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Hefner commissioned Valdes to design the Playboy Bunny costume after the magazine’s promotions director, Victor Lownes, came up with the idea. The costume made its formal debut in February 1960.

In 1970, Valdes started working with founder Arthur Mitchell and the Dance Theater of Harlem. She worked for the celebrated dance company for 18 years, retiring in 1988. She died at the age of 96 in 2001.

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Little Known Black History Fact: Zelda Wynn Valdes  was originally published on

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