Licensed pilot Nicole Whitehead -- yes, she flies airplanes -- is absolutely fearless. "The first time I flew a plane was also the first time I went skydiving," says the 23-year-old. "I literally dived out the plane door -- they couldn't open it fast enough. When I was free-falling I could see all this amazing scenery at one time -- the ocean, the city and the area where the NASA shuttles take off. It was so pretty, I think I started to cry." Back on solid ground, Nicole, with ample Southern charm (she's from Alabama and lives in Florida), explained to the pilot that while skydiving was a trip, she would be even more excited actually flying the plane. How could he resist? "He took me up and let me take the controls," she says. "It was the best day I ever had. I knew right then that I had to fly for a living."
Nicole earned her pilot's license last August and is currently chalking up solo flight hours. Meanwhile, to help pay for flight school, she works at a local bar (most requested drink: Alabama slammer), models (you may have spotted her on the 2001 cover of Playboy's Natural Beauties special edition) and steals the spotlight in music videos (in Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," she dances -- or bangs -- herself into a frenzy). While definitely a girl on the rise, Nicole isn't going after red carpet megafame. "I would be perfectly happy flying other celebrities around the world rather than being one myself," she says.