In spite of her deeply religious Catholic upbringing, Jenny McCarthy made a decision that would change the trajectory of her life forever: She decided to audition for Playboy’s October 1993 issue. Not only did she beat thousands of applicants, but McCarthy also went on to become the magazine’s Playmate of the Year.
After realizing that she had what it takes to make it in the spotlight, the Chicago native packed her bags and headed to Hollywood. But while McCarthy had a habit of making everything look picture perfect for the tabloids, little did people know that her life was beginning to crumble. From failed relationships and parenting struggles to finally finding “the one,” this is Jenny McCarthy’s story.
Jenny McCarthy was born in November 1972 in the suburbs of Chicago. Money was tight growing up. Her parents were blue-collared workers—her mother worked as a courtroom custodian and a housewife, while her father was as a steel mill foreman. McCarthy’s parents made sure that the future Playboy model and her three sisters were raised in a Catholic home, and that meant no pop culture was allowed in the house.
Her family’s strict rules became harder and harder for McCarthy—especially as she grew older. McCarthy was in seventh grade when Madonna came out with her song, Like a Virgin. She immediately fell in love with Madonna and her music, even though her mother called the singer a “sinner.”
Even still, McCarthy continued to listen to her music—but took extra precautions to “protect herself.” “[My sisters and I] used to lay with rosaries and statues all over our bodies because we thought that would protect us from Satan,” McCarthy told ABC in 2012. In the same interview, McCarthy said that she had a huge crush on Fonzie from Happy Days, but hanging posters of cute actors was also against her mother’s strict rules.
The only person allowed on McCarthy’s wall was Jesus. “I used to have a Jesus poster, the Pope was over there, flaming heart of Jesus was over there, and I had some ‘I love Jesus’ t-shirts and bags hanging up,” the model continued. “Jesus was my Justin Bieber.”
The model went on to explain that she felt guilty for making out with a boy for the first time, especially because she was under the watchful eye of her Jesus posters. So, to shield her posters from her “sins,” McCarthy was forced to get creative.
“I cut out a picture of Cyndi Lauper and pasted her picture over Jesus,” the model said in 2012. “Thanks, Cyndi.” Although McCarthy began to rebel against her parents, she still had dreams of becoming a nun. Well, that is until she shared her dream with the nuns at her school. “[I] had a conversation with them about what I wanted to be when I grew up which was a mom and a nun, and they told me that wasn’t possible,” the Playboy model explained.
After hearing this, McCarthy knew that becoming a nun wasn’t in the cards for her. So, what did she do? Rebel even more. With her dreams shattered and her family hurting for cash, McCarthy began to work as a bartender. But even as a working gal, the model still had a hard time making ends meet. “I really tried to figure out ways to survive,” McCarthy explained to ABC.
“One of them was to flirt with boys in bars and go back to their place and tell them I’ll meet them in their bedroom in a second.” While they were in the bedroom getting ready, McCarthy would open their refrigerator, grab something to eat, and then run home.”
When she wasn’t bartending or stealing food from guys’ refrigerators, McCarthy worked as a cashier for a Polish grocery store. That’s when she got the idea to pose for Playboy Magazine. “Guys would come in to buy them, they would ask for them, and I would pick it up and throw it at them,” McCarthy explained to ABC in 2012.
“But I was like, ‘If these chicks can do it, I’m sitting here in this store, why couldn’t I do it?'” With nothing to lose, McCarthy decided to audition for the magazine’s centerfold in 1993.
However, coming from a religious background with no experience in modeling, McCarthy had her work cut out for her. Halfway through McCarthy’s test shoot audition, the aspiring model received some constructive criticism from none other than Hugh Hefner himself.
“Hef said, ‘You’ve got one more chance. Go home and practice because your face looks like you just hit a deer with your car. You look so horrified,'” McCarthy explained to Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. So, the model went home and began practicing her poses.
But no matter how hard she tried to “find sexy,” McCarthy said that she couldn’t do it. “[So] I came back and go, ‘OK, listen, all you’re going to get is a smile. That’s all I know how to do,'” McCarthy continued. Well, her boldness paid off because that smile landed her the deal of a lifetime.
Out of thousands of applicants, McCarthy was chosen for Playboy’s October 1993 issue. Hefner later explained that it was McCarthy’s “wholesome Catholic girl” that made her stand out. But while McCarthy was out celebrating her rise to fame, her family wasn’t too happy.
McCarthy later said that her Playboy centerfold caused quite the uproar in her strict Catholic neighborhood. Her parent’s home was pelted with eggs; her sisters were made fun of at school, and McCarthy was lectured about her future damnation by nearly everyone close to her.
“My mom was the one that was like ‘I only have three daughters now,'” McCarthy later explained to reporters. “I begged her. I was like, ‘Listen. You raised me to be a good person. This was my only option to get out there. I will be a Playmate that does something great, mom. Trust me and stand by me.'”
Well, it paid off because the next year, Hefner named McCarthy Playmate of the Year. But the model had mixed emotions about the whole ordeal. “I went, ‘Oh my God, yes,’ and ‘Oh my God, no,'” she explained. She was happy about her career but scared about what her family and neighborhood would think of her.
“I literally went to my car and cried. I cried for about an hour that I was Playmate of the Year.” Her parents were, of course, distraught after hearing the news. Even still, McCarthy handed over her $100,000 paycheck for becoming Playmate of the Year to her parents.
The check helped her family pay off their debts and move into a new home. The McCarthys were happy and sad all at the same time. This wasn’t exactly the plan they envisioned for their daughter. Months after becoming Playmate of the Year, McCarthy became disillusioned with her faith.
She moved out to Hollywood and began to focus on her newfound career. She briefly hosted Hot Rocks for Playboy TV, and then a new dating show called Singled Out for MTV before Playboy asked her to come back for some more modeling.
It seemed that the sky was the limit for the Playboy model. Later that year, McCarthy made an appearance at WrestleMania XI alongside Pamela Anderson. Then, in 1996, she signed on to do two shows. The first one was the MTV sketch comedy show, The Jenny McCarthy Show, and the second was the NBC sitcom, Jenny.
It was clear to everyone that McCarthy had what it takes to make it in Hollywood. After making her big scream debut in BASEketball, the model went on to star in the 1999 film, Diamonds, alongside Kirk Douglas. It was during that movie that her life changed forever.
McCarthy and the film’s director John Asher met and fell in love. Not wanting to waste any time, the two tied the knot on September 11, 1999, just months after meeting. A few years later, McCarthy gave birth to her first and only son, Evan.
Her new baby boy inspired McCarthy to start a new career path as an author. It seemed that McCarthy had a perfect life. Her first three books about pregnancy and motherhood were bestsellers, and she had a beautiful baby boy and a handsome husband. Within just a couple of years, however, the Playboy model’s life began to crumble—and fast.
One day, McCarthy walked into her two-year-old son’s room to find him seizing in his crib. She immediately rushed him to the hospital. The doctors believed that Evan had epilepsy, but McCarthy was not convinced. So, she decided to get a second opinion from a different neurologist.
That’s when she received the news that Evan had autism. McCarthy shifted her focus to Evan and his needs. She soon discovered that many parents of autistic children believe that a gluten-free, dairy-free diet helped their children. While many mainstream doctors are skeptical about this theory, McCarthy found a pediatrician willing to help.
“As the weeks went on, I noticed my kid coming out of this cloud,” McCarthy told ABC in 2009. “He said to me, ‘I want to go swimming.’ My kid was only saying one-word things. My kid just said a freaking sentence. Not only that, his eye contact was then on.”
Although Evan seemed to be getting better with the help of a new diet and a speech therapist, McCarthy’s marriage was beginning to crumble. After six years of marriage, McCarthy and Asher decided to go their separate ways.
After their divorce, McCarthy famously dated comedian Jim Carrey. But according to the model, she used this relationship as a distraction from the problems going on in her life. “I would use [men] as distractions for my own life,” she told reporters in 2012.
“For instance, when Evan was diagnosed with autism, I quickly got into a relationship just to distract from the pain that I was going through.” Even still, McCarthy and Carrey were the picture-perfect Hollywood couple. In fact, their relationship seemed to be too perfect on the outside.
From the time Carrey hired a plane to write a love message in the sky to McCarthy publicly supporting her boyfriend after the birth of his first grandchild, the couple shared plenty of adorable moments together. But to everyone’s shock, the pair abruptly called in quits in 2010, after five years of dating.
Fans were stunned, especially because of how happy the two lovebirds seemed to be. And as far as celebrity breakups go, theirs seemed almost as amicable as their relationship. “I will continue to be in his daughter’s life and will always keep Jim as a leading man in my heart,” McCarthy’s statement read.
But everyone wondered why the two decided to go their separate ways. The pair tried to keep the reasons for their breakup under wraps. But as time went by, rumors began swirling that their fun-loving relationship had a dark side. Carrey is “a hard guy to date,” a source told People Magazine.
“Jim can run hot, and he can run cold. He is someone who desperately needs to be with someone, then just as desperately needs to be alone.” The source also added that Carrey’s battle with depression took a toll on the relationship.
After taking two years for herself, 39-year-old McCarthy finally had a new man in her life: Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. After weeks of speculation, the actress announced the happy news to reporters at an autism charity event in Chicago.
“I can confirm that yes, it’s true, we are dating,” she said. The actress didn’t elaborate, but she did seem enthusiastic about the relationship. “Go Bears! That’s all I’ll say.” While the couple looked smitten with each other, the relationship didn’t last for long. Just three months after going public with their relationship, McCarthy and Urlacher decided to go their separate ways.
The specific reason for their split hasn’t been made public. However, sources say that the two just couldn’t seem to make it work. According to the actress’s statement to E! News, she and Urlacher decided to “turn our relationship into an amazing friendship.”
After three highly publicized breakups, McCarthy began to believe that love just wasn’t in the cards for her. “Especially being a single mom, in the past, it was one of my biggest fears,” the actress shared in 2018. “I didn’t know if it was going to be out there for me.”
It just so happened that New Kids on the Block rapper and divorced dad of two, Donnie Wahlberg, also thought that great love wasn’t in his future. But all that changed when the two were guests on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen in 2012. The chemistry was there, and Cohen even told Wahlberg to ask McCarthy out.
But for some reason or another, he didn’t. The two didn’t cross paths again until Wahlberg was a guest on McCarthy’s talk show a year later. “Let’s just say we visually give 50 Shades of Grey a run for its money,” McCarthy wrote in a blog post promoting the interview.
“It gets steamy. I mean, like really steamy,” the talk show host continued. “Being turned on by a guy is always fun, but to have it legitimately happen to you on TV is to be turned back into a 12-year-old.”
Between talking about the latest Justin Bieber scandal, to discussing dirty talk (“Some guys do it wrong,” McCarthy said; “I don’t do it wrong,” Wahlberg fired back) and how the musician lost his virginity to his brother’s girlfriend, the interview was raunchy. It even ended with the two eating lollipops and snuggling on the floor.
After the interview, McCarthy was completely smitten. “I went a year without dating anybody,” McCarthy told New York’s 95.5 PLJ radio in 2013. “So, I don’t know if I was really randy or really ready, but he was there, and I gave him my phone number. I’ve never given a guy my number, but I was interested.”
But despite the couple’s instant chemistry, it took Wahlberg two weeks to give McCarthy a call. It was okay, though. With a few breakups under her belt, McCarthy was in a new place in her life. She no longer needed someone in her life—whatever was meant to be, would be.
“I wanted to find the one. I didn’t care what package it came in. I just wanted to find it,” McCarthy later said on The Howard Stern Show. Once Wahlberg finally gave her a call two weeks later, that was it—McCarthy had finally found what she had been looking for.
The two “took it slow” at first, making sure to put public personas aside (that meant no Googling) so they could get to know one another. “I think a lot of times we get caught up in the fantasy of who we think somebody is, and instead we trusted getting to know who each other are for real,” she told E! News.
The pair made their red-carpet debut at a fundraiser McCarthy hosted to help her son’s school. By the end of the year, as the seconds counted down to midnight, the actress and her hunky boyfriend started what became an annual tradition.
They let the world know that it was New Year’s Day with a big, dramatic kiss in Times Square. “He kisses my hands, and I put my hands up the back of his shirt and rub them on his warm back,” the actress told Us Weekly in 2017. “He’s always such a great partner during it.”
By now, everyone knew that these two were a couple. But the pair’s giddy PDA moments led many skeptics to believe that the two were pouring it on for the paparazzi. Wahlberg, however, put those rumors aside in April 2014 when he proposed to McCarthy after less than a year of dating.
Their proposal story would go down as one of the cutest proposal stories in Hollywood. Wahlberg asked McCarthy to marry him with a yellow sapphire and the help of the other most important guy in her life: Evan.
The actress later retold the story of how Wahlberg proposed on The View. “This weekend I was sitting with Donnie, and he went into the other room and out came Evan with a card that said ‘Will.’ And he ran away and came back with a card that said ‘You,'” McCarthy explained.
She knew exactly what was happening and immediately began to tear up. “And then he came out with a card that said ‘Marry,’ but it was spelled ‘Mary,’ and the last time Donnie came out with Evan and Evan’s shirt said ‘Me?’ and he was holding the ring.”
As soon as McCarthy said yes, Evan began yelling, “I have another dad!” This made McCarthy tear up even more. “I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. He’s so wonderful.” The two didn’t bother with a long engagement.
They decided to tie the knot four months later in a summer wedding at the Hotel Baker in Chicago—the same spot where they made their red-carpet debut just a year before. McCarthy wore a beautiful, white dress that she had picked out in New York just a few weeks before, and Wahlberg helped her get dressed.
Evan then met McCarthy in the dressing room and put out his arm so he could walk her down the aisle. When the officiator asked, “Who’s giving away this girl?” Evan raised his hand and said, “I am.” As if this ceremony couldn’t be any more of a tear-jerker, McCarthy’s son also gave a speech at the wedding reception.
He apparently grabbed the microphone and asked if he could say a few words. “He was like, ‘I love my stepdad, I’m so glad for my mom, we’re going to make a great family,'” a teary-eyed McCarthy continued. “And it was really beautiful.”
A few months after the wedding, McCarthy, and Wahlberg sealed their first New Year’s Eve as husband and wife with a kiss. The following month, the pair kicked off their reality show, Donnie Loves Jenny, on A&E. The first episode was, of course, of their wedding. Despite the show’s 50 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, fans loved the show, calling it “surprisingly endearing.”
But still, it wasn’t enough to keep the show going, and after three seasons, Donnie Loves Jenny was canceled. While letting cameras into their house didn’t curse their marriage, it did trigger several tabloid headlines.
Many of these headlines came from silly arguments that the couple had on the show. “The s**t that comes out in the press, you can’t say anything, it’s a f**king world story,” Wahlberg told Howard Stern in 2015. “I marvel at the stuff that becomes truth in headlines.”
With many people believing that the couple was headed towards divorce in December 2015, Wahlberg and McCarthy remained adamant that everything was fine. In fact, the two read the divorce headline while snuggling in bed, watching TV. “Not only is any story of our marital strife complete garbage, but we have never been happier!”
When asked about how 18-year-old Evan got along with Wahlberg’s two sons—27-year-old Xavier and 19-year-old Elijah—McCarthy says that the family is taking everything in “baby steps.” The actress went on to explain that each child is a blessing and that Elijah has a huge impact on Evan.
The couple has no plans to have kids of their own, but McCarthy is okay with that decision. “We want to be able to give all our energy to [our kids now] and still enjoy our golden years,” the actress explained to reporters.
As for Wahlberg, he’s gone into the restaurant business with his two brothers, Paul and Mark Wahlberg. The burger joint, Wahlburgers, began in his native Massachusetts, and their adventures and hilarious antics have become the center for their Emmy-nominated show that has lasted for ten seasons on A&E.
With such busy schedules, McCarthy and her husband work hard at making their relationship work. In fact, Wahlberg once joked that the most time the two spent away from one another was seven hours. While that seems a bit of a stretch, McCarthy says that it isn’t too far from reality.
When the pair are finally reunited after spending days apart because of their hectic work schedules, the actress says that they make sure to be with each other as much as they can. “Because of work, we’ve had to be apart, but in the house, if he goes to the bathroom, I’m like a dog or a toddler,” she told Howard Stern in 2015.
“I will follow him to the door, waiting for him to come out.” It sounds a bit obsessive, but whatever works for them, right? The couple is often scrutinized for their insanely high level of puppy love.
However, neither of them could really care what we think. “We’ve both been through a lot, and I think we know things to do and steps to take to keep it fresh and keep it alive,” Wahlberg told reporters.
When they’re away for work, the two like to keep the relationship alive by FaceTiming, but when they’re home, McCarthy and Wahlberg carve out as much time as possible for togetherness. They’ve bonded over the simple things in life, like watching the Real Housewives and The Bachelor. “Donnie cries! It’s episode three, and he’s crying, and I’m like, ‘Donnie! you can’t be crying already!'” McCarthy said in 2019.
But according to Wahlberg, the deal is that he’ll watch all of McCarthy’s shows if she agrees to watch sports with him. In case anyone forgot, Wahlberg is a die-hard fan for anything Boston. When asked if any of their past relationships have caused any tension, the couple says no.
“I think one time she was flicking [the remote] and Liar, Liar was on, and she went, ‘Ugh,'” Wahlberg laughed while telling reporters. “I went, ‘No, I love Liar, Liar, put it back on.'” Lucky for McCarthy, Wahlberg is a firm believer that whatever is in the past should stay in the past.
Both Wahlberg and McCarthy had similar pasts. Not only did they both become super successful at a young age, but they had unsuccessful marriages, kids, and long rebound relationships.
“We got all this crap out of our systems and found our way, and by the time we met each other, we were really both ready for what we have, which is the relationship we’ve waited for all of our lives,” Wahlberg continued. We’re not crying. You’re crying! After decades of ups and downs, it makes us happy to see that these two finally found each other.