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Karen McDougal at her Best Karen McDougal at her BestKaren McDougal at her Best Playmates at their Best
Karen McDougal at her Best

Playmate urges focus on breast cancer
©South Bend Tribune -- July 1, 1998
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, she said.
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 name recognition.

"Now I have producers coming at me with television shows," she said, referring to possible guest appearances or even major roles.
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 1997.

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.


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