02/11/2010 at 12:00 AM EST
In keeping with the revealing spirit of her March Playboy
cover, Kelly Killoren Bensimon
, star of The Real Housewives of New York City
, opens up to PEOPLE about taking it all off for her ex husband, how she told her tween daughters and why her Housewives
costar Ramona Singer
is a "mean girl" on the new season of their Bravo hit, premiering March 4. --Suzanne ZuckermanHER PLAYBOY SPREAD
asked me to pose for them, I was incredibly flattered. But it was a big deal for me to actually take off my clothes for the rest of the world," says the 41-year-old mother of daughters Sea
, 11, and Teddy
, 9. "I think are so excited because they're like, 'I cannot believe she
took off her clothes.' But there's a lot of you hear say, 'Oh my God, she's taking off her clothes. How fun.' But for me, they're like, 'I can't believe Kelly's
doing that.' I'm 41! I'm 41 and it's all still there. Thank God!"
Tapping her ex-husband, famed fashion photographer and former Elle
creative director Gilles Bensimon
, to shoot her was her idea, she says. "I've never posed naked before. And Gilles has never photographed for Playboy
. I thought showing the real me through Gilles's eyes would look even better than the real me!" The six-page pictorial of Bensimon is "fashion forward," she adds, pointing out the thigh-high Prada boots she wears in one equestrian get-up.
So how did Kelly prepare her young daughters for their parents' latest collaboration? "I can't say that our house is like Free To Be . . . You and Me
but my kids have definitely seen me naked before, and they know what a woman's body looks like," she says. "I told them I didn't want to exploit my body -- I wanted to celebrate all the years of working out and this healthful lifestyle that I lead."
HER FELLOW HOUSEWIVES
If posing for Playboy
is a testament to Bensimon's body confidence, it's no thanks to costar Ramona Singer
, who criticizes Bensimon's "boobs because they're off-center" in an upcoming episode of the Bravo hit show (Watch a clip on Bravotv.com
). "I don't play that game. I'm not a mean girl," Bensimon says. "You never hear me say anything mean about anybody. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, famous or a doorman, I respect every single person for who they are."
But that doesn't mean she's bulletproof. "I'm incredibly insecure. I'm really shy. I'm not as confident as I appear," she says. "Any confidence I have comes from my ability to see how great my life is and to be proud of it."HER LOVE LIFE
Nearly one year ago, Bensimon was arrested for allegedly assaulting
Nick Stefanov during what was described by police as a breakup gone awry. "He wasn't my ex and I don't like when say that," she says, adding that the case against her has since been dismissed. "The courts recognized that it was not true and we're moving forward," she says. "Yay! Good things happen to good ."
Speaking of moving forward, recent rumors have her dating Top Chef
's Sam Talbot
. "Sam and I are really, really good friends. I love him. I think he's an amazing guy," she says. "I'm definitely seeing a lot of and I really want to get married and have babies. At this stage of my life, I can't afford to make another mistake. I want to be someone's Robin. I need a Batman."
But be warned, prospective Bruce Waynes -- anyone Kelly dates goes through a rigorous approval process. "If I care about someone, not only will my children meet them, but Gilles will meet them," she says. "If Gilles doesn't like them, then they don't stay."