What Holly Madison Wants Her Daughter to Learn From Her Playboy Past


Parents are constantly shamed for their choices. From how we feed our children to how we educate them, everyone has an opinion on how to raise kids. The result? Moms and dads feel endlessly judged for the choices they make — even if they have no other options. This week, families around the country are sharing their inspiring, funny, honest, and heartbreaking stories with Yahoo Parenting in an effort to spark conversations, a little compassion, and change in the way we think about parenting forever. Share your story with us — #NoShameParenting

Holly Madison rose to fame as one of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy bunny girlfriends and a star of the reality series Girls Next Door. She’s no stranger to judgment by others, she says. “I get a lot of judgment for my past,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “When you are young and from a small town and seduced by fame and glamour, you let a lot of your values slide.” Since having a daughter, Madison says she’s been subjected to plenty of mommy shaming, especially on social media, but that she’s also learned to look out for herself — a lesson she hopes to teach her 2-year-old, Rainbow, as she grows up. Madison opens up to Yahoo Parenting about her daughter’s unique name, her strained relationship with Hef, and what she’ll say to Rainbow about posing nude.

We at Yahoo Parenting are on a mission to end parent shaming and the judgment that seems to come alongside being a mom or dad these days. Since having Rainbow, have you ever felt judged for your parenting decisions?

I think every mom feels judged these days. Somewhere along the line, parenting got really competitive. I get a lot of it on Instagram. I can’t post any picture of my daughter without someone commenting that I’m not being a good mom. Like, recently I posted a picture of her eating an In-N-Out burger, and I mentioned in the caption that we were on a road trip so this was a special treat. Everyone weighed in — either ‘you shouldn’t make that a treat, it should be all the time,’ or ‘you feed your kid too much, in every picture she’s always eating’ or ‘your kid’s fat.’ It’s insane.

With my friends, unless they ask for advice, I try to stay out of it. The second I had Rainbow my mommy instincts kicked in, and the thing that annoyed me more than anything is when people gave me advice that was unsolicited.

How do you handle the judgment?

Honestly, it turns me off so much that I just try to steer clear of it. Most of the people I’m close with now don’t do that. I take Rainbow to things like Gymboree or a play area near where we live in L.A., and most of the moms I meet that I bond with are really nonjudgmental. They stick to their own business and aren’t micromanaging what other people do. But they’ll tell me about playgroups they are in, and it’s like hearing horror stories. Other moms can be so judgmental.


Holly Madison with her daughter Rainbow and her husband, Pasquale Rotella, at Disneyland. (Photo: Instagram/Holly Madison)

People love to pass judgment on baby names — everyone has an opinion. Your daughter Rainbow has an unusual name; did you have to deal with a lot of judgment there?

Oh, yeah. I got flooded with stupid commentary on social media. It’s definitely a unique name. I like unique names and I wouldn’t have picked it if were common. But, growing up, there was a girl in my class named Rainbow. I grew up in Oregon, where a lot of hippies went to start families. There was a girl at school named Rainbow, and I was so jealous and I wanted it to be my name. So it’s definitely unusual, but it’s a name. It’s not like I called her Coffee Table. People love to say, “That’s a stripper name.” But I’ve spent a lot of time in Vegas and strippers aren’t named Rainbow. They’re named Amber, Crystal and Jessica.

Have you ever caught yourself judging another parent?

Of course. I think we all do. But I don’t ever say it out loud because I know how hard it is when someone else judges me. Before I was a parent I judged more, because I didn’t understand. Like, my pet peeve used to be kids on leashes. I would think, a whole generation of kids tied up? What are the psychological implications going to be? I don’t put Rainbow on a leash but now that I’m a parent I get it more. Kids are running around, you need to keep them in one place. It’s hard! Parenting is always more challenging than you thought it was going to be.

A lot of celebrity moms and moms-to-be have made headlines for trying to be sexy while pregnant — people like Kim Kardashian or Coco, who don’t wear traditional maternity clothes and maintain their same style. What do you think of that? Can you be sexy and pregnant at the same time?

I think pregnancy is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have all the tabloid magazines basically telling you it’s abnormal if you aren’t back to a size 2 right away, but on the other hand people like to sit at home and criticize. I used to go out and wear high heels when I was pregnant. I was in a show in Las Vegas and I performed until I was five months pregnant because my corset still fit and I could wear my dance shoes. People would be like, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll hurt the baby?”’ And I was like, “No, I talked to my doctor.” I was more used to wearing heels than flats then, anyway! So it sort of feels like you can’t win.

Women are on an emotional roller coaster when they’re pregnant, and their bodies are changing and it’s hard to feel good — so whatever you have to do to keep your confidence up and feel good on the bad days, you do. When I was pregnant, I switched up my style — I wore my hair darker, I did my makeup in a ′60s look, I wore baby doll dresses. I had fun trying out a different look, and I look forward to doing it again next time I’m pregnant.

Honestly, I think the judgment comes from people who are jealous. Everyone would love to have Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe, so if you see her in something ill-fitting once in her life, people feel the need to throw stones. Everyone should just calm down. Bodies change throughout our lives, not just in pregnancy.


Holly Madison married her husband, Pasquale Rotella, at Disneyland when their daughter Rainbow was 7 months old. (Photo: Getty)

You wrote about your time in the Playboy mansion in your book, Down the Rabbit Hole. Is Hugh Hefner involved in Rainbow’s life at all?

Absolutely not. When I left the mansion we were cordial for a while but eventually I opened my eyes to what kind of person he was and we haven’t talked for years. [Parenting is] not something he would be involved in. There are others who have brought their babies to the mansions after they were born, but it’s not something I would do.

How do you plan on talking to Rainbow about that time in your life — being a bunny, posing nude, that sort of thing?

That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book — I wanted my side of the story out there. I never had a voice. It was always shaped by the TV show or by Playboy or Hef himself. But I want my daughter to know why I made the decisions I did. Since writing the book, I’ve had a lot of practice defending myself and the choices I made and I think that has been good practice for discussing those decisions with her.

As for a posing nude, I get asked about it a lot from people who are considering doing it. I don’t try to talk anyone into it or out of it, but I do want them to know that before you make the decision, you should consider the ramifications. 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 was shooting a commercial that had a gag where there was implied nudity — I was never actually nude. Then while we were filming they said, ‘Why don’t we take a behind-the-scenes photo with you in your underwear’ and I said no. People assume that because I’ve been in Playboy that it’s OK — I’ll be nude anywhere. But a woman’s body is her own, a man’s is his own, and when we feel okay being naked is different for everybody. Some might feel okay in a locker room but not in public, or in Playboy but not a different publication. It’s a choice and everyone is entitled to the choice. I feel like once you’ve posed nude, suddenly people assume your body is always fair game.

What would you think if Rainbow wanted to be a bunny one day?

I would not be OK with it. When she is an adult, she will be able to do what she wants, 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 — 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.

What lessons have you learned through your experiences that you want to teach your daughter? Are there any mistakes you made that you hope she’ll avoid?

One thing I want to impress upon her is to not be in a hurry. Don’t feel like you have to have “made it” by a certain age. The missteps I’ve made have usually been about being really eager to make it by a certain age, and taking shortcuts or opportunities whenever I could instead of thinking, “Is this the best thing for me?” Now that I’m older I don’t rush into anything because I see how bad those decisions can go.

You and your husband have unusual schedules given your careers — your husband works nights as a DJ. How do you juggle your parenting schedules with your work schedules? Is your daughter a night owl too?

She’s not completely a night owl, though I think she goes to bed later than most kids. She’s basically on a 9 to 9 schedule. It can be challenging with my husband working nights, but my schedule is more routine. I am working on another book so I can finesse my schedule and I have certain hours during the day that I spend with her. I’m always careful to pack the hours when I have help with errands and work. We’ve had a baby nurse since she was born who helps me during the daytime so I can work and on the rare occasion that we go out at night.

You’ve been very open about wanting more kids. Do you feel pressure from the headlines and the ‘bump watches’ to grow your family?

I feel more pressure from my husband! We definitely want more kids and I think it will happen next year. Our immediate plan was to have another baby before Rainbow turned 2 — I didn’t want her to remember being an only child, because I didn’t want her to get spoiled, but it didn’t work out that way. Now I’m glad we waited a little bit longer. Rainbow is potty-trained, so we won’t have to do the two-diaper thing, which is nice. You realize when you become a mom how valuable your time is, and it’s been great to have these 2.5 years to really get to know Rainbow.

What’s your advice for other parents? How do we stop the shaming and the judging and just worry about ourselves?

People need to remember how it felt when you first gave birth — when everyone was swarming around giving you advice you didn’t want. Before you say something, take a minute. Ask yourself, do I really need to step in here? Most of the time, you don’t.

(Top Photo: Instagram/Holly Madison)

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