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Holly Madison Says She Feared Hugh Hefner Would Blackmail Her If She Left Him

The Girls Next Door star explains why she felt she couldn't leave the Playboy Mansion.

Ever since she left the Playboy Mansion and the TV show The Girls Next Door, Holly Madison, one of Hugh Hefner's exes, has been very outspoken and critical about her time in the world of Playboy. Madison has opened up in interviews and in her book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, and now, she's part of the new A&E docuseries, Secrets of Playboy. In the first two episodes, which aired Monday night, Madison shared her story, including why she worried that Hefner would have blackmailed her if she'd tried to leave the Playboy Mansion. Read on to see what she had to say.

RELATED: Holly Madison Says Anyone Moving into the Playboy Mansion Had to Do This.

Madison went to Playboy for fame.

Holly Madison and Hugh Hefner at the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Al Pacino in 2007
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

"I think I was drawn to try to be in spotlight because I felt like, if I could be famous, that could be a shortcut to feeling a connection with people. Because we feel connected to celebrities," she said in Secrets of Playboy (via People). She said she was inspired by Anna Nicole Smith, Jenny McCarthy, and Pamela Anderson, who were all major mainstream stars at the time. "The common denominator was they all started out as Playmates. It made a lot of sense to infer that if I start out at Playboy, I could end up like that too, because they did."

She didn't feel like she could leave the mansion.

Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson at the premiere of "The House Bunny" in 2008
Tinseltown /

Once Madison was fully immersed in Playboy Mansion life, she became Hefner's "main girlfriend" and continued to stay there, even though she didn't like it. "I felt like I was in this cycle of gross things and I didn't know what to do," she said in the docuseries.

"I think I definitely thought I was in love with Hef but it was very Stockholm syndrome, very Stockholm syndrome," she said in the docuseries. "So Stockholm syndrome is when somebody starts to identify with somebody who's their captor in some way and I feel like I did that with Hef 100 percent."

She also called the environment "cult-like," and explained, "The reason I think the mansion was very cult-like is because we were all kind of gaslit and expected to think of Hef as like this really good guy." In the docuseries, Madison said that Hefner "screamed" at her for cutting her hair, and fellow Girls Next Door star Bridget Marquardt said that Hefner was particularly "abrasive" with Madison. She also said she had a 9 p.m. curfew, wasn't encouraged to have friends over, and was told to quit her waitressing job.

She worried Hefner would get revenge if she left.

Hugh Hefner and Holly Madison at Spike TV's 2nd Annual Guys Choice Awards in 2008
s_bukley /

Madison explained that one major reason she felt she couldn't leave the mansion was because Hefner had explicit photos of her and she feared that they would be released. "When you would go out with Hef, he's taking all kinds of naked pictures of these women when we're wasted out of our minds. And he would print out like eight copies for him and all the women, you pass them around. It was just gross," she claimed. She said this was "always lingering in the back of [her] mind."

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She's opened up about those compromising photos in the past.

Holly Madison at the Tao, Beauty & Essex, Avenue, and Luchini Grand Opening at Selma Avennue in 2017
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

While appearing on the podcast Power: Hugh Hefner in December 2021, Madison called the photos Hefner had of her and other women "not consensual".

"I don't know if he just assumed that was okay because all these women want to be in the magazine so bad. 'They must be okay with getting naked, so I'm going to take pictures while they're wasted and just hand those pictures out,'" she said (via Cosmopolitan UK). "That's the kind of thing that can make you feel stuck in a situation or over-invested. It's one of those things that makes you feel a little more backed into a corner."

Eventually, she felt confident enough to leave.

Holly Madison at the premiere of "Finding Dory" in 2016
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Madison said that being on The Girls Next Door boosted her confidence and gave her a purpose in staying at the mansion. And around the time the show ended, she thought things would change in her relationship with Hefner. "In 2008, my last year there, the other girls were leaving. It looked like it was just going to be me. I finally thought I got what I wanted out of this situation, and was finally like this committed relationship. But during that time period, he started getting even meaner," she said.

"At that point, there were no women to pit me against, there was none of that left," she continued. "And that's when I had the realization, and I was like 'Whoa he's been the problem the whole time.' I had been locked into the mentality of the mansion, and had felt like there's no other future for me outside. But I finally saw him for who he was and I had to go."

Playboy has responded to the docuseries.

Holly Madison in "Secrets of Playboy"
A&E / YouTube

Hefner died in 2017 at age 91, and his family is no longer associated with Playboy, which the brand made clear in an open letter ahead of the Secrets of Playboy premiere.

"First and foremost, we want to say: we trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences," the letter reads in part. "As you know, the Hefner family is no longer associated with Playboy, and today's Playboy is not Hugh Hefner's Playboy."

RELATED: See the Photo of Holly Madison as a Playboy Bunny That "Terrified" Her.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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