Kendra Wilkinson pays tribute to Hugh Hefner

In a statement to 'Entertainment Tonight', Kendra said: "Hef changed my life. I couldn't be more thankful for our friendship and our time together."

Kendra Wilkinson and Hugh Hefner early this year. Picture: Instagram/kendra_wilkinson_baskett

LONDON - TV personality Kendra Wilkinson has heaped praised on Hugh Hefner, thanking him for shaping who she is today.

The 32-year-old beauty dated the publishing mogul from 2004 until 2008, and Wilkinson has heaped praise on Hugh following his death aged 91 on Wednesday.

In a statement to Entertainment Tonight, Wilkinson said: "Hef changed my life. I couldn't be more thankful for our friendship and our time together."

Wilkinson co-starred alongside Hefner on his _Girls Next Door _reality show and despite their relationship eventually collapsing, she retains fond memories of the founder of Playboy magazine.

The American TV personality admitted: "I will miss him so much but he will be in my heart forever."

Wilkinson married NFL star Hank Baskett in June 2009 following her split from Hefner.

GALLERY: Hugh Hefner: A life in pictures & covers

And Wilkinson - who has kids Hank, seven, and Alijah, three, with her husband - previously discussed whether she would be happy to see her daughter pose for Playboy.

The reality star explained: "I won't sit here and say that I would like that, but if she made a healthy decision and a healthy choice with a healthy mind to want to pose for Playboy ... We are a free home, we are a free spirit.

"If that's your way of wanting to express yourself and who you are, then go ahead and be exactly who you want to be."

News of Hefner’s death was confirmed by a rep for the Playboy Enterprises founder, who said the controversial businessman "peacefully passed away" from "natural causes" at his home, the famous Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California.

The rep explained in a statement: "Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones. (sic)"