About 54 years ago, Hugh Hefner created quite a ruckus when he started printing “Playboy” from his kitchen in Chicago. Fast forward to today and the empire has expanded to encompass much of the world, publishing in just about every medium. While “Playboy” was once a household name because men would only look at the magazines for the articles, the magazine has also launched quite a few careers for the centerfold Playmates. Some of the Playmates have been famous simply for their physical beauty, others for their career and still others for their shenanigans in the media.
10. Shanna Moakler
Playmate of the Month – December 2001
A former Miss USA, Shanna Moakler became a Playmate in December 2001. Known for her on-again, off-again relationship and marriage to Blink 182’s Travis Barker, her life was chronicled for a short time on MTV’s “Meet the Barkers.” Though the blonde bombshell has had a relatively successful career in television and movies, she may remain better known as the hotter half of the Barkers.
9. Jayne Mansfield
Playmate of the Month – June 1963
Better known as a bustier version of Marilyn Monroe, February 1955 Playmate Jayne Mansfield was also considered a sex symbol in the 50s and 60s. With a self-deprecating wit, she knew that she was popular due to her ample chest assets and made sure that she was the center of attention because of them. Enjoying a film, TV and music career, her life was cut short at the age of 34 after a car crash. Coincidentally, every semi-tractor and trailer is required to have an underride guard, named the Mansfield guard, due to the fact that she was partially decapitated in the car accident.
8. Dorothy Stratten
Playmate of the Month – August 1979
Her death, arguably, brought this Playmate more fame than her spread did as her life has been the story of at least two movies in the early 80s. Dorothy Stratten, Miss August 1979 and 1980’s Playmate of the Year, had a surprisingly short life since she was murdered by her husband, Paul Snider, at the tender age of 20. Stratten has the dubious honor of being one of the youngest Playmates to have died – a case of the good die young?
7. Kelly Monaco
Playmate of the Month – April 1997
As one of the only Playmates to have a legitimate entertainment career after her Playmate appearance in April 1997, Kelly Monaco has created a viable career out of her acting chops. One of only two non-blondes on this Top 10, Kelly has the distinction of being nominated for two daytime Emmys as Samantha McCall on “General Hospital.” She has also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars,” which only furthered her popularity as an actress.
6. Jenny McCarthy
Playmate of the Month – June 1994
This funny lady was named Miss October 1993 and then POY for 1994. Obviously a voluptuous vixen, she is better known for her crass sense of humor. She has appeared on numerous television shows and movies where she has performed acts described as grotesque or toilet humor at best. Funny thing – she’s now living with Jim Carrey, a comedian known for his own unique brand of humor.
5. Shannon Tweed
Playmate of the Month – November 1981
While her life partner has made the claim that he’s slept with hundreds to thousands of women, this Playmate likes to keep his “Family Jewels” close to home. Miss November 1981 and POY 1982 Shannon Tweed has been with bassist Gene Simmons of Kiss since 1985 and has recently become a household name again with the A&E show “Gene Simmons Family Jewels.” Shannon was known for many years for her skills as an actress in erotic thrillers for which she was obviously qualified.
4. Betty Page
Playmate of the Month – January 1955
This pinup starlet was known throughout the 50s and 60s for her risqué and often fetishistic pictorials. Long after posing in Playboy in January 1955, she was featured in pictorials. Since then Betty Paige has gained a cult following as people adore her stunningly coy smile and the brunette’s ample figure. Her photos have been reproduced numerous times, while she has been idolized in film and other mediums such as comics. No matter where she’s been seen, she’s always a page-turner!
3. Pamela Anderson
Playmate of the Month – February 1990
One of the most famous Playmates of the last decade and defender of furry friends, Pamela Anderson is known for her ballooning and deflating chest as much as her marriages and relationships to rockers Tommy Lee and Kid Rock. After her appearance as the brunette February 1990 Playmate, Pamela bleached her hair, augmented her chest and then launched her career with floatation devices in Babewatch, er, “Baywatch.” Since then she has appeared on “Playboy” covers 12 times, more than anyone else, as well as appearing in numerous television shows and movies as the “Stacked” ditzy blonde.
2. Anna Nicole Smith
Playmate of the Month – May 1992
While Pamela is known as one of the most popular Playmates to be tabloid fodder in the 90s and beyond, she has been surpassed by the No. 2 slot holder. Miss May 1992 and POY 1993, Anna Nicole Smith was initially known as a fuller figured model that used our No. 1 slot holder as an idol. At some point after modeling for Guess and marrying the Texas oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall, her credibility and image began to slip as her weight increased. After a lengthy court battle over the billion dollar inheritance of Marshall, she became a public figure again as one of the archetypal trainwrecks of celeb-reality TV. Anna Nicole then made headlines again as her size shrunk but apparently not her addiction to substances. And in an ironic twist, custody of her daughter and her hefty inheritance became a heated court battle after Anna Nicole’s death of an accidental drug overdose. She may forever live in infamy as an example of what not to do with a modeling career rather than for her once voluptuous looks.
1. Marilyn Monroe
Playmate of the Month – December 1953
This blonde bombshell is the woman that most models strive to emulate and has been used as a proverbial yardstick to which all others are compared. With marriages to the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller and relationships with John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe was the archetypal sex symbol throughout her professional career despite her lackluster success at relationships. Her pictures in Playboy were actually taken long before the debut of the magazine in which she premiered not as the first Playmate, but as the Sweetheart of the Month in December 1953. And that centerfold not only helped launch “Playboy” but helped further her career as she gained A-List status as an actress in movies like “Some Like It Hot” and “How to Marry a Millionaire.” However, her career and life were ended abruptly at the age of 36 when she was found dead in her home. To this day, the cause of her death is a topic of contention – was it a suicide or was it murder? Either way, the first Playmate has had a lasting impression on “Playboy,” movies and popular media in the half century after her death.
Honorable mention: Carmen Electra and the “Girls Next Door,” Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson. All four women have had major careers thanks in part to Playboy though none of them have been featured as a Playmate.