Jennifer Ann "Jenny" McCarthy (born November 1, 1972) is an American model, comedian, actress, author, and activist. She began her career as a Playboy magazine model in 1993, before launching a television and film acting career. Most recently, she has written books on parenting issues and has become an activist promoting scientifically unsupported claims that vaccines cause autism and that chelation therapy is effective against autism.
McCarthy was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her middle-class Irish-Catholic family 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 Melissa McCarthy of Gilmore Girls 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.