Spring 2019: The Speech Issue

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Playboy's Spring 2019 quarterly "On Speech" limited Pink cover edition is now exclusively available on

In this second issue of our 65th anniversary year, we focus on a topic that is just as relevant today as it was in 1953: freedom of speech. As our team set out to plan this issue, we agreed that the most radical, provocative and productive contribution we could make to the conversation is not to speak louder, but to listen better. In these 234 pages, we are lending our platform to voices that have been disparaged, marginalized or missed—voices that some may even consider dangerous because they might just change your mind.

Which brings us to the monarch butterfly on our cover. Its scientific name means “sleepy transformation,” suggesting a change that could catch you off guard if you aren’t paying attention. This issue is a showcase for individuals with such transformative potential. You probably haven’t heard of all of them yet, but we believe they’ll become critical mainstream voices very soon. This is the butterfly effect. Small events, like the beating of a monarch’s wings, can cause enormous and unpredictable effects.

With this idea in mind, it’s worth noting that Kelia Anne, who shot our cover, is just 25 years old. Like many young people today, Kelia innately understands that while we consider freedom of speech a fundamental right, it’s also something delicate, potentially even endangered, that must be continually fought for and protected. We’re proud to showcase Kelia’s distinct point of view and look forward to seeing her make waves for years to come. The people you’ll meet in this issue fall into the same category.

First up, Seth Abramson has re-­created the Twitter thread as a tool to provide one of the most rigorous and eye-opening dissections of President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and other foreign powers. In a wide-ranging Playboy ­Interview, Abramson walks us through “proof of collusion” and explains why his “curatorial journalism” is as important to today’s democracy as the mainstream press. In Rapper’s Delight, hip-hop megastars Nas and Travis Scott make a joint promise to their fans that they’ll continue to tell their truths via music’s most powerful genre, without censoring themselves for commercial or political expediency. Environmental journalist Ciara O’Rourke reports on the courage and steadfastness of government climate scientists risking their careers to save our planet. And in Man in His Domain, the Reverend William J. Barber II, a celebrated orator who has been compared to Martin ­Luther King Jr., argues why hope must be immutable for all Americans.

We dedicate our artist feature to one of our favorite photographers, Yumna Al-Arashi, who interprets free speech through arresting nude self-portraiture. Al-Arashi’s work is “evocative, sensual, playful and a bit withholding,” writes Pulitzer Prize–­winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario in her introduction to the Yemeni American artist. And in our music feature, we present the formidable and undeniable Lizzo, who speaks inspiringly on creating a culture of body positivity.

In our first-ever Symposium collaboration, we partnered with Juxtapoz, one of the country’s preeminent contemporary arts magazines, to spotlight six rising artists whose in-your-face, genre-expanding works defy convention and censorship. In 20Q, Hollywood hell-raiser David Harbour preaches the importance of actors using their celebrity to promote awareness of social issues, and Michelle Wolf (in Chasing the Last Laugh) offers a lesson in staying true to oneself in today’s dizzying climate. Finally, we offer the perspectives of three remarkable and eye-catching Playmates—Fo Porter, Abigail O’Neill and Yoli Lara—and the three brilliant photographers who shot them: Ali Mitton, Kayla Varley and Ana Dias, respectively. Every one of our contributors feels not just empowered by today’s climate but responsible for a better tomorrow. As do we. Instead of being disheartened by disunity and discord, we are energized by them.

And so we leave you with one last provocation: As we welcome in challenging ideas, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you think. We’re listening.

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