doesn't faze Miss October. "Looks count," she concludes, "but personality makes you fall in love."