Holly Sue Cullen, known professionally as Holly Madison, is an American model, showgirl and television personality. She is widely known for being one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends on the reality television series The Girls Next Door and for her own reality series, Holly's World. Although not a Playboy Playmate, she has appeared in nude pictorials with her Girls Next Door costars, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson. In 2009, she appeared as a contestant on the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars.
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Hello everyone. I'm Holly Madison.
My new book, Down the Rabbit Hole is a story of curious adventures and cautionary tales from me, a Former Playboy Bunny.
Victoria's helping me out on the phone. AMA!
Thank you for all these questions. Some of them - MANY of them - were so fun and refreshing. I appreciate your time, and I hope you check out my book, Down the Rabbit Hole.
How much of your book was written by you?
I worked with a partner who was very talented, because I felt like I needed somebody to help me keep it very real and also give me perspective, because for so many years, I wouldn't even talk about my life at the Mansion. And there were so many things I didn't even want to think about, and kept very deep-down. But I'd definitely say I wrote most of it, because it is so personal that every word had to come from me. And I was very, very picky about everything that went into the book.
Did you ever find yourself just disgusted with the men and people partying around you? I was a dancer for almost 20 years, (errr stripper is probably a more relevant term), but anyway..... I found as I went along, I grew more and more insecure and hateful and completely disgusted by the people that patronized the venue. Maybe I'm just weird, but I feel like there is this mentality of degradation hidden behind the flashing lights, sexy costumes and catchy music. I just kinda got to this point where I asked myself? Is the money even worth it anymore? Am I going crazy? Do I still love my job? I went into work one day and just couldnt even do it anymore. All I saw were the swollen fat faces of alcoholic men whose wives had divorced them for obvious reasons...... I never went back. I've had old friends/fellow dancers just look at me like I'm crazy for leaving when I did, but all I could see in my mind were horrible men with horrible intentions and I was done with "entertaining" them. I guess that makes me kind of a weirdo? Maybe it's just me, but I feel like you have a similar mind set in that regard....... Whatever the case, leaving when I did opened me up to a whole new world of awesome. Now? I'm a sound engineer, there are still hurdles, I work in a very male dominated field so it is constant competition, but I feel like my past kind of gave me the background I needed to face it head on. Would you say that your experience in the Mansion helped you become stronger?
First of all, I wanna say congratulations, it sounds like you've made some really good choices, and good for you for moving on and following your heart.
And I do feel that even the negative experiences in my past have been amazing learning experiences. And there were things I needed to learn. Because once I was young, and I thought glamour and fame were everything, and now I've seen the other side of that.
You've recently come out and voiced your distaste towards Hugh Hefner and the Playboy lifestyle.
My question is, why did you continue to live there if you were so unhappy?
Also, why would it be surprising that being one of many live-in girlfriends to an elderly man wouldn't be weird as hell?
Well, that's definitely the million dollar question, and something I get into in-depth in my book.
But my short answer is: I thought it was gonna be a very light, fun situation. Something crazy to do while I was in college.
But it was much heavier than I thought it was going to be. I got in over my head. And I was afraid to leave, because I was afraid of everyone's judgement.
I felt like people judged me very harshly. And I wasn't ready to deal with that baggage for quite some time.
If you were starting all over - what would you want to be when you grew up?
I would want to work for Disney in some creative capacity. I'd want to be an imagineer!
What was a typical day at the playboy mansion like?
It would depend on the day of the week, because each night was different, as far as what was planned socially.
But during the day, it was pretty quiet. Hef would go into his office and work, and we (the girls) would go run errands.
We were usually alone during the day. Bridget and I hung out sometimes, but for the most part, the girls were sick of each other and went their separate ways when they could.
Usually we wouldn't get together for dinner. It would usually be me and Bridget eating dinner with Hef (we were the only ones that cared about that kind of thing).
And at night, we would be expected to go out around 9 o'clock, I think? And those went on until 1 in the morning.
Is there a down side to your particular version of fame?
Hahahahahaha! YES! There absolutely is a downside, and that was one of the messages I wanted to include in my book, because when I was young, I thought fame was EVERYTHING. I thought it would make your life perfect, and was worth pursuing at every cost, and I learned that that's not true. Especially if you're famous for nothing, versus quality work, and there are a lot of haters out there. That was one of the messages I wanted to include in my book - that fame is not everything.
If you had to choose between your tits or ass which one would you pick?
Definitely my butt, because it's real, and it's amazing.
What book are you currently reading? Aside from the one you've written, what would you recommend?
Oh, I just read DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn and that was really great, I got really invested in the characters, so I highly recommend that! And I just picked up INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY, I just started that one, but it's really interesting so far.
You always struck me as kind of the "mom" of the three Girls Next Door, or at least the one that seemed the most level-headed. Did you ever feel like you were the defacto group "leader" of the girls or was that just the way it looked after they edited everything down?
You know, I think Hef expected me to kind of be the "mom" or the leader of the group?
The woman who was the main girlfriend before me kind of had that role.
And I didn't really like or embrace that idea. I was never 100% comfortable with being in this group relationship, and before Bridget and Kendra came along, most of the girls were older than me, more sophisticated, more experienced, so I definitely wasn't good at being the group leader, hahaha!
So I don't think it was edited to look that way. I just think that was what was expected of me, even if I didn't really want to play that role.
Hi Holly and thanks for the AMA.
Was it easy to separate yourself from Playboy compared to others and how was DWTS?
Dancing with the Stars was an AMAZING experience. It came along at a time in my life when I felt I really needed it, and it got me through some really hard times, and it was a really glamorous, fun experience, so I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And as far as getting away from Playboy, it's much easier said than done, just because people have SUCH strong memories of "The Girls Next Door." So it's not been easy to steer people's attention towards things I've done afterwards without people wanting to talk about my past (which I've tried to avoid doing - up until now).
Hi Holly! Who would you say is your favorite person/friend from the Mansion or outside of it?
Mary O'Connor, Hef's secretary, was one of my favorite people. She passed away a few years ago, sadly. And Bridget is my closest friend from the Mansion days.
I read your book in 2 days thanks for keeping me from doing any housework! Haha
This is a massively girly question but what are your favourite products?
You always look so lovely, am I right in thinking you are a MAC Dollymix girl?
Ps I LOVE your kitchen!
Okay, first of all, you guessed my blush RIGHT ON! That's exactly what I use!
And my other staples - I use a Sheseido Eyebrow pencil, that's definitely a must for me, and I use Coty Airspun Facepowder. Those are my top 3 for sure.
I don't know if you seen the TED talk by Cameron Russell, describing her experiences as a model--but if so, what's your opinion about she said, and what do you think of the objectification of women in the media and how that effects masculinity, how men perceive women, and overall gender relations?
I haven't seen that TED talk, but I'll definitely look it up, it sounds interesting.
You know, we're entering this whole new era with Instagram, and with Photoshopping becoming so easy that anyone can do it at the drop of a hat, and I've always embraced glamour and femininity throughout my life, so I'm hesitant to point a finger at the industry, but it's hard to see Instagram, and you look, and all these women look BEYOND perfect, with these out-of-control proportions - and even though I know they're using the app FaceTune to re-do their proportions, it still has an effect on me, and how I feel about my body, and I just worry about the younger generation growing up and thinking that that look is normal, or that they have to change themselves so much for instagram.
It's really interesting to me. I was just talking about this with my friends the other day, and the person I was talking to was a man, and even he was saying that it was really bad for men as well as women, because what you're going to get in real life probably isn't going to look like something you'd get out of FaceTune!
if you could be an awesome character in a Mortal Kombat-type game, what would your badass fighting move be?
I always wanted to be Reptile, because he was different. So I would slash people with my tail.
Hi from argentina!! Happy to speak to you
How do you think your life would turn out to be if you hadnt work for playboy?
I think I would have ended up just staying in college, you know? I was in a lot of debt and things like that, but I always wanted to work for Disney and be on the creative, behind-the-scenes side of things, so I think that's where I would've gone if I hadn't gone the Playboy route.
What about all the animals? Did you guys take care of them, or was there a animal caretaker just for them?
There was a full-time zoo staff there, that took care of the animals.
I used to spend a lot of time, learning about the animals and hanging out with them, but there was a full-time zoo staff.
I really don't know who you are just googled your name and all I saw was cleavage pictures. You can only imagine the first thing popped in my mind, do you care about the image people have of you when they google your name?
I definitely care, but you can't drive yourself crazy about it, because there's only so much you can do.
How do you feel about movies like the house bunny? Did you watch it?
I actually had a part IN "The House Bunny"! We met Anna Faris - the movie was kind of her idea, she was one of the producers as well as the star, she was really sweet. I liked the movie, it was obviously inspired by "Girls Next Door."
What do you think was the most surprising thing about living at the Playboy Mansion?
Oh my gosh, I don't know where to start!
I think one of the things that was really surprising (that was a positive thing) was how nice the staff was. The staff was SO friendly, so down to earth and down home. That was something that I didn't get to include in my book, that there was a lot of intimidating things about the mansion, but the staff was always really nice.
And there's a lot of weird stuff, too.
Was Kendra's laugh that annoying or did the cameras make it seem that bad?
Hahaha! Well, I'm not one to talk about annoying laughs, but it kind of became a trademark thing. But I can't really talk, my laugh is just as bad!
Were you friends with the other bunnies?
Yeah, we made a lot of friends over the years, with the Playmates who would come and stay at the house, while shooting their pictorials. A lot of em were really nice girls, so yeah, we made a lot of friends over the years.
Hi Holly! I'm a huge fan and I really have to tell you how much I loved your book! I couldn't put it down!
I noticed though that you really didn't get too into your family's reaction to your being one of Hef's girlfriends/ his "number one."
Did it cause any strain on your relationship with your family? Are you closer to them now that you're no longer affiliated with Playboy?
It didn't cause strain. Mainly because I was never really forthcoming with them about any of the aspects of the relationship that they might've been uncomfortable with.
I didn't really talk about it, you know, some of the things I was uncomfortable with, they aren't things I'd talk to my parents about. But I kind of got the feeling, when Girlfriends would have their parents visit the Mansion, I kind of got the impression that parents thought their daughters were staying there while they were modeling?
My relationship with my family is in a good place now.
What is a cool thing you can tell us about the house not a lot of people know? Is there really an Elvis Room? Did John Lennon really put a cigarette out on a Matisse?
The room you're thinking of - it's not called "The Elvis Room," they call it "The Van Room," because it looks like the back of a 1970's van. It has like a mattress floor, and mirrored walls and ceilings, and these old 70's looking pillows.
And there's a Matisse sketch that was hanging in one of the halls, and they replaced the glass, but you can still the smudge where he put his cigarette out.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from Hugh?
Um...I mean, aside from any personal lessons I learned about myself from being there, I would say that I learned how to edit. And that helped me a lot doing my book, ironically! Because sometimes he'd be working on projects, and if he needed extra secretary help, he'd hand it over to me, so I learned to look through something, seeing inconsistencies, how to make it better, things like that.
Do you ever think, "Ugh, this creepy ugly fan asking for my autograph saw a naked picture of me, I'm not cool with that"?
No, I don't really think of that. Because the naked pictures are so heavily-posed, and well-lit, and you're wearing body makeup, so it's almost not like being naked? It doesn't really feel like me.
what's the craziest thing you ever saw at the Playboy mansion?
P.S. I love you
Hahaha! Thank you!
The craziest thing I ever saw... that is a hard one... anytime anybody asks that, I always think about an empty grotto, because I was always waiting to see something REALLY insane in the grotto, because you hear so many stories.
But when we would go to the parties, we were always expected to sit at Hef's table, by the dance floor, and not really leave, so when I would go and look in the grotto, it would either be at the very BEGINNING of the party, or during the day, so there wasn't much going on.
So when people ask me the "craziest" thing I've ever seen - that's what I think of.
I know that crazy things happen - I've heard about it - but I never got to see it.
Holly! I loved The Girls Next Door! What advice would you give to a wannabe bunny? Not me, haha. But would you advise her to go for it? What would you warn her about? Hope you and Rainbow are well!
I would say definitely read my book.
And if there's anything you can gain from that, awesome.
I would say definitely don't get lost in that world. But from what I understand, the way the magazine operates now is a little bit different from when I was there. And I think they find their girls in a more legitimate way - at least, that's what I hear, through modeling agencies and similar things.
What's the weirdest request you've gotten from a fan?
Um... I've had a couple people ask me to autograph them on their arm, so they can get a tattoo?
And I do it, but only if they swear they won't get the tattoo - because if they did, it would be tragic!
The Girls Next Door was pretty neato.
What does your ideal breakfast consist of?
I always got coffee, and a bagel, usually.
As an author, how do you feel when people make grammar mistakes?
Um, I try not to judge, because it's easy to make typos, and I certainly am never perfect the first time around.
But I do laugh when somebody writes something mean to me on social media, yet makes a glaring grammatical error.
I LOVED the book and read it in a day.
My question is, if you went back to school to get a degree, would you and what would you major in? Also if you could live in ONE Disney ride, which would it be? xoxo
Oh my gosh!
Probably... I thought about going back and majoring in Political Science, because I wanted to be the major of Las Vegas one day!
And The Haunted Mansion, definitely! That's my favorite ride!
And it's funny you ask it - when my husband and I were looking for a house in Las Vegas, we were having trouble finding one we liked, and eventually we did, but we thought about - we considered building a house for a while, and my plan was to build one that looked exactly like the Haunted Mansion!
what's the coolest thing about hugh hefner, and what's the least coolest thing about him?
I think the coolest thing about him was how he treated his friends, and when he would have dinner, and movies, and have his friends over, he was always very fun and nice.
And I think the un-coolest thing was some of the things I went through in my relationship with him that are detailed in the book.
Did the Mentalist ever get mad at you shooting him with a paintball gun?
No, I don't think so?
I mean, I hope so!
How do you feel when you pose nude in front of others?
I don't remember feeling very self-conscious, because at the time, Bridget and Kendra were there too, so I wasn't the only one, so that kind of took some of the pressure off. I always think it's a little more nerve-wracking that you think it's going to be, because you're worried about every possible flaw, or you're worried about showing too much. But overall, I have a pretty European attitude about nudity!
What's your thought on Sherlyn Chopra posing for Playboy?
I don't know much about her, but she's really pretty.
Would you rather fight one Hugh Hefner sized duck or 100 duck sized Hugh Hefner's?
The little tiny Hugh Hefners sound beyond creepy, so I'll take the duck.
How did you decide on the name Rainbow for your daughter?
There was a girl at my school named Rainbow, when I was going to school in Oregon, and I loved that name - I thought it was the prettiest Hippie name ever!
And I hadn't thought about it for years, but when I was pregnant with Rainbow, it popped into my head as the perfect choice.
No, I stopped talking with a lot of Playboy people years ago, and I'm not really interested in rekindling that part of my life. And no, I didn't get Peacock Visitation, but I'm sure they are well taken care of!
Did you ever help Hugh Hefner with his scrap booking?
I never helped him with his scrapbooking, but Bridget and I were VERY into scrapbooking as well. We got a lot of pictures while we lived there, and sometimes we'd spend every sunday in the winter doing NOTHING but scrapbooking. So I have a TON to look back on!
What are some of your favorite things to do with your daughter?
What is your favorite dessert?
We loooove to play with princess dolls, we have chickens at our house, so we love to go visit the chickens, and I think my favorite thing is just reading her stories.
OH! My favorite dessert is anything chocolate. Like, I love the 25-layer chocolate cake they have at Striphouse. It's so good.
Will you be scheduling more book signings?
I think so! I'm going to Europe for a few weeks, but I'm pretty sure they'll schedule more for me when I get back.
i've noticed you've said "we were expected"- or basically, there was a certain behavior expected of you. who expected it? just heff or? who told you what was expected?
and did they tell you flat out "during parties, sit next to heff" or was more like they told you "if i were you, i wouldn't leave heff's table or else...."?
Definitely Hef expected it.
And we were made aware of what was expected through various ways, you know. Those are all gone into detail in the book.
When I joined the group, it was just very clear that you did it. Because no one did leave the table. And all the girls, if they were going to sneak off somewhere, they'd say "If anybody asks, I just went to the bathroom." It was implied that we weren't supposed to be cavorting around the party, talking to people - we had to play hostess.
I have two questions for you:
What is your favorite Disney movie that released recently?
What are some of your favorite tv shows at the moment
I looove the character Elsa.
And it's such a quality movie. Rainbow wants to watch it over and over again, and every time I see it, I don't get tired of it, it's so well-done!
I really loved MAD MEN, which ended recently. And I'm obsessed with Game of Thrones.
I second this!
I remember one thing we were heavily discouraged from doing was chewing gum in public.
Hef didn't like it. I think he thought it made us look cheap, which would only be the tip of the iceberg, but for some reason the gum thing wasn't cool.
I'm surprised by that! I would assume that you have had creepy fans ask weirder requests due to your history with Playboy...
People are pretty normal. I don't really run into anybody with strange requests.
I remember one time after my show in Vegas, a girl was like "Can I grab your boobs?" And I was like "Of course not!"
People think that if you present yourself in a certain way, then you never have a choice in how you're presented from then on.
That's usually advice I give somebody - once you pose nude for anything, ONCE, people will assume you'll get naked for anything, anywhere, anytime.
So that's definitely something to keep in mind before you make that decision.
What 5 things would you do (physically) if you were a guy for a day?
OH MY GOSH.
Climb a tree.
I'd just do anything I can't usually reach, or don't have the strength to do!
Does it annoy you at all that people always ask about your Playboy days and not where your life is going now?
I understand it, because it's a very oddball, interesting situation? And hopefully my book can answer people's questions, so I don't have to talk about it as much in the future.
What is your favorite Mexican food Restaurant in Las Vegas?
What is your favorite Grocery Store in Las Vegas?
Have you seen Claire Sinclair's "Pin Up" show? (if yes, what did you think of it?)
Have you met Frankie Moreno (the musician, not the cross-dresser)?
What time do you usually go to bed?
What are you currently binging on via Netflix?
I saw you at the South Point movie theater once. You are amazingly far prettier in real life than in pictures. Thank you for doing this AMA.
Oh man! I don't really have a favorite. I used to eat at Dos Caminos at the Palazzo, and then it went away.
I go to Whole Foods. I'm "one of those."
Yes! It's very cute. She's adorable in it. And I've seen it a handful of times.
^HAHAHAH! I have met him in passing.
I usually go to be around 1 AM.
I'm not really binging on anything right now? I've been really busy with the book tour. I've kinda been touring away.
And thank you!
From my sister who is a huge fan:
Hi Holly! First of all I wanted to say I'm a big fan, I love how honest and true you are. I used to watch your reality tv show, and I was wondering how Josh Strickland is doing. Why is this relevant you may ask? Well, I'm doing a production of Tarzan and I remember he got cast as Tarzan in the broadway production. So, I wish you the best for you and your family :) lots of love, a fan from argentina (wow you're loved all across the world, do you realize that?)
Aww, thank you!
Josh is doing amazing. He is currently in a show, singing in Las Vegas. And he just got married a few months ago, they just bought a house, so his life is kind of perfect!
Seriously, who wins in the ultimate physical fight between Catwoman and Joker and how? No weapons, of course
I like to believe in Catwoman.
I feel like the Joker, if you really got your paws on him, would rot - he looks like he has rotten skin!
How did you feel when you started at Playboy?
I went through kind of a rollercoaster of emotions.
I was excited to be there, because I thought it was a really glamorous lifestyle.
But I was definitely intimidated too, because almost immediately I felt like I'd gotten in over my head, I was intimidated by some of the girls, I didn't know who to trust.
So it's hard to pick one emotion. It was kind of a whirlwind at that time.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to date a playboy model or bunny?
I would say: keep an open mind, and get to know that person, because the women are all very different. You can't really make generalizations, so it's hard to give advice, really!
You mentioned you have an account on Pandora. How many stations do you have? and which one is your favorite?
On mine I've reached 99. Although I'm usually listening to Genesis.
My whole family uses it, so there's quite a few on there, but I usually listen to the Disney station for Rainbow, or the 1940's station, so I usually listen to that while I'm cooking.
I know you here your beautiful all the time and yes you are! Did you go back to do it yourself hair or do you go to salon?
I go to the salon to have my hair colored, but I always style it myself.
Aren't you from Alaska?
Yes, I lived in Alaska from when I was 3 to when I was 10.
And then we moved to Oregon.
Would you be writing more books?
Yes! I want to start writing a second book very soon.
I haven't decided how much fiction versus non-fiction it'll be, but it will be based on my years as a single lady in Las Vegas, and it will be (sort of) the anti-dating advice book.
Can you please describe Hugh Hefner's manhood in 5 or less words?
I'll never tell!
Hey it's Karen from Twitter...how did you meet ashley M. and how long have you've been friends? I've never asked her. :) she's so sweet!
OH MY GOSH, we've been friends for a really long time. I think we met at a party in LA, and yeah, she's really nice.
Whats the best "America's Funniest Home Videos" accident you've seen on set?
Um... I don't think there was one?
I feel like when those accidents happen, that's when you're like Shit! That's when the cameras weren't on!
What was the turning point for you to want to go a different direction with your life?
There were a lot of things that affected it. I think the show came along, after I'd been living there for 4 years, and the TV show really gave me a shot of confidence. They gave me a job at Playboy, because they thought it would be interesting for the show, and having a new skill to learn, a full-time job, really helped my confidence as well. But I really think what made me want to go in a different direction was when Bridget and Kendra were getting ready to leave, and I was going to be the only one there, and that's when I realized it wasn't what I wanted anymore.
How can you seriously refer to yourself as "author and tv personality" and not "nude model" or "pornographic actress"?
Well, first of all, I've never been a pornographic actress, and second of all, I haven't done nude modeling for a long time, it's not how I define myself, and it's not who I am now.