San Diego, California
Painting, music and dance
Flower child at heart
Anything goes in the Octagon, the eight-sided cage in which the martial artists of the Ultimate Fighting Championship do battle: punching, kicking, backflip body slams. But eye gouging is not allowed—nobody wants to run the risk of not being able to see the UFC's vivacious ring girl Brittney Palmer sashay across the Octagon in a bikini between rounds.
Brittney grew up in Las Vegas, another place where almost anything goes. "I had a high school sweetheart," she remembers. "His mother was so into the UFC she would throw pillows at the TV set. When I was 18 I worked out front at UFC events, handing out free beer. And now I'm actually in the Octagon, which is crazy." After high school graduation, Brittney got a job as a magician's assistant and danced in a burlesque show at the Flamingo Hotel. What she learned: "The show must always go on. Even if you don't have your outfit on, the music is still starting at 10." What she did when not pursuing enlightenment through burlesque: "You'd get off at 11, go out for drinks, party till the sun came up and then do it again."As time went on, Brittney longed for thrills that didn't involve buying shots for everyone in the bar. "I'd wake up the next day and think, Really, Brittney? You just spent $500 on shots for people you'll never talk to again?" So now she snowboards in the Alps. She paddleboards in Hawaii. She goes off-trail backpacking with friends in Colorado—which was lots of fun until they woke to discover bears had invaded their camp. "One friend climbed a tree," Brittney says. "I just hid in my tent." She plans to go surfing in Indonesia: "But I'll probably never come back." Brittney is a globe-trotting dynamo with Shakespearean poetry tattooed on her back. (She chose two lines from his first sonnet, "But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes" and "Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel"—a reminder to herself that narcissism is a form of cruelty.)
In addition to her work with the UFC, she recently enrolled in art school at UCLA. She already has a thriving business as an artist, selling paintings through her website; she specializes in acrylic renderings of classic rock album covers and musicians ranging from Led Zeppelin to Sammy Hagar.
"I'm no longer just this Vegas showgirl," she says. "I want to be an artist, and I'm really lucky to have a passion like that." Brittney taught herself to paint by watching YouTube videos and built up enough of a portfolio to get into UCLA. "I've been learning about composition and colors and negative space," she reports. She knows that someday she'll probably have to broaden her subject matter beyond rock stars. "But I love painting those pictures, and people love putting them on their walls," she says. "Would you rather have a portrait of somebody you don't know or a portrait of Jimi Hendrix?"
Art school is what inspired Brittney to pose for Playboy. "I take figure-drawing classes all day, every day," she explains. "Ninety-nine percent of the time there's a nude model in your class—it's beautiful, and it's art. I'm really good at drawing nudes. I think women's bodies are fantastic, and I work my ass off for my body. I have such appreciation for being in Playboy—it's like being a model for an elite figure-drawing class." Who knew school could be so much fun?