Soolin DeMaria has been dancing topless with Fantasy at the Luxor for most of her career, which took a new spin when she was chosen Playboy South Africa’s Miss February 2016. In November, she finds out if she is a finalist in this year’s Maxim Cover Girl 2018 Model Competition, but she’s happy dancing with Fantasy and doesn’t plan to leave any time soon, as she told Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen in a recent interview.

How long have you been with Fantasy now?

It’s been years. We’re probably coming up on eight in March. A very long time now. Not the longest of all the girls in the show but I’m getting up there.

You were in Vegas before that. Where did you work?

Yes, when I first got to Vegas I did a touring thing. I did a magic show, worked with some lions, so that was fun. After that I worked a show called Sin City Bad Girls. That was actually the first show I did with (Fantasy singer/host) Lorena Peril, so we go back … it was at, what was it, the Hilton at the time. Then I did “X” Burlesque for a little bit. That was rather short-lived, and then I opened a new show that was at the Sahara hotel, Striptease the Show. After that one closed, that is when I moved over to Fantasy. It was kind of a long road to get me there.

What led you to Las Vegas in the first place? It sounds like it was a whirlwind once you got here, but what brought you from wherever you were before to here for your professional career?

It was quite a whirlwind. I was dancing on cruise ships when I was 18. I had done that for a few years and I know I wanted to keep dancing for sure, because I love it. Still do, but I knew I wanted to dance and be on land because I was sick of being at sea. I get a little bit motion sick, so working on stage on the ocean was a little bit rough. So I thought my best choices were New York and Las Vegas, although I had no idea which one would be better. I just kind of picked Vegas because I’m originally from California, so I thought, “OK, maybe it’s a little closer to home, so let’s give it a shot,” and me and my best friend moved here, and the rest is history. I just really loved it.

So Las Vegas wasn’t a goal from early on?

It was definitely on my list, but it was definitely a last-minute decision when to do it. I didn’t know it was going to be exactly what I want to when I turned 21, but that’s how it worked out. As soon as I was able to kind of be here and have fun, I was on my way.

You grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Was your training experience growing up conducive to being a professional Las Vegas dancer in 2018?

Oh, yes. It’s the only reason I’d be able to do it. I grew up taking ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, just everything. I’m really grateful that I had a great studio, because they made sure I was a well-rounded dancer. Even so, as a kid you don’t learn to be in as sexy of a show as I am now. That came later in life, just with experience, doing more sassy choreography and things like that. For sure, my background was the only way I’d be able to make it this far. Ballet training goes a long way.

How would you tell someone to prepare for employment experiences in Vegas?

Just taking classes. Lots and lots of classes, and if your goal is specifically Vegas, definitely take heels classes, because they’ll work those heels in Vegas.

Can you estimate how many times you’ve been asked about the origin of your name?

Oh, about a million (laughs). It’s a very unique name so I get asked about it pretty much every day. If I meet somebody I am going to be asked about my name. It came from a 1970s British science fiction show that my parents loved called Blake’s 7, and there was a beautiful blonde woman named Soolin (played by Glynis Barber) and they just absolutely loved the name. They had been waiting for a girl for a while, with three older brothers, so they just thought that that was the perfect name for me.

And it worked out to be a great professional name.

Yeah, it does work out. Nobody’s ever met a Soolin before. Usually I am the only one.

What’s your role as a cast member?

I am one of the dancers. We each do different tracks. The only set ones … there’s somebody who’s an aerialist. That’s one I do not do because I am not good upside down (laughs). Other than that we kind of rotate throughout the show. We have a comedian (Sean E. Cooper) and a singer/host, but then within the dancers I could be doing pretty much any of the different numbers in the show. One night I might be in the bed number, one night I might not be. One night I might be doing the solo. It’s kind of all over the place because we do seven nights a week so depending on which cast we have, things rotate. Definitely keeps it fresh.

How many shows per week do the primary cast members perform?

Most of the cast members do five or six days per week, and then you need a night or two off to recoup, make sure your body’s still hanging in there because it could be really rough if you’re doing seven days a week. You might feel like you’re going to fall apart after a while.

Did the show turn you into a night person?

Definitely. I am such a night owl right now. Since I’ve been in the show for so long it’s pretty much the way of my life. I come home from the show, and I’m home before 1 a.m. because we’re done a little after midnight. When I get home it’s a little after 12:45 but I’m still just wide awake because you have all this adrenaline. I don’t go to sleep until 3 o’ clock at least. I need my beauty sleep so I don’t get up until about noon because I definitely like to have my rest.

Have there been recent changes that might be new to someone who hasn’t seen it in two years?

If you haven’t seen the show in one year there’s pretty much going to be a couple of changes. Every year around summertime we rehearse and we change about two or three numbers. We just like to keep it fresh for our repeat customers. We get to work on new choreography, numbers, maybe a new costume or two, just to keep it fresh. This is the only show that I’ve been in this long. If you didn’t change the show up every year a dancer you’d be going out of your mind after seven years doing the exact same moves every single night. But we do get to change numbers every year and that is a great perk for Fantasy, and for the customers because they like seeing the new choreography.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of cast turnover. Evidently Fantasy keeps everybody happy.

Yeah, we really are. Fantasy has been like a family to me and I know all of the girls feel the same way. We are pretty close knit, and it’s a hard show to leave. You don’t … there’s no reason to. We switch it up, you don’t get bored. We have an amazing producer (Anita Mann). She’s a living legend. She knows how we feel about everything and she takes great care of us, so a lot of our girls stay as long as possible.

How did Playboy become interested in you?

That was actually pretty random. I had actually been pretty interested in Playboy, but I didn’t really know anyone in that industry that would know how to get into it. So I shot with a photographer (John Zelezny) who used to shoot with international (edition of) Playboy, and he was the one who approached me and asked if I’d be interested in shooting nude for Playboy, and I jumped on that chance because that was always something that I had been interested in, so I was very excited about it. He turned out to be a really great person. I’m really thankful for him to because he got me in the magazine. If he hadn’t taken a chance on me then I probably wouldn’t have become a Playmate, and I’m so happy to be.

How did you go from contact to calendar?

I did a test shoot with that photographer and he was submitting me to Playboy—not necessarily for Miss February, just in general. You do a submission and if they really like you they say, “Go ahead and shoot a full pictorial and then we’ll see if we want to use it.” It’s not even a guarantee. So I shot that, and they gave us the green light and said, “Yes, we want a pictorial. Go ahead and do that.” And then it happened pretty fast. The next month that wanted me for Miss February, so that was amazing.

What was the Miss February shoot like for you? Was it next-level, or were you already experienced enough to be fully prepared?

It was definitely different than anything I’d done before. The test shoot was a good prep for it. The Playboy shoot was a little more expensive. It took a lot longer, we did more looks, but it was a blast. I had an amazing time shooting for them. I felt really comfortable, shockingly. It was such a different experience, but I still felt like it was just second nature, and it was a lot of fun.

Did you do the shoot in South Africa?

No, I didn’t. I did one of the shoots in Los Angeles, and then for my actual pictorial shoot they came here to shoot me because they wanted to do a Las Vegas theme for it.

Did they do locations shoots?

They didn’t really do a location shoot. It was in a nice hotel suite. Suite shoot vibe, but they definitely ran a lot about … the article was called “Stage Stunner,” and they just wanted to focus on the fact that I was a showgirl even though we did the shoot in a suite. It’s a little bit difficult to do a location shoot when you’re fully nude (laughs). They’d have to close down the location.

What kind of reaction did you receive? Were you prepared for the response?

Yeah, actually everything happened pretty quickly, and I did get a strong response via social media. That was pretty much the biggest shock there. Everything kind of started to rise up after that, but everybody’s response was pretty great. I got a lot of love, a lot of support. Everybody was pretty excited. They said that they read the article and loved the pictures, and everything was great. I didn’t get any negative energy from it at all, which was really wonderful. Sometimes you worry that people might be judgey, but nope! Not here.

How many Instagram followers did you have before the shoot, and how many do you have now?

Before I probably had 1,000 Instagram followers. Now I think I have about 245,000. It definitely gave me a boost. There was an immediate boost, but really it was just the beginning and then it was like a slow rise, kind of continuously. It definitely wasn’t overnight. First it just doubled and you’re like, “Oh, now I have 2,000 followers.” All of a sudden it doubles again.

Were you able to draw positive attention to Fantasy?

Yeah, definitely. It the pictorial article they wrote about the show and how it’s at the Luxor and everything. We did a little celebration at the Luxor. We did a whole nightclub event. Because it was Miss February we did like a Valentine’s Day event at LAX (nightclub) and that was very fun. We did some 8x10s signed, and we celebrated. I think I threw out hundreds of Playboy bunny ears into the crowd. They loved it.

Have any South African Playboy readers come to meet you after the show?

I’m not sure if they were actually from South Africa, but I’ve had a few times where people were showing up with printouts of my Playboy shoot to sign, so that’s kind of fun.