Modesty is not a word you’d typically associate with a former Playboy Bunny. Yet Crystal (Harris) Hefner, widow of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, just turned to Instagram to express how her values have taken quite an unexpected turn in the last five years since her husband passed away. She posted about how she’s been on a journey since and has never felt more herself.
Not only did she delete old scantily clad photos of herself from her Instagram feed, but she says she “removed everything fake from her body.” It was a move that didn’t come without risk in this digital age where often, the more you show online, the more likes a photo will get and followers you will gain.
“Certain photos grow followings fast,” she writes. “In short, sex sells.” But Crystal (now with three million Instagram followers) realized that being true to herself and honoring her values was more important than any number. “I was living for other people before, to make others happy, suffering internally in the process.”
“I don’t know whether I felt empowered by dressing scantily clad, showing cleavage, etc … or if I just felt it was expected of me or what…” she continues. “…but now I can confidently and 100% proudly say, modesty is what empowers me these days, and because it feels so much better internally, it will probably be this way for the rest of my life.”
Modesty, especially when it comes to Orthodox Jewish women, can often be seen as restrictive or oppressive, something forced upon the female sex (and, sadly, women in dysfunctional relationships or raised with toxic messages could experience it this way). But Crystal is making the opposite observation and noting how valuable it can be from the inside out, something that isn’t as often discussed by celebrities.
She notes that society seems to value sexualization more than modesty. As she started to post different types of content, her following “dropped by the thousands every day.” Now though, she says she’s growing it again. This time, instead of male followers, women are looking to her for the beauty she is putting out. “Now I truly feel I have an army of supporters that care and see an actual soul behind the lens,” she says. “For that I thank you.”
While no one forced Crystal to become a playmate, perhaps society had its hand in guiding her there — as a culture fraught with over-sexualization and the objectification of women. Unfortunately, it’s not just a handful of people or those who become playboy models that are at risk either. One of the most popular comments on her post says: “I have 3 daughters and the over-sexualization of our society is terrifying and hard for teenagers to navigate.”
Too many women and girls are suffering from the pressure to conceal less and reveal more in an effort to fit in. That pressure often comes from the media and these days, exacerbated on social media.
Crystal went through a difficult transition to reach the new modest lifestyle she’s leading now and so proud of. But it’s clear the journey has been worth it. Since she broke the mold, maybe it will pave the way for others to do so as well, without fear of societal pressure. In Orthodox Judaism, the laws of tzniut (modest dress) are in place for the same reason Crystal was attracted to it. They help us become internally defined people — to help other people see beyond just the physical and to see the whole person, letting our souls shine through, as we learn in Proverbs, “ “Sheker hachen v’hevel hayofi, Isha yiras Hashem, tishaellel.” (Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears God – or in other words, a woman with a strong character – is who should be praised.)
Crystal’s final message on this post is one that resonates with religious Jews, as well as any person of substance. “I will make it my mission to try and help in all ways that I can while staying true to myself,” she writes. “I hope all of you can stay true to yourself and to what feels right for you as well, because there’s a certain power you get from that that you can’t find anywhere else.”