Kendra Wilkinson has come a long way since her days at Playboy and the reality show that first catapulted her to fame, The Girls Next Door. She married NFL wide receiver Hank Baskett and now has a nearly two-year-old son with him. She's released two books, was a part of the cast in the last season of Dancing with the Stars, and moved on to her own reality show on E!
Her show, aptly titled Kendra, airs every Sunday and is currently in its fourth season. It chronicles her life after Playboy with her family, and has been a pretty big success for E!, garnering debut rating numbers the network hadn't seen since the premiere of The Anna Nicole Show in 2002. Her second book, a follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Sliding Into Home, was just released last month. Not bad, eh?
Complex spoke with Kendra recently about her book, her days at Playboy, maintaining a marriage in front of the cameras, her creative sex life, and why she wasn't too broken up about getting eliminated from Dancing With the Stars.
Written by Tanya Ghahremani (@tanyaghahremani)
In interviews, you've said that you never got used to being naked, and that you’re more conservative than people think. How did you deal with being with Playboy for as long as you were?
You know, I was very young at the time, and I was very free-spirited. So my free-spirit kind of led me to believe that I was comfortable being naked. I’m very fun, I like to have fun, and I don’t like to take life too serious, so of course everybody saw me as the outgoing fun one and the crazy one. And of course I had provocative outfits and kind of crazy outfits, you know, but still, getting fully naked was something that I wasn’t comfortable with doing even though it kind of was…I know it sounds hypocritical, but actually it’s not, I was confused. I confused my free-spirit in life and having fun with being free and being naked and at the end of the day I didn’t like it.
So it was just an uncomfortable experience overall?
It was uncomfortable posing naked, that experience. But everything else was something I truly loved to do. I loved living at the mansion, I loved being a part of the life with Hef, you know, just doing all that. But posing naked—you don’t walk around the mansion every day naked!
That’s not how it works, you’re actually.... I went and played sports every day, I played tennis, I played golf, I went to the gym every day. A party really was only once a month or once every two months and you’re not even naked during those moments, so the only times you’re naked is when you’re posing for Playboy, so those were the only times I wasn’t really comfortable with.
You released a lot of intimate details about yourself in your new book, Being Kendra: Cribs, Cocktails, And Getting My Sexy Back. What made you want to come out and talk about all that?
I don’t see any harm with coming out and talking about your life, and talking about problems and talking about things that happened when you’re past certain situations. When you’ve survived moments and you’ve passed those moments and you’ve changed as a person, and you know you’ve changed and you’ve grown since those bad times, then I think it’s OK to talk about. But if you’re still living in those times, it’s not OK to talk about because you’re still that way. But I know that I’ve learned a lot and I want to share what I’ve learned in my life and I want to share my life with people. And I’m very comfortable with that.
Also, I have a show out, I’ve been on TV for nine seasons now, and if I don’t come out with my own story, then someone else will, and I’d rather beat them to the punch and tell my own story than someone else coming out and telling the story. Because, these days, everybody’s trying to get a buck, everybody’s trying to make money off of you, so at the end of the day there’s going to be someone out there who’s trying their hardest to bring up a story of you back in the day, but I beat everybody to the punch, and I’m like, “Here you go, here’s my story.” I don’t have any skeletons in my closet anymore, it’s all out there for everybody to read. You have to have the thickest skin to be able to do this, and I have the thickest skin in the world.
Would you want to write another book?
Yeah! I have so much more to say, as funny as that sounds. I know I’ve written two books—two memoirs!—you’d think I’d have nothing else to say, but I have so much more to talk about, and I love writing. I think writing is my new passion.
Writing is something that’s great because you get to write every thought that’s on your mind, you take your time. When I talk about things, it doesn’t really come out the way I want it to come out, and when other people are writing what I’m saying it doesn’t really come out the way I want it to come out. And, I have so much more that’s on my mind, I have so much more to get off my chest. You never know, my next book could be, like, a children’s book. I just have that type of mind.
A children’s book?
Do you tell stories to your son Hank a lot?
All the time! I come up with shit out of my ass all the time!
In your new book, you talk a lot about how you felt after you gave birth to Hank, and how you developed postpartum depression. What’s some advice you could give to another new mothers going through the same thing?
The one thing that I could say out of experience is that I felt very alone. I felt like I was the only woman in the world going through it. But there’s so many women just like you that are going through the same thing. Your life and your body changes overnight, and you just need to talk, you can’t hold anything in because it’s going to build up and it’s going to be bad. You have to talk, and you need people around you who have the time and that are willing to listen. You don’t need anybody to talk back, you just need someone to listen, and just find that one person who’s willing to listen to you.
A good support system?
Yeah. But, I’ll tell you one thing, I love my support system, I love my family, but I actually did not find my listener through my family. You have to find that one person that’s willing to listen to you, like a therapist, or someone that’s willing to listen and not wanting to talk back to you. You don’t need anybody to really judge what you’re saying, and say, “Oh, you need to suck it up.” You don’t need anybody to say that kind of shit back, you need somebody who’s willing to sit and listen to you for hours, you just need to talk.
What was your experience like being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars?
It was…an experience. I’m not going to say it was a good or bad experience, it was just an experience. And, you know, it just really wasn’t my thing, it wasn’t my cup of tea. Again, I’m not saying it was a bad thing or that it was a good thing.
It wasn’t really who I was, and it was just something that felt like Halloween to me. It felt like I had to dress up in a Halloween costume every Monday and Tuesday night. I felt like I had to be someone else, and I had to put on my mask and put on my costume and be someone else. I was definitely out of my element. That wasn’t my type of spot.
I’m a softball player, I’m a soccer player, I played tennis every day, I love being outside. Being inside so much and twirling around on one toe is not really my thing.
So you were pretty happy when you got eliminated?
If you could ask the makeup artist.... OK, the day I got eliminated, of course I didn’t know I was getting eliminated, but if you were to ask the makeup artist that was doing my makeup before [the episode] they would tell you, “Oh, yeah, Kendra really wanted to go. Her time was up.”
I missed my son, I missed my family. I did what I could, and I really couldn’t do anymore. I think I did the best I could. And the thing about it is, Dancing With the Stars, I think I was the one that grew the most out of last season, and I think that people like to see that. I like to see that with myself too; me growing as much as I did was the reason I did it.
And, I read that you shared a stylist with Kate Middleton....
Yeah! Nikki Pennie…she came to my house and went through my closet. I’m a tomboy, so I don’t like to dress up and everything, but Nikki Pennie came over one day and she went through my closet and she picked out some things and put them together, and I’m like, “How the hell did you do that?” She’s great.
She inspired me, because she works with people like Kate Middleton but yet she dresses them in cheap clothes, stuff that’s affordable, and at the end of the day that was inspiring to me, it made me feel good. It made me feel like I didn’t have to go out and buy Gucci as a celebrity and feel good about myself. If Kate Middleton could dress in affordable outfits and cheap dresses and stuff, then I could do it and be OK with it and get away with it. It was inspiring and I’m glad I worked with her.
Lets talk about your show. You’ve been doing reality TV for a good while now. Are you sick of the cameras following you around all the time?
It’s just something that I’ve been doing for a long time now, and, you know, I’m used to it now. It’s like, when it’s quiet in my house, I get nervous now because I’m so used to it. It’s a part of me now, it’s a part of who I am and it’s a part of my life—they’re a part of the family, almost. <strong></strong>
What’s your secret to maintaining a marriage in the public eye?
I think communication is the number one piece of advice I can give. I mean, trust is trust, but you need to communicate in order to trust, you need to make sure you guys are on the same page. We communicate…we talk about nothing for hours because we feel like we need to be on the same page every day and not just once a week. That’s our goal.
We work; a relationship isn’t easy, you’ve got to work on it, and Hank and I know. We’re strong people, and we’re together because we work so hard to have each other, and we believe in love and we believe in each other and we’re going to survive because our beliefs are in each other.
How much longer do you think you want to do reality TV?
Until my next gig pops up! I love reality TV and everything, and it’s something that I truly love to do and I love the outcome of it, it’s like my art. I consider my reality show as my art piece, and it’s like a sculpture that I built, it’s my baby.
It’s a true piece of art that I love to make, and I’m very hands-on with it. I know what I’m doing, I know what story I want to talk about—I’m executive producer on my show. It's just…something that I consider my baby and I don’t want to give it up. If something comes along that I fall in love with, as I did my reality show, then you never know, I could take that too. Again, writing more, or writing a show, becoming a part of a show, I don’t know, something. I’m really creative like that, and I’d like to stay in the industry and be a part of show business.
What’s the hardest thing about being a parent?
The hardest thing about being a parent would just be…allowing baby Hank to find things out for himself and for us to not protect him and shield him from the world. There’s so many bad kids out there, there’s so many kids who don’t have anybody to teach them what’s right and wrong – parents like me and Hank have to deal with little kids that have no rules whatsoever, and baby Hank has to figure that out for himself, he has to learn that. We have to make sure we don’t shield him from the bad kids because he’s going to have to face those bad kids eventually, so he might as well get used to it.
It’s hard for me to sit back and let some kid go up to baby Hank and call him names and slap him, it’s really hard for me to see that and not grab him and be like, “That’s mean.” He has to figure that stuff out for himself, he has to figure out for himself that is the world he’s about to go into and face. He’s about to face mean people, mean kids, bullies, and until us parents come together and stop it, it’s going to keep going, and we’ve got to allow our kids to figure it out for themselves and get slapped in the face sometimes and get called names.
What’s your absolute favorite way to unwind after a crazy tough day?
Just taking a bath; I put my son’s bubble bath in my bath because it’s the best stuff in the world. Oh, yeah, I use his soap and his bubble bath and all that! So, yeah, taking a bubble bath using the baby’s bubbles, just relaxing and drinking a glass of red wine. That’s the best way to relax and unwind. Turn on music, turn on your iPod on your favorite playlist, that’s the best way.
I consider my reality show as my art piece, and it’s like a sculpture that I built, it’s my baby. It’s a true piece of art that I love to make, and I’m very hands on with it, I know what I’m doing, I know what story I want to talk about.
What are you listening to right now?
Oh, I’m so stuck in the '90s and the '80s, I don’t even listen to any music today! It’s embarrassing, but I cannot listen to any music that’s been created today, I cannot do it.
You’ve said that you and your husband have had to be really creative to maintain your sex life because of your busy schedules. So, where would you say is the absolute craziest place you guys have done it?
Well, we’re not PDA people whatsoever, but when we feel like people aren’t looking, then that’s when we go at it. We take advantage of the outdoors as much as we can. Of course we did the jet-ski, that’s all over the newspapers and all that crap, but we also…we were walking the dogs in New Jersey, and we found a bush, and we went in the bush, and we had sex in the bush.
That sounds uncomfortable!
It was great, it was great. We were, like, on the street, and we saw on the road no cars were coming, so we just had sex on the street. Like, off the road in a little bush area.
On that same note, where’s the worst place to have sex?
A bush. You get sticks stuck in you, so that sucks.
Holly Madison recently got her breasts insured for a million dollars. If you were going to consider doing something like that, what would you get insured?
She got her what?
She got her breasts insured for a million dollars.
Oh, I didn’t know about that! Well…that’s cool. I would get my laugh insured! Because my laugh is very important, it’s a million dollar laugh, so if my vocal chords make my laugh any different, then I’m going to have to get insured.
What do you think of The Playboy Club being cancelled? Did you watch it?
I saw the first episode, and I thought it was great, but you know, that’s the way it goes. I think there was controversy with it from the start, and it wasn’t really something that people were excited about because it was controversial from the start.
Usually when something is controversial it actually succeeds, but I guess this was too controversial and it went the other way and failed. And it sucks, because I want to see Playboy do good, but fortunately Hef wasn’t…it wasn’t The Girls Next Door, it wasn’t his show.
It wasn’t right for primetime, it should have been on cable. I think it could have done well there.
Oh, I agree. I could have seen that show on TNT or something else. You know, you’re right, that’s exactly it, it was a little too controversial for a network like that. Yeah, exactly.
Yeah, you had all the parent groups going off about it, saying it’s not right.
I hate that people get so worked up about a show like that; that’s the part that pisses me off the most. People get so riled up and they wanna fight shows, but all they have to do is turn it off, and you see what happens? The show goes off. That’s all you have to do, you don’t have to fight anybody, you don’t have to hold up signs. All you need to do is turn it off, that’s the most powerful thing you can do, and that’s what happens: The show goes away. Boom.
Do you still talk to or see Hef?
I do! He’s a great friend of ours, we’re always a part of his life, he’s always a part of our lives. If you watch these next couple of episodes, you’ll see the reason why he’s nothing less than a hero to us in our lives.... There’s a big episode coming up. <strong></strong>
What do you think about Crystal Harris and that whole situation? I heard she’s auctioning off the ring Hef gave her.
Oh…well, I guess she needs the money, so I don’t blame her.
What’s the best dating advice you can give someone?
The best dating advice I can give is…are you going in it for marriage, or are you going in it for just a date? You’ve got to be open about it right away, because the other person could be in it for marriage but you’re not. You’ve got to make sure that you guys talk and know that you’re going in the date for the right reasons, you’re not going in it to get married and you’re not going in it for just a one night stand. Just make sure you’re with someone that’s on the same page as you and that’s willing to do whatever you’re willing to do.
It all comes back to communication.
Written by Tanya Ghahremani (@tanyaghahremani)