The reality star did IVF treatments with Hugh Hefner.
Holly Madison chose not to show her and Hugh Hefner's IVF journey on Girls Next Door. ET's Lauren Zima spoke with Madison and Bridget Marquardt, who both appeared on the reality series, ahead of the release of their new podcast, Girls Next Level, and Madison revealed why she kept her efforts for a baby off of the show.
"I didn’t really think about including it just because, even when I did go on to have kids, I’m always the one who doesn’t want to tell anyone I’m pregnant until after the three-month mark," Madison tells ET. "I just want to be safe."
As such, when Madison appeared on Girls Next Door from 2005 to 2009, she didn't want her and Hefner's IVF journey to play out on TV. "I didn’t want all that scrutiny on something that may or may not work," she explains.
While Madison was so worried about IVF not working that she didn't want the process to air on TV, the fact that it didn't lead to her having a baby with Hefner is something she's now grateful for.
"I mean, obviously, looking back I’m so glad it didn’t work 'cause I went on to have the kids of my dreams," Madison, who shares Rainbow, 9, and Forest, 6, with her ex-husband, Pasquale Rotella, says.
Like Madison, Marquardt was focused on a future family while on the series, but her baby planning wasn't shown for an entirely different reason.
"I did egg retrieval while we were at the mansion," Marquardt tells ET. "I advocated for them to show it 'cause I thought it was a really important message to send. They refused to film it and said that it showed me planning for a life outside the mansion and that’s not something that they wanted on the show."
The fact that Marquardt's egg retrieval didn't make it onto the series was not a surprise to Madison.
"The show, I think it was very surface," she says. "I think it was very cutesy, which is fine, it makes the show fun, but you don't see, like, 95 percent of our lives."
The bit of their lives it did show, Madison claimed, was often misleading due to editing, especially in the first few episodes, which left her "horrified."
"I just feel like I was edited to look like I have absolutely no personality or interests," she says. "... I was in school for real estate investment at the time, but they don’t mention that at all. You can see the books on the side of my bed, you can see me in bed studying, but they never mention it. I just feel like, 'Eh, that’s kind of done dirty with that.'"
"Episodes 1, 2 and 3, I was horrified after watching it," Marquardt agrees. "I was like, 'Oh my god.' I just feel like we were edited in a way that just was so detrimental... At the time we were kind of in a bubble, and it just seemed like it was OK and there was a payoff at the end for it, but looking back on it now, it’s just like, that’s not who I am."
Madison and Marquardt, who appeared on the show with Kendra Wilkinson, weren't naive to the powers of editing, and made an effort not to let the way they were portrayed get to them, though it wasn't always easy.
"Bridget and Kendra and I at the time, the three of us kind of had this pact that... we weren't going to get offended by any edits or anything," Madison says. "I know the show needs drama and I know they have to do that."
"There were a lot of little things that we just knew that they need that for reality TV, so we're just gonna let that go," Marquardt notes. "We took one for the team... but watching that back, now I realized that a lot of those things probably set us up to not get along later, because things kind of do grow and you start to think, 'Maybe they do feel that way.'"
Despite editing woes, both women are grateful for the series and the doors it opened.
"I always say the show saved my life because it gave us so many opportunities and it gave us value in Hef’s eyes 'cause now we were assets," Madison says. "I felt like he treated me a lot better after the show was established, and after he saw that we had a following, and after he saw that the audience was really invested in his and my relationship. Fans would be like, 'We want you guys to get married,' and then he was super into me. He feeds off of that, so the show was amazing for me in so many ways."
"It’s so hard to get Hef to go and do anything," Marquardt adds of Hefner, who died in 2017. "He doesn’t want to travel, he loves to just be at the mansion, so the show opened up this whole door to being able to get out of the mansion a little bit and go explore and do things."
Though the opportunities Girls Next Door provided personally and professionally were great, none of the three leading ladies initially had a contract for their work on the series.
"It's insane," Madison says. "I just feel like it's not industry standard for a reality show, especially when you have three main characters of a show. It was just weird 'cause we were kind of treated like children in a way. Like, 'You guys live here, so you're just gonna do this show 'cause it's what I want.'"
As for why she didn't advocate for herself from the beginning, Madison explains, "I'd been in that relationship for four years, and being Hef's main girlfriend, it was really heavy. I'd kind of been conditioned not to ask for anything... I was scared to ask for anything 'cause I thought I was gonna get yelled at or something."
Unlike Madison, Marquardt says that she and Wilkinson did ask "about things like the contract, getting paid," but their questions weren't received well.
"They basically told us we know where the door is if we didn't wanna do it, that there would be a million girls that wanted to be in our shoes," Marquardt says. "... I just feel like it was coming more from the executive producer making those kinds of decisions. I didn't really blame it on Hef at the time."
Though Madison and Marquardt were both in the Playboy Mansion at the same time, their experiences were quite different.
"I do still feel like Hef was the sweetest guy. I think fondly on my time there and I have nothing bad to say about him," Marquardt says. "... I still feel warmly towards Hef. I just am grateful for all the opportunities that we got. I also had a little bit more freedom than Holly did 'cause I wasn’t the number one, so I feel like she felt it much more strongly than I did."
Meanwhile, as Hefner's longtime number one girl, Madison had a less rosy view on everything.
"I just didn't see a lot of things when I was in a relationship with Hef," she says. "I always wanted to see him as this amazing person, so if he was ever instigating drama between the girls, I never saw it, I just blamed it on other girls. By the time I finally saw that and broke it off with him, it's just a lot to unpack."
"You have somebody's back and wanna believe the good things they say to you for seven years, and you end up feeling betrayed when you look back and you realize that that person never had your back and never cared and just kind of got a kick out of you not getting along with the other girls or having a hard time. It's rough," Madison adds. "... I was just going through so much mental health turmoil that I confided in him, and he just didn't care. He just loved the drama. He loved being fought over."
It's situations like those that Madison and Marquardt plan to revisit on their Girls Next Door re-watch podcast, Girls Next Level.
"It’s looking back and having that hindsight and just growing, and maturing, and being able to look at things through a deeper level," Madison says. "... We wanna cover all sides. We really get into what they didn't show and any drama or negativity that went on, but we do wanna cover the fun stuff and the positive stuff too. We do want the podcast to be high energy and fun to listen to, so it's gonna be a mixed bag... It's going to be a roller coaster."
That roller-coaster ride may eventually include Wilkinson, who both Madison and Marquardt are open to welcoming onto the show.
"She is welcome to come on the show if she wants to talk about it. We'd love to hear it," Madison says. "... I don't talk to her, but she's welcome to come on the show. I don't have any problem [with her]."
Though Madison has been outspoken about her negative memories from her time in the Playboy Mansion, the podcast, she feels, is her opportunity to look back at everything on her own terms.
"People always ask me, 'If you're so traumatized by it why are you still talking about it?' But being able to talk about it on your own platform, where you can really get across what you wanna say, and go over all the nuances and the things that seem contradictory is really satisfying for me," she explains. "... The reason I wanted to do this as a podcast as opposed to taking the whole thing on YouTube or anything is I didn't wanna be censored in any way. I wanted to be free to talk about anything and everything no matter how gross or off the wall."
Girls Next Level is now available wherever you get your podcasts.