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The Playboy Bunny, Empowered?  | The New Yorker

It was Bunny Nicole’s particular night on the New York Metropolis Playboy Membership: a fund-raiser for her dog-rescue charity and in addition an opportunity for her to sing some requirements with a jazz band. Bunny Nicole has a pleasant voice; she studied at Juilliard. She actually cares about canines, too. And, for a chilly Wednesday evening, she managed to generate turnout.However wait. You didn’t know New York has a Playboy Membership? It opened to delicate fanfare final fall, on far-west Forty-second Road, throughout the road from the Decorative Ironworkers Native 580. It’s the primary Playboy Membership on the town since 1986. This new one is a licensee deal. You should purchase a membership—beginning at 5 thousand {dollars} a yr and going as much as 100 thousand—however you may also simply go. There’s a bar and a restaurant, whose décor includes tufted black leather-based, crimson flocked wallpaper, PG-13 photos from previous Playboys, mod lighting fixtures, and cabinets of “curated” books revealed by authors who as soon as wrote for Playboy (Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut) and some who didn’t—M., “The Sensuous Man”; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Crime and Punishment.”Dostoyevsky isn’t the one surprising factor on the Playboy Membership. However again on the anticipated facet are the Bunnies. They put on the identical costume they wore when Hugh Hefner opened the primary membership, in Chicago, in 1960: satin bustiers reduce excessive over the hips, cuffs and a collar, bunny ears and an enormous white tail. Horny? Sexist? Foolish? All these issues, though seeing a dozen Bunnies serving cocktails additionally feels a bit like recognizing an previous DeSoto on the freeway—it’s largely simply startling to see one thing so antiquated up and working. Or think about Colonial Williamsburg, however with cocktails and pores and skin as a substitute of butter churns and bonnets.The membership’s programming consists of evenings dedicated to particular person Bunnies’ passions. Bunny Nicole, whose off-duty identify is Nicole Patrick, sat down to speak about hers in a lounge known as the Grotto (after a in all probability not chlorinated sufficient nook of the Playboy Mansion’s grounds). Patrick is twenty-seven, and she or he grew up in Manhattan and in Westchester County. She first realized about Bunnies whereas auditioning, in 2011, for NBC’s short-lived, “Mad Males”-inspired sequence “The Playboy Membership.” “That triggered me to essentially look into the historical past of the Bunny,” she mentioned. “And after that it grew to become my dream to be one.”Patrick was joined within the Grotto by one other Nicole, Nicole Levinson, a senior vice-president on the membership. Bunnies are the “DNA of the model,” Levinson mentioned. “We’ve a Bunny who’s an opera singer. We’ve a Bunny who’s a designer. We had a Bunny who in her earlier profession was in finance.” (She mentioned she may’ve slotted that one right into a panel on cryptocurrency.) “We’re searching for girls who’re dynamic.”However—simply pondering out loud right here—isn’t the Bunny, at finest, a particularly outdated position? Or, as Gloria Steinem put it, a “gendered model of a minstrel present”? “There’s an enormous vary of what the Bunny symbolizes,” Levinson mentioned evenly, including that, to some folks, “they’re a logo of empowerment.”“Lots of people say empowerment,” Patrick agreed.“That’s the beauty of the model,” Levinson mentioned. “It’s at all times created dialogue and attention-grabbing conversations round these attention-grabbing, necessary matters.”Patrick mentioned, “I simply assume it’s actually an empowering factor to have the ability to say to my grandchildren, ‘Effectively, I used to be a Playboy Bunny and I stood for all this stuff.’ ” She went on, “I’m a singer. I do philanthropic issues with my charity. And to have a job the place they encourage me to do this stuff is wonderful.”Patrick’s charity is known as Stylish Chien Chateau, which, regardless of its oopsy identify, is a severe operation involving an internet of volunteers who ferry canines from shelters the place they’d possible be euthanized to foster households. “Many of the canines come from the agricultural South, as a result of they don’t spay and neuter as a lot as they do right here,” Patrick defined. She had organized a silent public sale to lift cash for a shelter that she hopes to open this summer time, within the West Village. Her group rescues twenty wholesome canines a month, and two sick ones.She went to prepare for her set. The membership had crammed up, and no less than half the patrons have been girls, largely millennials. Many have been posing for campy photos in entrance of Playboy iconography; a collage of covers within the girls’ room has apparently grow to be a favourite backdrop.Patrick began singing “Fever,” backed by a guitarist and a bassist. She was positioned in a clumsy area by a door, however on this context the Bunny costume didn’t appear so completely different from one thing Beyoncé or Cardi B may put on whereas performing feminist anthems. When she completed the track, a desk of eight younger girls celebrating a birthday applauded warmly. They have been all wearing do-it-yourself Bunny costumes—black swimsuits with gold wire bunny ears. “We’re feeling attractive,” one among them mentioned.“I’m a lady who loves seeing one other girl look good,” her pal mentioned. “I like the Bunny.” ♦