CHICAGO - Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away at the age of 91 in 2017, and his vision for the iconic company in the '60s began in Chicago with the magazine and eventually the famous Playboy clubs.
He often credited his daughter, Christie for growing the brand's success. She became the longest-serving female Chairman and CEO of a public company in U.S. history.
The businesswoman and philanthropist grew up during the sexual revolution and women's movement and would go on to lead Playboy magazine for 20 years.
"Over 40 percent of my executives were women,” she said.
In 2009, she stepped down and has been out of the spotlight ever since. Today, Hefner chairs a company and is very involved in politics and public policy.
She doesn't often do interviews. However, she sat down with Sylvia Perez at River North's Prosecco restaurant to talk about her father, their legacy, being a feminist and CEO of a magazine that many felt sexually objectified women.
"I was in good company in that there were a lot of women that wrote for the magazine and worked for the company who shared a common view that being feminist didn't mean you were anti-male, that men could both admire and desire women,” Christie said.
Christie grew up in Chicago’s northern suburbs and was five years old when her parents, Hugh and Millie Hefner separated. She took her stepfather's last name while attending New Trier High School and Brandeis University.
Christie grew up relatively anonymous, but has fond memories of visiting Chicago’s Playboy Mansion as a young girl.
"I had my sweet sixteen party at the Playboy Mansion, bowled, swam and played pinball, it was a blast,” she said. “But I wasn't out there as the daughter of someone famous and in hindsight, I think that made growing up easier."
Even though her father was famous, she says he was actually a shy man, had a small circle of friends and was a homebody who enjoyed staying in with his signature smoking jacket, playing board games and watching movies. But he was a staunch advocate of freedom of speech and first amendment rights.
"First and foremost he was one of the most influential people in the second half of the 20th century in terms of social sexual attitudes and laws in this country,” she said. “He was proud of that."
Today, Christie proudly looks back at her role during her time at Playboy. It included streamlining and closing down the famous Playboy clubs and developing a strategy to grow the magazine into a TV network and going online when no other magazine would.
"To be in that situation where your business is being disrupted and you can transform your company and prevail, that was exciting,” she said.
Christie now keeps her father's legacy alive with the annual Hugh Hefner First Amendment Awards.
Playboy is no longer in the hands of the Hefner family, but her stepbrother, Cooper still works for the company.