I recently sat down with E! personality and former Playboy Mansion resident, Kendra Wilkinson, to discuss her much publicized transition from one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends to independent woman, and soon to be NFL wife of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, Hank Baskett. With this personal evolution comes an equally dramatic professional leap from one of three blonde beauties on the smash hit series The Girls Next Door to her own reality show, Kendra, also on E!.
It's no secret that good celebrity interviews require a healthy amount of chemistry and an instant camaraderie between both parties, and my conversation with Kendra proved to be one of the easiest of my career. From a love of the same television shows and a shared tomboy sensibility, to a disdain for shopping, Kendra and I had a lot in common. It certainly made for an easy flowing conversation with a girl who is as down to earth as they come, particularly for a twenty-three year old with her own television series who is currently decompressing from a life at the Playboy Mansion complete with round-the-clock butler service.
The oldest child of a single mother and an absentee father, Kendra Wilkinson’s life wasn’t always a fairytale. In fact, some of the extreme ups and downs of her adolescence and early twenties have given her a much wider perspective and a deeper insight than her physical appearance and perceived lifestyle would suggest, and I tell her so.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): What is the overall theme of your new show, Kendra, on E!?
Kendra Wilkinson: They’re documenting my next chapter in life. It’s so fun because I get to have this forever and show my kids, like “This was mommy’s next chapter in life.” So they get to watch The Girls Next Door and then see the change from The Girls Next Door to my show Kendra. But to tell you the truth, I hope there are more seasons because I have more to grow. The first episode picks up from me leaving the mansion and my first night in my new house, and my new life. It’s also the process leading up to the wedding on June 27th and it’s kind of the concept of the angel on [one] shoulder and the devil on my other shoulder. My crazy friends are trying to get me to stay the same, to stay the crazy Kendra, and I’ve got Hank on my other side, the angel, pulling me to be the woman I’ve always wanted to be.
PR.com: Hank is much more conservative?
Kendra Wilkinson: Oh yeah! Hank’s a really conservative guy and he makes me a better person.
PR.com: That’s when you know you’ve found the right person, when you feel the need to be better.
Kendra Wilkinson: Of course. He’s all about charity and all about kids, and it’s so great. He was born into a military family and he’s die hard America, and die hard [for] kids. On his off time he doesn’t go off and do football player things. He goes to schools and he talks to kids, and he just makes me such a better person.
PR.com: How did you guys meet?
Kendra Wilkinson: At the 2008 Playboy Golf Scramble. I don’t like to say that because I never thought I would meet my husband at a Playboy event (laughs). I’m actually the type of girl… I would never meet my husband at a Playboy event, but it happened that way.
PR.com: What was your situation when you met Hank? Were you still in a relationship with Hef at the time?
Kendra Wilkinson: Hef and I, that was towards the end of the whole boyfriend/girlfriend [thing]. That was already kind of over with a long time ago. Hank and I became friends at first. It wasn’t love at first sight. Everybody asks me if it was love at first sight, and it wasn’t. It seemed like it was because it happened so fast. We are the same people, but opposite. We’re so opposite each other. He’s from a small town and I’m from a big city. You see a lot of that in the show too.
PR.com: It sounds to me when you say you’re alike but opposite that you’re saying he has qualities that you aspire to have, and you have qualities that he aspires to have.
Kendra Wilkinson: Definitely. I look at it this way. He made me a better person, and I made him a worse person but in a good way. I made him put his foot down with a lot of things. He’s mister nice guy, but I got him to really stand up for himself with certain things now, and that’s me. It’s definitely good to have opposites because you feed off each other, and you learn and it’s just fun having something different.
PR.com: You have a vibrant personality, and your outsides almost don’t match your insides. When The Girls Next Door first started you looked like a typical blonde Playboy girl, but then as soon as you open your mouth you just have this fire.
Kendra Wilkinson: People think of me as a ball of fire. I am not Hollywood at all! I do Hollywood things. I do a show, I go out every now and then, but I’m not Hollywood at all! I know who I am and I know where I come from. I will never forget where I come from. Everything I’ve learned from my childhood and my teenage life, that’s who I am today. I’m never gonna change. I stay off of those little gossip [websites]; and I stay off the computer. I barely even watch my own show because I don’t regret anything in my life. There’s some things I wish I would have said differently, but I never regret, because if I say it, it’s out of my heart and it’s up to the people, if they know me, to understand.
PR.com: On your MySpace page you wrote, “I don’t consider myself famous, and I don’t think I ever will.” Is that still true?
Kendra Wilkinson: I don’t get washed up in that Hollywood stuff. When The Girls Next Door was on, I never watched The Girls Next Door. I always got really embarrassed and ran out of the room when Hef wanted me to watch it with him (laughs). I know who I am. My job is to have a camera in front of me, but it’s not my job to sit there and watch myself, and to critique myself. It’s my job to shoot. It’s not my job to watch myself. That’s for everyone else to watch, not me. That keeps me grounded and it keeps me sane. I don’t want to critique myself and say, “Man, I’ve got to change that about myself.” I don’t want to do that.
PR.com: What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?
Kendra Wilkinson: I have my TV set on HGTV 24/7. I don’t leave HGTV. It’s, like, my favorite station ever.
PR.com: Do you watch House Hunters?
Kendra Wilkinson: I watch House Hunters, Property Virgins and I watch, of course, Planet Earth. Planet Earth is me and Hank’s favorite thing to watch. We’re homebodies. We love to be with each other, but at the same time we come up with bucket lists and we want to get out and just explore the world. We love road trips. We don’t care about big things in life. We care about the little things. Hank and I downloaded all of the 70s and 80s rock ballads, and we just jam out to that all day whenever we want to clean.
PR.com: Did your mom and Hank bond over the Philadelphia Eagles connection? I know your mom was a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader at one time.
Kendra Wilkinson: They bonded. Our families all get along and everything; and it definitely helped. It was fun to know that she was a part of the Eagles. It’s such a coincidence.
PR.com: Explain to me the appeal of football.
Kendra Wilkinson: I feel like I have the same mind as guys, more so [than girls]. I’m not a fan of getting dressed up. I’m not a fan of shopping. I’m not a fan of putting on makeup or doing my hair. So count me out of talking about all that gossip shit with girls. I’m about gossiping about sports, and when football season is on I’m in a zone, you know? And I usually play fantasy football. It takes my mind off of things. My job is to be all sexy and shit, and do photo shoots. I want to get away from my job for a second. It’s my way of escaping.
PR.com: That’s what I meant before when I said that your outsides don’t match your insides.
Kendra Wilkinson: Yeah. I used to play on a softball team. The show wanted to come and shoot, and I said, “No, that’s my getaway.” That’s my time to myself. I’m an athlete, and that’s me inside. I’m a tomboy athlete and a sports lover.
PR.com: When you moved out of the Playboy Mansion what was the biggest culture shock for you?
Kendra Wilkinson: Everything is still the same minus the maids and the security and Hef and the butlers (laughs). Yeah, everything’s pretty much the same besides those things (laughs). The culture shock was definitely not having security around me 24/7. That was the one thing I loved, because I’m a paranoid freak whenever I’m out and about. People run up to me and grab me, and oh my God, I get so scared! Ugh! I just get scared walking my dogs sometimes. I used to just be able to go out and let my dogs run free around the mansion. Also, cooking and cleaning… and paying bills is the biggest thing!
PR.com: Ah, you’re 23. That’s usually the age that it hits you (laughs).
Kendra Wilkinson: I’m going through my quarter life crisis right now.
PR.com: I saw what you wrote on your website to your mom for Mother’s Day and I thought that was really sweet. I have a new baby, and I can tell you that with a partner it’s hard. I can’t even imagine what single mothers go through. How did growing up without your dad make you look at relationships? And how did it shape what you expect from Hank as a future father?
Kendra Wilkinson: See, everything happens for a reason. You fall, and you better get your ass back up. You’ve got to pick yourself back up. You can’t have anyone [do it] for you. I’m a person where I live and I learn. What happened in the past, trust me, that shit won’t happen again! Especially with the man in my life. I made sure that I chose wisely with my man. I would never settle for my dad. I have the best guy in the world. I can tell you one thing, he is 100% for me and he is my backbone. We want kids one day and he is excited. I know he would never do that to me. He would never just up and leave me. I made sure that I chose that. It made me so much smarter. Sometimes it goes the other way when something like that happens. Girls usually get stupid and they go about it different ways. But you have to be smart in life. It’s survival of the fittest.
PR.com: Do you want kids any time soon?
Kendra Wilkinson: I definitely want kids soon. We’re thinking about trying after the wedding (laughs).
PR.com: Wow! Look at you!
Kendra Wilkinson: (Laughs). We’re definitely thinking about it.
PR.com: How was the initial meeting between Hef and your fiancé, Hank Baskett?
Kendra Wilkinson: Hank was so nervous at first to meet Hef, him being my ex-boyfriend and all. He was so nervous about it, and he didn’t know what to expect. You’ll see it on the show: the first meeting between Hef and Hank. When they met with each other Hank was just so blown away. Hank was like, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe how much love is here for you.” He was like, “I see it in Hef’s eyes, that he loves you so much Kendra.” It takes a real man to look at another man and say, “Wow. He really, truly loves you.” That’s what makes Hank happy. He loves Hef and Hef loves Hank! They have so much in common. Every time they see each other Hef always gives him a pat on the back or gives him a little wink. He loves Hank.
PR.com: Is Hef walking you down the aisle?
Kendra Wilkinson: No, I asked my brother to.
PR.com: I have to ask, why was the first piece of decorating purchased for your new house a stripper pole?
Kendra Wilkinson: [The house] was completely empty and I’m like, “Man, what can I put in my house to make it fun and give it character? Hmm… a stripper pole.” I just wanted character in here, and that was my first thing I wanted in here. I was so bored at first because I didn’t have any TV, so I just set up the pole. Now I’m taking pole lessons and having a pole workout.
PR.com: Where does one buy a stripper pole?
Kendra Wilkinson: Well, I have my own pole coming out, so it’s funny that you ask.
PR.com: You branded a stripper pole?
Kendra Wilkinson: Yes I did. It’s called The Kendra Wilkinson Sport Pole.
PR.com: Is it for the purpose of working out or for the purpose of stripping?
Kendra Wilkinson: Working out. That’s why we call it a Sport Pole and not a stripper pole (laughs).
PR.com: What is that store in the mall that sells that massager that everyone knows is really a vibrator?
Kendra Wilkinson: Brookstone.
PR.com: Yeah, but they call it a “massager.”
Kendra Wilkinson: Oh God! Yep, I know what you mean (laughs).
PR.com: So we’ll call yours a “Sport Pole” instead of a stripper pole.
Kendra Wilkinson: (Laughs) Exactly!
PR.com: And when you go swimming do you dive right in the water, or do you check the temperature and dip one body part in at a time?
Kendra Wilkinson: Ah, man! I’m the person to put one body part in at a time. I come from San Diego, so I surfed a lot of my life. I used to be able to jump in, but I’m a person that has to feel it now. I grew up into a wuss (laughs). I have to test the waters, definitely.
“Kendra” premieres Sunday, June 7th at 10:00pm ET/PT on E!