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John Cassini

Jennifer Beals Biography


Home > Actresses > B > Beals, Jennifer > Biography


Birth Name: Jennifer Beals
Born: 12/19/1963
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA


Born Dec. 19, 1963 in Chicago, IL to Alfred Beals, an African-American grocery store owner, and Jeanne Cohen, a school teacher of Irish descent, Beals grew up in Chicago where she attended the Francis W. Parker School as a child. Suffering a tragedy at a young age, Beal's father passed away when she was only 10. Pushing forward, Beals began to model and pursue film work as a teenager. At the age of 17, she caught the eye of producers on the film "My Bodyguard" (1980), who cast her in a small part; though it marked Beals' film debut, her role went uncredited. Remaining focused on her studies, Beals enrolled at the prestigious Yale University where she studied English. She continued to audition for film roles while in college - and it was during a trip through Europe that she was first asked to go to New York to audition for this odd musical film directed by someone named Adrian Lyne, which sounded more like an extended MTV video than anything else.

Landing the lead role of Alex Owens, a welder who moonlights as an exotic dancer at night, Beals was catapulted instantly into stardom with the unbelievable success of "Flashdance." Though reviews for the film were mixed, it made Beals not only a pop culture icon, but a fashion trendsetter, as well - with her character's off-the-shoulder chopped sweatshirts becoming the "It" style of the early 1980s. Controversy hit soon after the film's release, however, when it was revealed that Beals had not performed her own dance sequences in the film. Indeed, French actress Marine Jahan had doubled for many of the dance sequences in the film - even a young male break-dancer in a wig had performed the last back spin during the famed audition scene. Upon closer inspection, fans noticed that a variety of ways were used to disguise Jahan from Beals - including strobe flashing, Kabuki white face paint, dark shadows and a bucket of water. Fans were angry and disappointed, but the film made boatloads of cash for Paramount and that was all that mattered. Still somewhat shell-shocked by overnight fame, Beals went on to star next in Franc Roddam's Frankenstein re-working, "The Bride" (1985) opposite Sting. Unfortunately for Beals, the film did nothing to redeem her newly found stardom and the actress returned to Yale where she earned a BA in American Literature in 1987. She so firmly disappeared off the radar, it was as if a major star had never been born.

After returning to the screen in the 1988 film "Split Decisions," Beals began sticking her toe back in the Hollywood pond, with supporting roles in "Vampire's Kiss" (1989) opposite Nicholas Cage, and a role in new husband Alexandre Rockwell's "Sons" (1989). Beals next portrayed the Dominican-American love interest of an aspiring director (Steve Buscemi) in Rockwell's Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner, "In the Soup" (1992) and went on to make her primetime television debut in 1992 on Aaron Spelling's short-lived soap, "2000 Malibu Road" (CBS). Beals was next recommended by former Yale classmate David Duchovny for the female lead in the Fox sci-fi series, "The X-Files" (1993-2002), but producer Chris Carter decided to cast then unknown actress Gillian Anderson instead. Undeterred, Beals next appeared opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh in Alan Rudolph's critically acclaimed take on the infamous wits of the Algonquin Round Table in "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994) in which Beals gave a convincing portrayal of the neglected wife of humorist Robert Benchley (Campbell Scott). She next appeared as the woman caught up in a political scandal opposite Denzel Washington in the detective mystery "Devil in a Blue Dress" (1995). Beals re-teamed once again with husband Rockwell in his segment of the independent collaboration "Four Rooms" (1995); offscreen however, the pair amicably ended their 10-year marriage.

Beals next appeared briefly in Whit Stillman's ensemble independent film, "The Last Days of Disco" (1998) and went on to portray a biracial woman who finds out that her mother was a slave in Showtime's Civil War-era "A House Divided" (2000). In 2001, Beals made a cameo in Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming's directorial debut, "The Anniversary Party." Portraying a photographer in the film, Beals got the chance to showcase her own photographic eye - a number of her photos from the set of the film were later published in national magazines. She went on to land supporting roles in the critically acclaimed indie film "Roger Dodger" (2002) and opposite John Cusack in "Runaway Jury" (2003). A turning point came for Beals in 2004 when she landed the role of Bette Porter on Showtime's racy lesbian drama, "The L Word." Portraying Bette Porter, a Yale educated, biracial art curator, Beals found herself back in the spotlight, some 20 years after her high profile turn in "Flashdance." The role also allowed Beals to explore a range of important topics - from homosexuality to being biracial - a subject that hit close to home with Beals and earned her a NAACP Image Award nomination. While working on the series, Beals continued to work in film, most notably in Takashi Shimizu's horror sequel, "The Grudge 2" (2006).