Hefner’s heir takes Playboy throne in May

BANNER_CooperAs he slips into the crowded Old Towne Orange Starbucks, senior film production major Cooper Hefner relaxes a bit. There, he doesn’t have to worry about being noticed. He’s anonymous among the bustling throng of college students.

It’s something new for the youngest son of Playboy creator Hugh Hefner. He grew up a celebrity and emerged an heir.

“It was awesome because as a teenager in the Playboy mansion I snuck into some of the most exclusive parties in the entire world,” he said. “But you’re also very isolated because not that many people can relate to you.”

While Hefner’s older brother Marston Hefner shied away from that experience, the younger Hefner took it head-on, and is now the heir of the Playboy enterprises. This responsibility, he said, is his chance to re-introduce the magazine to a modern audience.

Following his graduation in May, Hefner will inherit Playboy and start running the company with the continued help of his father and advisors.

Founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner, Playboy grew from a small magazine to one of the most circulated publications in the 1970s by featuring pictures of nude women next to articles written by some of the most famous authors of the times. It also gained fame for Hefner’s stance on social justice from Playboy interviews with figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

As a child, the youngest Hefner said that he felt most comfortable around other celebrity children like the Hiltons and Nicholsons who were regulars at the mansion. He said his best friend growing up was Scout Willis and they remain friends even today.

“They were my first friends because they were really the only people who understood my life,” he said. “We were just kids and happened to be celebrity children.”

Part of that childhood was understanding how to deal with the pressure of being famous. Hefner said he learned most by watching his friend Paris Hilton’s fall from grace.

“Seeing what happened to her when she started flaunting her wealth made me realize what I never wanted to become,” he said. “You don’t earn respect by what you’re given. You earn it by what you do.”

Another close influence that Hefner said kept him out of the spotlight was his mother Kimberley Conrad. In 1989, the 26-year-old Playboy bunny married 63-year-old Hugh Hefner and the couple raised Cooper and his brother Marston before separating ten years later. Still, Hefner said that his childhood was much tamer than most people imagine and that his parents intentionally kept him out of the spotlight.

Yet even the protection of his mother couldn’t guard him from the perils that come with a celebrity lifestyle, and Hefner said as he grew older he noticed how people treated him differently after they learned his last name.

While he said this made him more cautious, his close friends like freshman strategic and corporate communication major Gunnar Helman still described him as friendly. Helman, who went to high school with Hefner, said the Playboy heir is like an older brother to him.

“He’s like a grown-up child and always wants to have fun,” Helman said. “He would always make sure that everyone could be involved in everything he planned.”

One person that Hefner said he had complete trust and admiration for was his father, the polarizing and celebrated creator of Playboy.  Hefner said he never understood what Playboy was until he more recently came across his father’s journal and learned the history behind the bunny ears.

“My dad kept all these amazing photos of him with Martin Luther King Jr. and other people who fought for civil rights and justice,” he said. “Back then Playboy changed the world with its activism.”

Armed with an idealistic mind, Hefner said it’s his duty to change the current perception of Playboy and introduce what his father tried to do 40 years ago. Hefner said that while the Playboy brand has always been 50 percent sex, the other 50 percent used to be about activism and political relevance. However, he said all of that was lost when “The Girls Next Door” started to represent Playboy instead of the activism he believed in.

“My generation was introduced to Playboy as blonde hair and fake boobs,” he said. “There was an out-of-touch moment when the people who ran the company didn’t understand what our generation was attracted to.”

Hefner said his vision is to market Playboy toward a modern audience that is attracted to intellectual women who are comfortable with their sexuality. A key part of this is for Hefner to establish himself as an individual and not just a younger Hugh Hefner.

“I am not my father,” he said. “Although I don’t have a business degree, I have a fresh set of eyes that can make Playboy relevant again to a market that thinks of it as a brand of yesterday.”

However, as Hefner starts to talk about the famous writers who have written for Playboy, it’s easy to see traces of the elder Hefner who spent his life trying to make Playboy famous for more than just its centerfolds.

In the meantime, Hefner is still faced with the daunting task of deciding between a vanilla or caramel latte.  In this moment, he is just like any other young college student – with an unimaginable future before him.



  • As a feminist, I have always felt that Playboy was a great way for women to express their sexuality. I appreciate Playboy’s continued diversity and commitment to social justice. I am glad they want to appeal to a new generation and focus on amazing journalism and “intellectual women who are comfortable with their sexuality”.

    • Playboy has been a disaster for both men and women. Women have been exploited for about 60 years now and playboy is a big part of that. Playboy uses women for the soul pleasure of men . It’s exploited women for generations by offering economically dependent women a source of much needed income to sell their soul or body to the highest bidder.

      The whole concept of a playboy is exploitive by having rich older men use younger women for sexual purposes and then discard them when a younger and prettier girl comes along. Where is the real love and commitment. Playboys don’t have love, they have lust ,that can’t wait to get and rarely give. And there is no such thing as commitment. It simply doesn’t exist!!

      Woment aren’t a commodity to be bought by some fat cat millionaire to fulfill their naked lusts and desires. You could fill stadiums with women who have been used and abused by men who were in lust with women and broke their hearts.

      The hefners have done a great disservice to the women in this country and have laughed all the way to the bank. Sexual trafficking is at an all time high in this country and abroad because of Institutions like playboy that have given the green light to pursue women for their own selfish sexual gratification with absolutely no conscience about how this hurts women!

      Playboy hurts women. And playboys hurt women! And real men love women for more than just for their bodies, and real men love commitment !!!

      • Are you joking? No seriously, are you joking? I hope you are because the level of ignorance in your statement is astronomical! Playboy publish the first black playmate in 1965, Jennifer Jackson, in a time where in most of America blacks were still labeled and secluded as 2nd class citizens. And Jennifer Jackson was a college graduate when selected and she now works as a social worker with a masters degree in the field. Hefner was close friends with Martin Luther King Jr, Playboy funded the majority of the civil rights cause, Hefner was right there beside them fighting for civil rights. Playboy is only 50% sexual content the rest has been filled with social affairs, political issues and have had most of the worlds famed writers write for the magazine discussing real issues and women’s right to choose for herself on matters of her own body. It sounds as if you’ve never fully read a copy of any issue of the magazine. If you did you’d not be this ignorant and compare playboy to sex trafficking. You are embarrassing yourself. Playboy was also one of the first and only companies that were paying their female workers the same or more than the male ones. Looooooooong before the Equal Pay For Equal Work came about. And playboy does not produce hardcore porn whatsoever because they believe in an idea in a woman in power of her own sexuality and that the respectful and tasteful photographs of these women be soft and playful like a romantic intimate night and she controls what is seen of her and how she is seen. That has always been true of Playboy from the start that the women control content not men. You’re just embarrassing yourself.

  • Hello. I was wondering what your profit margin is like. How many split that? I got an offer and I didn’t have to wait or go through hassle. I believe that mutual respect and in no non profit. Its funny how some things seem worthless but if you know your worth it then why settle for nothing? I’m already copy written and do not wish to be violated like this by little kid games. My temple can not get damaged and it seems that’s all you do. I can still have kids. Violating my copy write on my estate and then refusing to pay me. I want nothing do do with. Good day.

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