Swimsuit Models Shun Biloxi

The table of contents said the Mississippi swimsuit pictorial started on page 132. That was the page Wayne Hengen showed the Biloxi Bay Chamber at a recent meeting.

"Everybody was pretty much thinking it might have been in Biloxi," he said. But when the Biloxi attorney pulled a yellow sticky note off the headline, people were shocked to learn the beach scene was from Natchez.

"That's really not what Natchez is all about," Hengen said weeks later. "And it's certainly a lot about what Biloxi is."

Yet, Natchez was getting all the publicity in Sports Illustrated's most read issue of the year.

So Hengen has launched a campaign to make SI more familiar with Biloxi, its 305 year history, and its 26 miles of sandy white beaches.

The Biloxi attorney has put together a goody package. It has aerial photographs, and brochures about what the Mississippi Gulf Coast has to offer. It also has Mardi Gras beads. And it has a free trip for the swimsuit edition editor to visit the Biloxi/Gulfport area and see its beach.

"Her swimsuit models are welcome to come down here and actually pose on a real beach in Mississippi," he said.

At the Harrison County Tourism Commission office, any positive publicity about Mississippi is considered good publicity. Tourism director Steve Richer believes his office can capitalize on the swimsuit pictures from Natchez.

"It gives us an opportunity to open a dialogue with Sports Illustrated and invite them to come back and use the beach correctly," Richer said.

That's what Hengen is ultimately after.

"We'd want her to know that we have beach, a true beach in Mississippi," the attorney said.

Sports Illustrated should get the Biloxi Bay Chamber goody package in two weeks.

Natchez mayor Hank Smith has no idea if the Sports Illustrated publicity has helped his city. When he was told about the Biloxi Bay Chamber wishing the photo spread was on the coast, Mayor Smith laughed and said, "I think envy is one of the seven deadly sins."