Since news of Hugh Hefner‘s death hit the Internet late on Wednesday, Sept. 27, fans and celebrities have flocked to social media to remember the Playboy founder. But no one seemed more shaken by the 91-year-old’s passing than his ex-girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson.

“Hef changed my life,” the model said in a statement to the Associated Press. “He made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendship and our time together. I will miss him so much but he will be in my heart forever.”

When false reports claiming Hef had died began trending on Twitter last year, the 32-year-old was one of thousands tricked on social media. “Of course, I believed the first thing I saw on Twitter, which you shouldn’t do, that I did, and I freaked out,” the mother-of-two told E! at the time. “It really took a toll on my heart.”

The blonde beauty revealed she called the Playboy Mansion, where she lived for five years while filming The Girls Next Door with fellow bunnies Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt. “They didn’t even hear the rumor,” she shared.

kendra wilkinson hugh hefner

Kendra, who is now married to former NFL star Hank Baskett III, got teary-eyed when asked where she would be if she had never met the magazine mogul. “Honestly, trapped,” she replied. “I wanted to find my freedom being a woman. I was a stripper at the time, before I came to the mansion… It made sense that Hef called me that day. It all came together, it was like my destiny to go to the Playboy mansion.”

For more throwback pics of Kendra and Hugh, click through the gallery below.