Written by: Deean Yeoh
Edited by: Ina Joseph
While Hollywood is star-studded with talented and formidable women, it’s a rarity for someone to take your breath away as they enter a room. That’s how it felt to be in the presence of Kira Reed Lorsch, Emmy-winner, former Playboy model, and philanthropist.
At the age of four, Kira remembers asking her mom, “How do I get inside the television?” She dreamed of being in Romper Room, a children’s series that aired between the ’50s and ’90s, dubbed “actual kindergarten” where bumblebee mascot, Mr. Do Bee, taught proper deportment, played games, and told moral stories, all to the soothing sounds of children’s music.
Her mother made Kira’s dreams a reality when she got an audition for the show and was cast as a featured kid. After that, Kira went on to do school plays, local catalog modeling, TV commercials, and “whatever was available to a little girl with big stars in her eyes.”
While Kira studied at the UCLA School of Theatre for a bachelor’s degree in Film and Television, she began her venture on a ten-year run as a reporter and producer for Playboy. By 2006, Kira had graduated from reporting for Sexcetera to writing her own segments and producing for other reporters. She eventually became a staff writer, segment producer, casting producer, supervising producer, and ultimately show runner at Playboy which led to producing jobs at other networks like E!, Travel Channel, and Associated Television International.
More recently, Kira has starred in, and been Emmy nominated for, The Bay as “Jo Connors” (available on Peacock and Prime Video) and won 2 Emmys as a producer. Kira has also been featured in acclaimed films, Acts of Desperation, Beckman, Amityville Witches, and Love on The Rock, the latter of which was miraculously filmed during the winter of 2020, across the world, in Malta.
Kira recalls the filming of Love on The Rock as a “grand adventure” citing the producers as asking if “(she wanted) to come to Malta and shoot a movie starting in three days.” She said yes unbeknownst that it would require several COVID tests and international travel paperwork. “It was a whirlwind blur coming out of a lockdown… (but) COVID can’t stop us from finding ways to make movies.” As necessary as the air we breathe, painters paint, writers write, and actors act.
Here is our exclusive interview with Kira, a sneak peek into her journey as a young, bright-eyed aspiring actress, turned veteran actor and philanthropist; hear her story of empowerment and advice to young female actors seeking to navigate the complex landscape of sexuality, sex positivity, and empowerment in Hollywood’s film and media industry.
You had a deep affinity for lingerie! When did you first fall in love with lingerie, why do you find yourself drawn to it, and why do you feel a unique pull to stay connected with the space/industry?
I have always loved lingerie as far back as I can remember. As a young girl, I was impatiently waiting at the window of life for my breasts to grow so I could buy my first bra. I was raised with MTV images of rockstar-sexy, powerful women playing by their own rules. Pop stars like Madonna and movies like Flashdance inspired me, and a whole generation of young women, to wear corsets and peek-a-boo lacy things in plain sight. Lingerie was a big part of rebel-punk ’80s fashion. I feel genuinely grateful and lucky to have been able to live my teenage dream and have a successful career as an actress and pin-up model in my twenties. I carried that early experience of being sexually liberated and powerful well into my womanly prime. I’ve been fabulous into my forties and will continue to be into my fifties and beyond. I’ve still got it.
Lingerie helps keep me feeling exotic, mysterious, and desirable. No jog bras and baggy pants for me. I want an Amour Caché racy number under my sexy little dress. Lingerie is not just for whoever is lucky enough to undress me and get to see it. Lingerie is first and foremost for moi. It gives me a secret super-power self-confidence just putting it on.
I recently listened to an interesting episode of Meghan Markle’s The Archetype where she and Paris Hilton discussed the “dumb blonde” stereotype. Many Playboy girls are incredible, smart, ambitious women who also happen to be beautiful. Why do you think society has such a hard time synchronizing sex and smarts? Are there certain misconceptions about Playboy and/or its models that you’d like to debunk based on your experience?
I find it is only the dim-witted and small-minded that cannot see beyond a “dumb blonde” persona. Most free-thinking, educated people are capable of grasping the fact that a woman is multi-dimensional. Women can be sexy, smart, and successful all at the same time. A woman can be a nurturing caretaker, a sex goddess, and a CEO all wrapped into one. I see savagely striking, savvy women use how others underestimate them to get exactly what they want. A not-so-dumb-blonde can mastermind any situation with a curve-fitting dress, glossy lips, and stilettos to get exactly what she wants from others - and make them think it’s their idea.
Modern women like Dolly Parton, Madonna, Pamela Anderson, Jenna Jameson, Beyonce, Dita Von Teese, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Lizzo - to name a few, didn’t get where they are by just being a sexy woman in a push-up bra who shakes her ass to various extents on occasion. They use their outsides to get the entire world to pay attention to their whole selves. They are not dumb. They are in on the joke. In fact: they wrote the joke … and laughed all the way to the bank. Sexpot is merely one aspect of these multifaceted creative powerhouses who used all their assets to get them to the top of their games.
Me Too has, undoubtedly, become an important and unfortunate part of the film industry’s history. I feel that while the movement helped to uncover many of these terrible atrocities, it may have also scared some women away from the industry. How have you experienced the shifts, both positive and possibly negative, in the industry in light of the Me Too movement? What insights or advice might you provide to young aspiring actresses, models, producers, and film visionaries?
In my personal experience Playboy went out of its way to make women feel comfortable and protect them within the vulnerable situation of posing nude. Afterall, the models and actresses were the sex goddesses at the source of the entire brand. Without the women, there would be no bunny. I never had a casting couch situation at Playboy. I was respected, valued, and paid well for a specific set of skills I brought to the table. I just attended a Women in Film panel and screening of She Said, the new movie about New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who brought down Harvey Weinstein and exposed systematic sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond. I think almost everybody has experienced someone trying to take advantage — mentally or physically — because they are insecure, angry, power-hungry, or otherwise deranged. As I get older and wiser people mostly don’t mess with me.
Your show with Playboy, Sexcetera, was so focused on female empowerment. Being in the lingerie business, we find that sometimes society and pop culture struggle to accept female empowerment and sex positivity. What was your experience navigating female empowerment in the context of modeling, acting, and producing?
Playboy helped me hone my female power for sure. My first Playboy movie Maui Heat Swimsuit Edition led to much more than I ever imagined. I found a niche as the sassy sidekick to the tall, blonde Playboy models - the “Skipper to the Barbies” I like to call it. Zalman King saw me in a rough cut of the movie and came after me for his Red Shoe Diaries series. In 1996 I was featured in Playboy magazine for another Showtime series Women Stories of Passion.
In two short years, I went from college co-ed to sex symbol starlet. I totally embraced the power of that persona and owned it. Over the next few years, I was offered leading roles in R-rated erotic thrillers like Secrets of a Chambermaid, Losing Control, and Forbidden Highway. When Sexcetera was looking for a reporter who could memorize a lot of copy, improvise, be comfortable with nudity, get embedded in sexy situations, and have the potential to write and produce, I was on the list to be seen for the job. I booked the gig on a whim, not really knowing it would become a dream job that I would hold for over a decade. I traveled the world - from Europe to the UK to Australia - before getting a salary and an office and began writing my own segments and producing other reporters. That led Playboy to entrust me to produce more of their programs. 69 Sexy Things to Do Before You Die was Christie Hefner’s favorite.
We prided ourselves in being inclusive and female-friendly on Naked Happy Girls New York and San Francisco. I cast other shows for them including the digital media-focused E-Rotic. I loved Playboy and found it a liberating, female-empowering environment - even more so than other mainstream networks in which I worked down the road.
Tell us about someone that you’d like to highlight from your time at The Mansion, and why they stand out in your memory.
Parties at the Playboy mansion were always the best time ever. There is nowhere else you would rather be. However, what happens in the grotto stays in the grotto. I will say I never had a bad experience. Being invited to the Playboy Mansion in the renaissance of the “Girls Next Door’ late ’90s through early 2000s era was indeed the adult Disneyland it looked like on TV. Being at the mansion was my first experience mixing with A-listers in Hollywood. Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, Luke & Owen Wilson, Matthew Perry, and Colin Farrell were all frequent visitors for a while. I’ll leave it to your imagination to determine which one of them ended up in the hot tub with me one Midsummer’s Night Dream.
You’re in incredible shape and you have infectious charisma and charm. What’s been your experience with physical and mental wellness throughout your career, and during the pandemic? Is it something that you’ve prioritized, and if so why is that important for you?
These days I prefer an easier softer way of working out. I am not much of a gym person anymore. Yoga and hiking are my go-to activities. I like being outdoors breathing fresh air and absorbing nature. I’m not worried about trying to make my body perfect. There is no such thing. I simply want to be healthy and feel good. I realized long ago I was never going to be Ms. Universe. There is always going to be somebody slimmer, younger, taller – whatever. Things I can’t control. So I stopped putting my body in competition with anyone else’s. Being comfortable in my own skin is the only goal. I am learning to embrace my age and the imperfections that are beautifully unique to me. I just want to feel sexy in my underwear at this point.
What are your thoughts on the future of television/film? Where would you like to see it go?
Television, movies and streaming are all starting to blur together in this new digital media world we live in. Anyone can make a movie on an iPhone these days or find a platform to distribute their micro-budget web series for all the world to see.
I think with social media the future of film & TV is in the hands of the individual. Each content creator is now their own channel with the potential to build an entertainment network. I just hosted a “Women in Media” panel on the subject as part of Kash Hovey & Friends at Film Fest LA at LA Live.
Method acting is something I’ve always been curious about. How do you, separate yourself from the character and how do you draw the line between catharsis and losing yourself to the role?
I trained in “method” acting early on. I’ve studied Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner techniques along the way. Method to me is a mix of believing what I am “acting” is really happening and then accessing a part of my own experience to prepare my character to be in that emotional place. Once connected to that authentic “sense memory” I can simply live and breathe and react moment-to-moment from there.
Sometimes hanging around in the mind of a twisted, character is hard to shake off. But I like exploring the many sides of myself and am fascinated by human nature. Coming back to real life after walking around in the shoes of a tortured soul is cathartic for sure.
Becoming another person and telling a story is like going on vacation to get away from the everyday grind. You are excited planning the trip and then immersing yourself in a new place. Then after your thrilling but arduous journey, you are exhausted and ready to go home. Your own bed never felt so good! After becoming a juicy character I am usually relieved to shed their skin and find my way back to myself.
We’re almost at the end of our interview. A few final questions, you do amazing work The Robert H Lorsch Foundation and The Thalians: a charitable foundation raising funds to educate and eliminate the stigma attached to mental health. Tell our readers a little more about them, how you got involved, and why these causes hit so close to home.
I have worked closely with the The Robert H. Lorsch Foundation and believe in giving where it’s needed most. I was excited to honor Clint Eastwood, Hugh Hefner and Smokey Robinson for their lifetimes of philanthropy, with The Thalians, benefiting programs for the wounded heroes of UCLA Operation Mend. I became a board member, and following the passing of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, I was elected president.
The Thalians continues to focus on wellness for military men and women and their families. I am happy to see a bigger spotlight shined on mental health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, I also continue these efforts as an advocate for mental health awareness through my work as an ambassador for the Imperfectly Perfect Campaign.
Kira, you are an incredible inspiration to so many women, actors, and producers. If there’s something you’d like to be remembered for, what is it and why? What piece of work are you most proud of?
I would like to be remembered as a good person who followed her heart, made progress, and learned from her mistakes. I am often asked if I regret doing the “sexy stuff” in my early career. The answer is “no”. I am proud of it. My hope is that by owning my sexual power I can inspire others to be their authentic sensual selves. Plus, my Playboy past has never stopped me from excelling in any entertainment arena I’ve entered. Lately I have enjoyed making family friendly films and have several in the works. I would recommend checking out Beckman one of my recent action/trillers that just happens to a be faith-based film. Also, on the sexier side, be on the lookout for We Kill for Love, a new documentary, featuring me, about the lost genre of the ’90s erotic thriller. I just started shooting a feature and have multiple projects in the pipeline. I can’t pick a favorite because the best is yet to come.