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 salary slip 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.