I had a very interesting, and rather amusing situation today. I ended up on a video call with some of the staff of Playboy and 60 models from around the world. It was a bit awkward, but I learned some things from the experience, and probably not what you expect.
Back in January, 2022, a photographer I follow on Instagram started posting about this new social media site that Playboy was starting, called Centerfold. Great name, right? I was intrigued.
In its original form, it felt a lot like an early version of Instagram, only without the censorship or advertisements. Frankly, that sounded pretty amazing to me. I signed up immediately and was approved as one of the early “creators”. It was a new platform, so I knew it would be quiet at first, but the idea of an uncensored social media site for nude photography was (and still is) really exciting to me, and I thought the name recognition and strong brand behind it meant it was likely to succeed at least at some level.
I’ve been posting uncensored versions of my Instagram posts there pretty religiously. As time went on, though, they started adding more features, and the site started veering away from “early Instagram” and more toward “current OnlyFans¹”. The emphasis is clearly on the way model creators make money, and photographer accounts are a lower priority. That didn’t bother me. Most of the newer features they were adding didn’t really benefit me, but they didn’t hurt me, either, so I kept posting. After a while, I did stop cross-promoting Centerfold on my other socials because I wasn’t getting enough crossover followers to make it worth the effort I was putting into it.
About a week ago, Playboy sent me an invitation to a “Playboy Creator Conference Call”. I thought that sounded interesting. I wasn’t sure they had really intended to send it to me, but I signed up anyway. A couple hours later, they cancelled my reserved spot, which made me a little mad. I mean, they had invited me, and then cancelled me without comment or explanation? How rude!
But, it wasn’t just me – they had accidentally cancelled the whole session. A new invitation arrived a little bit later.
A Rough Start
When the time came for the call, I logged in and, as you might imagine, the call was almost all gorgeous models. Just as I was taking it all in… they kicked me out of the call. They didn’t say anything, and I hadn’t said or done anything, so I couldn’t have violated any rules. Nonetheless, I was unceremoniously booted from the call. My guess was they saw this old bearded guy and figured he really didn’t belong.
A smarter man would’ve taken a hint, but I had been invited, dammit, so I was going to join, just as a matter of principle. So, I called back in, and they let me stay this time, though they ignored me, didn’t answer my questions, or even acknowledge anything I said or did.
After some introductions, the staff from Playboy began their pitch. As I was expecting by this point, it was all about how model creators could increase their engagement and earning. They also presented a couple of promotional opportunities to work with Playboy that they didn’t explicitly say was for models only, but it was pretty clear they were for models only. There really wasn’t a lot of information that was at all helpful to a photographer on the platform, and my questions and comments were ignored, even my question about how I could improve engagement for the Centerfold models I’ve collaborated with (there’s currently no way to tag or mention another creator). Hell, they didn’t even send me the chat transcript they said they were going to send to all participants. It became pretty clear they had no use for me and didn’t really want me there.
So, it was a frustrating waste of time?
Actually, no. I’m really glad I called in despite the annoyances and less-than-welcoming reception.
It Wasn’t About Me… and that’s Okay
Despite everything, I was honestly really impressed with the Playboy staff. First, they were all women. Every single one. And they all seemed genuinely excited to be creating a platform focused on helping (mostly women) creators make money.
Playboy was my first exposure to nude photography way back in the late ’70s, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. But even from a fairly early age, I recognized that the “Playboy Lifestyle” the magazine promoted was deeply problematic. Everything about the magazine was mired in patriarchal arrogance. Of course, I wasn’t about to let any of that interfere with my appreciation for their pictures of naked women.
But, that problematic Playboy I grew up with? That’s not the Playboy I witnessed on that call. Not remotely. What I saw was a company led by women and focused on enabling women to profit from their own beauty and sexuality, which is pretty much the opposite of the old Playboy where men profited off the beauty and sexuality of women. Playboy is still a for-profit company, and much of their consumer base is made up of men, so I don’t want to idealize what they’re doing too much, but… it was honestly nice to see. I loved the clear focus and genuine enthusiasm from both the staff and the creators.
Although I plan to keep posting to Centerfold, the jury is still out as to whether it will become a good platform for photographers. It lacks tools for cross-promotion, has no mechanism for encouraging public discussions, and you only get one line of text to describe your image. As a photographer, people don’t come to my social media accounts primarily to interact with me, at least, not in the way they do when they come to a model’s account. They come to mine to see the pictures of the various models I’ve shot and to hear behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the model or the shoot. It’s a very different dynamic, and it’s a dynamic that Centerfold isn’t building tools to support.
But, for model creators, it’s shaping up to be a terrific platform. From what I’ve seen, it’s a far better choice for many people currently using OnlyFans or Fansly, and I expect it to keep getting better.
I’m excited to see where they take the platform, even though they appear to be taking it in a direction that doesn’t benefit me that much, personally.
1 – Just to be clear, Centerfold doesn’t look or feel like OnlyFans. It’s not a copy or a clone, but development does seem to be driven by a similar motivation.