The centerfold of a magazine refers to a gatefolded spread, usually a portrait such as a pin-up or a nude, inserted in the middle of the publication, or to the model featured in the portrait. In saddle-stitched magazines (as opposed to those that are perfect-bound), the centerfold does not have any blank space cutting through the image.
The term was coined by Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine. The success of the first issue of Playboy has been attributed in large part to its centerfold: a nude of Marilyn Monroe. The advent of monthly centerfolds gave the pin-up a new respectability, and helped to sanitize the notion of "sexiness". Being featured as a centerfold could lead to film roles for models, and still occasionally does today.
Early on, Hefner required Playboy centerfolds to be portrayed in a very specific way, telling photographers in a 1956 memo that the "model must be in a natural setting engaged in some activity 'like reading, writing, mixing a drink'...[and]... should have a 'healthy, intelligent, American look—a young lady that looks like she might be a very efficient secretary or an undergrad at Vassar.'" Hefner later said that the ideal centerfold is one in which "a situation is suggested, the presence of someone not in the picture"; the goal was to transform "a straight pinup into an intimate interlude, something personal and special."
Though the term has become linked in the public consciousness with erotic material or models, many other magazines such as Life, Time and National Geographic have published fold-out spreads on other subjects.