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Holly Madison Opens Up About 'Intimate Emotional Connection' with Her Boyfriend After Autism Diagnosis at 42 (Exclusive)

Holly Madison Opens Up About 'Intimate Emotional Connection' with Her Boyfriend After Autism Diagnosis at 42 (Exclusive)

The former Playboy model caught up with PEOPLE ahead of the premiere of her new true crime series 'Lethally Blonde'

<p>Denise Truscello</p>

Denise Truscello

Just last summer, Holly Madison was diagnosed with autism at the age of 42.

The former Playboy model, who went on to become a bestselling author, podcast host and true crime series producer after leaving the mansion, tells PEOPLE that she really values the discovery because it helped her reconcile a lot of her earlier, interpersonal experiences.

“I'm so glad I got that diagnosis because I can recognize how I operate the way I do, why I operate the way I do, how I relate to people,” Madison, now 43, says. “I feel like it's helped my social skills just knowing that.”

<p>Denise Truscello/WireImage</p> Holly Madison

Denise Truscello/WireImage

Holly Madison

According to the National Institutes of Health, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn and behave. Though symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life, ASD can be diagnosed at any age.


“The doctor told me that I have high executive functioning, which means I can pretty much go about my life and do things ‘normally,’” she said in a December appearance on the Talking to Death podcast.

“I think because I’m more quiet, I’ve only recently learned to make eye contact, I’m often in my own thoughts, things like that, so people take that as offensive. They’re like, ‘Damn, you’re not super interested in me, f--- you,’” she said with a laugh. “Like, I'm just not on the same social wavelength as other people but don’t take it personally. So I like being able to explain that.”

Madison has been open in the past about how challenging she always found relating to her peers, even while she was living at the Playboy Mansion where she spent nearly all of her 20s.

Related: Holly Madison Recalls There Were 'Weird' Trays of 'Makeshift Lube' and Kleenex All Over Playboy Mansion (Exclusive)

“I look back and I just see how I used to have so much trouble connecting with people. I think that played into some of the decisions I made,” she tells PEOPLE now. ”Feeling like I connected with certain people easier and thinking, ‘Oh, this must be meant to be because I never connected with anyone before,’ kind of a thing, when really, I think it was just being on the spectrum was a difficulty for me.”

<p>Courtesy Warner Bros Discovery</p> Holly Madison for her new true crime series 'Lethally Blonde'

Courtesy Warner Bros Discovery

Holly Madison for her new true crime series 'Lethally Blonde'

After moving out of the mansion when she was 29 years old, Madison went on to date Pasquale Rotella, with whom she shares two children: Rainbow Aurora, 11, and Forest Leonardo, 7.

While the two finalized their divorce in 2019, Madison still reflects on their time fondly because of the gift of her two kids.

<p>holly madison/instagram</p> Holly Madison, with her two children Rainbow and Forest

holly madison/instagram

Holly Madison, with her two children Rainbow and Forest

Related: Holly Madison Says Her Kids Aren't Afraid to 'Roast' Her Beauty Standards: 'They Are So Over It' (Exclusive)

“I know a lot of people who had been through a similar situation as me [in the mansion] that even took a period where they said they were celibate for a while. It wasn't the case for me,” Madison shares. “I jumped right back into dating. And I'm glad I did because I ended up with two amazing kids.”

Reflecting on how her boyfriend has handled her autism diagnosis, Madison — who's reportedly been dating Zak Bagans for several years — applauds him.

“I'm lucky enough to be dating somebody who just has always kind of understood me and accepts me for who I am, so getting the diagnosis wasn't super shocking to him,” the Lethally Blonde producer says now. “I am lucky that I haven't had a ton of trouble in recent relationships as far as feeling an intimate emotional connection with somebody.”

Madison's new series Lethally Blonde airs Mondays at 10/9c on ID.

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Read the original article on People.