Jordan Emanuel, 25, is Playboy magazine’s December 2018 Playmate. The Baltimore-born model, journalist and philanthropist is the first Playboy Bunny—she has worked at the Playboy Club New York since its September opening—in decades to hold the coveted title of Playmate in the now-genderless entertainment for all magazine.
Emanuel was also named Miss Black America New York of 2018, but she is more than a beautiful face. The renaissance woman triple majored in broadcast journalism, music business and art history at the University of Miami. After graduating, she moved to New York City, with the hopes of advancing her career.
The creative talent soon realized there were few platforms geared toward uniting women of diverse backgrounds. As a result, Emanuel co-founded Women With Voices, a nonprofit that offers educational and recreational services to women, with her manager, Cloe Luv.
More than anything, the 25-year-old has done the work to facilitate change in her community. Earlier this year, she helped register people to vote before the midterm elections.
Although she can seem very serious, Emanuel’s life is all about balance. She enjoys dancing and binging nostalgic material on Netflix like her millennial peers.
Miss December spoke with EBONY.com about the Playboy brand, fighting for women’s rights and much more.
Jordan, can you discuss what it means to be bringing back the Playboy Bunny to Playmate tradition?
It was one that I didn’t anticipate happening. When I went to the casting call, I was looking forward to working at the restaurant and being part of the iconic brand that is Playboy. When I transitioned to be a Playmate, I was definitely shocked, pleasantly so. Just being part of and continuing that tradition is such a huge honor for me. I’m just so excited to be able to do both.
What would you say about the Playboy brand most aligns with your views?
They’re so open-minded, diverse and promote not only the strength and empowerment of women but also people in general. That is huge, especially [since] I co-founded a nonprofit for women of different backgrounds, financial status and races. [Playboy’s] support of women was a huge element that really attracted me to the brand.
In the above video, you shared a negative response to telling someone you were a Playboy Bunny. Can you recall a positive reaction to sharing your career path?
Actually, that was the only negative reaction I [got]. I was pleasantly . . . I wouldn’t say surprised, but I didn’t know how people would react. Everyone else was extremely excited, supportive and really encouraged me to become a Playmate. Everyone was very supportive of me becoming a Bunny as well. When I told them t I was going to be posing in the magazine, for the most part [people] were very excited.
Earlier, you spoke about your local nonprofit, Women With Voices. Why did you help start it?
When I moved back to New York after college, I realized I didn’t have a huge network of women I could look to, ask for advice or support me in the right direction as I was starting my career outside of school. When I met my manager and co-founder, we both had a similar want and need to provide that for women in our local community. We want to expand nationally and internationally. Through our research events, we found out how [few] options there were outside of specifying groups, like if you’re a lawyer, [you can] come here; if you’re a part of a sorority, you can come here; or if you’re a mom, come here. There was nowhere where women could just connect altogether from different backgrounds, [Women With Voices] took that on to be able to provide that.
What does advocating for women look like for you, or what does it include from your perspective?
For our organization, we have workshops every month that vary from fixing your credit to breast cancer awareness. We had a nurse come, and she brought examples, pamphlets and all types of things to better educate ourselves on our bodies. We even do things like Paint and Sip. It really about teaching ourselves and helping women to level up in ways such as career, home purchasing, finances and just getting to know people from different communities. We also have an annual gala where we award women who really stood out in our community. The next one will be in March, and we have vendors come out. A lot of them are women-owned businesses that have the opportunity to display their work. It’s really just implementing services to help each other. We just got our space in downtown Brooklyn where we can do those things even more.
Which women do you look up to, and why?
I love Taraji P. Henson. I think she is such a good example of really believing in yourself and working toward your dreams and not letting anything stop you. I really love how she is getting so involved in mental health awareness because that’s also a huge initiative of mine in both Women With Voices and Miss Black America. I really connect with her about that.
I love Oprah. My background’s in broadcast journalism, so she’s the ultimate. Those are two prominent women I admire.
It’s been more than a year since the Me Too movement has gained national attention. What do you think needs to continue to happen to help women and men who fall victim to the abuse of power?
We need to continue implementing safe environments in the workplace for women and men. I don’t know if that’s HR or having a different group of people on site at all times. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I think exploring those ideas are necessary just to keep everyone comfortable and safe. I think we still need to educate people on what assault looks like because some people still think it’s normal. There are still circumstances that happen to women and men where someone will make a comment, or they’ll touch someone inappropriately. They still have this response like, “Oh, well! It is what it is.” I think it’s about navigating that in addition to continuing to support each other and believing each other when something happens. I think that’s how we continue to avoid abuse of power.
A large part of your career involves your beauty. Beyoncé famously sings “Pretty Hurts” on her self-titled album. Are their downsides to being considered beautiful?
I would say a lot of people project the idea that attractive women are not intelligent or attractive women are overly sexual. I think these odd judgments that come with taking care of yourself and being attractive are daily combats. But it’s a part of why I chose to do Playboy and why I chose to do that video: Because we as women, in general, are combating that every day. So I wanted to be in a place where I could show that that’s not the case.
Looking at your résumé, it seems you’ve always been heavily work-driven. From triple majoring to modeling to your philanthropy to Playboy, you are a Jill of all trades. Outside of work, what are some of your self-care rituals?
My skin routine is out of control. I take really good care of my skin. Usually, I’ll wake up, wash my face and put on some oil. Argan oil is my favorite. I get pigmentation issues, so that does a good job of getting rid of those spots while moisturizing. It’s great because it doesn’t clog my pores. I’ll follow that with eye cream, which is my absolute favorite beauty product ever. Then I’ll spritz myself with the moisturizing spray and it’s great because living in New York there’s so much pollution, it helps it from getting it into my face so that I do morning and night.
Are there any other self-care routines?
Every morning, I meditate. I really liked the Deepak and Oprah meditation that they do. I also love a book, The Magic, which is [comprised of] daily exercises by Rhonda Byrne. It prompts you to practice gratitude and recognize gratitude throughout the day. I also sage, which makes me feel like I’m [removing] negative energy from my home and myself. I usually do that once a day, if not twice.
Black women are frequently overlooked or overworked. Michelle Obama is the cover star of the EBONY’s Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019 Power issue. During the interview, she said, “We need more people who are willing to listen to Black women.” Do you agree?
Absolutely. We are a double minority and, unfortunately, that leaves us in an odd position in this country. I think we do get overlooked. I think people don’t necessarily hear us or take the time to listen. Again, it’s a huge reason why I wanted to do something like Women With Voices because it allows us to have a diverse group of women learn from different backgrounds and each other in a way that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise. There are some separations and some prejudices that get in the way of that. One of my favorite things about this is you have so many different women come together and they’re like, “Wow! I wouldn’t have thought that.”
I think if people in America did more listening to each other and [there were] more time of unity, we’d be able to value each other overall. And especially for Black women.
What are some of the causes you care most about?
I care the most about women’s rights. Voters rights is huge, especially with this past election. I would say criminal justice reform is another big one. Those would probably be my top three. Health care is definitely up there, so [those are my] top four.
What do you hope the future holds for women?
I really want women to be more supported and just by men but by for one another. I think we go through so much and enough as it, but I think we need to work on loving ourselves and loving each other genuinely.
We should not allow so much judgment and stop placing one another in boxes that we don’t necessarily fit in. I think women are so special and incredible. We just need to treat each other as such.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.