Levi Johnston's sister bares all for Playboy

Mercedes fires up her blog and takes off her clothes, proving America's Palin lust is endless

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Published July 14, 2011 7:40PM (EDT)

Congratulations, America, you've brought Mercede Johnston back. The reliably cantankerous teen, whose main claim to fame is having a brother who "stole" the virginity of dancing queen  and best-selling author Bristol Palin, has been keeping a low profile of late, barely stopping by her vitriol-fueled blog to update it. And it's been five long months since rumors first surfaced that Miss Johnston, like her trou-dropping brother Levi, would bare it all in the pages of a national magazine. But everyone knows that just because some things -- like Cher, or harem pants -- go away for long periods at a time, that doesn't mean we've seen the last of them. So hold on for the Summer of Mercede.

First, she warmed up last week with a lengthy, ranty blog post about her arch-nemesis Bristol. As usual, she doesn’t hold back, delivering her opinions in her trademark adolescent style. Attempting to set the record straight on Bristol's book, which she redubs "Not Afraid of Lies," she writes, "Levi never liked her to drink since it just made her more promiscuous (Which those guys in Juneau will confirm, right Bristol?") Yow. If Johnston ever writes a book, she can call it "Not Afraid of Slut Shaming."

And now, Playboy confirms to Us magazine that Mercede is taking it off in the next issue, out in August. Dear Lord, please let there be an interview. Because naked blondes are a dime a dozen in the Hefner empire, but what distinguishes Johnston is her backhanded flair for disses like, "I just flat out didn't feel comfortable saying [Bristol] was moaning loud enough during sex to awaken people in the house."

Johnston isn't the first small-town girl with troubled parents and limited options to find herself disrobing for money. But her trajectory to Playmate status is a unique one. As Johnston told E! last winter, "I have got a ton of offers but turned the majority of them down. When I accept one, it isn't for the money but simply because I think it is a good choice for me at that time."

Mull that statement over a bit. By virtue of being the sister of the man who made Sarah Palin a grandmother, by that slenderest of connections, this young woman says she receives "tons of offers." To take her clothes off. Is this like a Gallagher II thing? Is the naked vision of a woman whose nephew sprang from a Palin womb a close enough approximation of seeing Sarah or Bristol in the altogether to satisfy the masturbatory desires of Tea Partyers and angry liberals alike? That is some serious insatiability, right there.

Perhaps Johnston took the Playboy gig because, as she puts it, it seemed like a "good choice." But it remains eminently clear that a girl with a very splintered family is pouring her heart out in public about how desperately she misses her "best friend"  brother and her nephew Trip, and is doing everything in her power to drum up attention. And if, along the way, she can vent some spleen toward the Palins, she'll likely always be able to make a few bucks doing so. The world is full of pretty girls eager to pose nude. But a naked girl who was almost Bristol's sister-in-law -- well, that stuff moves magazines. In the same issue that Playboy is running the Johnston spread, there's an in-depth feature by George Gurley about Sarah Palin and her family. It's slated to run right next to the Mercede pictures.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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