Whether she's filming a television talk show or measuring muscles in a male beauty pageant, Kym Malin's the star when the tape starts to roll. She's from Dallas, where they write everything in capital letters, but her climb to Southwestern fame and acclaim could fill a prime-time soap opera and leave glitter left over for a Cowboys' half-time extravaganza. Texas women are known for beauty, ambition and money - they might better be symbolized by newly minted Krugerrands than by yellow roses - and this one incorporates all three. Her beauty has always been there. It is what brought her first prize in a pageant called The Most Perfect Body in Texas (Texans in general are known more for their beauty than for their attention to the niceties of grammar). The ambition is present in her plans to make a bigger impact on the movies than Rocky made on Apollo Creed. And surely those two qualities will bring the money, especially in Texas.
"I've lived in Dallas most of my life," says Kym with a slight twang that calls fellow Texan Sissy Spacek to mind. "Good things happen here. I feel I was born with ability and talent but gifted especially with the mind to know what to do with them. But so far, everything has pretty much fallen into my lap."
The men in Dallas would like to do the same thing. True to her form, a panel of judges made everything official two years ago and acclaimed Kym's body the best in the state. That planted the seed of her budding TV career and led directly to this appearance in Playboy.
"The contest people asked me to m.c. the next year's pageant," she explains, "and some people from a local television station saw it. I did an interview with them. They liked it so much, they gave me a few other things to do on the air. They couldn't believe it was the first time I'd been on television.
From that I got a job as co-host on a national scale with a show called American People. It's about people who are the best in the country at what they do. It's not on the air yet, but we're going to New York later this month to interview Joe Namath and Calvin Klein. Then we go to Sun Valley, Idaho, to talk with Jack Hemingway, and from there to L.A. for an interview with Baryshnikov - he's going to show me a few dance steps. It's all very exciting. The show could still fall through, but I win in any case; I've gotten a great deal of experience in front of the cameras."
The searchers for the perfect body also sent a few of Kym's pictures to us. "The message came back: Playboy wants to test-shoot you," she recalls. "Well, I just took my time and said, 'Oh, really?' Eventually, I went to Chicago for the test shooting, they liked it, and here I am in the magazine. A lot of things have happened since that contest."
Kym can, indeed, proffer quite a résumé for someone just 19 years old. But even for a self-described child of destiny, life was not always a bed of yellow roses in conservative Texas. Her youth includes an episode that sounds more like Reefer Madness than a chapter of Dallas.
"I was brought up in a strict Dallas family," she says with a roll of the eyes, "but I did about what I wanted to do. I wasn't supposed to car date until I was 16."
For those who grew up far from the Alamo, to "car date" means to go out with a gentleman caller, in a car, without benefit of parental chauffeur.
"I'd climb out my window. Then the window was screwed shut. I got a screwdriver and undid the screws. Then my parents cemented the window, so I climbed out the bathroom window."
She and her car dates would only go dancing or to dinner, but Kym was still considered something of a hell raiser for her age. She smoked a little pot, too - but "just a little."
"When I was 15," she recalls, "my mother went to a group called the P.D.A.P. - the Palmer Drug Abuse Program.
"They told Mom that I was wild because of 'mind-changing chemicals.' 'If we can just get her off the beer or pot or whatever,' they said, 'she'll be fine.'
"They'd get long-haired hippies to say, 'I shot up for five yeras and I was sent to prison and I killed, then I found this program and now my life is wonderful.'
"My mother put me in the program. There were ten guys to every girl. They had a rule - if you talked to the opposite sex more than to your own, you had a problem. Of course, they told me I had the biggest problem they'd ever seen.
"One day, I was at one of their meetings and my mother and this man came to pick me up. They took me to the program's lockup hospital. It was bad. They'd put you in 24-hour room seclusion if your lights weren't out at 11 o'clock. They wouldn't even let me talk with my mother. Finally, I got word to a friend, who said he'd come to get me.
"The only door that wasn't locked was a fire exit. I took all my stuff and ran out through it. The alarm went off. I jumped into his truck and took off.
"And that was my experience with the P.D.A.P. I never did drugs at all, except to smoke a little pot, and these days I don't even do that. Now my mom and I are the best of friends. I turned what might be considered a bad experience into a learning experience."
Kym thinks something good is bound to come out of everything she does. Some of that is the unbroken confidence of the 19-year-old, but some is her awareness that there actually is something special about her.
Today, in Dallas, her picture adorns an 18-foot poster, matches and hatpins - all the result of her first modeling job, on which some sharp businessman is now capitalizing. All those items are advertisements for a country-and-western club, Rodeo Dallas. On the poster, Kym's face is almost as large as it would be on a movie screen.
"And that's where I want to be, eventually - in films," she says. "I've acted all my life. Life is a game, and you've got to learn how to play it."
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