The availability of scantily clad celebrities on the Internet has certainly cooled the decades-long trend of Playboy being the first place many teenage boys got their initial taste of celebrity nudity, but nonetheless, for a wide swath of women dating back to Marilyn Monroe’s pictorial in the very first issue, Playboy was hopefully a quick jolt to a career whether you were on the way up or way down.
For those too young to remember, Hugh Hefner embodied the Playboy lifestyle, which appeared somewhat more fun and artistic than the visions of nudity found in other adult mags like Penthouse and Hustler. Somehow, this more “wholesome” image is what was sold to actresses, models and musicians who were all looking for a boost in their public awareness. Playboy has also featured athletes (Katarina Witt, Gabrielle Reece, Amanda Beard) who otherwise would never be seen nude and it introduced the world to a few women who would become household names like Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy.
There are celebrities who undeniable got a boost from their Playboy appearance such as a pre-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone, but for every one of them, there are many more whose appearance did little to help their careers. It may have been the hope that their failing career could be reborn or that they could maintain the levels they were already at. It may have been to show the world a different side of them or simply for the money. Whatever their reasons, here is a list of women who didn’t get a bump in their career after baring it all in Playboy.
10. Shannen Doherty
First seen as a child on family TV shows like Little House on the Prairie and Our House, Doherty became a household name more for the off-screen accounts of her behavior on Beverly Hills 90210 where she played sweet Brenda Walsh. After being booted from the show, she first made a cameo in Playboy in March 1994 in a multi-celebrity pictorial, but was rewarded with the cover.
Typical Lifetime TV movies and the semi-successful show Charmed followed, but after a stretch of largely ignored projects, she returned to the men’s magazine pages with a 10-page layout in December 2003. It didn’t do much for her career, with a multi-episode cameo as Brenda Walsh in the 90210 reboot in 2008 being one of the few major non-reality show gigs she landed. Sadly, she announced she had breast cancer in 2015.
9. The American Pie Girls
Oh, how the geeks of the world would have loved Alyson Hannigan to be among the list, but the How I Met Your Mother actress kept her clothes on, despite what may have happened at band camp. Less than two months after the original movie about four guys on a quest to lose their virginity came out in theaters, Shannon Elizabeth, who played sexy foreign exchange student Nadia, took it all off for Playboy in their August 1999 issue.
It may have been a case of “strike when the iron is hot” but aside from cameos in the franchise’s sequels and a string of straight-to-video horror movies, this bombshell has mostly been seen on ESPN in her new role as real-life poker player. Her blonde co-star, Tara Reid, has recently resurfaced thanks to the campy Sharknado movies, but has spent most of her post-Pie years relegated to small projects and celebrity reality shows. Reid’s Jan./Feb 2010 pictorial left little to the imagination of guys who had fallen in love with her 11 years earlier.
8. Julie Brown
The late 1980s was a time when hormone-laden teenage boys would rush home to turn on Club MTV even if they didn’t like the pop tunes being played. It definitely amped up the sex factor from traditional dancers like American Bandstand and Soul Train, and nobody exemplified that more than its host, “Downtown” Julie Brown.
The neon-clad, British-accented beauty was part of the second wave of MTV VJs to hit the channel, back when they mostly played music videos. Like everything associated with pop music, she was eventually replaced with a new show, The Grind and newer, hipper host, original The Real World hottie, Eric Nies. Following a decade of taking any project she could to stay relevant, Brown appeared nude in the August 1998 of Playboy. She can now be heard on Sirius XM’s 90s channel introducing many of the songs that brought her to fame almost 30 years ago.
7. Heidi Montag
Many are probably wondering to themselves “who’s that”, but for a brief flicker of time around 2006, she was Kim Kardashian before Kim Kardashian was Kim Kardashian. Montag first rose to fame on the MTV’s first “is this real or fake?” show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County but exploded after truly cultivating her bitchy character on its spin-off The Hills. She fell in love with, and married celebrity media manipulator Spencer Pratt, who co-starred with her on both MTV shows.
Pratt took over Montag’s career and the duo quickly started the reality TV show rounds even before ‘The Hills’ was officially over. Rarely playing anyone except herself, Montag’s exceptionally tame September 2009 pictorial did little to return her to the prominent role she played in pop culture just three years earlier. Now, still married to Pratt, she’s largely out of the spotlight except for the occasional reality show appearance.
6. Teri Polo
While she had played prominent roles in small 90s movies such as Aspen Extreme and Mystery Date and was in nearly a dozen TV movies, it wasn’t until the release of Meet the Parents in 2000 that the world started paying attention to the beautiful woman who played Ben Stiller’s fiance, Pam. Polo’s career didn’t explode immediately after with forgettable roles in even more forgettable movies and a few guest spots on TV shows such as Frasier.
Following her next big role in the 2004 sequel Meet the Fockers either Polo or her management went the nudity route with a February 2005 Playboy appearance. Despite her numerous TV appearances post-Playboy, reprising the role of Pam in 2010’s Little Fockers has been her only notable screen credit. She did land a role in ABC Family’s ‘The Fosters’ in 2013, but it’s a stretch to say Playboy had anything to do with it.
5. 80s Teeny Bopper Icons
Forget Team Edward or Team Jacob. If you were a girl between the ages of 8 and 15 in 1987, you were forced to pick Team Tiffany or Team. Both rose to immediate fame with the pre-pubescent crowd with the releases of their first LPs in 1987, with Tiffany releasing a self-titled debut and Gibson’s “Electric Youth.” Boys either didn’t like, or pretended they didn’t like the bubblegum pop sound of both girls, who were 16 at the time of their first albums. After years out of the spotlight, those boys likely changed their minds when both women appeared in Playboy, Tiffany first in April 2002 and Debbie Gibson in March 2005. Like so many women who attempt to make it back into the mainstream, Tiffany can claim only a few reality show appearances post-Playboy. Gibson has done better for herself, releasing a few minor hits and starring on Broadway.
4. Farrah Fawcett
Nobody was as white-hot both in terms of looks and public attention in the late 1970s as Farrah Fawcett. With a starring role in Charlie’s Angels in 1976 and married to Six Million Dollar Man lead Lee Majors — not to mention being featured on the top-selling poster of all time — you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing Fawcett. Reinventing herself as a serious actress in the mid-1980s, Fawcett was nominated for several Emmys and Golden Globe awards.
Aside from dwindling roles on cheesy TV movies, the occasional guest star role or being seen on the arm of her second husband, Ryan O’Neil, Fawcett mostly faded from the limelight in the early part of the 1990s, mostly being remembered for her pair of mid-decade Playboy pictorials and a rambling interview on ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’ Sadly, this cultural icon died in 2009 of rectal cancer.
3. Tia Carrere
You know somebody’s post-Playboy career has hit the skids when their two biggest IMDb credits are ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ both of which have resurrected nobody’s careers. While first gaining notice on the soap ‘General Hospital’ in 1985, followed by a string of TV and movie appearances indicative of any up-and-coming starlet, it was her role as the rock goddess Cassandra in 1992’s ‘Wayne’s World that shot her to stardom. She stayed on a roll with big parts in ‘Wayne’s World 2’ and ‘True Lies’ but by the time the late 90s came around, Carrere could only claim roles in straight-to-video movies and voiceover work as regular jobs. Her January 2003 pictorial did little to reignite her movie career, although she did find success (including a 2009 Grammy) with a string of Hawaiian music albums.
2. Kristy Swanson
Before getting her big break as the original Buffy in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ movie, Swanson was on the top of Hollywood’s list of women to call for over 10 years in the 80s and 90s when a hot girl who could act was needed, with guest appearances on such popular TV shows as ‘Growing Pains’, ‘Cagney & Lacey’ and ‘Knotts Landing’ not to mention her roles in the movies ‘Flowers in the Attic,’ ‘Hot Shots!’ and ‘The Chase.’ Her looks certainly hadn’t gone by the time she removed her clothes for Playboy in November 2002, but being a top choice among Hollywood’s casting agents did, never to return.
1. Lindsay Lohan
The idea behind appearing in Playboy for most actresses and musicians is to help jump-start their stalled careers, the way one uses cable to jump-start a car. You can’t jump-start a car that is beyond repair and any hope that Lindsay Lohan’s January 2012 Playboy pictorial (along with an appearance on Saturday Night Live around the same time) was going to resurrect her permanently scarred career was ridiculous; the damage was done.
Once the darling of teen films such as Freaky Friday, Mean Girls and Herbie: Fully Loaded, it is Lohan’s party girl lifestyle and legal fallout that kept in her headlines for years. It’s doubtful she’ll ever return to the heights her career once saw, no matter how many clothes she removes.