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Jennifer Beals is an American actress who launched to stardom with the lead role in the 1983 hit Flashdance. She also starred on Showtime's The L Word.
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Born in Chicago in 1963, Jennifer Beals had just one small part in a film before she shot to stardom as Alex Owens in the 1983 hit Flashdance. After two decades performing in both independent and major motion pictures, alongside such actors as Nicholas Cage and Denzel Washington, Beals landed a leading role on Showtime's The L Word, which aired from 2004 to 2009. She continues to act in films and on TV.
Jennifer Beals was born on December 19, 1963, in Chicago, Illinois. She became interested in pursuing a career in acting after performing in her high school's production of Fiddler on the Roof, and studied at the Goodman Theater in Chicago before attending Yale University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature in 1987.
After just one minor role in the 1980 flick My Bodyguard, Beals landed the lead in 1983's Flashdance while studying at Yale. The role earned her a Golden Globe nomination and shot her to stardom. Many of the complicated dance scenes were performed by a double, and four different doubles appear in her audition scene, including one male dancer who donned a wig.
When Flashdance wrapped, Beals returned to college. She made one film during her summer break, The Bride, an interpretation of Bride of Frankenstein, starring alongside singer Sting of The Police. However, she turned down other acting opportunities, including a part in St. Elmo's Fire.
Beals's next major motion picture appearance was alongside Nicholas Cage in the 1989 dark comedy Vampire Kiss. In 1992, she starred in the TV show 2000 Malibu Road, which was canceled after one season. She then acted primarily in smaller, independent movies for several years, before making Devil in Blue Dress with Denzel Washington in 1995. She continued to work regularly throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, in indie films, as well as in non-leading roles in films like The Last Days of Disco, with Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale; The Anniversary Party, with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming; and Runaway Jury, with John Cusack and Gene Hackman.
A career-defining moment came in 2004, when Beals landed the part of Bette Porter on Showtime's The L Word. Beals insisted that her character be biracial, and she was heralded for bringing greater visibility to biracial women. The show aired for six seasons, and Beals was nominated for multiple NAACP Image Awards.
From 2009 to 2011, Beals had a recurring role on the FOX show Lie to Me, and then returned to her hometown to star in the TV cop drama The Chicago Code, which was canceled after one season.
In August of 2012, Beals began starring in a new web series, Lauren, for WIGS, a YouTube channel that produces an original content with female leads.
Beals is biracial. Her mother is an Irish American and her father is an African American, and she has said that she's always felt "other," or that she's lived outside the norm.
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Dance pioneers like Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly—remembered for his groundbreaking performance in 1952's Singin' in the Rain—truly set the stage for Hollywood's dance-film genre. John Travolta, Jennifer Beals, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and Natalie Portman are some of the performers who took up where Astaire, Rogers and Kelly left off, repopularizing dance on film for later generations. Biography.com's Famous Movie Dancers group examines the lives and careers of these high-stepping performers who will always be remembered for their unforgettable moves.
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