Ever since her April 2017 Playmate pictorial, Nina Daniele has been a constant source of light and life throughout the Playboy galaxy, popping up everywhere from our Hidden Arcade parties to the streets of Hollywood, where she was seen last December wheatpasting Playboy posters in her Bunny outfit. Nina’s traffic-stopping charm, infectious laugh and unmistakable grit—the latter honed over a lifetime in the Bronx—make her an exceptionally qualified Playmate of the Year.
NINA: I live about a mile from the zoo. You can still go there and see the giraffes, and the projects on the horizon. It’s still the same old Bronx.
We could walk to the zoo from the house I lived in. I think we were in the same neighborhood! So tell me about the road that led to you becoming a Playmate.
I’ve been modeling for about eight years now. When I started, the popular look for models was more Eastern European, androgynous, tall and gaunt. Time had to pass for it to come around to where a girl like me, whose ethnicity you don’t necessarily know, could be successful. Size, height and weight began to matter less; it became more about who you are as a person, what you bring to the table, how well you manage social media. So I decided: Instead of trying to be what the industry wants me to be, I’m going to be who I’ve always been. And right when I decided I wouldn’t back down from trying—no matter how many times people told me “You can’t do fashion” and “You’re not going to make it”—Playboy came into my life.
Well, that makes me really happy. playboy is a place where I feel accepted for who I am, not just what I look like. My first interview was about so much more than the photos; it was all about “Who’s Nina?” And when I got to see my story in print, I was like, “Damn, that’s me!” That meant so much to me—to not only be seen in my most vulnerable state, but to also be presented, in words, for who I am. That’s important to Playboy: how my brain works, how my heart works. Through Playboy I was able to talk about how it feels to be a woman in today’s society. You’ve been with Playboy for more than 50 years, Joyce, and I’ve been for only a year, but I feel I actually became part of a family. Hef wanted to create a space for everyone, and for everyone who was invited to stay. Whatever they brought to the table was worthy, was good enough. It feels like home for me.
What is your personal definition of sexiness?
True sexiness is what you exude, not how you look, and that comes from life and experience. We all have our own stories to tell, and not being afraid to show that part of ourselves—I think that’s very attractive. It’s a mystery that you have, a mystery about you, because no one can ever know what you know. Only you can know that, and you’re always learning. I think knowledge in general is very attractive, whether it’s a talent you have, the way you speak, the way you hold yourself—all these things are sexy.
We can’t all speak for ourselves individually. When we speak, we have to speak for all women.
We talked about that in my first interview in the magazine, and it reaffirmed my position in this movement that we’re going through as women: We can’t all speak for ourselves individually. When we speak, we have to speak for all women, and I think Playboy gives us the foundation to do that.
So what now? Do you want to be an actress, a brain surgeon? Where’s it going?
I used to be the type of person who would start a million projects. I played the violin for seven years, I took karate for four or five, I played for my college tennis team, I did swimming, I did every type of dance, I played multiple instruments—then I decided I wanted to be a stockbroker, then a vet, then a crime-scene investigator, then an EMT. Modeling is, to this day, the only thing I’ve stuck with. It’s a waiting game, and no one tells you that. The longer you’re in the industry, the better your chances of success, whether that’s in front of the camera or behind it. When I was finishing college, I wanted to be a writing teacher. Back then I didn’t realize that when you used a credit card you had to pay it back, so all my credit cards were maxed out, and I had a job that barely made me enough money. I was still living at home, and the idea that I could make more than $60 a day really blew my mind. I would still love to teach young people, but not from within a school environment.
You can still teach some things. Down the road, you might be doing tours as a motivational speaker.
It’s possible. Anything is possible when you follow your dreams.