Chula Vistan Raquel Pomplun used to be a self-proclaimed tomboy, but you'd never guess it by looking at her today.
Pomplun, 24, snagged the cover of Playboy magazine's "Sex and Music" issue as Miss April 2012 after submitting her photos online last May.
“I went crazy and ran around the house screaming,” she said after receiving a call from a Playboy representative.
Pomplun is not only the first model from Tijuana to appear on the cover of Playboy but also the first playmate from Chula Vista, according to a Playboy spokesperson.
While working at The Cheesecake Factory in Eastlake, a coworker encouraged Pomplun to submit photos online.
Pomplun told herself she had nothing to lose and ran the idea by her husband of two years. With his full support, she uploaded her best photos and waited.
Three weeks later she got a call to come in for test shots.
Then she waited again.
By the first of December, Pomplun said she got the call of her life.
She had not only been selected as a Playmate, but would pose on the cover with Grammy Award-winning musician Bruno Mars.
“As he (Bruno Mars) walked in, I was like ‘OK this is it,’” she said. “It was an awesome experience.”
Pomplun began modeling at age 13.
“I didn’t know I could do that because I was always a tomboy,” she said. “I’d never thought of it as a career … but it became my hobby and I was good at it.”
Pomplun said she’s admired playmates since she was young.
“I never judged the women,” she said. “I never saw anything bad about them — just how beautiful they were.”
The photo shoot was not only Pomplun’s first huge modeling gig, but also her first time posing nude.
When asked what her parent’s thought of recent accomplishments, Pomplun rephrased the question by saying, “I think the question would be what they think of me going from regular modeling to Playboy,” she said laughing.
All joking aside, Pomplun said her family has been extremely supportive.
“I’m very grateful,” she said. “I grew up in a family that’s very open-minded and very united. My mom is crazy proud right now and my brothers are envious.”
Although a star in the spotlight, Pomplun was focused more on her education in high school.
The Mexican-American grew up in Tijuana and moved to Chula Vista with her family when she was approximately 12.
She attended Bonita Vista middle and high school, then went on to Southwestern College.
“I was a freak in math and science in high school,” she said. “I would stay after school and work on projects with friends … so nerdy.”
Pomplun ultimately wants to finish her degree in biochemistry with a focus on environmental studies.
Pomplun also speaks Spanish and said she is proud of her bi-national heritage.
“I am grateful that I grew up in both worlds and have a chance to grow in a different culture,” she said, adding that her parents are her role models.
“They fought so hard to get us to where we are,” Pomplun said. “They are very well-rounded people.”
Bonita Vista High School dance director Christine Timmons said she is proud of Pomplun.
Timmons met Pomplun seven years ago during her first year teaching and said she came in as a seasoned dancer.
“She was very graceful and beautiful to watch,” Timmons said.
Timmons said Pomplun’s can-do attitude is no doubt part of her success.
“She always had a smile on her face,” she said. “She’s positive and really hard working.”
Pomplun said a typical day includes dedicating two hours responding to fan mail, including Facebook and Twitter messages.
As far as guidance from her parents, Pomplun said the advice is simple.
“Not to lose myself and keep my feet on the ground,” she said. “I like to think of myself as a humble person. I grew up in an environment where I had to work for everything I have.”
Playmates receive $25,000 for their photo spread in the magazine, as well as additional compensation for any promotional events or appearances during their time with the company. Pomplun signed a two-year contract.
Pomplun said, without sounding cliché, the experience feels surreal.
“I still cannot believe it,” she said. “I still think that the person in the centerfold is someone else… Eventually I’ll believe it.”
Pomplun lives with her husband in Palmdale.