Being in the spotlight again has been a bittersweet experience for Victoria Valentino.
The model, one of the "Top 100 Central Pages of the 20th Century," recently returned to Playboy once again to pose for the magazine's first issue of equality.
The September 1963 Playmate recently joined several veteran Playmates of different ages and races for the 'Once a Playmate, Always a Playmate' magazine photo shoot, inspired by the 1970s. Nearly 800 women have been named Playboy Playmates, with Marilyn Monroe being the first to receive the title, since Hugh Hefner founded the magazine in 1953, People magazine reported. Hefner passed away in 2017 at age 91.
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The model previously appeared in 2014 after more than 40 years of silence to allege the rape against Bill Cosby, Playboy.com reported. Valentino alleged that the assault occurred shortly after the death of his 6-year-old son from drowning. At least 60 women have accused the former comedian of sexual abuse, the outlet noted. Cosby's legal team has repeatedly denied the allegations made against him.
The 82-year-old man has been incarcerated in the Philadelphia suburbs for almost two years after a jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004. He is serving a three to 10 year sentence.
Valentino spoke to Fox News about being recognized as a Playmate today, dealing with personal tragedies, and moving on after sharing his story.
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Fox News: How does it feel to be a Playmate at this point in your life?
Victoria Valentino: At my age, being a Playmate is a strange way of labeling myself (laughs). But I'm glad to be a part of Playboy's story. It was just part of my journey in life. And it has been wonderful to connect with other playmates. Although my life went in a different direction, my image had a life of its own and had a fairly strong fan base. But to be honest, I had no idea.
Over the years, I had stayed away from show business. It just brought back too many bad memories. I left Los Angeles in 1970. I went on a 12 year healing odyssey. And when I returned to Los Angeles, I didn't want to go back to show business. I wanted nothing to do with my previous career.
Instead, I went back to college and became a registered nurse. I graduated with honors at age 42 and worked in hospices for many years. I supported other people who were going through trauma and loss. He knew what the tragedy felt like, so he wanted to help those in need. And I think that was part of my own healing. We suffer, but we can recover and help others go through the process and heal.
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Fox News: How did you manage to cope with such horrible tragedies over the years?
Valentino I wouldn't put my worst enemy through them. It was horrible.I was only 25 years old, almost a girl. He had a deep sense of spirituality. I mediated. I think that is what held me together and helped me understand that everything we went through, there is a lesson we are supposed to learn to become better people and grow in life.
Fox News: How did you feel and share your story about Bill Cosby?
Valentino It was absolutely liberating and probably the most powerful thing I've ever done … It certainly helped me heal. I'm a survivor. I'm not broke … Finding my voice was the most surprising thing. It can be tempting to push those horrible memories away and not deal with them. But the infection is still there. Those layers build up over time.
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And initially, it caused a lot of PTSD. But after talking, you feel lighter. You don't even realize how much weight you had pulling down, how much you were carrying with you. He also doesn't realize how much it affects his relationships with other people, including loved ones … It feels wonderful to be encouraged and able to speak. And in turn, you are encouraging and empowering other survivors to share their truths.
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We open that door and we are happy to continue to keep it open … And many others have come to me with their own personal stories, and I have heard stories that would make their toes curl … And there are people who won.Don't go out because it is still too traumatic. It is still very painful.
Fox News: Looking back, how did your relationship with Playboy start?
Valentino You know, I've never even heard of Playboy. I was a trained actress. I have done Shakespeare and I loved live theater. My father was a member of the Motion Picture Academy … Then I married an aspiring photographer. He and his photographer friend wanted to use me as a model. It never occurred to me that it would be a problem.
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Then I posed. I remember that they put their heads together and muttered to each other. The word "Playboy" was being thrown as they looked at me. I really didn't know what they were talking about. But then they sent my photos and they were very excited. I just thought I was doing something to enhance my husband's fabulous future career as a photographer. Behold, my parents disowned me for four years. It was a wake up call.
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But I didn't know what Playboy was. I remember when I was invited to meet Hugh Hefner, I saw this very powerful man holding a pipe with a group of girls around him. I remember asking: "Victoria Valentino?" I replied: "And you are?"
Fox News: What has it been like to be part of the magazine now?
Valentino I love it. The photos are very elegant and beautiful. I also developed many wonderful relationships with the other women. We have continued to be close friends and have kept in touch throughout the years. Unfortunately, many of the Playmates of my time that I have been very close to have died in recent years, which has been really difficult. It has taken a piece of my heart.
But some of us are still here and it has been a beautiful experience to reconnect. It was a fun and glamorous moment in our lives. Hugh Hefner is gone, but his son Cooper is a wonderful young man. I am truly grateful that you have given me a voice at this stage of the game. It has been a very important part of my trip.
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Fox News: It must feel good to know that there are other women, like you, who have the courage to speak up and share their stories.
Valentino We stand firm. People are more likely to report sexual assault. They are telling their own truths and are not afraid to say, "I was raped." You know, there used to be a lot of blaming victims. Now, people say, "No, this is what happened to me." We no longer have to live in silence.
There is so much unity now and we just need to keep it running. We have to encourage people to keep talking and help them realize that they don't have to be ashamed. It is not your fault. It is the perpetrator's fault and they have to suffer the consequences of their actions. They no longer have to bear that. We are still here and standing.
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Associated Press contributed to this report.