Not exactly Playmates! With the release of her new book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, Hugh Hefner‘s ex-girlfriend Holly Madison opened up to Us Weekly exclusively about her contentious relationship with Kendra Wilkinson.
“My first impression when I met her was that she was really nice,” Madison, 35, told Us‘ Ingrid Meilan last month at her L.A. home. “She didn’t have a lot to say, but the situation at the Mansion is pretty intimidating so that’s not surprising.”
Wilkinson was 19 years old in 2004, when she arrived at Hefner’s plush pad. “I liked her and I tried to be friends with her,” Madison reflected back to Us. “But she’s also a person who pushes people away, too.”
Madison spoke about Wilkinson frequently in her memoir, which was released on June 23. As previously excerpted by Us in the June 22 issue’s cover story, Madison wrote about her first impression of Wilkinson when she moved into the house. “I have to admit, I envied Kendra’s sense of entitlement,” Madison wrote. “I had felt so lucky just to scrape by when I moved into the Mansion, and here was a rookie who had just gone all the way with an old dude and her only concern was how big her room was going to be. Though she wasn’t cunning and sophisticated as the other girlfriends who had inhabited the Mansion in recent years, she seemed to have that same hustler mentality.”
Madison cited several examples in her memoir, including Wilkinson demanding a new car, a home for her two dogs, and dental work. “The balls on this girl,” the Playboy veteran mused at the time.
Still, Madison, Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt bonded especially when the buxom blonde trio starred on their E! reality series, The Girls Next Door. “The show bonded us together and turned us into a group,” Madison told Us. “It was kind of us against the world and not Hef trying to pit us girls against each other as much as it had been.”
Eventually, Wilkinson cut her off via a text message, which Madison shared in her memoir. “I’ve known about three different Kendras since I met her in 2004!” Madison laughed to Us. “I don’t know… For me, it was always important to maintain those friendships because Bridget [Marquardt] and Kendra are the only people who knew what we went through at the time, but I think she’s still very much in the mix with Playboy and everybody and still under the delusions a lot.”
Madison told Us she has zero concerns about Wilkinson picking up a copy of her memoir. “I lived with Kendra for four years and I never saw her in the vicinity of a book, so I don’t think she’s going to read it,” she dished. “Maybe she’ll have frenemies fill her in on what it says? But I don’t think she’s going to read it.”
“I never really knew what it was about [her]. When I was writing about Kendra in the book, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it because some of what I say comes off as pretty negative,” Madison continued. “I definitely didn’t want to bash another woman in the book, that wasn’t where I was going, but I didn’t feel like people would understand where I was coming from or why I was so miserable at the house if they didn’t understand how bad the ‘dumb girl culture’ made me feel.”
In fact, stupidity was valued. “Draw your own conclusions on whether you think Kendra was acting dumb or is really dumb or whatever, but it was always very encouraged by Hef and his friends,” Madison told Us. “Everybody thought it was so cute, and it was always very celebrated on the show. It was very frustrating as a woman, even though I was kind of playing that part myself by even being a part of Playboy. It’s frustrating as a woman to be put in that category and see that sort of behavior being rewarded.”
Madison, however, remembered Marquardt fondly. “Bridget and I were always very much two peas in a pod,” she told Us. “I felt that way — I can’t speak for her because she had her own experience and things she wanted to do, but we were very close friends and shared a lot of the same frustrations. I know she came into the situation with a very positive attitude and wanted to be a Playmate and wanted to achieve things and probably got sucked in a little more than she wanted to.”
It was both Marquardt and Wilkinson’s departure that made Madison finally realize who the true enemy was. “There was a lot of politics inside the mansion — very catty, very competitive, a kind of scary place to live,” she told Us. “Looking back, I see that [Hef] was the orchestrator of the whole thing.”
In fact, everything came to light. “Kendra and Bridget were moving out [and] I was going to be the only one there. It looked like I was getting what I wanted,” Madison told Us. “And he didn’t have those other girls to play off of me anymore, so him being a dick was just him being a dick. So I started to realize that and I was like, ‘You know what, I can’t live like this.'”
“After I left, I’d compare and hear things from Kendra and I would realize he was the one manipulating us all the time,” reflected Madison (now married to Pasquale Rotella, with whom she has a 2-year-old girl). “But he does such a good job of putting on this gentlemanly air that I just bought it. I thought he was the good guy and everyone else was in the wrong.”
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