Kendra Wilkinson: Hugh Hefner Changed My Life Forever!

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As we all learned either late last night or early this morning, Hugh Hefner has passed away. Overall reactions could not be more mixed, but the man was a legend and has left a lasting legacy on American culture.

The very first thing that crossed our minds when we heard the news was: What has Kendra Wilkinson said?

The former Girls Next Door star was once one of Hugh's very young girlfriends, and she's already released a statement.

Kendra Wilkinson and Hugh Hefner Together

Hugh Hefner was a complicated man who left a complicated legacy.

On the one hand, he was part of a cultural push for sex positivity.

He was a longtime proponent of gay rights.

He was a lifelong philanthropist and a strong advocate for free speech and the First Amendment, and has been awarded honors in recognition of his work against undue censorship.

On the other hand, one of his philanthropic activities was supporting a fundraiser by Jenny McCarthy and, yes, it was anti-vaxx. Chelsea Houska's haters will love that, but most don't.

Most significantly, Hugh strikes many as an enduring symbol of everything that is wrong with gender dynamics in the modern world.

To many, he represents the commodification of women for male viewing pleasure -- without reciprocation.

In fact, even his (very public) personal life had him as an older, wealthy man surrounded by young, beautiful women who, um, "attended to" him.

While there's nothing inherently wrong with that arrangement, he represents a widespread power imbalance between genders and that very understandably rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Kendra Wilkinson, who was once one of those "attendants," has always been very passionate about her views on Hugh.

Kendra Wilkinson Pose

Though of course Kendra Wilkinson has expressed her feelings -- which we have for you in a moment -- about Hugh Hefner's passing ...

... It's pretty clear that she had been bracing herself for this news for quite some time.

In fact, just about one year ago, Kendra Wilkinson expressed her fear that Hugh Hefner would die.

As in, she talked about her constant anxiety about checking social media one day and getting some dreadful news.

"I mean, I worry every day. He’s at that age and I’m not going to lie, every day I open up my social media and I pray that I don’t see what we think might happen."

Even now, Kendra feels a powerful affection for the man.

"He honestly is my family. I don’t even know how to say it. He’s an angel to me in my life. The day that comes will be devastating for me and my family."

(We somehow imagine that Hank Baskett will cope ... but he probably won't say that in front of Kendra)

She said all of that last October, when Hugh was still 90.

Now that Hugh has passed away, Kendra is speaking out again.

Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson

In a statement to People, Kendra Wilkinson says Hugh Hefner transformed her life forever.

"Hef changed my life. He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together. I will miss him so much but he will be in my heart forever."

He absolutely changed her life.

After essentially being part of his harem (that seems like the most honest way to describe it, no judgments here), Kendra was then a reality star.

She even got her own spin-off.

There's no question that her life wouldn't have gone that way without Hugh Hefner giving her that first reality platform.

Considering what a real piece of work Kendra Wilkinson's mom seems to be, in some ways, Kendra's temperament was determined long ago, you know?

But her life -- her standard of living, her fame, her job, her income -- would almost certainly not be the same if she'd never been Hugh Hefner's ... "friend."

We hope that she's coping alright.

Hugh Hefner in a Tux

In contrast, Holly Madison's view of Hugh Hefner has been the polar opposite of Kendra's.

Kendra and Holly were with Hugh, side-by-side.

Their wildly different takes on the man and their time with him has resulted in an intense feud between the two.

We somehow suspect that Hugh's passing is not going to create peace between Kendra and Holly.

If anything, it might make their differences even more insurmountable. Opinions about the departed tend to become more polarized, not more nuanced.

But Kendra and Holly are both probably very okay with that.

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Kendra Wilkinson Biography

The Girls Next Door
Kendra Wilkinson was a star on The Girls Next Door. But she left that show, along with Hugh Hefner, in 2008. From there, Kendra met and... More »
San Diego, California
Full Name
Kendra Leigh Wilkinson