Christie Hefner on Her Path After Playboy

The former chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises on helping elect Obama, leaving her dad’s company, and pursuing social change
Illustration by Jimmy Turrell

The idea of Playboy didn’t bother me. I thought it celebrated women as sexual beings. My father and I are very different people—I have no interest in hanging out at the Playboy Mansion—but we agree on what Playboy represents. I worked there the summer after graduation, then lived in Boston for a year as a freelance journalist before moving back in 1975. When I took over as chairman and CEO in 1988, the company was in too many businesses. They had a modeling agency, movie theaters, limousines, hotels, and clubs. Literally, there were Playboy air fresheners. The hardest thing was convincing Hef to close the clubs. Our idea was to draw on the heritage of the magazine and the good life, and make it hip and relevant. The new generation of young women, it turned out, thought the rabbit head was cool. Wearing a cute jacket or a T-shirt with the [logo] on it was sort of like reading Seventeen when you’re 13. We took a 50-year-old magazine and turned it into a global multimedia lifestyle brand.

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