Nina Daniele Playboy

The place cards bore Hugh Hefner’s Femlin character as Playboy celebrated 2018 Playmate of the Year Nina Daniele at a brunch Friday in Hollywood.

The Bronx, N.Y.-based model was bestowed the annual honor, which came with an 11-page pictorial based on the Femlin character created some 55 years ago by Hefner. Daniele first appeared in Playboy last year for the March/April 2017 issue as Playmate of the Month at a time when nudity was brought back to the magazine.

Her cover for the current issue as Playmate of the Year is just as significant for the magazine, with the publication making the move from the “Entertainment for Men” tag line to “Entertainment for All” as it aims for relevance among a broader audience. The company has also ramped up its fashion collaborations in more recent times with links to brands such as Joyrich, The Kooples, Moschino and Anti Social Social Club.

Daniele answered a few questions for WWD before going back to the brunch in her honor:

WWD: What was running through your head when you were asked to be Playmate of the Year?
Nina Daniele: Oh my God. I originally thought I got in trouble for something. I live in New York so I came in the [Playboy headquarters] kitchen to say good-bye to everybody and I was making a coffee and he [Cooper Hefner] said, “When you’re done, come into my office. I want to talk to you about something.” I walked into the office and everyone was looking at me. It’s Cooper and Chris [Deacon] and then they sat down and they said, “We were wondering if you would do us the honor of being Playmate of the Year.” It was one of those moments where you say, “I’m sorry what? Can you say it again?” I was shocked but I was just so happy. I really love this company and I love everything they stand for.

WWD: What about the Playboy brand resonates with you?
N.D: How progressive it’s been over the years. It’s such a strong magazine. It pulls such a reaction from so many people. Whether it’s positive or negative, everyone has something to say and I think that says a lot for something that’s been around since the Fifties and for it to be 2018. Whether people talk about how it affects society, they’re still talking about it. It’s a company that’s done so much for civil rights, for women, for artists, for writers [and] musicians. It’s pushed people to the forefront — real artists — where they’re supposed to be and there’s very few publications to this day that still do that.

WWD: What do you think about the magazine’s shift in tag line to “Entertainment for All”?
N.D: When I saw that, I thought they always know what to do. They always know the right time to do it and especially with the movement that we’re experiencing right now for women because it’s women supporting other women. Women looking at other women and saying, “You know, I support her and I support her living within her truth and showing us that she’s comfortable with that, whether society agrees with it or not.” She herself is confident to show us who she is and that doesn’t mean in a literal sense who she is on the outside. It shows that I’m strong enough to withstand whatever you have to say about how I look.

“Entertainment for All” means we can all experience women supporting women. It shouldn’t just be “Entertainment for Men.” We’re all here supporting each other and I think it’s wonderful.

WWD: You had the chance to work with [December 1958 Playmate] Joyce Nizzari and were interviewed by her. What was it like working with her?
N.D: She’s so full of life. It was so interesting seeing the juxtaposition of her as a Playmate who has worked with Hef throughout this entire time. Now, she’s asking, “What is it like now” and the message is still the same and what it stands for is the same but the times are definitely different. So it was interesting listening to her and her experiences. The world has changed, but we’re still moving forward. I was talking to her about how this [print magazine] was everything back in the day. Now this is just a part of so much more. Now it transcends everything because of social media and that’s something special, too.

WWD: You’ve modeled for the past eight years. To what extent have you used social media to put yourself out there and help with your career?
N.D: It’s funny. I started modeling before social and it’s interesting to watch how it doesn’t really matter what you used to do, who you used to walk for, what designers you used to work with. Now, it’s “Oh, who did you work with yesterday? What were you doing last night? Who do you know? Who do you know? Who follows you?” I have close girlfriends who have walked all the shows and now they don’t have that huge following on Instagram because they didn’t know how to transcend it. They didn’t know how to blend the two. And it’s as if they never did any of those things and I think that’s the saddest part.

For me, there was a moment where I had to get on the train or it’s just going to keep going, and I try. I do. You can’t take it seriously. I don’t use it as a place to post all of my politics or my beliefs. It’s just a fun space for people to talk.

WWD: What’s next for you?
N.D: So I’m working on a few things, but ultimately what I want to do is open up an animal sanctuary for death row dogs. I’ve always wanted to do that. I was bit by a dog when I was 16 and it put me off a bit. Then I realized as time went on that it’s not so much that dog in particular; it’s how they’re raised. Some people see all of these dogs that only look ferocious, and it’s frustrating because that resonates with me — being misunderstood at times.

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