Playboy model Victoria Valentino on speaking out against Bill Cosby: 'It was absolutely liberating’

Playboy model Victoria Valentino has no regrets coming forward with her story.

Being in the spotlight again has been a bittersweet experience for Victoria Valentino.

The model, one of the “Top 100 Centerfolds of the 20th Century,” recently returned to Playboy once more to pose for the magazine's first-ever equality issue.

The September 1963 Playmate recently joined several veteran Playmates of different ages and races for the magazine’s ‘70s-inspired “Once a Playmate, Always a Playmate” cover photoshoot. Nearly 800 women have been named Playboy Playmates--with Marilyn Monroe being the first to receive the title-- since Hugh Hefner founded the magazine in 1953, People magazine reported. Hefner passed away in 2017 at age 91.

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Victoria Valentino (left) and Candace Collins Jordan posed for Playboy's first-ever equality issue.

Victoria Valentino (left) and Candace Collins Jordan posed for Playboy's first-ever equality issue. (Photo courtesy of Playboy.)

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The model previously came forward in 2014 after more than 40 years of silence to allege rape against Bill Cosby, Playboy.com reported. Valentino alleged the assault occurred shortly after her 6-year-old son's death from drowning. At least 60 women have accused the former comedian of sexual abuse, the outlet noted. Cosby's legal team has repeatedly denied the allegations made against him.

The 82-year-old has been imprisoned in suburban Philadelphia for nearly two years after a jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004. He’s serving a three-to-10-year sentence.

Valentino spoke to Fox News about being recognized as a Playmate today, coping with personal tragedies and moving forward after sharing her story.

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Victoria Valentino today in Playboy.

Victoria Valentino today in Playboy. (Photo courtesy of Playboy.)

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Fox News: How does it feel to be a Playmate at this point in your life?
Victoria Valentino: At my age, being a Playmate is kind of an odd way to label myself (laughs). But I’m glad to be part of Playboy history. It was just part of my life journey. And it’s been wonderful to connect with fellow Playmates. Even though my life went in a different direction, my image had a life of its own and it had a pretty strong fan base. But to be honest, I had no idea.

Over the years, I had stayed away from showbiz. It just brought too many bad memories. I left Los Angeles in 1970. I went on a 12-year healing odyssey. And when I came back to Los Angeles, I didn’t want to get back into show business. I wanted nothing to do with my previous career.

Instead, I went back to college and became a registered nurse. I graduated with honors at 42 and went into hospice work for many years. I supported other people going through trauma and loss. I knew what tragedy felt like so I wanted to help those in need. And I think that was part of my own healing. We suffer, but we can get back up and help others going through the process and heal.

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Victoria Valentino with her son.

Victoria Valentino with her son. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Valentino.)

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Fox News: How did you manage to cope with such horrific tragedies over the years?
Valentino: I wouldn’t put my worst enemy through them. It was horrific. I was only 25 -- pretty much a child. I had a deep sense of spirituality. I mediated. I think that’s what held me together and helped me understand that everything we go through, there’s a lesson there that we’re supposed to learn to make us better people and grow in life.

Fox News: How did it feel and share your story concerning Bill Cosby?
Valentino: It was absolutely liberating and probably the most empowering thing I’ve ever done… It certainly helped me heal. I’m a survivor. I’m not broken… Finding my voice was the most amazing thing. It can be tempting to push away those horrible memories and not deal with them. But the infection is still there. Those layers build up with time.

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Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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And initially, it triggered a lot of PTSD. But after speaking out, you feel lighter. You don’t even realize how much weight you had pulling you down, how much you’ve been carrying around with you. You also don’t realize how much it affects your relationships with other people, including your loved ones… It feels wonderful to feel encouraged and empowered to speak out. And in turn, you’re encouraging and empowering other survivors to share their truths.

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Victoria Valentino reacts after Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3-10 years in the assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse on September 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. In April of that year, Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. At least sixty women have accused the 82-year-old entertainer of sexual assault.

Victoria Valentino reacts after Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3-10 years in the assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse on September 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. In April of that year, Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. At least sixty women have accused the 82-year-old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

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We pushed that door open and we’re pleased to continue keeping it open… And so many others have come to me with their own personal stories -- and I’ve heard stories that would make your toes curl… And there are people who won’t come out because it’s still too traumatizing. It’s still too painful.

Fox News: Looking back, how did your relationship with Playboy begin?
Valentino: You know, I had never even heard of Playboy. I was a trained actress. I’ve done Shakespeare and I loved live theater. My father was a member of the Motion Picture Academy… I then married an aspiring photographer. He and his photographer friend wanted to use me as a model. It never occurred to me it would be an issue.

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Victoria Valentino had no idea she would become famous after posing for Playboy.

Victoria Valentino had no idea she would become famous after posing for Playboy. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Valentino.)

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So I posed. I remember they would put their heads together and mutter to each other. The word “Playboy” was being tossed around as they would look at me. I really didn’t know what they were talking about. But then they submitted my pictures and they were so excited. I just thought I was doing something to enhance my husband’s future fabulous career as a photographer. Lo and behold, my parents disowned me for four years. It was quite a wake-up call.

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Miss September 1963 Victoria Valentino.

Miss September 1963 Victoria Valentino. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Valentino.)

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But I didn’t know what Playboy was. I remember when I was first invited to meet Hugh Hefner, I saw this very powerful man holding a pipe with a cluster of girls around him. I remember he asked, “Victoria Valentino?” I replied, “And you are?”

Fox News: What’s it been like to be part of the magazine now?
Valentino: I love it. The photos are so elegant and beautiful. I also developed a lot of wonderful relationships with the other women. We’ve remained close friends and stayed in touch over the years. Unfortunately, many of the Playmates from my era who I’ve been very close to have died in the last few years, which has been really difficult. It’s taken a piece of my heart.

But some of us are still here and it’s been a beautiful experience to reconnect. It was a fun, glamorous time in our lives. Hugh Hefner is gone, but his son Cooper is such a marvelous young man. I’m really grateful they’ve given me a voice at this stage of the game. It’s been a really important part of my journey.

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Victoria Valentino says she initially had no idea what Playboy was before she posed for the magazine.

Victoria Valentino says she initially had no idea what Playboy was before she posed for the magazine. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Valentino.)

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Fox News: It must feel good to know there are other women, like you, getting the courage to speak out and share their stories.
Valentino: We are standing strong. People are finding it more possible to speak out against sexual assault. They’re speaking their own truths and aren’t afraid to say, “I was raped.” You know, there used to be a lot of victim-blaming. Now, people are saying, “No, this is what happened to me.” We don’t have to live in silence anymore.

There’s so much unity now and we just need to keep it going. We have to encourage people to continue speaking out and help them realize they don’t have to be ashamed. It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the perpetrator and they have to suffer the consequences of their actions. They don’t have to endure that anymore. We are still here and standing.

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Victoria Valentino says she was raped by actor and comedian Bill Cosby many years ago. She is photographed at her home in Altadena, California on November 20, 2014.

Victoria Valentino says she was raped by actor and comedian Bill Cosby many years ago. She is photographed at her home in Altadena, California on November 20, 2014. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.