For several Playboy Bunnies, fashion was pain.
Several women who served at the famed Playboy Clubs are speaking out about how donning the brand’s iconic costume allegedly caused intense scrutiny and physical suffering.
The A&E 10-part documentary titled “Secrets of Playboy” features new interviews with numerous members of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s staff and inner circle, as well as past girlfriends. New episodes air Monday nights.
PJ Masten, who worked for Playboy from 1972 until 1982, alleged that female staffers were subjected to “humiliating” monthly weigh-ins. A chart of all the Bunnies’ weights was allegedly on display next to the scale for everyone to see.
“If you gained weight, you were going to have a really bad problem,” claimed Susanne Singer, who worked at the Playboy Club in Century City, California, from 1972 until 1984, as quoted by People magazine.
“Because they weren’t going to let that costume out for you,” she added.
Suzanne Charneski, a Bunny at the Playboy Club in Great Gorge, New Jersey, from 1979 until 1982, also alleged that the brand’s signature style caused physical harm. The look featured a curve-hugging tailored satin leotard, fishnets, tuxedo-style wrist cuffs and choker pieces, towering stilettos, along with fluffy bunny ears and a matching tail.
“The costume has 18 metal stays in, so it took two people to put it on — you would have to hold it in the front and someone would zip it up the back,” she explained, as quoted by the outlet. “If you gained five pounds [with] those 18 metal stays, you couldn’t breathe. Literally.”
“I think that was part of it — to humiliate these girls,” Masten chimed. “If you didn’t get [your weight] down for next month, you were suspended until you got your weight down.”
“A lot of girls had kidney infections ’cause you were cinched in,” she continued. “We used to go into the ladies room and take our shoes off, which were encrusted with blood, and stick them in the toilet bowl and keep flushing it with, like, a whirlpool to get the swelling down, hoping that your shoes could fit back on.”
Masten, who took on the role of Bunny Mother in 1975, also noted the club had high standards when it came to hiring new Bunnies.
“We had to evaluate them on their appearance, and we had a guideline that all Bunny Mothers were given: [no] crepey skin, sagging breasts, bags under their eyes, crooked teeth, some really nasty descriptions,” she explained.
“It was heartbreaking to me and I just I couldn’t do it,” Masten admitted. “I couldn’t do it. I rebelled against it. I didn’t check off if they had crepey skin, or if they had saggy breasts, you couldn’t tell anyhow, I don’t want to fire somebody for image — that stays with you for the rest of your life, that’s a terrible thing.”
Singer noted that a Bunny “wasn’t a real person, so to speak – she was an image.”
“Sitting here in 2021, I can see where many people would have thought that this was not how to treat women by saying, ‘Well, if your image changes, you’re outta here’ — and I understand that,” she said. “But at the time, the way we were raised and the times that we were raised in, we didn’t think anything about it because we didn’t know any different. And that’s kind of sad.”
In Jan., former Playboy Bunny Jaki Nett, who also participated in the documentary, told Fox News she was required to gain weight before slipping into the club’s costume.
“I was interviewed by Hugh Hefner’s private secretary and the Bunny Mother at that time,” Nett explained. “I remembered they looked at me and went, ‘You’re too thin.’ So I figured, I’ll gain weight. I gained 10 pounds in two months. I was still too thin but eventually, I got hired. I was persistent.”
“You have to remember, a Playboy Bunny is hired because of their looks… And you had to maintain a certain weight, whatever it was that made you look good,” she continued. “They had very voluptuous ladies and some like me, who were very thin. When I went to my interview, I was under 100 pounds. I was really skinny.
“I looked very much like the girl next door, but one who had long legs… And Hugh Hefner didn’t condone segregation so I didn’t feel isolated as a Black Bunny. I felt accepted. There was no general distinction. We had Black general managers, room directors and Bunnies. I was happy to be working in this environment. It was quite exciting.”
In response to the docuseries, a spokesperson for Playboy issued a statement to Fox News.
“Today’s Playboy is not Hugh Hefner’s Playboy,” the statement began. “We trust and validate these women and their stories and we strongly support those individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security, and accountability are paramount.”
“The most important thing we can do right now is actively listen and learn from their experiences,” it continued. “We will never be afraid to confront the parts of our legacy as a company that do not reflect our values today.”
“As an organization with a more than 80% female workforce, we are committed to our ongoing evolution as a company and to driving positive change for our communities,” the statement concluded.
Hefner’s son Cooper also took to Twitter to defend his late father.
“Some may not approve of the life my Dad chose, but my father was not a liar,” the 30-year-old tweeted. “However unconventional, he was sincere in his approach and lived honestly. He was generous in nature and cared deeply for people. These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge.”
Hefner passed away in 2017 at age 91.