Why Being A Playboy Bunny Was Worth It For These 14 Women

Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
Tight costumes complete with a puffy bunny tail. Mandatory weigh-ins. Not being allowed to sit during an eight-hour shift. It sounds like a nightmare (Gloria Steinem stated as much when she penned an exposé about her own experience going undercover in one of the Playboy Clubs in a 1963 article), but for many women who donned bunny ears to work in one of the legendary clubs around the country in the 1960s, the gig was a ticket to glamour, excitement, and independence via a paycheck to call their own.

Even 50 years later, many women who worked as a Bunny recall the experience fondly — and miss that time in their lives. In a photo series, photographer Robyn Twomey set out to explore the intersection of beauty and sexuality by taking contemporary photos of former Bunnies.

"There was that exclusivity of beauty, literally being one of the chosen ones, that made these women feel special," says Twomey. "For the ones that really loved it, there seemed to be a freedom in their sexiness that was liberating and empowering. A couple of women talked about how they made more money than their fathers, which was a huge deal at the time. This was at a time when women were still forging their way in the male-dominated workforce. It was also a rigorous and very competitive selection process, so there was a special exclusivity to those that were chosen. And the awe of Playboy at its peak of charm, fascination, glamour, and mystique," Twomey said, explaining that many of the women she met saw the gig as one of the high points of their lives.

The other thing Twomey was struck by was the fact that so much of these women's career success within the Playboy Clubs was dependent on their physical beauty. While many went on to a range of careers — flight attendants, teachers, yoga instructors, authors, and doctors — Twomey found that many of her subjects still had a complicated relationship with the importance of appearance.

"Some of these gorgeous women didn't believe they were beautiful anymore, but the ones that did believe had such a powerful vortex of confidence, appeal, and giving zero fucks," she said.

Here, Twomey shares her photos, along with her interview notes and some thoughts from former Playboy Bunnies in their own words. Click through to meet 14 former Bunnies.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"I started this project after hearing a woman speak about her Playboy Bunny experience on the radio. She explained how empowering it was for her, which was totally against my feminist ideals. But her perspective was so honest and provocative, I had to know more," says Twomey.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
Makeup, including false eyelashes, was a mandatory part of the uniform. Prior to every shift, Playboy Bunnies were inspected by management to be deemed "Bunny Perfect." Imperfections could include too nude lipstick, an infraction that could result in demerits.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"I wanted to document these women in their complexities — some proud, some desperately holding onto their youth, some fierce, sexy, and powerful — instead of painting them all as one character," says Twomey.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"As young women, we learned how to conduct ourselves in an environment that begged to take advantage of us. I think we were the vanguard of women's lib, as it was called in the Sixties. We were earning more than our fathers and brothers. And frankly, if one could maintain dignity and self-respect while serving food and drink half-naked, one has the self confidence to master anything!" says Katherine Lee Scott, a former Playboy Bunny turned actress and publisher, pictured here.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
Being a Playboy Bunny was physically demanding. Not only did they have to stay on three-inch heels their entire shift, but they weren't allowed to be seen drinking anything (including water) in front of customers. If they did, it would cost 10 demerits — rack up 100 and you were out.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"Patty Baker (pictured) didn't have the material glitz and glam of some of the subjects," says Twomey. "She lived humbly, but she had such powerful confidence and a fierce demeanor."
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
Bunnies had to introduce themselves to customers as Bunny [Name.] And Bunnies all had to have different first names — a new Bunny with the same name as a current Bunny had to change her name for her shifts.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
A Bunny's personal life had to be kept separate from her professional life. According to Steinem, Bunnies were required to meet their husbands or boyfriends at least two blocks away from the Club, and they weren't allowed to visit.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"At the Playboy Bunny reunion [where I shot some photos] there was a lot of pride associated with being a Playboy Bunny and being a pioneer of the sexual revolution," says Twomey.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"People always had the wrong impression of Playboy Clubs. Bunnies did not have to pose nude, appear in the centerfold, or date Hugh Hefner. Every time I met him, he was nice, quiet, and respectful. He also encouraged any Bunny to pursue their dreams. I met my agent through my career as a Bunny and am profoundly grateful for the opportunities the job presented me," says Joyce Williams, a Bunny turned actress, pictured here.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"All of the women I met were still so beautiful, but not all of them believed it," says Twomey.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"I was curious to see what affect Playboy Bunnies have on American women and how that informs women's lives now," says Twomey.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
Dating customers was against the Bunny rules — according to Steinem, sometimes men were sent into the club, posing as customers, to make sure the Bunnies on staff weren't breaking the rule.
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Photographed by Robyn Twomey.
"I couldn't believe how amazing Bobbie Bressee [pictured here] looked when I met her," shares Twomey. "When I told her that, she laughed and said, 'I better! I've put $300,000 into this body!'"

Bresee recalls her experience fondly and also feels the experience taught her a few essential life skills. "Being a Bunny taught me people skills are incredibly important! Also, getting along with 60 beautiful women at once was a major feat," says Bresee.
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