Karen McDougal is an American model and actress. She made her feature film debut with the direct-to-video movie 'The Arena', in which she played Jessemina, a slave girl who is forced into fighting as a female gladiator. She also had cameos in movies such as 'Joe Dirt', 'Charlie's Angels', 'Grind', 'The Girl Next Door' and 'Raising Helen'. She has guest-hosted TV programs like 'Wild On!' and 'VIP Access', and has appeared on shows like 'Lovespring International', 'Anger Management', 'The O'Reilly Factor', and Playmate edition of 'Russian Roulette'. She made news headlines just before the 2016 presidential election for her alleged affair with Republican nominee Donald Trump. Her story was bought and buried by AMI CEO/Chairman David Pecker, a Trump endorser.
Childhood & Early Life
Karen McDougal was born on March 23, 1971, in Merrillville, Indiana, near Gary. Her mother, Carol, remarried when she was only nine, following which the family, which included her three older brothers and younger sister, moved to Sawyer, Michigan.
She learned tap dance and ballet as a child, and wanted to become a ballerina, but later shifted towards teaching, and then modeling. While attending River Valley High School, she became a cheerleader, band member, color guard, volleyball and softball player.
She was also the Michigan state champion clarinet player for four years in a row in high school, and had earned the nickname 'Barbie.' She graduated from school in 1989 and enrolled into Ferris State University at Big Rapids, Michigan, from where she majored in Elementary Education.
She began her career as a teacher for pre-kindergarten children in a Detroit suburb, where she moved after two years of college study. She intended to open a learning center for children before her modeling career took off.
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In 1997, during her early teaching days, Karen McDougal was persuaded to participate in the local Venus Swimwear swimsuit competition in Michigan, which she won and as a result secured a place at the international final in Florida. She soon caught the attention of famous photographer David Mecey, who approached her for a test shoot, which she accepted.
On completion of the test shoot, she was selected for a complete photo and video shoot and was featured on the Playboy magazine as 'Miss December 1997'. Soon after her magazine debut, her video shoot, 'Playmate Profile', was featured on Playboy TV.
She was named 'Playmate of the Year of 1998' by Hugh Hefner and fans at a luncheon at the Playboy Mansion, following which she appeared on the cover of the July 1998 issue of 'Playboy'. She was also awarded $100,000 and a special edition silver Shelby Series 1 convertible with a customized Michigan license plate 'PMOY 98'.
The subsequent 'Playmate of the Year' 'Video Centerfold' contained an interview of her and a segment done as a Pop-up Video parody filled with factoids about her and 'Playboy'. In July she appeared in an episode of 'The Magic Hour' to promote her PMOY issue, during which she demonstrated her signature pose, straddle split, on TV in front of a live studio audience.
While she was a favorite for 'Readers' Choice Sexiest Playmate of the 1990s' due to her beauty, ‘girl next door' appeal and curvaceous figure, she finished runner-up to Pamela Anderson in a November 2001 poll. The following year, she mentioned in an online chat that she was willing to pose for the magazine again if offered.
McDougal, who considers herself a 'health nut', was the first woman to appear on the cover of 'Men's Fitness' magazine in March 1999. This inspired her to venture into fitness modeling, following which she appeared in several fitness and body building magazines such as 'Muscle & Fitness', 'Physical' and 'Iron Man'.
In 2002, a limited edition doll based on her likeness was released by 'Playboy', which emphasized the accuracy of the model to her statuesque physique. Another limited edition bronze statuette titled 'Warrior Princess', created in collaboration with fantasy sculptor Bill Toma, was released in 2003.
Prior to the launch of 2001 XFL inaugural season, Karen McDougal was featured in a series of television commercials, which were soon withdrawn for being too indecent. In 2001, she made her feature film debut alongside Lisa Dergan in the direct-to-video movie 'The Arena', which showed her as a slave-girl-turned-female-gladiator in an Ancient Roman colony.
In 2002, she was one of twelve contestants participating in a contest at The Palms in Las Vegas to replace 'Wild On!' host Brooke Burke. As part of her 'wild' challenge, she dressed up as Cleopatra and roamed the casino at Caesars Palace with another actor dressed as Julius Caesar, but despite being a favorite, lost the spot.
She was one of the 28 finalists to advance to the '2004 WWE Diva Search' special held at the Beacon Theatre in New York, which was live televised on Spike TV. She survived two rounds of elimination, but failed to make into the final 10 contestants eligible for online voting.
She described her experience as 'Miss December 1997' in an interview for 'E! True Hollywood Story' of Hugh Hefner, which was first broadcast on April 9, 2006. In the Summer that year, she appeared as a fitness model to demonstrate the exercises in a fitness training DVD with Hollywood celebrity fitness trainer Valerie Waters.
Karen McDougal's family initially opposed her decision to pose for 'Playboy', but her mother later appeared in an interview segment of her 'Playmate of the Year' 'Video Centerfold' to show support. Her family has a history of breast cancer and she is an advocate of breast cancer awareness.
She dated Hollywood actor Bruce Willis, in 2008. She discussed their relationship in an interview for Spanish magazine 'Interviu', which also published her picture.
In November 2016, four days before the US presidential elections, it was reported that the Republican nominee Donald Trump had an affair with Karen McDougal while still being married to Melania Trump. American Media, Inc. (AMI), the owner of the National Enquirer, which endorsed Trump, paid her $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story, but never published it.
Another report in February 2018 corroborated the claims and published her handwritten memoirs of the affair which she shared after being inspired by the #MeToo movement. Reportedly, she first met Trump in June 2006 at a party hosted by Hugh Heffner in the Playboy Mansion, following which they began dating till she ended the relationship in April 2007 out of guilt.
In 1996, Karen McDougal underwent a breast augmentation procedure to enhance her appearance. She later claimed in early 2017 that she had removed the implants after experiencing vision loss, black-outs and severe migraines for about a year, which had left her confined to bed.