She surprised everyone when she made Chicago her home — now Jenny McCarthy has more big news to share
Jenny McCarthy has always been a newsmaker. But in the last five months, the outspoken author, actress and activist has been the subject of an above-average flurry of headlines. In that time she’s moved from Los Angeles to Chicago, dated (and broken up with) a star Chicago Bears player, appeared on the cover of Playboy for the sixth time and courted controversy on the press tour for Bad Habits: Confessions of a Reformed Catholic, her new book released Oct. 2.
And now, as she nears her 40th birthday on Nov. 1, she’s going from being the news to making the news: McCarthy has signed on to be a six-times-a-week Splash columnist, a new platform that she hopes to make the anchor of a multimedia career based in Chicago. Starting immediately, McCarthy will debut a cheeky weekly advice column called “Ask Jenny” inside the Splash print edition, as well as a Monday-through-Friday blog on the Splash website (Splash.suntimes.com) about her life as a single mom.
From her home in the western suburbs she’ll be “two-finger typing” daily, and she says she’s chomping at the bit to get started. She’ll tackle parenting (“like hiding in the closet hoping your kid can make his own dinner — things that all moms can relate to and giggle”) and beyond, including dating and family issues. “I have to because even though I’m a mom, I’m also a single mom and I’m also dating, and also have issues with my own family and my old mother-in-law,” she says. “So, it’s not just about keeping up with the Mommy Joneses, it’ll also be interlaced with what we have to deal with day to day.”
Her writing style, which is raw and unfiltered, matches her bombshell-who-belches persona. In her first book, Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth, McCarthy cautioned newly pregnant women to not take hot baths in a chapter titled “I Think I Hard-Boiled My Baby.” “People still come up to me who are pregnant, laughing, saying, ‘I totally almost hard-boiled my baby until I read your book!’ ” she says.
Additional best-sellers followed, including Baby Laughs and Life Laughs, and endeared her to a wide audience of moms. “People always come up to me with certain questions, and it’s not the typical kind of celebrity questions,” she says. “It’s usually self-help. I feel like they can ask me more than they can ask their parent or their spouse because I kind of lay it all on the line.”
She’s been especially open about her 10-year-old son Evan’s autism diagnosis and her controversial stance on its treatment, which was the subject of three of her books. She decided to move to Chicago in May to give him a more normal home environment. “I didn’t want him to be a child of celebrity because it doesn’t have a good outcome,” she says. “I wasn’t having any luck in the love department either, so all signs were pointing to move back.”
She chose a neighborhood with “lots of kids” near her best friend. “Most of the time he just wants to play with his new friends,” she says. “He has about 12 kids that come over every day after school. I have a creek in my back yard and they catch frogs. He’s having a ball.”
He’s also lost his autism diagnosis, she says. “He’s phenomenal — I can’t even get over where he was and where he is now. I spent all of my time writing Life Laughs in the neuropsychology unit for autism watching him learn how to talk at age 3. Now he has a girlfriend and he’s bringing her roses and stealing my jewelry and bringing it to her. I would say he’s on the right path.”
While McCarthy is currently filming a VH1 talk show that debuts Jan. 18, and recently signed on for another five years as co-host of ABC’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest,” she says that her role at Splash is particularly important to her. “I’ve signed contracts over the past 20 years that were multimillion-dollar deals, but I am more excited about this one than anything I’ve done since my first deal at ‘Singled Out,’ ” she says. “Not only is [the Sun-Times] something that I grew up reading, but I just feel honored. I actually feel like it’s a privilege to do it.”
Her new gig is more than a platform to share her opinions among a wide audience — it’s validation of her skills as a writer. “I think people are still surprised, even with book eight, that I do write my own books,” she says. “But you can tell from my writing that I don’t write like an intellect. I just write like girlfriends talk.”
In addition to making a career shift, McCarthy is hoping that she’ll find love in Chicago, too. “When I come off this book tour I’ve got a couple of dates lined up that I’m excited about, because these guys seem really nice, but I’m also nervous because I’m hoping they see me for me. I’m hoping that I do get lucky in love. I’m looking for Mr. Big. I want the one.”
And for that guy — and Sun-Times readers — she has a message: “Even though I like to wear a push-up bra and lipstick and eyelashes, I don’t take it seriously at all. There’s depth beyond that.”
Starting today, it’ll be on display six days a week.
Story by Susanna Negovan | Photos by Anthony Tahlier
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