Chicago native Jennifer Jackson became the first black Playboy Playmate in 1965 when she was 19 years old. The 5-foot-8 bunny was also the first black model to be featured in an ad for Lady Clairol, the first black woman to model for Avon cosmetics and Kool cigarettes. Both of the ads were published in Ebony magazine. In that same year, Jackson became the face of the Ebony Fashion Fair.

As a Playboy bunny at the famous Chicago Playboy Club, Jackson remembers standing in three-inch heels for nine hours without being able to eat. She referred her twin sister, Janice, to the club, who was also hired as a bunny. The women were always in competition with other waitresses and were weighed constantly.

Jackson worked at the Playboy Club to pay for her tuition at Chicago Teacher’s College. When the opportunity came for her to pose for Playboy, Jackson agreed to the photo shoot and made enough money to move to New York.

Hugh Hefner founded a magazine and an media and branding empire that helped propel sex into the American mainstram.
Hugh Hefner founded a magazine and built a media and branding empire that helped propel sex into the American mainstream.

Jackson made her debut in March 1965 as the first black Playmate of the Month. Jackson revealed that although Hugh Hefner wanted to make her a Playmate of the Year, her safety would be in question during speaking engagements in the South. As for her parents, Jackson’s mother had no response to the photo, and her father was excited to receive a key to the Playboy Club, which he never visited.

After relocating, Jackson met her first husband, who, unfortunately, became an alcoholic. The couple would have two children. She left her spouse and returned to Chicago, where she met her second husband and earned her Bachelor’s degree.