Holly Madison rose to fame first as a model for Playboy and later as one of the main stars of the E! reality series The Girls Next Door (which focused on several Playmates’ relationships with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner). Now the 35-year-old mother is talking about her hopes for her daughter, 2-year-old Rainbow.
When asked if she would approve of Rainbow following in her footsteps as a nude model, Madison said she would “not be OK” with that. As one of the voices in Yahoo Parenting’s #NoShameParenting week, Madison talked at length about some of the lessons she’s learned from becoming famous by posing nude … and what some of the consequences have been.
“When [Rainbow] is an adult, she will be able to do what she wants,” Madison says, “but from Day One I’ve tried to raise her to know she has value, her body parts have value, and she doesn’t have to do something cheap or tawdry to get attention. If she wanted to do [what I did]—and God forbid she did—I would tell her my whole experience with it and I’d be honest that it wasn’t what I thought it would be.”
Madison says that when a woman’s public identity comes from being photographed naked, that’s a very difficult reputation to shake. “While you are doing it, it might seem fine, but years later, you don’t necessarily want those pics out there, and they don’t go away. Plus, one thing I’ve learned is that if people know you’ve posed nude for anything, they want to take your choices away in different contexts. So, because you’ve done it before, they assume you’ll pose nude for anything, anytime, anywhere. … I feel like once you’ve posed nude, suddenly people assume your body is always fair game.”
It sounds as if perhaps Madison has learned a hard lesson here. Namely, that when you allow yourself to be sexually objectified—even if that was a choice you freely made yourself—it’s likely other people will keep relating to you and defining you in that way, even if you don’t want them to do so.
Holly Madison knows that her choices have cast a long shadow on her own life. Her experiences offer an important cautionary tale in a culture that increasingly dismisses pornography as harmless, and in which many people (including adolescents) don’t think twice about snapping a picture of their nude bodies to send to someone else. Madison rightly understands that our value as human beings is so much more than our sexuality or our anatomical attractiveness. Whether she realizes it or not, that understanding is in harmony with Scripture, which teaches that we all have inherent worth and dignity by virtue of being created in God’s image.
Speaking of God, I find it really interesting that Madison’s response to the suggestion that her daughter might one day pose nude was “God forbid!” It’s a telling exclamation, one that speaks volumes about how damaging it can be—even years later—for a young woman to define her public identity in terms of her sexuality and her body.