As a small-town girl in Sawyer, Michigan, Karen McDougal was a tomboy until a late-teens growth spurt turned her into a beauty queen. Now the 26-year-old preschool teacher doubles as a Venus International Swimwear model. Karen's latest moonlighting gig is even more dazzling: Sawyer's pride is now our Miss December.
Playboy: How have folks back home reacted to the news that you're Playboy's latest Playmate? Karen: With shock. I was always wholesome little Karen. In high school my nickname was Barbie, as in Barbie doll -- the nice, sweet, perfect girl. That sort of girl isn't expected to be seen in the most-looked-at men's magazine in the world. But I think it's going to work out. Now that people are getting used to the idea, they're treating me like a celebrity.
Playboy: What are the rewards of spending your days with people half your size? Karen: I teach preschool because I love kids. I want to have a few children of my own one of these days. My mother has 12 brothers and sisters, each with at least six kids of their own. I have almost 100 cousins. If I can find the right man, I want to start adding to the family total. I'm a nurturer.
Playboy: One with sensational biceps. Do you bench-press toddlers at work? Karen: No, but I do work out every day. I think strength is important to a woman. It's energizing. It gives you the self-confidence you need to succeed.
Playboy: What's your personal best as a weight lifter? Karen: I don't go for bulk. My best in the squat is 140 pounds.
Playboy: Do the youngsters where you work know you are also a swimwear model and a Playmate? Karen: No. To them I'm just Miss Karen.
Playboy: Your wholesome look is also a little exotic. What is your heritage? Karen: Irish and Native American. I suppose I got my cheekbones from my Cherokee grandfather; the Irish side of the family must be responsible for my pert little nose.
Playboy: Can a woman be both wholesome and sexy? Karen: Definitely. A woman can be whatever she wants to be. It's all in her attitude. I am truly a sweet, down-to-earth girl, soft and mild. But I can be crazy if the time is right.
Playboy: How does it feel to be Sawyer's premiere sex symbol? Karen: I'm excited. Do you know I'm one of the oldest Playmates this year? I take care of my body. I'm proud to show it off. I hope you'll look at me and say, "Hey, that's not bad for 26 years old."
Playboy: What do you see yourself accomplishing in the next ten years? Karen: By 2007 I hope I'll be running my own learning center for preschoolers. I would like to have at least three kids of my own. And I'd like to be as spunky at 36 as I am today.
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