So, this is the sexiest woman in the world: Jenny McCarthy

The Deborah Ross Interview: She's very slow jog, very `Baywatch', very D-cup and blonde and tanned and siliconed. Am I jealous? No. After all, who the hell is Jenny McCarthy?
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The Independent Culture
To a smart hotel in Knightsbridge, for the first British public showing of Jenny McCarthy since being voted "World's Sexiest Woman". I arrive two, perhaps three minutes late - enough to miss the off. Jenny has already been produced, and the photographers are going berserk with excitement. They're pushing, they're elbowing, they're shouting, they're at the top of stepladders, their flashes are going "flash-bang-flash". I can only see their jostling backs, so for all I know, it could be Ann Widdecombe in there, but I suspect not, because they are shouting things like "more leg, darling" and "ohh, that's gorgeous, Jenny" and, from the chap on the step ladder nearest to me: "Make love to me. Make love to me!". "Oh all right," I tell him loudly, "but not on Tuesdays because Hello! comes out on Tuesdays and I find I'm engaged for most of the day." He looks at me with an expression beginning with "d" which may be disdain, or disgust, but is certainly not delight, before getting back to work. "Look into the camera for daddy, darlin' ... push your knockers forward..." I suspect he is not from The Lady.

Eventually, the photographers are called off. "Time. Gentlemen. Please!" Jenny emerges from the fray. She is 26, and is wearing the kind of strappy high-heels that make her soles vertical and a sort of black net thing over a fake, leopard-skin bikini thing. I'm sure there are proper, high- fashion words for these so I ask The Independent's fashion editor. She says: "Tacky", which I think must be a shop on Sloane Street, perhaps between Gucci and Prada.

We are briefly introduced. Jenny says: "Hi, sweetie." I say: "Jenny, if you are very nice to me, I'll let you in on all my beauty secrets." She squeals: "Oh, I love that!" I find this quite hurtful. She acts like I'm joking or something.

She is, of course, very slow-jog, Baywatch, very D-cup and blonde and toned and siliconed. I think if you asked an Essex man to come up with his ideal woman, he'd come up with Jenny. She is pretty, yes, but she is more, it seems to me, painting-by-numbers pretty than interestingly, erotically or differently pretty. Now, I know exactly what you're thinking. I'm just jealous. But this is entirely untrue. I am not, on the whole, a spiteful or jealous person except, of course, when I'm being spiteful or jealous.

Anyway who exactly is Jenny McCarthy? Although only just beginning to filter through over here, she is very, very big in America. Huge, even. A former Playboy Playmate of the Year, she's had her own MTV show, her own NBC sitcom, has just signed a deal with Disney TV, has a film coming out and quite a few more in the offing. She's been on the cover of Newsweek and Rolling Stone. Tap in her name on an internet search, and hundreds of web sites devoted exclusively to her pop up, including a naughty, photo- based one that promises: "We'll make your dick a happy camper!"

Now, of course, she is also "world's sexiest woman", as voted by the readers of FHM, Britain's biggest-selling men's magazine, in their annual poll. She was number four last year, when Teri Hatcher, Bond babe and Superman sidekick, won it. Jenny is very pleased to be the winner this time round. "When they called me, I just went: `Yes! Yes! Yes!' It really does feel incredible, to have people think of you like this."

Still, she thinks she's going to concentrate on being a serious film actress from now on. Yes, she's taking acting lessons. She once went to a class in LA but didn't like it. "They said: `Think your grandma is dead,' which I didn't want to do.'' Her favourite film of all time? Pretty Woman, she says, "which kinda says it all". Her heroine is Goldie Hawn. "That's the direction I'd like to go."

She teeters off though the photographers, who seem to be taking much longer than usual to pack their stuff away. They pull their guts in as she passes. "You've been great, boys," she cries. "But then I love British men! So strong, so masculine, so sexy, so... grrrrr!" She seems quite game, I must say. She goes. Breaths are let out again.

We meet again the following day, at the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. She is here to sign some special edition photographs of herself for her fans. We have about half an hour to spare, and sit on the roof for a smoke. She smokes American cigarettes called Capri. They are skinny and white, like lollipop sticks and don't, it seems to me, quite hit the spot. We are joined by her boyfriend and manager, Ray Manzella, who seems to be the Superbabe King of Hollywood. He used to look after Pamela Anderson. He now looks after a string of babes, including "Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White", whoever she may be. He is 49, and has that LA sunned look, the one that makes men his age look part over-vinegared conker, part the wrinkled-up, badly-fitting American Tan tights your grandma always wears.

A propos of nothing whatsoever, I kick off the conversation by asking if it's possible to breastfeed with silicone implants. Jenny has implants. She says. "I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't feel safe, no." Ray says: "Honey, it's perfectly safe and natural. The milk goes straight to the nipples."

She says: "I just wouldn't feel right doing it, y'know." I say a siliconed baby might not be such a bad thing. It could double as basketball. She screeches: "Oh, I love that. Don't you love that, Ray?" Ray goes. "That's so funny!" I think they might want to adopt me. As they live in Hollywood and have a big house and a big pool and everything, I tell them it's OK with me if it's OK with them.

Jenny was raised in Chicago's South Side. Her father, Dan, is a steelworker. Her mother, Lynda, was a housewife until recently, when she got a job as a cleaner at the local courthouse. She has three sisters - Amy, Lynette, Joanne. There was only one bathroom in their house. "So you can imagine what that was like!"

She had a very working class, very Catholic upbringing. It was church not just on Sunday, "but every day". Three of her aunts are nuns. Six of her uncles are priests. She attended the Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, which was anything but liberal. It was run by nuns who "were always telling you how your soul was going to burn in hell".

She thinks she always wanted to be a movie star. As a child, she called herself Rhonda, which she thought was glamorous, and pranced about a lot in her mother's jewellery. She wanted to be rich, too. The better-off girls at McAuley High drove their own Mercedes' to school. She didn't like being poor. It embarrassed her. As she recalls: "I wouldn't let anyone come back to my house." She was always quite determined, it seems.

She went to college to study nursing, but packed it in after two years. She was $10,000 in debt, she says, and couldn't afford to continue. She worked in a deli, slicing Polish sausage, while trying to make it as a fashion model on the side. She had her breasts enlarged when she was 19. She says she regrets it now.

"At that age, you just think the bigger the better. I had sizeable breasts before, a size B, which is a nice handful, and my plastic surgeon said to me, `what are you doing? Those are fine'. But I just wanted them bigger." The problem now, she says, is that blokes tend "not to look you in the eye. They're just looking at your chest."

She didn't get far as a conventional model. Her debts escalated. One day, she found herself standing outside the Playboy building. The voice inside her head, she says, was going "No! Jenny, No!", but still she went through the door and hopped in the elevator. She then persuaded the picture editor to let her pose for a test shot. Three days later, she was crowned Playboy's Miss October 1993.

Yes, of course, her family was devastated. Horrified! Naively, she thought she could get away with it by sending her parents on a Caribbean Cruise at the time of publication. She paid for it out of her Playboy earnings, although she didn't tell them that. "I said I'd been saving for two years..."

They went off, Playboy came out, word spread like wildfire, her aunts and uncles called to say "you are going to burn in hell" and "your soul belongs to the devil now". Jenny wrote one letter to her mother, a separate one to her father, and then ran away to LA. On their return, her parents refused to speak to her for a week. "But then they said, OK, you've been a good daughter, and this is what you've decided to do, so we'll support you in this."

We have to break off here, so Jenny can go and do the signing. We go down on to the main shop floor, where a little stage has been erected for her. A queue has formed already. It is quite some queue. It goes round the Spice Girl rack, down to the World Cup CD collection, round through Reggae & Blues, back through Disco, over to Country, then practically out the door. A great, snaking line of, it seemed to me, hundreds of sallow- faced adolescent boys in draw-string anoraks and those Mister Byrite jeans that need continual hoisting but rarely get it. I pick out one of them, at random. Why are you here? I ask him. "Well, she's a nice-looking bird, isn't she." And where have you come from today? "I live with my mum in Wembley."

They go up, one by one on to the stage. Jenny says: "Hi, sweetie." They blush ecstatically, take some Polaroids and get their special edition pictures (of Jenny scarcely clad) signed. Frankly, I do not think the signed pictures are destined for the sideboards of Wembley's living rooms.

More likely, I imagine, they'll be stashed somewhere altogether more private, until mum's watched 999, straightened the antimacassars on the Dralon suite and gone up to bed - the signal, perhaps, for a bit of single- handed, happy camping.

I ask Ray if it bothers him, all these blokes all over the world fantasising about his girlfriend. He says: "No. To tell you the truth, I'm only bothered when people start bothering Jenny on the street. That's real annoying."

He has big plans for her. Her first big movie - the comedy BASEketball - is out next month. She is superb in it, he says. "She leaps out at you." And she may or may not play the Farrah Fawcett-Majors part in a movie of Charlie's Angels. "It's gonna depend on the script. It's gotta be good." Ray says he's been good for Jenny. "I've been able to introduce her to a lot of older films.'' Like? "James Bond. Now she knows what Pussy Galore means."

The signing is over. Jenny must have signed hundreds of pictures. I ask her if she has to go to wrist aerobics. She says: "When I did signings for Playboy, I did four hours at a time. I'm used to it.'' She adds that, lately, she hasn't had much time to go to the gym and "I'm not as toned as I could be. Look." She attempts to jiggle her upper- arm. Nothing moves.

Jenny, I say, if I did that, everyone in this room would find themselves slapped against the walls. She goes: "I like that! I like that!" Ray goes: "C'mon honey, you need a nap." Off they go.

I could, I suppose, forward my beauty tips by post.

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