Dana Posed for the June 1989 Playboy Issue

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Dana Plato was one of those stars with a trajectory so tragic you wish you could put on a cape and rescue her from herself. She became a big star on the show Diff’erent Strokes but then after having a child at the age of 19, everything started going downhill. Plato tried to salvage her “good girl” image when she posed for Playboy in 1989. Let’s see how that went.

Dana Plato Was Hugely Successful on Diff’erent Strokes. Then Everything Fell Apart.

Plato was born November 7, 1964, to Linda Strain, but was adopted by Dean and Florina Plato shortly after. She was raised in the San Fernando Valley by her adoptive mom, who divorced Dean Plato when Dana was only 3. In an appearance on The Marilyn Kagen Show, Dana said that her mom sheltered her to a fault. “My mother made sure that I was normal,” said Dana. “The only thing that she did, the mistake she made, was that she kept me in a plastic bubble. So, I didn’t learn about reality and life skills.”

While Dana Plato says she didn’t have life skills, she was actually a superb figure skater. She almost made it to the Olympics in 1978 but chose to play Kimberly Drummond on Diff’erent Strokes instead. Prior to that, Dana primarily acted in TV commercials. In an interview with Howard Stern, Dana said her mother also once made her turn down a part in The Exorcist. Diff’erent Strokes was a game-changer for her, making her about $100,000 per episode at one point. Dana said that she signed over her assets to an accountant, giving him power of attorney, and “he somehow liquidated” it all, keeping it all for himself and leaving her penniless.

Making matters worse, after falling pregnant with her son, Tyler, she said she was laid off. However, rumors circulated that she was actually let go because of substance abuse problems.

Dana Posed for the June 1989 Playboy Issue

Dana desperately searched for something new. So, she ended up getting breast implants and, in 1989, she posed for Playboy.

Dana Plato’s June 1989 Playboy shoot featured the actress in a Western Romance setting. She donned white lace, a cowgirl hat and boots, and a belt. Billowy see-through blouses and lingerie, white lace thigh-high stockings and garter belts, and a white corset camisole completed her ensemble.

Dana Plato also rocked a full bush in most of her photos, with the exception of one where she’s looking backwards, surprised as her pants are around her ankles. Poor Dana, who probably saw this Playboy shoot as an opportunity to turn her life around, probably wasn’t directed as well as she could have been. There is something about this particular shoot that comes across as a little sleazy, despite the blatant romantic overtones. It could be simply because her bush is featured more than anything else. There isn’t much left to the imagination yet she’s still wearing an absurd amount of clothes.

Speaking to Evening Magazine about her Playboy appearance, Dana Plato said that she’s actually quite comfortable naked.

“You know, I’m more comfortable naked than I am like, in an outfit I don’t feel comfortable in. Trying to wear something that isn’t me. Yeah, I’d much rather just wear me,” said Dana.

After Playboy Came Softcore Porn, B-List Movies, A Poorly Executed Robbery, and Drugs

After Dana Plato’s 1989 Playboy shoot, she switched her career trajectory towards low-budget films and softcore porn. In 1998, she notably played a lesbian in an X-rated movie, Different Strokes, an obvious reference to her younger days of stardom. Of course, this “Different Strokes” was missing the apostrophe—as well as many articles of clothing.

Dana also tried some regular day jobs. But a combination of substance abuse and possibly some bad luck led her into trouble. In 1991, she lost two dry cleaner counter girl jobs and was turned down for a custodian job. Then she seemed to completely lose it. According to People, Dana Plato walked into a Las Vegas video shop called Lake Video, wearing a black coat, hat, and sunglasses around 10:30 am one day. Pulling out a pellet gun, she said, “Give me your money,” and was given $164. After fleeing, the cashier allegedly called 911 and said, “I’ve just been robbed by the girl who played Kimberly on Diff’rent Strokes.”

Dana was given 5 years of probation but then got in trouble again for forging Valium prescriptions the next year. She was then given another 5 years of probation. In 1999, she passed away at the age of 34. The cause was ruled to be an overdose of Valium and the painkiller Loritab. Tragically, her son, Tyler, committed suicide just over a decade later, at the age of 25.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, SAMHSA has many resources that can be found here.

Read More: Kelly Monaco Sent Her Own Photos to Playboy, Immediately Became a Playmate

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