Kendra Wilkinson is opening up about how a mental health emergency is helping her unpack unresolved trauma.
In a People exclusive published Tuesday, the former Playboy playmate and reality star told the magazine that in September of last year she had a panic attack so severe that her ex-husband and former NFL player, Hank Baskett, rushed her to the emergency room.
Wilkinson, now 38, said that when the attack occurred she “didn’t know what was going on in my head and my body or why I was crying.”
“I was dying of depression,” she told People. “I was hitting the end of my life, and I went into psychosis. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough to live anymore.”
Wilkinson said that just a week after her initial panic attack, she returned to the emergency room. Soon after her second hospitalization, she began outpatient therapy three times a week at UCLA. It was there that she learned that her panic attacks and depression were due in part to her 2019 divorce from Baskett — but more largely stemmed from her time living with Hugh Hefner in his notorious Playboy mansion.
“Playboy really messed my whole life up,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s not easy to look back at my 20s. I’ve had to face my demons,” she added.
From left: Kendra Wilkinson, Bridget Marquardt, Hugh Hefner and Holly Madison in 2006.
Wilkinson moved into Hefner’s mansion when she was 18 years old and he was 60 years her senior. Wilkinson — along with fellow former playmates Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt — eventually acted as Hefner’s three main girlfriends. Their polygamous arrangement was the basis of the reality show “The Girls Next Door” that aired from 2005 to 2010, and it was clear from the series that Hefner had complete control over his much younger girlfriend’s appearances and lives.
Wilkinson implied to People that she was not emotionally prepared to handle this kind of situation, and told the magazine that just three years prior to moving in she was “on drugs” and “had a lot of issues.”
“I really got into deep regret [after moving in],” Wilkinson said. “I struggled with depression before and at the mansion. I drank a lot. I was there for the partying, OK, let’s just be real. I was not there for Hugh Hefner to be my boyfriend.”
Wilkinson has also previously stated that she wasn’t even aware that she was expected to sleep with Hefner when she moved into the mansion.
“I didn’t know that sex was involved because I knew nothing about Playboy. I just graduated high school,” Wilkinson said in a 2014 episode of “I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!” according to ABC. “[But then] he’s like, ‘Do you wanna come upstairs?’ [and I said], ‘Sure, let’s have fun.’”
Being overtly sexualized at such a young age wasn’t the only demoralizing thing Wilkinson had to endure during her time with Hefner — who died in 2017 at the age of 91. The late Playboy magazine founder was notoriously particular about his partners’ physical appearance and preferred blondes with large breasts — spurring many women in Hefner’s orbit to undergo plastic surgery. Wilkinson said that Hefner’s very specific aesthetics ate away at her self esteem.
Wilkinson seems to be reckoning with the same issues that Madison, who dated Hefner at the same time, has been more forthright about publicly addressing for years.
“I hated my boobs, my body, my face. I got to that point where I started hating myself,” she says.
Thanks to regular therapy, Wilkinson now questions why she even put herself into that situation.
“Why did I have sex with Hugh Hefner at that age? Why did I do that?” Wilkinson told People. “Why did I go to the mansion in the first place? Why did I get big boobs? Why am I a sex symbol? Why did I bleach blonde my hair? Why did I do this to myself? Why did I?”
Wilkinson seems to be reckoning with the same issues that Holly Madison, who dated Hefner at the same time, has been more forthright about publicly addressing for years. Madison has been open about theabusive nature of her relationship with Hefner on her podcast, “Girls Next Level.” In 2015, Madison published her memoir, “Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy,” which was critical of her relationship with the Playboy founder. At the time of the memoir’s publication, Wilkinson was still a staunch defender of Hefner, and wrote off Madison as a bitter ex-girlfriend and her book as petty “revenge.”