Most of us recognize Jane Fonda from her extremely popular workout videos in the 80s and 90s. However, this lady is much more than a fitness instructor. Jane Fonda used to be a model and is considered one of the most talented actresses of all time. Throughout her successful career, Fonda has won two Academy Awards, two BAFTAs, four Golden Globes, a Primetime Emmy, the AFI Achievement Award, and the Honorary Golden Lion.
As a dazzling Hollywood star, Jane Fonda seems to have it all, but things aren’t always how they seem. On the surface, Jane Fonda is a beautiful woman with a great body. But sadly, she never really saw herself that way. The actress dealt with eating disorders and constant criticism about her appearance. The superstar overcame it all, and at 82 years old, she’s still killing it and looking great.
This is the life and career of Jane Fonda.
A Star is Born
On December 21st, 1937, Jane Fonda was brought into the world by legendary actor Henry Fonda, and troubled socialite Frances Ford Brokaw. She certainly inherited her dad’s acting genes. Her baby brother Peter Fonda also wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He made a name for himself in a revolutionary movie you may have heard of – Easy Rider.
At the start of her career, Fonda was a model. She was known for her good looks and sex appeal when she starred in movies like Barbarella. But it did pay off in the long run. She was named number 21 on Empire Magazine’s list of the “sexiest stars of all time” in 1994.
Her Royal Bloodline
Jane Fonda is anything but an ordinary girl. In addition to being a talented actress, fitness guru, writer, activist, and former model, Fonda is also a descendant of a queen of England. That’s right. She comes from royal blood, and for some reason, that doesn’t shock me. I could totally see her as a princess.
She was born Jane Seymour Fonda, and her mother, Frances Ford Seymour, can be traced back to the Jane Seymour lineage. She was actually one of Henry VIII’s “lucky” wives and died due to natural causes. Knowing Fonda’s bloodline, it makes sense that she is poised, beautiful, and aged so gracefully. After all, she is royalty… technically.
Ballet Dancer to Fitness Empire
Most of the world recognizes Jane Fonda as being a fitness guru. But how did it start? Well, Fonda took ballet lessons growing up. After she hurt herself during practice, the dancer began taking strengthening exercises and aerobics to compensate for her injury. Soon after, the Jane Fonda Workout was invented.
It was the start of Jane’s second career, and it was a smashing success. Over 22 popular workout videos have been launched since 1982. Now, decades later, she has sold over 17 million copies of her video, and the empire she built is still going strong. She wrote a workout book that stayed on the number one seller’s list for more than six months.
Feel The Burn
If you’re remotely into exercising, or even just moving in general, you probably heard the phrase “feel the burn.” As it turns out, the popular term was coined by none other than Jane Fonda. The actress reinvented herself in the 1980s. Her fitness empire was growing, and her workout videos were incredibly popular.
Jane caught the attention of many other trainers who were impressed by her work. Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels called Jane Fonda her idol. She even put a spin on her famous catchphrase and added, “feel the fear.” So next time you’re at the gym, and someone says “feel the burn,” you have Jane Fonda to thank… or to hate.
Adopting a Child
Mary Luana Williams was the daughter of parents who were members of the Black Panthers, the infamous African American rights movement. The girl was raised as a revolutionary, and sadly, her mom and dad were killed for being members of the group. Williams and Jane Fonda met at the summer camp that she was sponsoring.
Throughout the years, their relationship grew stronger, and Jane took Mary under her wing. She eventually adopted her. Fonda was there to love and support Williams the way she needed to be and deserved. With Fonda’s help and encouragement, Williams was later able to give back to other people. Fonda is more than just a pretty face; she has a heart of gold.
Under the Watchful Eye of the FBI
The multi-talented star had a pretty hectic schedule, but there is one thing she always made time for. Fonda is a huge activist and always stands up for what she believes in. She can’t stand the injustice that goes on in America, and everywhere else in the world. Fonda spent the 1960s and 1970s supporting the Black Panthers in more than one way.
She helped with financial donations, posted bail money for their political prisoners, and so much more. Jane Fonda was being closely watched by the FBI because of her affiliation with the Black Panther organization. Even her phone calls with her husband were reordered and submitted to the government. It sounds a bit extreme if you ask me.
She was Called Anti-American
As we mentioned, Jane Fonda isn’t one to sit around and keep her mouth shut. Especially when she strongly believes in a cause. She has all the traits to be an extremely dedicated activist. She was involved in activism opposing the Vietnam War and supported the Civil Rights Movement. At the time, her progression wasn’t exactly welcomed.
Because of her involvement and support of organizations like the Black Panthers, and being Huey Newton’s (the leader’s) associate, many people referred to Fonda as anti-American. This landed her in some hot water because the state didn’t approve of her behavior. In fact, she nearly got arrested for treason. Thankfully, times have changed.
Stripping With MJ
This former model and fitness queen once got down and dirty with the King of Pop… well, sort of. I mean, it makes sense that two talented stars would cross paths, but it might not be exactly what you’re thinking. During the Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood Masters series, Jane recalled her experience with Michael Jackson.
So we’re taking it back to the early 1980s. Fonda was filming On Golden Pond, alongside her dad, Henry Fonda, and Katharine Hepburn. One day, Michael Jackson showed up on the New Hampshire set to visit Fonda. Legend has it, Jackson stayed for ten days, and the actress even went skinny dipping with the singer. Seems innocent enough, but it was considered more scandalous at the time.
Struggles with Self-Confidence
Every single person experiences self-doubt. Even a gorgeous former model and fitness instructor like Jane Fonda. It may be surprising, but the beautiful actress wasn’t always happy with herself. Given her environment, Jane Fonda constantly felt pressured to be skinny, and she was put under a microscope for the public eye. The entertainment industry can really take a toll on a person’s confidence.
Sadly, the stunner suffered from both anorexia and bulimia for more than 20 years. She eventually took her suffering and put it to good use. She got involved in organizations that were specifically dedicated to women’s health and well-being. She also established the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, located in Atlanta. She’s also a co-founder of the Women’s Media Center.
As we know, Jane Fonda followed her dad, Henry Fonda’s footsteps and became an actress. However, that didn’t mean she had an easy relationship with him. The father-daughter actually had a difficult time connecting, and they were estranged for many years. She did try to repair their relationship by purchasing a script called On Golden Pond.
She believed acting alongside her father can help strengthen their relationship, and it seemed to have worked. The film ended up being a major success. Henry won the Academy Award for Best Actor in the movie, but he was sick, so Jane accepted it on his behalf. Unfortunately, he passed away just five months later. Luckily, they got to do this project together before his death.
Marilyn Monroe was in her Class
It’s always been clear that Jane inherited a lot of her talent from her dad, Henry Fonda. Because she had star quality flowing through her blood, she got an incredible opportunity. Fonda was accepted into exclusive private classes with a renowned acting coach, Lee Strasberg. She made friends with one of her classmates.
However, she didn’t realize her friend would one day become an iconic, timeless bombshell recognized all around the world. Yep. Jane Fonda and the legendary Marilyn Monroe attended classes together. I can picture them sitting in the back of the class like the two “cool girls” they are. Jane revealed that Monroe “was so scared she never did anything.” Who would have thought?
Destroyed by Imperfections
Being involved in the modeling world and the critical public eye wasn’t the only contributing factors to Fonda’s eating disorders. The beautiful actress was also extremely affected by her father’s behavior. At the age of 78, the former model finally revealed some dark secrets from her past.
She said: “My father would send my stepmother to tell me to lose weight and to wear longer skirts.” She went to explain how she also told her to “change physically if I wanted a boyfriend.” Yikes! That’s one way to rip the self-esteem out of a child. Jane never revealed which one of his dad’s wives did this to her – he was married five times.
Jane wasn’t the only one affected negatively by Henry’s behavior. He seemed to have this effect on all the women in his life, including Fonda’s mother, Frances. She, too, suffered from an eating disorder and was overly obsessed with how she looked. All his other wives had similar tendencies. I guess he has a type?
Frances even went as far as to get plastic surgery. Sure, it’s common nowadays, but back then, it was a pretty big deal. She once told her daughter that if she ever gained weight, she would cut it off with a knife. I don’t even know how to respond to such a shallow and ridiculous comment. Jane explained that’s why she “instinctively chose men who would never notice because of their own addictions and issues.”
Swears To Never Get Married Again
Jane got married and divorced a total of three times. The first time she walked down the aisle, it was to a director named Roger Vadim. When that relationship ended, Jane tied the knot with an activist named Tom Hayden. After they split up, the actress married Ted Turner- CNN founder. They got divorced in 2001.
From 2009 to 2017, Fonda dated record producer Richard Perry. However, don’t expect anyone to put a ring on it ever again. After her third marriage didn’t work out, Jane vowed she would never marry again. At the age of 80, the star revealed a big secret that happened between her last divorce and her latest relationship.
She was Celibate for Seven Years
Jane Fonda admitted that she was actually celibate for seven years of her life. I know this may sound shocking, but it helped her get through it all. She was finally able to see herself as an individual instead of feeling like she didn’t exist without a man. Throughout her life, the former model felt like she needed to be “validated by men.”
Becoming celibate was a way to prove to herself that she is “fine” being alone. In fact, ever since she and Perry called it quits, she decided to try celibacy again. She told Extra, “I’m 80… I’ve closed up shop down there!” That’s pretty understandable. She’s 82 years old now, and I must say, she doesn’t look a day over 60.
She Almost Played Bonnie Parker
Everyone has heard of the classic Bonnie and Clyde, criminals on the run bonded by love. What you may not know is that Fonda almost got a role in the movie based on the tragic love story. She was on the shortlist to portray real-life robber Bonnie Parker. She was excited to work alongside Warren Beatty’s Clyde Barrow, but unfortunately, she couldn’t accept the role, as it conflicted with her filming schedule for the movie, Barbarella.
Faye Dunaway ultimately took the role, and the actress was nominated for an Academy Award. Even though it would have been a great role for her, Jane has done well for herself either way. She has been nominated for an Oscar five other times and won twice for Best Actress.
Cosmetic Surgery Regrets
In Jane Fonda Five Acts, the starlet’s recent HBO documentary, the former model explained that the reason she got plastic surgery was that she “got tired of looking tired.” The beautiful actress chose to get cosmetic surgery on her jawline and under her eyes to make her face look less “droopy.”
Jane is happy with the results, likes her appearance, and feels much better. However, she did say that she wishes she could have accepted her natural appearance: “I wish I wasn’t like that. I love older faces. I love lived-in faces. I love Vanessa Redgrave’s face.” Sadly, sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. No matter how beautiful you are, we all have demons.
Working with Lohan
In 2007, Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan met because they were working together on Georgia Rule. Allegedly, Lindsay was partying too hard all the time, so the head of the movie’s studio wrote a public letter slandering the actress. He called her “unprofessional” and having “irresponsible” behavior. He even accused Lohan of acting “like a spoiled child.”
Fonda was later asked for her reaction, and what kind of advice she gave to the young star. Apparently, Fonda said to her, “Come live with me for a while and get a sense of what normal is supposed to look like.” It’s just like Fonda to take people in who need help. Unfortunately, and predictably, Lindsay never took her up on that offer.
Honors and Awards
Fonda was made a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Population Fund back in 1994. This was just the beginning of the long string of awards and acknowledgments she earned for showing her devotion. She won the Women’s eNews 21 Leaders as one of Seven Who Change Their Worlds in 2004.
The star also won an Honorary Palme d’Or by the President of Cannes Festival, Gilles Jacob, for her career achievement. To get an idea of how special this award is, only three other people in the world have ever received it. In 2008, 2014, and 2018, she won various Lifetime Achievement awards. That’s extremely impressive. Good for her; she lived an accomplished life.
She Wouldn’t Say “Jesus Christ.”
If you are a Netflix fan, you may have noticed Jane Fonda on the show, Grace and Frankie. The 80-year-old actress plays Grace Hanson, a retired cosmetics mogul. One of the lines written for her character was “Jesus Christ,” however, Fonda refused to say that. The show’s writers didn’t have a problem respecting her request and changed the line.
They tweaked the dialogue into something the actress would feel more comfortable saying. After her marriage with Ted Turner ended, Fonda embraced religion and became a devout Christian. However, the feminist icon got a lot of criticism for choosing not to follow “established religion” and believing that “God is beyond Gender.”
Her Mom’s Death
In 1950, Jane’s mother, Frances, tragically took her own life. Her daughter Jane was just 12 years old. Mental Health was a taboo subject in the 50s, and people didn’t really understand it or talk about it. During the time of the suicide, Frances was undergoing treatment at Craig House psychiatric hospital. This happened about three and a half months after her husband, Henry Fonda, asked her for a divorce.
In her documentary, Jane spoke about what it was like growing up with a bipolar mother. Now that there is more awareness surrounding mental health, Jane learned to forgive her mom and understand her. But she explained how “As a child, you always think it was your fault… it takes a long time to get over the guilt.
Discovering the Truth
After her mom passed away, Jane’s dad told her and her brother that their mom died of a heart attack. He probably lied to them to protect them, but it didn’t take long for them to discover the truth. Fonda actually found out about how her mother died from a movie magazine she was reading. The actress was eventually able to get access to her mom’s medical records.
That’s when she found out that her mother was suffering from bipolar disorder- a severe mental disorder that often requires medication, so manage. At that point, Jane got the relief she needed. She finally understood that she wasn’t the reason her parents had issues. There was a lot more going on, and she actually felt bad for them.
Picking Herself Up
The incredibly talented two-time Academy Award Winner decided to retire from acting in the early 90s. For many celebrities, it can be hard to make a life outside of the public eye, but Fonda was different. She quickly noticed her unhappiness and decided to make a positive change and do something for herself.
She said: “I was 49 and I was really unhappy. I sat on the edge of my hotel room bed, and I was trying to envision a future myself, and I couldn’t. I thought, ‘I can’t keep doing this,'” It’s easy to get sucked into self-pity and depression, but Fonda stayed strong and actively made changes. She focused her energy on her marriage (with Ted Turner).
Her Unconventional Name and Spelling
When Jane was born, she was given the name Jayne Seymour Fonda. Obviously, she dropped the “y” in Jane and disregarded her middle name altogether. What she didn’t want to change was her last name, and used it as her professional name. The reason is pretty clear.
Henry Fonda was a beloved Hollywood actor. Keeping his last name gives her an advantage in the competitive world of showbiz. We see many stars steering away from their famous families to “make it on their own.” But Fonda took the benefits that came with being the daughter of a famous actor, and it worked out for her.
In 1960, Jane Fonda made her Broadway debut in the play “There Was a Little Girl.” From that point on, the rising star was featured in various Broadway productions up until 1964. At that point, she completely vanished from the sage for more than ten decades. I guess she got busy with her Hollywood career, and popular workout videos.
However, in 2009, she found her way back onto the stage- she was 72 years old! She worked as a stage actress once again in the production of “33 Variations. But many of her fans don’t see her absence as leaving the theater. They saw it more like a 45-year detour; that’s because of how amazing and natural she is on stage.
Spoiled Little Rich Kid
Jane Fonda is obviously a hard-working, talented star, but she wasn’t the most responsible child. In fact, she was pretty much the epitome of a spoiled rich kid. She had daddy’s money, power, and influence at the tip of her fingers. She was one of those children who can afford to waste time in school without worrying about grades.
Jane attended Greenwich Academy in Connecticut, the Emma Willard School in New York, and ultimately ended up in the renowned Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Allegedly, at each one of these schools, Jane just wandered aimlessly. She never ended up graduating. She dropped out and spent a few years in Europe after that. Many people think it’s another example of her being s spoiled rich girl.
Jane Fonda was interested in acting since she was 17, but her talent wasn’t noticed until she returned from her art school (that she didn’t graduate from). When she was 21, Fonda came back to America and met Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio. Her father told her she has an acting talent for years, but she thought he only said that because he’s her dad.
She assumed he was trying to be supportive and that he couldn’t give an unbiased opinion. But when Lee Strasberg told her she had some real acting skills, she believed him. At that point, she realized acting was more than a dream. This was something she can actually do. From that moment on, Jane took her career very seriously.
Business and Pleasure
After starring in the 1960’s romantic comedy Tall Story, her Hollywood status became ‘movie star.’ She was landing film roles left and right and appeared in numerous movies, including Period Adjustment, Sunday in New York, Cat Ballou, and Barefoot in the Park. Fonda also starred in Barbarella, another 1960’s movie that increased her stardom.
For Barbarella, the actress was paired up with director Roger Vadim… and that’s how she met husband number one. The couple got married in s small ceremony in August 1965, Jane was 28 at the time, and Roger was ten years older than her. He was also known to be a womanizer, and Jane was his third wife. The two eventually got divorced.
Husband Number Two
Her next husband was Tom Hayden. Like Fonda, he was also a social activist, so their union made total sense at the time. At this point in her life, Jane shifted her focus from making movies to making protests. Since she was secure financially, she was able to put her acting career on hold for a little while.
The Civil Rights power couple seemed to be going strong. They both stood up for what they believed in an even (unofficially) adopted a child together, which we previously mentioned- remember Mary Luana Williams? Unfortunately, the romance didn’t last. Hayden told Fonda that he wanted a divorce and is in love with another woman.
She Won on Oscar for a Vietnam War Movie
Ironically, when Fonda went back to acting after her political break, she starred in a movie called Coming Home. The story focuses on the challenges American soldiers face when they come home from war. It helps explain what it’s like to adjust back into civilian life after experiencing war. It was basically still a protest, just a different time.
Instead of focusing on the actual war head-on, Fonda wanted to concentrate on the aftermath. She wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the men who survived it and now have to continue living after witnessing death, trauma, extreme danger, and most-likely injuries. As expected, many American’s protested the movie.
Jane Fonda’s First Workout Video
In the 1980s, before there was YouTube to compete with, exercise videos were a thing. You were able to purchase VHS tapes to help you work out. Well, in 1982, Fonda created her first fitness video titled, “Jane Fonda’s Workout.” During that time, both men and women wanted to get their hands on one of her videos.
It quickly became the highest-selling video. Over the next 13 years, Fonda made a total of 22 videos and sold over 17 million copies. I mean, seeing a stunning woman working out is an easy sell. Guys want to look at her, and girls want to look like her. But what’s surprising is that she was 45 years of age when she started these videos. I know…
The Video Idea Came From her Workout Books
Since we’re in 2020, it may seem a little strange to make a workout video from a book, but back in the day, people got their information from paper and ink. That’s why the actress decided to create her own exercise books. There was no internet, which meant no YouTube. The only way for you to get to watch a video at home was through a VHS tape (RIP).
So, Fonda transformed her exercise books into videos. But she took her vision to the next level and did it 22 times! Videos back then cost about $10 to $20, so selling millions of them gave her a pretty nice paycheck. Life seemed so much simpler 35 years ago.
Her Third and Last Husband
In 1991, Fonda walked down the aisle for the third time. Only this time, it was with Ted Turner, the TBS owner. This marriage also marked the end of Fonda’s three-decade-long acting career. It’s not clear whether or not the career hiatus had to do with Turner. However, the timing seemed to make sense.
After her divorce with Hayden, it’s only natural for her to move on to a wealthier but less media-focused lifestyle. I mean, the last 30 years were overshadowed by turmoil and activism. Fonda and Turner lasted a decade before splitting up. Apparently, he chose to divorce Fonda because she was 64 and not yet over her youthful lifestyle – whatever that means. After their breakup, she went back to activism.
Returning to the Screen
After taking fifteen years off from her acting career, and 45 years since she did Broadway, Fonda came back. She graced us with her presence on the big screen when she was featured in Monster-in-Law. She also got back on stage to perform in the play 33 Variations. The actress also took back her reoccurring role in HBO’s The News Room.
In addition, she also came out with a documentary titled, Jane Fonda in Five Acts. The documentary touches on her entire life, from her childhood years through her acting career until her present-day life. If you ask me, the most amazing thing about the documentary is how incredible she looks at the age of 80! Maybe I should work out to Jane Fonda’s fitness videos.