By People Staff
September 25, 1995 12:00 PM

STAGE FRIGHT IS A PERFORMER’S Curse. But Jenny McCarthy, cohost of Singled Out, MTV’s high-volume, in-your-face version of The Dating Game, has found a unique way to calm her nerves when on-camera with a herd of young, hormone-addled contestants. “I get in control by telling them off, saying things like, ‘Shut up, or I’ll kick your butt,’ ” says McCarthy, 22, an avid kick-boxer. “If you smack them around a little bit, there’s never a problem.” In fact, McCarthy usually smacks them in the face with a pie, and the forceful approach has served her well. Besides keeping Singled Out guests in line and veejaying for MTV, McCarthy is carving out a film career. In The Stupids, due in December, “I play this neurotic actress [opposite Tom Arnold]. I’m crying and screaming all the time,” she says.

That’s a far cry from the calculated attitude McCarthy showed when getting her career going in her hometown of Chicago. There she grew up the second oldest of four daughters of a steel-plant foreman and his homemaker wife. A nursing school dropout at 19, she tried modeling, only to be rejected by several agencies. But, she recalls, “Mom always said, ‘Be like Vanna White.’ ” And so, following Vanna’s path, she marched into Playboy’s Chicago headquarters in August 1993. Quickly she became Miss October and, later, 1993’s Playmate of the Year.

That summer, McCarthy moved to L.A., where, six months ago, she confides, “I found my soulmate.” Though she won’t name him, she says, “He treats me with class and respect.” Her Singled Out cohost, Chris Hard wick, 23, says, “She’s doing a lot to dispel the myth that a beautiful woman can’t be a nice person.” Up to a point. “Some guys stand in the front row,” he says, “just to be hit by Jenny.”