Kendra Wilkinson has been on reality TV for 13 years. While the California native wears many hats—author, “glamour model,” businesswoman, and mother, to name just a few—she’s best known as a reality TV personality. Wilkinson became a household name in 2005, when she co-starred alongside Hugh Hefner’s other girlfriends, Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt, on The Girls Next Door. E!’s inside look at life in the Playboy Mansion ran for five years and launched four separate spin-offs. More importantly for Wilkinson, it paved the way for over a decade in the limelight, making her a true veteran of the relatively young reality TV genre.
Kendra takes her job seriously. After moving out of the Playboy Mansion in 2009, Wilkinson promptly premiered her own reality TV show, Kendra. The first season of the eponymous series centered around Wilkinson’s transition from girl next door to married woman, as she planned her wedding to former NFL wide receiver Hank Baskett. Eight years later, Wilkinson and Baskett have had two children and co-starred on as many shows: Kendra, which ran from 2009 to 2011, and now Kendra on Top, which has been airing on WE since June 2012. On IMDb, her “self” list boasts an impressive 86 credits, including appearances on Marriage Boot Camp, Celebrity Wife Swap, Dancing with the Stars, and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Wilkinson has shared some of her most private, personal moments with television audiences. When her husband Hank became tabloid fodder in 2014 for an alleged affair, the couple captured their marital struggles—and reconciliation—on camera. On this season of Kendra on Top, Wilkinson will put herself through the emotional wringer yet again, as she attempts to repair her relationship with her mother Patti, who’s simultaneously threatening to go public with a tell-all memoir.
Like any star for whom celebrity is both the means and the end, Wilkinson is consummately entertaining if occasionally controversial. Most recently, she sparred with former co-star Holly Madison over their vastly different takes on their years spent cohabitating in the Playboy Mansion. In 2015, Madison published a memoir that touched on tensions within the house, mandatory sexual encounters, and her fraught relationship with Hugh Hefner. After Madison appeared in a People cover story discussing and expanding upon the memoir’s allegations, Wilkinson attempted to discredit Madison through a vulgar Twitter rant (which she later deleted and apologized for). In a series of radio interviews, Wilkinson explained her heated reaction: “I’m protecting Hef, I’m protecting myself, I’m protecting the things that actually made us famous.”
“It’s what I saw constantly all the time,” Wilkinson claimed. “[Holly] wants to make you, like, ‘Oh, I didn’t do that. I never did that! Look away, look away!’ But I’m saying, ‘Dude, you’re no better than I am.’”
Wilkinson has maintained a relationship with the 91-year-old Hefner, who even hosted her wedding to Baskett at the Playboy Mansion. Reflecting on her Playboy past, Wilkinson is “embarrassed” but insists upon taking responsibility. “I am not going to sit here and run from it," she told Jenny McCarthy during a 2016 interview. “I made the choice to sleep with an 80-year-old man for some money and I’m here to say that, but I ended up loving him at the end of the day, that’s the thing. I just choose to remain loyal to Hef.”
During an unexpectedly brief phone interview to promote the sixth season of Kendra on Top, Wilkinson was incredibly forthright, confessing right off the bat that, “I don’t care” about giving out spoilers. Even for the confessional medium of reality television, Wilkinson’s level of candor stands out. “This season will be the mother monster of all the seasons I’ve ever done,” she gushes excitedly, with a remarkable amount of enthusiasm for a person who’s on a whirlwind press tour. “I’ve been on TV for 13 years now and it’s been a long journey. It’s been a journey! Everything leads into the other, and it’s just my life on TV for 13 years, and people have been following it. They trust in me, they trust that it’s a real journey and that it’s real life. And, that being said, this season of Kendra on Top will be, I would say, the most powerful season they’ve ever seen to this day.”
While Kendra on Top consistently “goes there,” Wilkinson says that this season could have even higher stakes. “[Hank’s scandal] was pretty hard to deal with, but at the end of the day, I knew I was gonna stay with him. The thing about this season is, the dynamics between all relationships in my life are now coming to light,” she offers. “For once in my life, I have my dad back in my life, and I have hope to have my mom back in my life. I have my husband and two kids; I have a hope to have a perfect family. But, at the end of the day, nothing’s perfect. You know, my mom and I haven’t talked for three years and now she’s the one that has to work her ass off to get back my trust.”
She adds, “At the end of the day, it’s what comes out of it. And right now, I’m still trying to discover what me and my mom are doing. Is she here to be a con artist, to make money and fame off of me, or is she really here to want to be a mom?”
Wilkinson has previously said that she supports Donald Trump, but that she’s “more of a conspiracy theorist.” When I ask her about her endorsement, Wilkinson is quick to explain that she’s “not in the political world at all—I am anti-politics.” She insists, “I’m not Republican, I’m not Democrat, I’m not liberal. I’m a fucking hippie, right? I’m a conspiracy theorist too, at the end of the day. I think it’s all bullshit. Everything’s made just for money, for talk—talk creates money, talk creates media, media creates money, it’s all money! And I don’t believe in any of it! I don’t believe any of it. I believe in aliens, and I’m happy in my own world. I believe aliens…I’m an alien. I’m RH negative and I’m an alien so I don’t need to really be on earth right now. I’d rather not. I’d rather have my people come and take me away onto our planet.”
“I swear to God,” Wilkinson continues, “I’m just calling out people who are eating, literally, eating beef jerky and drinking out of plastic water bottles and eating McDonalds for lunch and telling me how they’re mad at the save the planet act thing that was pulled from whatever. And I’m sitting here thinking, like, what the fuck are you doing? How the fuck are you saving the planet by eating beef jerky and drinking out of fucking water bottles?! What the fuck?! See—I call out the hypocrites. That’s all I do.”
Since Trump was a frequent guest at the Playboy Mansion, I ask Wilkinson if she knew the President personally. “I met him and he was a really nice guy,” she responds. “But I don’t know him at all and I don’t even read the news, but I can say I shook his hand and he was a nice guy in person. That’s all I can say!” When I try to ask a follow-up—did Trump have a good reputation with the other partiers and Playboy Playmates?—someone (presumably a PR person) comes on the line and asks me to “move on from Trump.” Wilkinson, however, is game to continue, explaining that, “Celebrities came all the time. No one ever talked about…it was like—oh look! He’s nice. Okay cool, bye. [Trump] came with his family! I mean there was no…He never…Oh God. These fucking reputations that you guys all created. It’s so weird…I’m like, ‘He was with his wife and with his family!’”
And with that, my time with Kendra was up.