Playboy Bunny Danielle Lupo is speaking out in defense of late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
The magazine publisher has been the subject of A&E’s explosive 10-part docuseries, “Secrets of Playboy.” It features new interviews with numerous members of Hefner’s staff and inner circle, as well as past girlfriends.
“I want to emphasize how I’ve never felt more loved and respected as a woman working for Playboy than in any other job I’ve had in my life,” Lupo told Fox News. “I hope people don’t see Playboy in such a negative light when it has changed so many lives in a positive way and empowered many of us.
“This has been a smear campaign and it’s so unwarranted. It makes me so sad because Playboy has been such a special part of my life that I will always cherish. They have empowered me, respected me, supported me and cheered me on in my career.”
On Tuesday, People magazine obtained an open letter signed by hundreds of former Playboy Bunnies, Playmates, ex-girlfriends and employees condemning the series and the recent allegations made against Hefner, who died in 2017 at age 91. According to the outlet, several of the women who signed the letter also issued personal statements about the claims in the series.
Sondra Theodore and Holly Madison are two of Hefner’s former girlfriends who came forward in the series with allegations. Madison, who starred on E!’s “Girls Next Door,” claimed Hefner had a “mountain of revenge porn” and “didn’t want to use protection” during sex. Theodore told Fox News that she was “groomed” by Hefner.
Another claim made in the series against Hefner alleged Playboy Bunnies were subject to humiliating monthly weigh-ins.
“The documentary makes it seem like everyone who has ever worked for Playboy has had a horrible experience,” said Lupo. “It’s really embarrassing and hurtful when that’s not true.”
Lupo particularly took issue with Madison, who has been outspoken about her experience with the brand. The 42-year-old dated Hefner from 2001 to 2008 and was viewed as his No.1 girlfriend at one point. She previously wrote a book detailing her story, titled “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
“I just think there are two sides to every story,” said Lupo. “She may have walked away with bitter feelings, but that’s no reason to invalidate every other girl who has had a great experience … It’s just very upsetting and offensive.”
A rep for Madison didn’t immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
In response to the open letter, an A&E spokesperson issued a statement to Fox News.
“The stories shared in ‘Secrets of Playboy’ are the personal experiences of the documentary’s participants and deserve to be told despite how difficult they may be for some to hear,” it stated. “Signatures on a letter or a different experience with Mr. Hefner or the Playboy culture do not negate the experiences of those who have come forward to share their truth on the series, and we look forward to continuing to bring these stories to light.”
The open letter isn’t the first time that people from Hefner’s life have spoken out in defense of Hefner. His son, Cooper Hefner, previously spoke out on Twitter in support of his father ahead of the show’s premiere.
“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.”
Lupo noted how Cooper cheered her on as she worked in the health care field for about a decade.
“We are good friends,” she explained. “He supported me from day one. He’s been such a sweetheart. Everyone who has had an encounter with him has only positive things to say. He has such a class about him. He’s very well-spoken and has checked in on me while we’re on the front lines with COVID. So we’re all very hurt. Cooper has been hurt by this … I believe everyone has had their own unique experience, but the main person in question is deceased. He’s not here to defend himself … Why come out to the press now?”
In regard to the allegations made by past Playboy Bunnies, Lupo said that those directly hired by Playboy corporate may have had a different experience from those working with third party management.
“If someone ever made me feel uncomfortable [at the club], I only had to look at my manager, and they would remove the individual,” she said. “When you work with third-party management, you can only imagine how things can be mishandled. But I know so many other Bunnies who can tell you how their experiences have been wonderful. That’s why I felt I needed to speak up and support the brand because they have supported me so much.”
“I understand that everyone has had their own unique experience,” she added. “I am a big supporter of the #MeToo movement. But at the same time, we’re just looking at one side of the story. And the person in question is deceased. It’s just hurtful.”
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 added. “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.”