A little more than three years ago, Claire Sinclair was just another Southern California high school graduate trying to make her way in Hollywood. Her part-time job? Hustling for tips on Hollywood Boulevard while dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Then the aspiring pinup model met famed pinup artist Olivia De Berardinis, who invited Sinclair to join her on a random Sunday at the Playboy Mansion, where Sinclair met Hugh Hefner. Next came a Playboy centerfold (Miss October 2010), followed by a Playmate of the Year honor, followed by a chance meeting with Frankie Moreno on her 21st birthday that led to a starring role in Pin Up, a vintage song-and-dance production that debuts February 25 at the Stratosphere.
Given Sinclair’s swift ascent, it’s only fitting that she’s chosen to conduct an interview and photo shoot at the lounge directly above the Stratosphere’s Top of the World restaurant. For the voluptuous 21-year-old California girl, the sky appears to be the limit.
Who or what was the inspiration for your pinup look?
Of course, Bettie Page had a lot to do with it. I’ve always had bangs, I had jet-black hair when I was in high school, and that’s when the comparisons started and when I started hearing about Bettie Page. I looked her up, and there’s not really a strong resemblance, but she had a lot of charisma, and she’s the ideal pinup girl for me because she was just so fun to watch—she was very free, it never felt like she was filtered, and all of her poses were really organic.
How did you get started in modeling?
When I was 14, I went through kind of a gawky stage. I had just sprouted up—I’m 5-foot-7½—but I was really thin; I was only 100 pounds, and I hadn’t filled out yet. And everyone suggested that I start modeling. I went to all the agencies, and the height requirement was 5-9. None of them would sign me. They were like, “If you were just a couple of inches taller; you can’t really do runways.” I saw the website that one of the agents was using to book the models, and I went on there, made a profile as an agent and started booking myself jobs. The jobs that I would land, though, were always era-themed. For instance, the movie Whiteout, they had a Playboy centerfold that was [from the] 1950s, and they were casting for a replica. I was only 16 at the time, and the centerfold was a blond girl; I was the only brunette [trying out], but I tried to replicate the pose, and I got a call the next day that I would be in the movie. So I started realizing that that was my niche: “I’m really good at doing these ’50s poses!”
You landed the Playmate gig sort of by accident, right?
Olivia invited me to the mansion one Sunday, and I said, “Of course, I’ll go!” I was super nervous. Hef saw me and came up to me and asked for my number. I had no idea why; he didn’t say it was to test for a Playmate. The next day I got a call, and I was completely stunned. I knew my world was going to change after that. Being a Playmate is a big deal. I was ecstatic. I started crying.
So it came out of nowhere?
It really did. Prior to this, I was doing my little vintage [modeling] jobs here and there, but I was also working as Belle from Beauty and the Beast on Hollywood Boulevard, posing for tips. I was 18 years old, I had just graduated from high school, and that was one month before I became a Playmate. So my life literally went from rags to riches.
Did you make any money working on Hollywood Boulevard?
I made a lot, because there are a lot of tourists, and sometimes they would give you a $20 [bill] and not understand the value of it. So some days I’d be rolling. People don’t realize there is money in being a Hollywood Boulevard performer. And my sister was Cinderella, her boyfriend was Elmo and I dated Napoleon Dynamite.
Posing nude for the first time: more nerve-racking or liberating?
The first time I posed nude—completely nude, in the buff—was for Olivia. And it was the most comfortable experience, because her house is a nude model’s dream—there are props all over the place. … I posed for her for eight hours. So when I did Playboy a month later, it was nothing because I was so comfortable with it at Olivia’s.
It’s very liberating, because for one thing, you don’t have to worry about the movement of clothing. You just move around and do whatever you want, and you know the angles that [make] your body look good. So I prefer, to this day, posing nude rather than [with] clothes. … When you’re modeling clothes, it’s more about being a living rack—about making the clothes look good, as opposed to making your body look good.
Did you think you’d win Playmate of the Year?
I felt like I had no chance in hell. I was the baby of the group. I thought, “You know, I’m not even going to get excited about this, because the possibilities are slim to none.” When I heard it, it was New Year’s Eve 2010, at a party at the mansion; when Hef told me, I was stunned and started stream-crying—I looked hideous! All my makeup started running; I was just staring at him crying, and he was like, “I didn’t mean for this to happen!” and I said, “I’m just so happy. You don’t know how happy I am.” … It was a surreal moment.
Speaking of parties at the mansion, they’re really dull, right?
Really dull? No! I’ve had some really good times at those parties. My favorite is the Midsummer Night’s Dream—they really deck out the mansion; it looks like an exotic land. There are mermaids floating on rocks in the pool—it’s a grand affair!
If you have any way to go to the Playboy Mansion—if you have any opportunity—take it. Because it’s an amazing experience. You’ll never forget it. You’re stepping into a fantasy world. Everyone always says it’s like Disneyland for grown-ups, and it really is.
So any secret tips on how to sneak into the mansion?
Somebody actually did sneak in one time! That was insane—they got into the mansion for a party and they were in my friend’s room. But I don’t have any pointers for sneaking in. People have gone to extreme lengths, though—some people [hide] in trunks. I’ve heard some crazy stories.
How did you end up with this show at the Stratosphere?
I feel like in my life there have been some moments—as cheesy as it sounds—that are [based on] fate. And this was a very odd occurrence. My friend Jen invited me to see Frankie Moreno’s show, and I went with her and he met me and started talking about the possibility of doing this new vintage-themed dance show. And he said, “Would you be interested in headlining it?” This was on my 21st birthday. And I said, “I don’t know; I’d need to hear the details.” He started talking more about it, and it sounded too good to be true. So I said, “Well, let me know as time goes on if it’s actually going to happen, I’d love to.” Two weeks later I get a call from Jen [that] it’s actually going through, and that was that.
What are the chances? I just happened to be here and meet him on my birthday. The few occasions in my life where I’ve happened to be at the right place at the right time, they’ve changed my life dramatically.
How would you describe the show?
It’s charming, it’s really cute. [And] it’s a little quirky. There’s magic and amazing dancers choreographed by Lacey Schwimmer of Dancing With the Stars, so a lot of what you’ve seen on Dancing With the Stars is brought to our stage, but in a vintage way. If you watch Bettie Page dance, she’s not much of a dancer; she kind of wriggles around. But it’s really cute to watch. Lacey takes that and polishes it, so it’s the best of vintage dance moves. It’s kind of the equivalent of what it [would’ve been] like to watch vintage showgirls back in 1955 in Vegas. We’re trying to bring that back in a modern way.
Will any hidden talents be revealed?
You’ll have to see the show for my hidden talents! I’m doing a lot in the show. I’m kind of narrating it, I’m hosting, I’m acting, a little bit of burlesque dancing. My job runs the gamut.
Do you remember the first time you were recognized in public?
I was shopping, and this older dude came up to me. He had gotten my centerfold and was talking about my nude pictures—this was the first time I ever talked to someone about being naked, and it was a stranger. It was a little odd, but it was an enjoyable experience to hear someone’s feedback. And you know what? Getting recognized, I love it, because it’s a sign of success. The people who follow my work are the most quirky, eccentric people, and I enjoy them thoroughly. … I’m glad those are the people that I attract. At least they’re not dull. I get some weirdos, but I love them—because I’m a weirdo, too.
Besides your own, what’s the one show on the Strip you’d pay money to be in?
Frankie Moreno’s—and not just because he’s also at the Stratosphere. It such a fun show, and he is like watching a young Frank Sinatra. He has so much charisma, he talks to the crowd, gets everyone involved—it feels like you’re going back in time to a really cool 1950s experience. Another show I would pay to be involved in—[although] I’d also have to be blessed with the skills to do the show—is The Beatles LOVE. I could never do Cirque, but … that show seems so magical. Each scene seems like a dream.
This issue comes out on Valentine’s Day. So who’s your dream Valentine?
Seth Rogan. I just love him. I think he’s adorable [and] insanely hot. He’s married, though, dammit!
Roses or chocolates?
I wouldn’t want either. I’d want something a little more creative. Make me something. Very little thought goes into roses and chocolate, [and] it’s very stereotypical. I’d like something out of the box. Be different.
Has a pickup line ever worked on you?
I love pickup lines. I think they’re hilarious. There’s not a good pickup line to me; I think they’re all cheesy. But I love them and want people to come up to me and throw the most absurd one at me. They’re not ill-received from my end—I’ll start laughing. It’s a great way to initiate a conversation.
What’s the most underrated trait in a man?
I don’t like when a man’s overtly confident. I like when they’re a little more humble. When I read turn-ons for women, they always list confidence as the big thing. It’s good to be confident, but I don’t like them to be in your face about it. I like a meek, almost Michael Cera-esque type of guy, kind of shy. I think opposites attract, and I’m kind of in-your-face. So I like someone who can ground me.
What’s your best physical asset?
I love my ears. They’re really tiny—they’re like 5-year-old ears. I mean, I’m blessed with my breasts, and I’m very happy to have them because they’ve helped my career tremendously. But I like my nose and my ears, because they’re different.
It says on your website that you’re an avid reader. What’s the one book on your bookshelf that would shock people?
I have a ton of psychology books. I’m obsessed with psychology. I actually buy psychology textbooks and just devour them. It’s so intriguing. I love body language—I have a bunch of books on body language—because [my body language is] very obvious. Also, I’m trying to learn poker and reading people’s tells. Body language is … the one thing people have a hard time covering up. Whatever you’re feeling comes out in some form or another. So I’m trying to learn the art of concealing things. Not everything should be on display, and I wear everything on my sleeve. I’m very easy to read.
What’s your tell then?
What’s my tell? I’m not going to tell you!
Because we might play poker someday?
Yeah, and I’ll want to beat your ass!
You turned 21 back in May. Did you celebrate Vegas-style?
I did. I celebrated my 21st birthday in a strip club. … I did an event at Crazy Horse Too with my friends, and that was a very interesting night. It was a fun night.