Holly Madison's Body Dysmorphia Was 'Off the Charts' When She Modeled Playboy Bunny Costumes

·4 min read
Playboy Playmate Holly Madison wears a Roberto Cavalli-designed Playboy Bunny costume
Playboy Playmate Holly Madison wears a Roberto Cavalli-designed Playboy Bunny costume

Ethan Miller/Getty

More than a decade after Holly Madison left the Playboy Mansion, where she lived with then-boyfriend Hugh Hefner and his various other girlfriends, the 41-year-old star is opening up about the pressure to look perfect when she put on the iconic Bunny costume.

In a recent TikTok video, Madison looked back at old photos of herself dressed in the signature corseted Playboy costume and memories of the body dysmorphia she battled at the time came flooding back.

"So for a recent post, I was looking for pictures of myself in a bunny costume. I came across one and it reminded me of a moment in my life when I was watching a playback of myself and I thought, 'Oh my God, I need to lose weight,'" the former Girls Next Door star said.

The photo showed Madison strutting down a runway in a strapless black Bunny bustier complete with sheer black stockings and a thick bow choker.

"I looked at myself when I looked like this and was terrified," she recalls. "[I] thought that I gained weight and thought that I hadn't stuck to my diet and thought that my thighs were huge. I thought, I need to lose five pounds at least. And that's ridiculous." Madison said.

Television personality Holly Madison arrives for the Playboy Club's 50th Anniversary at The Playboy Club in The Palms Casino Resort on June 10, 2010
Television personality Holly Madison arrives for the Playboy Club's 50th Anniversary at The Playboy Club in The Palms Casino Resort on June 10, 2010

Steven Lawton/WireImage

She continued: "I'm sharing this because I think it might help people realize that sometimes our body dysmorphia is off the charts. I really feel like worrying [about] what I look like has gotten in the way of me living my best life and living as happy as I could be. It's not worth feeling bad about yourself."

RELATED: Holly Madison: Her Shame After Leaving Playboy, the 'Scarlet Letter' on Her Forehead and Fear She Wouldn't Find the One

Though they do remind her of a difficult time in her life, Madison does still have several of the outfits in her closet: "I have this one which is covered with Swarovski crystals. I have my first regular black one and a hot pink one."

However, she doesn't plan to put them on again. "I've had two kids since then and one thing nobody talks about pregnancy is your ribcage will expand about an inch in circumference. Your baby needs oxygen so you need more space for your lungs. And the ribs don't go back to normal," she said.

Even before Madison had kids, when she got "zipped up in this suit," she would need to "breathe out all the oxygen in [her] lungs just so the zipper could get up" because it fit tightest around the ribs. "Then I could breathe after that. But I haven't even tried them on because I just know that my ribs aren't what they used to be," she said. "I don't think it would zip up past that point."

The former Playboy Bunny also revealed some drama that went down when she requested a black costume when she was fairly new to the house. While she wasn't sure how someone was deemed worthy of a black Bunny costume, whether it be by seniority or a Playmate of the Year title, Madison immediately noticed that her choice annoyed other Bunnies.

"Some people were not happy about that," she said. "Turns out everybody always wanted the black costume. It was always the most popular so it kind of turned into this special thing that only certain Bunnies could get."

When Madison finally left the Mansion in 2008, she discovered her past would follow closely behind. "I didn't have my own identity," the author of The Vegas Diaries previously told PEOPLE. "For so long I wasn't myself. I was only known as somebody's girlfriend."

Madison, then 29, moved to Las Vegas to start a new career as a burlesque dancer but admitted, "there would be other things I wanted to do and people wouldn't give me a chance because I was a Playboy bunny."

Now happily parenting 8-year-old daughter, Rainbow Aurora, and son Forest Leonardo, 4, with ex-husband Pasquale Rotella, Madison said has no regrets about how life turned out.

"I love looking back and seeing the silver lining in the clouds," she said. "Everything happens for a reason."