Playmate urges focus on breast cancer
©South Bend Tribune -- July 1, 1998
By JENNIFER MARTIN
Tribune Staff Writer
Karen McDougal is excited about her role as Playboy Playmate of
the Year, but not just for the fame it brings. The 27-year-old from
Sawyer, Mich., said she wants to use her high-profile job to educate
people about breast cancer.
"I'm basically going to get the awareness out that you're
never too young" to have it, McDougal said in a telephone
interview from her home in Los Angeles this week.
McDougal, who graduated from River Valley High School in 1987,
is on the cover of Playboy's July issue. She was named Playmate
of the Year in May.
McDougal said between all the interviews and modeling sessions her
new title has brought, it's tough to find time for personal projects.
But she hopes to give public speeches about breast cancer when things
settle down. She already has begun working with the Comen Foundation,
which devotes itself to breast cancer awareness.
McDougal said breast cancer is not a cosmetic concern to her, but
a health issue: The deadly disease runs in her family.
"I've had three aunts that had breasts removed"
because of cancer, she said. "My mother ... has had lumps
in her breast, but they have not been cancerous, thank God."
McDougal said although she has breast implants, she doesn't believe
she's sabotaging her own message.
"A lot of people look at me like, 'You have implants, what
are you talking about?'" she said. "But ... it
doesn't make a difference."
Breast cancer can strike women whether they have implants or not,
Besides, women who have mastectomies often get implants as well,
McDougal said. They need to be on guard for the disease like any
other woman, she said.
Getting the word out, however, is going to be difficult for the
time being. McDougal averages four to five hours of sleep a night,
spending long days in photo sessions and promotional work for Playboy.
The lecture circuit may have to wait for several months.
"(I'm) excited and tired at the same time," she
said. "It's going crazy, but I don't mind."
McDougal's typical day starts around 5 a.m. Then she poses in photo
or video shoots until sunset, which can be as late as 9 p.m. In
her "down time," she visits veterans' hospitals, speaks
to groups such as the Rotary Club or does other promotional work.
McDougal said the title of Playmate of the Year has given her more
"Now I have producers coming at me with television shows,"
she said, referring to possible guest appearances or even major
McDougal declined to name specific shows, but said one possibility
involved a recurring role. McDougal wants to be an actress.
Back in Michigan, McDougal's family is "excited" about
all the glitz and glamor of her Playboy career, she said.
"At first, they were a little unsure, but now they support
me 100 percent," she said.
McDougal is the fourth of five children. She attended Ferris State
University, then became a preschool teacher near Detroit.
Eventually, she turned to full-time modeling. McDougal won a Venus
International Swimwear competition, then moved to Los Angeles to
break into acting. She got her break at Playboy posing as Miss December
McDougal said she still loves children and hopes to open a learning
center someday for infants and preschoolers. The site would probably
be a community without much money, she said.
In the meantime, she's focusing on her work, which has brought immediate
rewards. As Playmate of the Year, McDougal won $100,000 plus a Shelby
Series 1 roadster. Only 500 of the silver, $100,000 cars are being
made. When McDougal receives hers, she'll probably put it in storage
as a long-term investment rather than driving it.
McDougal added she's hoping the car isn't delivered to her anytime
soon: "I have to save enough money to pay the taxes (on
it)," she said.