After flying a little lower on the celebrity radar, Jenny McCarthy has been grabbing headlines again for her upcoming Playboy cover . The TV personality and author is featured in the July/August issue in an eight-page spread she says she’s “really proud of.” But McCarthy is just the latest star to turn an appearance in the legendary men’s magazine into genuine buzz.
The 39-year-old made her Playboy debut in 1993 and went on to become Playmate of the Year. Her star turn in the magazine soon caught the eye of MTV, who offered a much-sought-after co-host gig on the popular ’90s dating show “Singled Out.” Her effervescent personality made her a hosting favorite and she has continued her career in TV — she currently hosts NBC’s “Love in the Wild” — though her focus has turned in recent years to her work as an activist for autism issues. The interest around her sixth pictorial is sure to put her firmly back in the conversation after years of being best known as Jim Carrey’s former girlfriend and for her controversial stance on child immunization.
If past Playboy centerfolds are any indication, this pictorial may be only the opening salvo in a reinvigorated career. From Lindsay Lohan to Kim Kardashian, an appearance on the cover of Playboy proved to be just the shot in the arm some starlets’ careers needed to get them back on track.
Kim Kardashian (2007)
Though she remains a divisive figure, Kardashian was known almost exclusively in late 2007 for one scandalous thing: her sex tape with Ray J. In October of that year, Kim, along with her very large and colorful family, debuted in E!’s “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and one of the first topics the show dealt with was her decision to pose for the December 2007 issue of Playboy. The attention paid to Kim’s cover drove ratings for the show through the roof and now, five long years later, “Keeping Up” and its many spin-offs remain tent-pole programming for E! Since first posing, Kim’s decision to bare all has factored into yet another more recent episode of the show. Meanwhile, she and her family have started an empire, making millions licensing their image to myriad products and launching a clothing line and fragrances. Kim is even branching out into acting with a role in Tyler Perry’s upcoming “The Marriage Counselor.”
Drew Barrymore (1995)
Barrymore’s may well be the exemplar of a career that was rescued after an appearance in the men’s mag. The actress was the definition of trouble in the late-’80s and early ’90s: She rebelled against her family publicly, her teenage private life was tabloid fodder and she was plagued by serious drug problems and a flagging career. But in January 1995, she posed for the magazine looking happy and healthy and announced she was ready to get serious. That same year, she earned raves for her turn in Oscar-nominated director Herbert Ross’ “Boys on the Side” and followed it up with a role in Woody Allen’s underrated musical “Everyone Says I Love You.”
In ’96, she shocked audiences in “Scream,” and two years later she found herself headlining back-to-back hits “The Wedding Singer” and “Ever After.” In the years since, she’s emerged as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, directed a major film (“Whip It!”) and even scored Golden Globe and SAG awards for her role in HBO’s Emmy favorite “Grey Gardens.”
Lindsay Lohan (2012)
Exactly where Lindsay Lohan is on her road to a comeback depends mostly on how you feel about Lindsay Lohan. Sure, her turn on “Saturday Night Live” wasn’t acclaimed , but it brought in huge ratings . She’s acting again, but her first big post-legal-troubles role is in a Lifetime movie , and there have been, ahem, issues . Yes, she’s booked a role in a buzzed-about indie film written by Bret Easton Ellis (“American Psycho,” “Less Than Zero”) and directed by Paul Schrader (writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”), but she’s co-starring with a porn star . How above board can that be?
Regardless of all that, the point is, Lindsay’s trying, and it all began with the January/February 2012 double issue of Playboy. Lohan channeled Marilyn Monroe’s old Hollywood glamour for the 10-page spread, which went on to be one of the magazine’s biggest sellers in years, prompting the magazine to return to the presses after it sold out in many markets.
Chelsea Handler (2009)
Things were going far from badly for Chelsea Handler when she posed for Playboy’s cover in December 2009. Indeed, with two best-selling books and a hit chat show on E!, things were pretty great. But looking back, the never-shy comedienne, who did not appear fully nude (only scantily clad) in her pictorial, has seen her career skyrocket so spectacularly in the years since that it’s hard to not see the photo shoot and, perhaps more importantly, the attitude behind its conception, as the very thing that has put her where she is today.
Since 2009, her talk show’s ratings have exploded, she’s released two more books and been given her own publishing imprint. She co-starred, co-created and produced two sitcoms, launched a major stand-up tour and appeared on the big screen with Reese Witherspoon in the comedy “This Means War.” She is a media empire of her own creation, with Time calling her one of its “100 Most Influential People in the World” this year.
Of course, this tactic doesn’t always pan out. Hoping to capitalize on the celebrity she developed on MTV’s “The Hills,” Heidi Montag posed for the magazine’s September 2009 issue. Just a few months later, her debut album, Superficial, badly failed to entice buyers, proving that the attention brought by a Playboy cover is really only useful when a star follows it up with something the public finds equally interesting.
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