Murphy was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and grew up throughout Northwest Florida. At the age of 15, she was spotted by Mary Lou Nash, owner and operator of the modeling agency Mary Lou's Models. Nash saw Murphy's potential and soon she was modeling in local ads and magazines throughout Florida and Alabama. She also attended St. Mary's Catholic school in Fort Walton Beach, Florida from kindergarten to 8th grade and after graduating from Choctawhatchee Senior High School, Murphy moved to Milan to further her modeling career.
Her career kicked into high-gear when she bleached her hair platinum blonde for a photo shoot, ruining her hair and causing it to fall out. Because of this she had to get a short hair cut which made her popular with many top photographers and soon she was in major magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and was named VH1/Vogue's "Model of the Year" at the 1998 Fashion Awards. Murphy is featured on the cover of the 2005 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, as well as the 1999 cover of Vogue's "Models of the Millennium." She has also posed for the 2002 Playboy calendar. In 2001, she became the face of Estee Lauder cosmetics. She also started an acting career with the role of "Dubbie the Blonde" in Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights in 1999.
Carolyn has a large koi fish tattooed on her thigh and hip.
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