Playmate Mt Taranaki nude photo deemed disrespectful

The Playmate has been travelling around New Zealand.
INSTAGRAM/Jaylene Cook

The Playmate has been travelling around New Zealand.

A Playboy playmate's decision to pose nude on the top of Mt Taranaki  will upset local Maori, an academic says.

Jaylene Cook, 25, who  took her gear off at the summit on Wednesday, April 26, said she didn't think the photo would offend anyone, but Maori academic Dennis Ngawhare said it disrespected the mountain.

As did Stratford mayor Neil Volzke who said it was inappropriate behaviour.

An academic says the playmate's nude photo on Mt Taranaki disrespects the mountain.

An academic says the playmate's nude photo on Mt Taranaki disrespects the mountain.

"It's culturally insensitive and not what I would expect someone to do on the summit of Mt Taranaki."

Cook, a glamour model, was given the title of playmate after she was featured in Playboy Mexico in January.

She is touring around New Zealand with her photographer partner Josh Shaw, who took the nude photo.

The picture has more than 8000 likes on Instagram after three days, including a comment from the region's marketing organisation, Venture Taranaki, saying "Great effort!".

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Cook said the couple did their research before hiking to the top and didn't stand on the head of the mountain. 

"[The photo's] not crude or explicit in any way.  We made ourselves knowledgeable on the history of the mountain. We were quite respectful. Being nude is not something that is offensive in any way. It's natural and pure and it's about freedom and empowerment."  

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But Ngawhare didn't agree.

"I'd imagine you will be getting a few comments from people saying 'what's wrong with that? Who cares?' But I also know cousins and relatives who will be quite upset about it. They would consider it as being disrespectful towards the mountain." 

That would be the common consensus of iwi and hapu in Taranaki, he said.

Ngawhare's family never climbed to the summit, because they regard the mountain as their tupuna, an ancestor.

"I accept people climb up to the summit, but what we do ask is that people be respectful.

"It's the same as when that crew took up a barbecue and a trampoline. It's a good idea in principle, but in action..." 

He has been reading about similar things happening overseas, in places like Malaysia, he said.

"People are taking naked photos and the locals over there get quite upset about it. They consider it as being disrespectful to a sacred place."

Cook said it was minus 11 degrees Celsius at the top, which was warmer than they expected.

"The sun up there was so beautiful that day, so it was not too bad."

There were quite a few trampers on the summit, so Cook waited for people to leave before she jumped on the rock for the photo, she said.

"If someone did get a sneak peek they would have been a bit startled that's for sure."

The couple were visiting Taranaki and decided to climb the mountain on an impulse, she said.

"It was Josh's idea. We thought that it couldn't be too tough. So, we went to op shops to get some warm clothes. We started at 2am. It was tougher than we thought. I've never hiked before."

Cook, who is from the Waikato, but has lived on Australia's Gold Coast for seven years, said there was tonnes of work for a glamour model.


Who wants to ride the rapids! 😃💦 • w/ @thejoshshaw ❤ 👙 @teeny.bikini.australia

A post shared by Jaylene Cook (@jaylenecook_) on

"But at the moment Josh and I do our own sort of thing rather than work with magazines. We have companies contact us who are interested in our work."

She just "fell into" glamour modelling and got used it quickly, she said.

Shaw said it didn't bother him that people looked at nude pictures of his girlfriend.

"I say it doesn't. I understand photography. It's art."

Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said the organisation used instagram to  acknowledge the efforts of anyone who undertook a big challenge in the region. And that could include exploring the mountain.

"Guidelines on the spiritual significance of Mt Taranaki's summit, which we understand Ms Cook sought and adhered to, do not, and cannot cover every eventuality, as is clearly the case in this instance. There is a growing global trend of social media photos featuring nudity in iconic locations. Given our region's current profile as the world's number two regional destination, we can expect more exposure."

Venture Taranaki includes information on the summit's cultural significance, and corresponding guidelines, in our relevant publications, Trundle said.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said tangata whenua viewed Mt Taranaki as an ancestor, so when people look at an image of a naked lady in stunning surroundings, they may smile to themselves and say "it's just a bit of fun" like the 20,000 plus people have online, when taking the Stuff survey.

"They should ask themselves how they would feel if someone took a photo of themselves naked, on the grave of a great grandparent. Tangata whenua are not wanting to be the "fun police" however Mr Ngawhare was right when commenting that people should show a little respect."

Taranaki is fast becoming the tourism mecca of New Zealand, Holdom said.

"And when inviting people to our region we will be working to educate them about our unique history, amazing natural environment, rich culture and asking those who visit this place to show a little respect when visiting the Lifestyle Capital of New Zealand."


Tourists who took photos of themselves naked on top of Mt Kinabalu in 2015 were also blamed for an earthquake in the area which killed at least 16 people.

The tourists had taken the photos weeks before the earthquake and deputy chief minister of the state of Sabah, where the earthquake occurred, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan condemned the uncivilised and disrespectful actions. 

"It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly," Pairin said in a press conference at the time.

"Whether other people believe this or not, it's what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it's like a confirmation of our beliefs."

Authorities at Cambodia's Angkor Wat  have no tolerance for people stripping down and foreign visitors have been arrested and deported for taking nude photos at the sacred sites.

The incidents are upsetting to ordinary Cambodians, for whom the Khmer-era complex holds enormous spiritual and historical significance.

 - Stuff


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