Crystal Hefner was married to 'Playboy' founder Hugh Hefner from 2012 until his death in 2017
Crystal Hefner is speaking openly about her relationship with the late Hugh Hefner and her time at the Playboy Mansion.
The former model first met Hugh at a Halloween party in 2008, and the pair got married four years later on New Year’s Eve in 2012. Crystal and Hugh were married for almost five years, until the Playboy founder died in September 2017.
On the third anniversary of Hugh’s death in 2020, Crystal posted on Instagram to honor her late husband. "Three years. It's hard to believe," she wrote in the caption. "Thank you for always being my greatest ally, teaching me the definition of kindness, and making me feel extremely important and adored for ten years. I will be forever grateful."
Related: Hugh Hefner: His Life in Pictures
In the years since Hugh’s passing, Crystal has focused on healing and creating a fresh start for herself. She released her memoir, Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, in January 2024, which delves into her childhood and life at the Playboy Mansion.
“It’s called Only Say Good Things because I [had] a conversation with Hef and he let me know: ‘Once I go, when I’m gone, please only say good things about me,' ” Crystal told the New York Post in July 2023. “I kept that promise for the last five years ... I’m realizing that it’s OK to ... speak up and not be OK with some things that I’ve been through."
Speaking to PEOPLE, Crystal revealed that she was never "in love" with Hugh and said, "I realized I was dealing with a really big power imbalance. It seemed like a world of success and fantasy, but everyone's having to sleep with an 80-year-old. There's a price. Everything has a price."
So, who is the late Hugh Hefner’s wife? Here’s everything to know about Crystal Hefner and her relationship with the Playboy publisher.
She grew up in the U.S. and the U.K.
Crystal was born in Lake Havasu, Arizona, to British parents Lee Lovitt and Ray Harris. During an appearance on the Tick Boot Camp podcast in December 2021, the former model opened up about her childhood in the United States and the United Kingdom.
“My parents were British, and they wanted to have me in America so I’d be a citizen because they eventually wanted to come back,” she explained. “My mom wanted to have me there [in Lake Havasu] because there’s a replica of the London Bridge. So my early childhood was spent kind of more in England.”
After spending her early childhood years in the U.K., Crystal and her family eventually settled in San Diego, California. Crystal studied psychology at San Diego University and worked part-time as a model, per the New York Post.
She met Hugh in 2008
When she was 21, Crystal submitted a photo to attend a Halloween bash at the Playboy Mansion, where she said she and Hugh bonded over their interest in psychology. Soon after, she was asked to move into the mansion and debuted in Playboy a year later as the magazine’s December 2009 Playmate.
Reflecting on their first meeting, Crystal told PEOPLE in 2024 that it wasn't as romantic as it seemed. "I thought, wow, if I just like everything that he likes and do all the things that he wants me to do, then I'm the favorite. And I was, but I just lost myself in the process," she said.
She and Hugh got engaged in 2010
After two years of dating, Hugh and Crystal got engaged during the holidays in 2010. The Playboy founder announced the news on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“After the movie tonight, Crystal & I exchanged gifts. I gave Crystal a ring. A truly memorable Christmas Eve,” he wrote. “When I gave Crystal the ring, she burst into tears. This is the happiest Christmas weekend in memory.”
However, a few days before the couple were set to tie the knot at the Playboy Mansion in June 2011, they decided to call off the wedding.
“After much deep reflection and thought I have decided to end my engagement with Hef,” Crystal wrote on her website. “I have the utmost respect for Hef and wish him the best going forward. I hope the media will give each of us the privacy we deserve during this time.” In 2024, Crystal revealed that after calling off the engagement, she had a brief relationship with Dr. Phil’s son Jordan McGraw.
However, Crystal and Hugh ultimately reconciled in June 2012. Crystal confirmed the news on X by writing that she was Hugh’s “#1 girl again,” and they were “happy."
She married Hugh in 2012
Less than a year after their reconciliation, Crystal and Hugh wed at the Playboy Mansion on New Year’s Eve in 2012. The media mogul confirmed their marriage with a message on X. “Crystal & I married on New Year’s Eve in the Mansion with Keith as my Best Man. Love that girl!” he wrote.
Crystal also shared her excitement on the morning of their wedding. “Today is the day I become Mrs. Hugh Hefner. Feeling very happy, lucky, and blessed,” she wrote on X.
For their nuptials, Crystal donned a floor-length strapless gown in soft pink, while Hugh opted for a black tuxedo. They celebrated their union with a private reception, which included a champagne toast and wedding cake, before attending the annual New Year’s Eve bash at the mansion.
The pair remained married until Hugh died from natural causes at 91 years old in September 2017.
She’s an entrepreneur
Crystal retired from the modeling industry in January 2018, according to her LinkedIn. She has since started working as a real estate agent.
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times in November 2018, Crystal shared that her mother worked in the same industry for many years, which inspired her to get her license at 18.
“My mom’s a real go-getter, which has helped her a lot in real estate,” Crystal told the outlet. “My strength is developing properties of my own.”
Crystal has also been the president of the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation since October 2022, per her LinkedIn. In addition to her work in philanthropy and real estate, Crystal launched a podcast called Beneath the Surface in November 2023, which explores topics of health, love and self-worth.
She loves to travel
When she’s not at home in Los Angeles or staying at her farm in Hawaii, Crystal loves to travel the world. The entrepreneur told the New York Post in July 2023 that she wasn’t allowed to go far while living in the Playboy Mansion but has since visited places like Africa and Australia.
In 2023 and 2024, Crystal traveled to England, Greece and St. Martin — she spent New Year’s Eve 2023 in St. Barths, where she watched fireworks from a boat. Some of the other places the former model has visited include Egypt, the Maldives and Dubai.
“I feel like I’m either a total homebody and go nowhere when I’m home in Los Angeles, or leave the states and have tons of adventures around the 🌍,” Crystal wrote on Instagram after traveling to Egypt in 2021. “I could travel forever. ‘Homesick’ doesn’t apply to me. My wanderlust is too strong."
She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2016
Crystal was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, in March 2016. She shared the news on Instagram, urging her followers to be aware of potential symptoms, including fatigue and brain fog.
“If you have EVER GONE HIKING, please get tested for #LymeDisease ... I was diagnosed a few days ago and have a long road ahead of me,” she wrote in the caption. “I always thought I was a hypochondriac. Doctors told me it was just ‘stress’ or ‘all in my head’ but I finally figured it out and you can too.”
Since her diagnosis, the former model has continued to raise awareness about Lyme disease. “I don’t post too often about Lyme Disease here but I’m really happy and proud to have participated in my second ever Lyme disease event yesterday,” she wrote on Instagram in March 2020.
“My years at the Playboy Mansion weren’t true to myself and we’re pretty toxic physically and emotionally," Crystal added. “Lyme Disease has really put things into perspective for me. I’m now only focusing on things that are good for me mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
She is very open on social media
Crystal has also shared openly about her mental health journey and experience with cosmetic procedures on social media.
Shortly after she was diagnosed with Lyme disease in March 2016, the former model revealed on Facebook that she had her breast implants removed because they were “slowly poisoning her.”
“Instantly I noticed my neck and shoulder pain was gone and I could breathe much better,” she said in the July 2016 post. “I know I won’t feel 100% overnight. My implants took 8 years to make me this sick, so I know it will take time to feel better."
Crystal has also been candid about her quest to lead a more authentic life, which has included being honest about her mental health struggles. After receiving a brain scan in February 2022, the former model posted photos of her results on Instagram and opened up about her experience.
“I highly recommend if you are having a hard time mentally to really dig deep and find out what’s going on because there are so many ways to help yourself get better and feel better,” she wrote in the caption. “I’ve felt really trapped in my mind for so long that it’s nice to know there are ways to heal. It also helps to be validated that my past traumas are real and have affected my brain."
She wrote a memoir about her life with Hugh
In February 2022, the former playmate announced that she was working on a memoir. Crystal revealed in an Instagram post that despite being “more private over the years,” she was ready to “share the journey.”
“I’ve been on the fence about telling my story because it’s complicated and conflicting in ways,” she wrote in the caption. “I will tell you about my life and how my upbringing and years leading up to the Halloween party where I met Hef was the perfect storm that whisked me through those gates.”
Crystal's memoir, Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, hit bookshelves on Jan. 23, 2024. She exclusively revealed the cover of her book to PEOPLE in October 2023 and opened up about the story she wanted to tell.
"Only Say Good Things is the honest story of my life, which is also the experience of so many girls and women who grow up believing that their worth comes from what they look like, and that their value can be given to them by other people, and also taken away," she explained. "It’s the book I wished I had read when I was a young woman."
Crystal's book dropped many bombshells about life at the Playboy Mansion, including that sex with Hugh was "odd and robotic" from the very beginning.
"There was nothing sexy about it,” she wrote, adding that she was "relieved" when sex with her husband stopped altogether in 2014.
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