In the years following the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, a slew of Playmates have come forward to share their traumatic interactions with the embattled provocateur, with allegations ranging from his pressuring women to undergo plastic surgery to sexual grooming. Now, Hugh’s third and final wife, Crystal Hefner, counts herself among them.
In a profile published Wednesday in the New York Times, Hefner, a former Playboy model herself, discussed her forthcoming tell-all memoir, Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, set to be released on January 23. The book’s title, she said, was inspired by a conversation that took place before her husband’s death in 2017, in which he demanded she “only say good things” about his legacy. Nearly seven years after Hugh Hefner died of cardiac arrest at 91, Crystal is breaking that promise with full force.
“At the time,” she said of her years in the Playboy mansion, “I must’ve been brainwashed or something.”
Although she was married to the Playboy mogul for five years (she was 26 and he was 86 when they wed in 2012) and had previously stood by him, Crystal said that revisiting their relationship now fills her with “regret and disgust,” as the Times put it. She met her future husband when she was just 21 years old at a 2008 Halloween party at the mansion, a night she claimed she was selected to have group sex with Hefner and some Bunnies. Two weeks later, she moved into the mansion.
Crystal detailed the strict requirements placed upon her physical appearance throughout her time there, writing that Hugh often commanded her to “tone up” if she gained weight or go blonder if any of her natural brunette hair began peeking out. She listened, she says, because she knew someone younger with “bigger boobs” could easily take her place. Crystal also told the Times she had tried to escape the mansion on several occasions, though she always returned. Looking back, she called her experience Stockholm syndrome.
The Cut has reached out to Playboy representatives for comment and will update this post when we hear back. PLBY Group, Playboy’s parent company, has previously acknowledged “allegations of abhorrent actions by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and others” in a 2022 open letter on Medium.
Though Crystal said she’s still processing the trauma she claims to have endured at the hands of Hugh and his Playboy empire, she’s doing her best to move on (“Coming into power is a work-in-progress,” she added). She is dating again and learning how to create boundaries for the first time. She even bought a farm in Hawaii. Far from the “gold digger” and “dumb blonde” the tabloids once painted her as, Crystal is no longer interested in staying small for the approval of a man, Hugh Hefner or otherwise.