Despite the title of her former E! Network reality show, Holly Madison is hardly a "girl next door." Madison lived in a world that intrigues most of us, but we will never see firsthand: the alternate universe known as the Playboy Mansion. Attached at the, um, hip to beau Hugh Hefner, Holly’s experiences as one of the ultimate Playboy’s lovers were life-altering, and now she wants to share them with the world. Her book, Down The Rabbit Hole, is flying off shelves and garnering debate from plenty of Hefner loyalists. We caught up with her to get a taste of her side of the story.
Holly, how are you?
I'm good, how are you?
I'm great. Really, how are you?
It has been busy. I was not expecting the book to get this much initial attention. I'm really excited about it. I thought it would be this word-of-mouth thing, I had no idea it would be this crazy.
There are many people talking about what you've written and crediting you. Then there are folks challenging, or criticizing, some of the things you discuss. Did you expect that?
I feel like I've gotten a great response from people who read the book — they really love it. Sometimes I get some hate, but it's mostly from people who haven't read the book and are reacting based on a headline, one interview, or a snippet. The publicity really urges people to read the book before they judge, because it's almost 400 pages. I was very particular about everything I said. I wanted to tell my whole story, and, you know, tell people where I was coming from. It's hard to sum it up in one sentence.
Does it feel now like this is the first time you're really coming out to the world with a very honest viewpoint of who you are and where you've been?
It's definitely the first time I've come out and been honest about my experiences and where I was coming from. For so many years, I just wouldn't talk about it. I wanted to start over after I left the mansion, and stand on my own two feet and start from scratch. When people would ask me about Hef or the mansion, I just gave a light answer to get that question out of the way.
What was Dancing With The Stars like for you? Was it a way to step away from the Playboy stuff and become known for something entirely different?
Yeah. Dancing With The Stars was an amazing opportunity that fell in my lap exactly when I needed it. I moved out of the mansion and left everything behind me there — the TV show and the job — and went right into another relationship. Thankfully, it didn't last long (he wasn't good for me). After that, I was really starting from scratch because I didn't have connections anymore. I didn't have a source of income. I made a list of things I wanted to do and Dancing With The Stars was one of them. Over the past couple of years I've been going in for auditions and bugging the producers, saying, 'I really want to do this, I really want to do this.' They said I would never get cast. Supposedly, they thought it wasn't a good idea to cast somebody who was with an 80-year-old man. When somebody on the show got injured, they were like, 'OK. Who wants to do this so badly that they'll go in with only four days of rehearsal?' It was, really, an amazing opportunity that came exactly when I needed something to work hard and focus on.
Fom beginning to end, how much of your life was at the Playboy Mansion and its community?
I moved in when I was in college, and lived there for seven years. I moved out at the age of 28. All I had known was that mansion life, which is very unusual and — in a way — sheltered.
It's an interesting atmosphere to think of when you, say, you're 28 and you didn't know anything else. Did it feel like there was a huge chunk of you that you'd left there?
I don't know about a huge chunk, but I felt behind in some ways. Most people spend their 20s building a career and dating. I didn't have any normal dating experience. My career after college was basically being on reality TV. I was looking for an adventure when I moved in there, and I guess I got it.
This book is really a depiction of your relationship with Hugh Hefner. Are there things in this book about that relationship that might be surprising, even to people who think they know everything?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, most people who think they know me just know me from Girls Next Door and that was a show that Playboy helped to produce. Hef approved everything that went in it, too. And you know, I tried to be a good sport and be happy on the show. I was embarrassed to have bad feelings. When people saw me on TV, it was only a small slice of my personality.
You mentioned a relationship that you had after leaving the mansion that didn't work. Does your past with Hugh Hefner weigh heavily on guys who you've been involved with?
I don't know if it's a factor so much for guys, but being associated Playboy is definitely a factor in the entertainment industry when I'm out trying to get work. When people think of Playboy, they think of porn and sponsors don't want anything to do with that. As much of a door-opener it might be, it's also a burden in a way. It's 50/50.
As far as your personal life, do you feel like you've been approached specifically because of your Playboy past as opposed to, you know, for being you?
Fame in general always attracts some of the wrong attention. You know, there's those guys out there who only want to date somebody because they want another notch on their belt, or they want to brag and point at the TV and say 'I dated so-and-so,' but I guess that just comes with the territory.
Is it something you have to kind of learn over time to avoid or to recognize from a mile away?
Yeah, it's definitely something I learned in my first couple years at the mansion.
Where do you go from here? It's such a great story — are there any ideas to do something else with that story, like a movie?
I'd love it if it turned into a movie, and I want to write another book — a different type of book — because I really love the writing process. As far as re-living my past, I feel like I'm done with it after this book. I finally told the truth, and it has really set me free. I felt like I was living a lie and avoiding the topic for so long.
Would you say it's kind of like therapeutic for you?
It was absolutely therapeutic. There were definitely memories that were painful for me, and things that I didn't want to go back to. I was committed to telling the whole truth, even things that were unflattering or embarrassing about me.
It sounds like you have a different kind of writing project in your mind now. What kind of direction are you looking to go in after this?
I'm kind of pitching it right now so I won't go into it. It's quite different than this one.
What else are you currently involved in or looking to do?
I want to have more kids. I have a two-year-old; I want to expand my family.
Alright, perfect, and of course Down the Rabbit Hole is on the shelves. You can find it on Amazon, and every book retailer there is is going to have this book until they run out. Holly, any parting thoughts?
Thank you for the interview, it was great!