Warning: This post contains erotic imagery and may not be suitable for work environments.
It is increasingly rare today, in a world obsessed with temporary fame and flash, to meet someone who genuinely inspires, provokes, and lifts us up higher, but Kelly Holland, the new CEO and owner of Penthouse Global Media, is one of those people. She is the director and producer of quality, sex-positive adult entertainment for women, as well as an animal-lover who founded The Animal Rescue Alliance, a no-kill shelter and sanctuary. Although she claims she's still a dopey kid deep down, I felt empowered and enlightened after talking with her for the very first time.
"I made my own rules growing up," she told me. "My mom was a single working mother and my dad was out of the scene. I like to say that I was raised by wolves. Because of this, I had no sense of gender identification that limited my professional success. I never felt or believed that being a women lessened my chances," Kelly explained.
As a 22-year-old in the late 70s, Kelly dropped out of college to start her career in broadcasting with a Christian network. She later expanded her career to include acting and documentary production. It was not until she was age 35 that Holland (now a Baby Boomer) first entered the 'adult' world, but the minute she did, she felt for the first time ever that she had come home. She loved the freedom, the passion, and the uninhibited expression. She found it inspiring, and she saw opportunities for positive empowerment in every project. The work brought her to the front lines of feminism. Every day, she strives to empower women who believe in "My body, my rules," and she supports sexual freedom and expression for all women.
And, as we all know, it's a big battle to fight. Kelly explains,
"Even in these modern times, a women's worth is often still measured by how virtuous she seems. To put it plainly, a woman's vagina is not her own-- it can still be controlled by social rules, her spouse, religion, or culture."
Holland believes that women should always have access to the whole spectrum of sexual authenticity as well as complete freedom to make their own decisions about their sexuality and expression. She wants women to reclaim their vaginas (and the rest of their bodies, too), and every day, she uses her work at Penthouse to make that possible.
With a feminist at the helm, Penthouse is making great strides toward reaching the whole community, not just men. In fact, Penthouse now has a reader base that is 30-40 percent female. Thanks to women like Holland, times are changing at Penthouse, so if you think it's still just a magazine full of the Penthouse Pets, then you're missing out on a lot.
One of Holland's new projects, a photo and interview series called Penthouse POP SHOTS, is a perfect example of how things are changing. POP SHOTS features photos of beautiful women of all shapes, ages, sizes, and cultures, as well as interviews with pop culture artists, luminaries, and cultural icons about their thoughts on beauty. Dave Navarro was the first guest contributor, and when they asked him what he thought makes a women sexy and beautiful, he responded, "The decisions I made were, in my mind, more in terms of "sexy" than "hot," because those are different things. To me, sexiness is mystique and mystery, a yearning to want to know someone, whereas straight-up "pornographic" imagery falls more into the "hot" category, and is just more lustful. I think what I was trying to accomplish here was to show these women in a way that appeared strong and interesting and mysterious, because ultimately that's what I find sexy in women and people."
The first woman to jump on the POP SHOTS bandwagon was the original bad girl of comedy, Luenell, who shared her excitement about seeing diversity in the woman photographed for the project.
"I was looking for who was different from the chicks I always see. I always see regular, WASP-y chicks I can't relate to. I wanted some color and some diversity. Not a blonde; I wanted a redhead. I didn't want a light-skinned black girl; I wanted a dark-chocolate black girl."
Even if you're not a famous pop star or media icon, you can still get in on the fun. Anyone can make their voice heard in the Penthouse community by writing in to Penthouse Letters, a hugely popular section of reader-submitted articles and letters describing sexual encounters (real or fantasized). Holland and many others at Penthouse believe that it's finally time for everyone to talk about sexuality with their own voices-- time to stop living with stifling rules so that we can share our own stories, desires and joys, instead.
The more I talked with Kelly Holland, the more I was convinced that adult entertainment industry is changing for the better. What was once considered "dirty" is now being used as a tool to empower all kinds of people to celebrate their own sexuality. When I asked Kelly how she feels about being on the forefront of this new sexual revolution, she said, "Very empowered. It's funny-- I always wait for the conversation with a stranger about what I do when I'm on a plane, or in a restaurant. Eventually they ask, 'So, what do you do?' I always look them straight in the face and say 'I own Penthouse.'"