Patti Davis: My Body, Then and Now

When Patti Davis posed nude for Playboy in 1994, she was twice as old as the typical Playmate. Now 58, she’s posing for us—and telling the naked truth about her motives

By Patti Davis
patti davis naked image more
Patti Davis bares all to prove a fitness regimen works at any age.
Photograph: Eric Ray Davidson

"Written on the Body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulations of a lifetime gather there." ~Jean Winterson from her novel Written on the Body

IN 1986, I walked into World Gym in Venice, California—at that time, a small, funky space that women typically did not enter, except for a few female bodybuilders. At age 34 I’d left the tights-and-leg-warmers world of -Jane Fonda’s Workout to come to a hard-core, -pumping-iron, no-frills place, having decided I wanted more muscles, more strength. And no more pink leg warmers. I had a very clear idea of what and whom I wanted to see in the mirror, and I had a long way to go.

Ironically, one of the first things that greeted me when I walked up the stairs into a cramped room full of clanking weights and harsh fluorescent lights was a wall of black-and-white photographs—nude images of a bodybuilder named Lisa Lyon. I found myself staring and realized this was the image of who I wanted to be. She was confident and proud; her muscles were lean, defined and beautifully sculpted. (This was before some female bodybuilders began taking steroids.) I thought, Someday I want to feel that I deserve to pose nude like that. Not yet, but someday.

Not yet because when I looked in the mirror, I still saw the girl I’d been for so much of my life. The girl who had fallen willingly into the deep and dangerous waters of drug addiction. I was 15 when I discovered both pharmaceutical amphetamines and tiny white tablets of speed, concocted in home labs or garages and sold on the street. The sound of pills rattling in a bottle was a lullaby to the pain in my soul. Over the years, I went on from speed to coke, and by the time I was in my twenties, I was in trouble. My body was wasted, my muscles thin and barely visible.

I did finally quit, late in my twenties, grabbing onto some rope in my heart that I hadn’t even known was there. A stubborn determination took over, a buried part of me that wanted to survive. I resolved to work my way back to health.

That’s who walked into the gym that morning and watched herself in the walls of mirrors, reaching for weights she’d never lifted before.

WE bear witness to ourselves in mirrors. They could be in our bathrooms, where we stand exposed, or in gyms and department store changing rooms. Whether we’re clothed or not, the vulnerability is always there—as is the awareness that there is also, deep within us, an internal mirror. We are never completely finished with who we once were, and we meet that person every time we stare at our own reflection.

Over months and years, I did get strong. My body changed, and I took note of the transformations I saw in the mirror. There were anodyne moments of healing when I’d dispel my fears by looking at the musculature of my body. How dare you feel insecure, I told myself—look at the abdominal muscles centering your body; look at your legs, which can run miles and push heavy weights. Look at the power reflected there and feed off that. The body I had once dis-respected, that I had ruined with drugs, was now my therapist.

IN 1994, when I was 42, the chance to pose for Playboy was presented to me. The wish that had come to me long ago as I looked up at Lisa Lyon’s photographs—a thought I hadn’t really focused on for years—was about to become a reality. I told the magazine the kind of layout I wanted to do: athletic, artistic, focused on the shape and musculature I’d worked so hard to achieve. They quickly agreed. If they had insisted on some bedroomy, frilly layout, I would have walked away. I wanted what I’d envisioned all those years earlier, and I wasn’t willing to compromise. I knew, given my reputation as the rebellious First Daughter (although my father was out of office by then), that I’d get criticized for doing Playboy, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t doing this to spite my parents; I was doing it for me. This was my victory lap. This was standing naked in front of the world when it was a miracle that I was even still in the world. I am proof that it isn’t that easy to die, because from the age of 15, well into my twenties, I was working on dying. Most addicts are.

First Published May 17, 2011

What’s your reaction?

Comments

stefan Geroge08.23.2011

She looks awesome! We should all be so lucky to look like that at almost 60...!...M­ost women with negative comments are just jealous! We came into this world naked. There's nothing wrong with the naked human body. It's a beautiful thing.. You go girl...Sho­w it all.....

stefan Geroge08.23.2011

She looks awesome! We should all be so lucky to look like that at almost 60...!...M­ost women with negative comments are just jealous! We came into this world naked. There's nothing wrong with the naked human body. It's a beautiful thing.. You go girl...Sho­w it all.....

oclocal 06.23.2011

Wow! I honestly think this is one of the best articles I've ever read in MORE. Thank you for publishing such an inspiring story!

06.12.2011

What an inspiration! Like Patti, I spent my late teens and early twenties trying to kill myself with anorexia, and now, in my (late!) 40s I am really starting to put positive effort into my body (and soul) through healthy lifestyle and, particularly, working out. I am actually starting to like what I see - and I realize what a life accomplishment that is for me. Keep going, Patti; I hope I am where you are when I get to 58 - and I can't wait to find out!

Dan Riley06.05.2011

http://thenobbyworks.blogspot.com/2011/06/patti-davis-goes-nude-again.html

D Bond06.01.2011

OK article; OK Pic.
Nice quote and hopefully if you've read it and/or have book around (or maybe a good copy editor) we'd confirm that it's Jeanette, the most wonderful English writer of eons...

Stella 05.25.2011

Many would like to be able to do the same, few would dare!

Thomas Hofer05.23.2011

For her age, Patti looks absolutely great. And you can tell she is no prude.

Edward Bland05.23.2011

Patti looks damn sexy for 58. I made a photocopy of Patti naked body for my friend; he's married but also agreed Patti still looks attractive at 58. Just wished more women take of their bodies. I wonder is Patti Davis looking for a younger playmate for some fun on a regular basis? If so, tell her to come to New Brunswick NJ. I hope Patti runs for policital office.

05.23.2011

First of all, she looks amazing. Her butt is nicer than 3/4 of the 25 year olds. I love hot older woman. I would love to Tap her right now. I hope she does some videos like MILF hunter etc. I just wacked to her ten times!

Hans Hildebrand05.22.2011

I think Patti looks great! I am a 61 year old retired musician and stay young by seeing great looking women like Patti! Thanks for a great website.

Lisa Burton05.22.2011

I find it somewhat amusing that 90% of the comments are positive, then you find the "player haters" dispersed hither and yon throughout the comments. My father used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, keep it to yourself, can it or just plain shut it..." Who cares if she screwed her way up the ladder? She made it to the top, didn't she? And as far as Nancy Reagan is concerned, former First Lady will be 90 years old on July 6th (Happy Birthday! You GO girl!), and I'm sure she's "seen it all" (no pun intended!). I'm sure she loves and respects Patti for her heart, accomplishments AND THE BRAINS SHE USED TO GET HER TO THE TOP.
As far as Ms. Davis doing it for "shock value", maybe they would be shocked in a country like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, but here in the United States?? Are you freaking kidding me right now? I hardly find a beautiful derriere "shocking"; and at first glance of the article you already know what it's about, as the title is pretty self explanatory: "Patti Davis: My Body, Then and Now". So, Freak boy, you knew what it was about, yet you looked and read on anyways THEN decided to disapprove...? Another fine quality in America: FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. I agree with the rest in it being a great story, and, more to the point the photo being very tastefully done! To the spinsters I say, "don't player hate, PARTICIPATE"! BRAVO to you Ms. Davis for being such a great inspiration; it clearly lets people know that they shouldn't be afraid of who they are and that they should EMBRACE IT.
And, to all of you I say, "Have a beautiful day, beautiful YOU!" xox

Riley Powell05.21.2011

Dolly Gatti! No one saw stradlin' Madeline Albright naked??? All of the men who had a position to help her screw her way up the ladder saw her naked!

Dolly Gatti05.20.2011

Correction. Nancy Reagan's maiden name is Robbins. She is from the New Jersey Robbins family. After her mother divorced Mr. Robbins, she married Dr. Davis, and Nancy took her stepfathers name. Davis is not her biological name. Patti Davis (should be Robbins if she wanted to use a real family name) is just trying to shock people, basically her only talent. Couldnt she have waited for her Mother to pass on before she posed in the buff? Her mother is old and frail and now has to see this?? When will women realize they should be loved and respected for their brains, their heart and their accomplishments not their butt or their boobs? No one saw Mother Theresa naked and she was a much more outstanding lady than Patti. True for Madam Curie, Geraldine Ferraro, Madeline Albright. Women dont have to get naked to get respect. Patti is a sick puppy.

Alexandru Petru05.20.2011

Ok, now I wish I will have a wife that maintains her body like Patti!

Jamie Miles05.20.2011

You go girl!!!

Morgan Roberts05.20.2011

Ms. Davis is a beautiful and sexy woman. I recall her in Playboy and thought she was gorgeous then and age has certainly not diminished her appeal. Thank you Ms. Davis.

Linda spring05.20.2011

Great and beautiful picture. I like dating men who are younger than me.I prefer to the dating site:Cougarchats. C O M as It is totally free for women. I can send emails or chat younger men whom I am interested.

Pradeep Chandak05.20.2011

Guys, be real. Does it make your ... hair rise? She may be proud of posing 'nude' but it is more for the shock value. Pleaser spare us next time you get this 7 [or, 16] year itch.

doedill seven05.19.2011

that hair needs to be pulled back to show the full breast. otherwise, nothing great...

cheryl savage05.19.2011

It doesn't matter if she is Ronald Reagan's daughter. (He was an awesome president by the way)She is 58 frickin yrs old and she looks awesome. Wake up AMERICA! This is what you shoud look like at 20, 30, 40 or 50 but this country is Obese, not just overweight and out of shape...OBESE.Patti looks great and she deserves to have recognition for looking so great. Most 20 some year olds would envy this body! I am wondering why she doesen't use the Reagan name. She should be proud of her father and her body!


Great Story and Classy picture. Bravo Ms.Davis Bravo!!

Olivia 05.19.2011

I think it's great when anyone continues to improve upon who they are, and realize that this is a lifelong process. Some people cheat themselves out of continuing to moving forward, by convincing themselves that they are "old", rather than "older", and they stop growing. I'm fortunate that I don't look or feel my age, and so far have been blessed by not having to take perscription drugs for any reason; I'm praying that I never do. As soon as I drop 20 pounds, I'll feel like posing naked too. I stopped aging around 37, but my birth certificate says I'm almost 62! Our bodies are amazing, as long as we keep moving.

gs 05.19.2011

great body. good for you.
but you would not be in playboy or anywhere near unless your daddy.
go to hes grave one extra time ansd say a prayer for what you have got from him.
g.

rand werbitt05.19.2011

Oh, come on. Let's can the yaya sisterhood prattle for a moment and just admit that this is a messed up woman. Be honest and stop praising every asinine thing a woman does instead of calling it "brave" and "ground breaking". Oh, puhleesse!

Ann Baird05.18.2011

No matter what flaws someone has, the most beautiful thing a woman can be is strong and self-assured. This story inspired me to continue with my workout plan even though I know I will never be perfect--at least I can be strong and healthy!

Susan Toepfer05.18.2011

I wouldn't worry about the elbows.

Daniela Jelaska05.18.2011

What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it with the More community, Patti!

05.18.2011

I am in awe of someone who is so assured. I barely like to look in the mirror before I get in the shower. But reading this inspired me to learn to embrace my body (like my husband does!) at four months shy of 40. Bravo, Patti!

Nanette Varian05.18.2011

Good for you, Patti. You look mah-velous!


Very brave of her!

Happy Gilmore05.18.2011

A great piece about a strong woman being proud of herself and her body. Congrats.

Susan Avery05.18.2011

This is a great read. Very inspiring.

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