CHAMPAIGN – A server at Hooters of Champaign has been chosen to appear in the international chain's 2009 swimsuit calendar.
Kayla Dykeman, 22, of Galesburg is a featured model for October. She's shown wearing an orange bikini.
"I was pretty excited about it," said Dykeman, who's in the dental hygiene program at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg. "It's good exposure. It's cool seeing your picture in the calendar and also in the Hooters magazine."
Dykeman said she submitted her photos in February and found out in May she was selected. She went to a photo shoot in Peoria, then participated in the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant in July in Florida, where more photos were taken.
Asked if she feels like a celebrity, Dykeman said, "I don't know. Kind of, in a way. Not really. ... Not everyone sees the calendar. You only see the calendar if you go to Hooters. So I don't really feel like a celebrity. I'd feel that way if I won the international pageant. That's when people notice you."
Dykeman, who describes herself as 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 125 pounds, said she's worked at Hooters of Champaign since September 2007. She said she attended Moline High School, then moved to Champaign-Urbana in hopes of getting into Parkland College's dental hygiene program but wasn't accepted.
Now that she's studying in Galesburg, she tries to work at the Champaign restaurant at least once a month in hopes of requalifying for the pageant. About 130 women compete there, she said.
Hooters, which has more than 445 restaurants around the world, serves chicken wings, seafood and sandwiches but is probably best known for the "Hooters girls" who wait on customers.
"There are going to be people who have opinions about working there," Dykeman said. "People's perspective of working there is way out of whack. It's just about getting good service from a person who has a good personality and who likes to have fun.
"In the Hooters world, being in Hooters magazine is nothing bad. It's fun to be in it. It's nice to represent my store in that world."
Dykeman said she thinks she knows what judges look for in contestants.
"They have to have that look about them, like the average girl next door, but they definitely have to have personality," she said. She added it's the first time she's been featured in a national publication.
"I did try local modeling a couple years ago. But I couldn't go to castings and auditions so I wasn't able to do too much of that," she said.
Dykeman said she didn't receive a monetary prize for being in the calendar, but was given about $600 for food and travel expenses when she attended the pageant. She said she will get paid to do some calendar signings in late November and December at various locations in Illinois and Missouri.
Josh Schultz, general manager of Hooters of Champaign, said he and the local staff were "excited" about Dykeman's selection and have tentatively scheduled a calendar signing for 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 13. He said the restaurant is selling the 2009 calendars for $12.95 and Hooters magazines that feature two Dykeman photos for $3.99.
It's not the first time a local server has been featured in a Hooters calendar. Schultz said former employee Tara Ashley appeared in two previous calendars.