The girls were obviously devastated. They were there for a beauty pageant and nothing can allow them to show off their wonderful figures as much as their own handpicked bikinis. They had grumbled and registered their displeasure at this change, but seemed accepting it however reluctantly. But obviously not.

Stella and Lucienne are sitting on one of the beds. I am sitting across from them. We are like forty-four hours from going live on the air and from the tone of Lucienne’s voice, it becomes clear to me that the girls had long and serious talks about it. They are angry and they are adamant. After all, they were not competing to show which one of them looked most homely and unattractive.  If they indeed go on strike and even one of them don’t show up, that would spell disaster of a major proportions. Something I cannot allow to happen.

‘Okay. You girls are absolutely right. This is the beauty contest and the routine has to include you to parade in your bikinis. After all, each one of you is beautiful with near perfect bodies and they are going to read out your vital statistics when you’re presented. That’s what was planned and that’s what we want. I want. But the situation we’re facing is not about being right or wrong. When you are dealing with the religious zealots or hostile feminist groups, the logic goes out of the window. Believe me, they are in mini-minority at the very best. But they have apparently made enough noise to be noticed. And what they are demanding is to cancel the show. TVB is determined to go ahead with the show, at the risk of perhaps even losing their broadcasting license. But have come up with a compromise, should it come to that, they would have a convincing argument. Now if us from Playboy family cause the cancellation, I don’t even want to imagine what the cost of that would be to each one of our editions.

‘As for taking all the glamour out of the swim suit routine, look at it this way. You will all have the same handicap. The judges are well aware of that. And each one of them would have seen the special issue we have put out containing your original nudes as they appeared in your country’s edition. So they would know. We would ask them to pay closer attention to those’

I see expressions on their faces soften a bit. As angry and disappointed as they are, we have been working together and living under the same roof for now almost two weeks. We are a team and we are becoming a family. Plus, we still have the opening spread to shoot. We are to shoot it on the classic Chinese Junk while sailing around Hong Kong harbor. There is likely to be the press, and even television coverage. ‘You can show off your bikinis in the bright daylight. Fuck those bastards!’ The prospect of having the last word and to end it with the fuck you moment before returning home puts a smile on theirs and my face.

‘Look, I can’t force you to do anything. But we are in this together. And I need  you to not let those disgruntled few to force us into a devastating defeat.’

Lucienne and Stella still unhappy, but seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. They agree to talk it over again with the girls in the morning and ask me to be there with them. I pretty much repeat what I had said the night before. Nobody is feeling really hot about it. We all understood what we had to do and left for the rehearsal.

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