Jennifer Ann "Jenny" McCarthy (born November 1, 1972) is an American model, comedian, actress, author and activist. She began her career in 1993 as a nude model for Playboy magazine and was later named their Playmate of the Year. McCarthy then parlayed her Playboy fame into a successful television and film acting career. Most recently, she has written books about parenting, and has become an activist promoting the controversial claims that vaccines cause autism and that chelation therapy helps cure it - both claims which are widely unrecognized or disputed by the medical community.
McCarthy was born in Evergreen Park, Illinois to a middle-class Catholic family of Polish and Irish descent. She lived in the West Elsdon neighborhood of Chicago. She is the second of four daughters; her sisters are named Lynette, Joanne and Amy. Her cousin is actress Melissa McCarthy of Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly fame. McCarthy's mother, Linda, was a housewife and courtroom custodian, and her father, Dan McCarthy, was a steel mill foreman. She attended St. Turibius Grade School on Chicago's South Side. As a teenager, McCarthy attended Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School (whose school sweater she donned in the pages of Playboy) and was a cheerleader at both Brother Rice High School and St. Laurence High Schools, although she has referred to herself as an "outcast" at her school. After McCarthy graduated from high school, she attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale to study nursing. She needed money to pay for college, so she decided to submit her picture to Playboy magazine to make money. She was accepted and became a model.
After getting accepted by Playboy in 1993, the magazine wanted her to pose for the October issue. McCarthy was paid $20,000 for the photo shoot. McCarthy became the Playmate of the Month and later the Playmate of the Year. In 1994, thanks to this newfound attention and popularity, McCarthy moved to Los Angeles and, for a time, hosted Hot Rocks, a Playboy TV show featuring uncensored music videos.