Caya Hefner, wife of Playboy founder’s brother, opens new cafe

When Caya Hefner’s flight from LAX touched down at Houston’s George Bush Airport in February 2018, she had conflicting emotions. She had spent the past seven years of her life in Los Angeles, five of those as the wife of Keith Hefner, younger brother of Playboy magazine magnate Hugh. In LA, she had become accustomed to the glam life. Some of her closest friends were Playmates—including Crystal Hefner, Hugh’s wife—and she was a regular at the Playboy Mansion, enjoying the weekly dinners, movie nights, and other perks that frequenting the iconic 22,000-square-foot home in Beverly Hills had to offer. 

But all that changed after Keith’s passing, from cancer, in 2016. Crystal essentially banned Caya from the Mansion after a falling out. And although Keith had bequeathed Caya his Beverly Hills condominium, he had discouraged her from working during their marriage. So she had put her professional goals on hold and was unemployed.

After Keith’s death, she decided to pursue real estate investing and attended a conference in New Orleans. There, she met a woman who lived in Sugar Land and invited her to stay with her if she wanted to visit. Hefner accepted and decided to move to Houston. As an Indonesian immigrant, Caya had started over before, and she was excited about fresh possibilities. 

 “I was nervous when I got here,” she told Houstonia by phone recently. “And I was sad because I had built a kind of family in LA. But I wanted to try new things and visit new places.”

Fast forward to 2023. Caya Hefner now lives in Spring and owns eight homes—three in Jacksonville, three in Memphis, and two in Texas City—on which she collects rent. Caya also holds investments in a plot of land outside the 610 loop, where she plans to build duplexes. She also has investments in a storage facility in Wisconsin, and a shopping mall in Ireland. Her latest venture, a drive-thru daiquiri, coffee, and boba tea cafe in Montgomery, simply called C*YA, has its grand opening this month. 

Located just a stone’s throw from Lake Conroe, at 14626 Hwy 105 West, Ste A, the cafe sports a bright pink exterior and has outdoor seating. The menu boasts 10 flavors of daiquiris, 20 flavors of snow cones, and also offers espresso, frappuccino, boba tea, and pastries. 

Why a cafe? “I was looking for a business that is recession-proof,” she said. “People will always have money to drink coffee and alcohol.” Referring to the color, she said with a laugh: “Men can still go. It won’t make you less masculine.”

A native of Borneo—her birth name is Suracaya Ukkas—Caya moved to Seattle in 2003, where she was a premed student. While taking classes, she realized she needed spending money and began modeling. At 21, she entered a Hawaiian Tropic beauty pageant and won $500. 

“That was the first competition I won in the US,” she said.

Around this time, she heard about a local “bikini barista”—a coffee shop with a bikini-clad server—that was for sale. With a $10,000 loan from her mother and help from a boyfriend, she decided to invest. First she bought one coffee shop, then two more. 

Caya the entrepreneur was born. School would have to wait.

It was through her modeling connections that, in 2010, she got an invitation to the Playboy Mansion. The occasion was a theme party called Candyland, and she jockeyed to get a photo with Hugh so she could brag to her friends back home. Instead, she ended up meeting Keith Hefner, and the two exchanged phone numbers. “I thought that was pretty cool, too,” she said.

After she returned to Seattle, Keith stayed in touch. Eventually, he asked her to be his girlfriend, but because of the age difference (he was 80) she initially thought he was joking. Once she realized what a great guy he was, said said, she accepted. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Keith was funny, and he was nice, and I’m very grateful for what he has done for me,” she said. “Without him, I’d never be where I am right now.” 

And right now she is a happy Houstonian, living a life as a self-sufficient entrepreneur with big dreams. Her goal is to launch a chain of C*YA cafes around the state, and then the country.

When asked about the differences between living in Houston and living in LA, she hailed the people here. “People in Houston, and maybe Texas in general, are friendlier. They generally seem more supportive, more down-to-earth.”

But what about the glamour of LA—does she miss it?  “At this point in my life, I’m content here, more grounded,” she said. “But, hey, I wouldn’t mind taking the high life I had in LA and bringing it to Houston. I’ll keep trying.”

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