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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Jessa Hinton: Bisexual reporter is jill-of-all-trades
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2011-12-21

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Jessa Hinton jokes that her business card is just her photo and her phone number. It doesn't list a job title, nor could it, unless she was, instead, handing out standard 8" x 10" sheets of paper.

After all, just consider some of her work:

—Miss July 2011, Playboy Magazine July Playmate of the Month;

—Reporter, ESPN Top Rank Boxing;

—Teaming with Affliction clothing for the launch of the brand's new swimsuit line in February and a 2012 calendar;

—Brand ambassador for Milwaukee's Best beer;

—Poster girl for the PALMS Hotel & Casino national ad campaign; and

—Part of the popular NOH8 photo campaign.

Boxing and Playboy are the two most high-profile roles she holds.

"I enjoy boxing," she said. "The guys are really respectful. I haven't had any problems being taken seriously being a female host. I kind of have a cool job, a lot of people wish they had the job I do, especially a lot of men, so, I'm definitely thankful and grateful for where I am now."

Her dad, Ron Sandler, has been a longtime boxing fan whose all-time favorite was the late Joe Frazier.

Hinton, though, was more of a pro-wrestling fan as a youngster, growing up the oldest of five siblings in Valencia, Calif. "Just thinking about pro wrestling brings back good memories," said Hinton, whose favorite wrestlers were 'Macho Man' Randy Savage and The Undertaker.

Hinton, who now lives in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, admits her boxing gig is a dream job. "To do the interviews right after a fight, wow, there's nothing I'd rather be doing," she said.

However, that definitely brings nerves, she said.

"It's important for me to deliver exactly what the fans want to hear," Hinton said. "You only get about two minutes with each fighter, so I want to cover as much as I can," in that short period of time.

One of Hinton's boxing highlights to date was interviewing Manny Pacquaio after his fight against Juan Manuel Marquez. She was given about 10 minutes of time, while most others only got about two minutes.

"It's definitely extra pressure [ being a female in a male-dominated industry, ] " Hinton said. "I have to prove myself more than any guy does. There are fans who watch this religiously, and yet I do eight or 10 different things as far as my career goes, so, to be able to keep up with [ boxing ] is really hard; there's something new every single day.

"The best part of the [ boxing ] job is the fans. Seeing the crowd go insane is awesome. The excitement they give off, it's such a high; it really is.

"The job really hits me when driving to the hotel [ where the fight is being held ] and to see all of the fans outside."

Hinton admitted her dad still calls her after every fight—to hear what she saw, what she thought.

As for her Playboy appearance, Hinton said it "opened up a lot of doors."

"I knew it might be difficult to be taken as a serious host after you've done Playboy, but, for me, it's been a blessing," she said. "No one has ever made me feel uncomfortable; no one has ever made me feel like a typical girl. They really take me seriously, which is great."

Hinton was among the celebrities who attended the NOH8 Campaign's third annual anniversary celebration Dec. 13, at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif. In addition, the City of West Hollywood proclaimed Dec. 13 "NOH8 DAY" with a proclamation from Mayor John Duran. This was the second time the city has issued such a proclamation.

"It was so cool; I was so happy to be there," said Hinton, who is openly bisexual, as is her sister, Jenna, 22, a dental hygienist in Long Beach, Calif.

"Growing up, I dated a couple of girls and didn't feel I was accepted. No one really gave me a hard time, but I felt they looked as me [ differently ] because the choices I made were different from how they chose to live their lives. Now that I have a voice, it's nice to be able to come out and say that, hey, this is how I was born; we aren't made [ to be gay or bisexual at a certain age. ] I always knew, since I was in junior high [ school, that I was bisexual. ] So, for me to date a man or a woman is my choice, and everyone should have that choice."

Hinton reached out to the NOH8 campaign to participate, not the other way around. Her boyfriend, professional poker player Dan Bilzerian, also was photographed.

"That is a very personal cause and I'm so thankful that I did it," she said. "The photo is awesome."

Hinton's solo NOH8 photo hangs in her home, while the NOH8 photo of the two of them hangs in his home.

"That was our first [ professional ] portrait photo; that is a pretty strong statement," she said.

Hinton said her sexual orientation has never been an issue in the boxing world.

"A lot of women, particularly in Los Angeles, claim to be lesbian, but only for that night," she said. "Give them two shots of tequila and they are lesbian, but they don't feel like they could settle down with another woman [ long-term. ] I don't consider someone a bisexual if they can't settle down with a woman or a man. You're [ then ] either straight, or straight but curious.

"As long as I'm in love, I don't care if it's a man or a woman. I'm not concerned with race, gender, age."

Hinton said she will be filming an "It Gets Better" video over the Christmas holiday, and plans to release it in early 2012. Her boyfriend might participate, too, she said.

"There's no excuse for bullying, period," Hinton said. "I wish there were more people for [ those teens who are bullied ] to turn to talk to. All of these teenagers who are being bullied and then committing suicide, it's so sad; my heart breaks for them. I hope, when I have children, that they feel they can come to me and talk about anything—just as my parents were there for me."

Hinton said she plans to expand her role and support of the LGBT community in 2012. She is a member of Aid for AIDS Nevada but has not been to a gay pride parade yet.

"That's actually something I would love to go to," she said.

For more about Hinton, go to: www.jessahinton.com .


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