'Playboy' Founder Hugh Hefner Has Died

The 91-year-old was known for starting the Playboy empire and reality shows like The Girls Next Door.

playboy hugh hefner
(Image credit: Charley Gallay)

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine and star of reality TV shows like The Girls Next Door, has died at the age of 91, according to People (opens in new tab) and the Associated Press (opens in new tab).

Playboy also addressed Hefner's death early Thursday morning EST:

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A representative for Playboy Enterprises shared in a statement to People:

"Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones."

His son and Playboy Enterprises Chief Creative Officer Cooper Hefner further shared:

"My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal [Harris, later Hefner], my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises."

Hefner was born in Chicago in 1926. He came up with the idea for Playboy while working in the publishing industry, and put together its first issue in 1953, which featured a nude Marilyn Monroe. Subsequent featured stars included Kate Moss, Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson, Mariah Carey, and Kim Kardashian.

The magazine has also featured writing from Kurt Vonnegut, Gabriel García Marquez, and Margaret Atwood through the years.

playboy hugh hefner

(Image credit: Paul Drinkwater / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank)

Hefner later moved to TV, starring on the E! reality show The Girls Next Door from 2005 to 2010. He first appeared with Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson, before appearing with new castmates Crystal Harris (now Hefner), and Kristina and Karissa Shannon in 2009.

Among the most famous pop culture iconography from Hefner's Playboy empire were the Playboy Mansion and featured Playmates (a term that ran starting with the second issue of the magazine). Playboy Bunnies—who'd waitress at Playboy Clubs in now-famous bustier and rabbit ear costumes and debuted in 1960—were the subject of a famous undercover exposé (opens in new tab) by Gloria Steinem in 1963.

playboy bunnies

(Image credit: Wally McNamee / CORBIS)

And then there's that famous rabbit brand symbol, which Hefner described in 1967 (opens in new tab) as "the rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning; and I chose it because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping—sexy."

Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal Hefner and four children.

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