“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life, The Facts of Life.” Now that you’re probably singing the theme song of the classic 80s sitcom, it’s time to blow your mind with the fact that Lisa Whelchel, a.k.a. pretty rich girl Blair Warner, is turning 50 today! Blair, er, Lisa looks remarkably much the same as she did when she was hanging out with Natalie, Jo, Tootie, and Mrs. Garrett in their Peekskill boarding school. But since the show ended in 1988, the actress has taken on many different roles—wife, stay-at-home mom of three, author, inspirational speaker, divorcee, empty nester, Survivor survivor, and now reborn actress.
As Lisa was getting ready to celebrate her b-day “like a football player at the Super Bowl”—(she’s going to Disney World with her grown children, their significant others, and her ex-husband)—the down-to-earth TV star talked to BIO about turning 50 and shared some of “the facts of life” that she’s learned along the way.
Happy Birthday! How do you feel about turning 50? I feel great about it. What’s wonderful about 50 is that you’ve had 50 years to learn a few things and as much as I love youth, if I had to trade, I think I’d choose the experience I have now because I’ve learned what’s really important.
What’s your secret to looking as great as you do? Thank you. I guess it’s good genes—my mom and my grandmother have always looked young for their age. And, I have to say, I carry about 10 to 15 extra pounds and that plumps out lines quite nicely. So there is a silver lining in an ongoing weight struggle.
We all know and love you as Blair from The Facts of Life. You spent nine years growing up on that show. Are you sick of talking about it? It was such a wonderful chapter of my life I love talking about it. The cast and crew were wonderful, and I think I didn’t know enough to know that it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. If I had to come up with one word to describe it, it would be fun. Certainly there were parts that weren’t so pretty, but a lot of that had to do with going through puberty. That’s not such a pretty time, regardless of what you’re doing. It was really a wonderful experience.
Now that your kids are all grown up, how has it been dealing with an empty nest?
When I was younger, the question was, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ and now the question is ‘What do I want to be now that my kids have grown up?’ Yet, the answer is the same. I always loved acting, especially comedy. But it’s scary getting back into acting this time around because when I was a kid, I didn’t know how the odds were against me. It’s exciting, but also a little bit scary.
Speaking of exciting and scary, you decided to join the cast of Survivor last year as your marriage was ending. How did you survive Survivor?
Oh my word, it was harder than I ever imagined in every single way. Seeing it on television, just multiply that by 100. The bug bites and heat and rain and starvation —all of that—was probably the easiest part of it for me and that’s saying a lot because I was miserable. There was just an emotional battle going on within me, which ultimately was exactly what I wanted. I wanted an interior shift. I really wanted to trust the flow of life and let go a little bit. I wouldn’t know how to make that shift on my own, so Survivor really forced that. It’s like childbirth. It was so painful, but you do have the baby on the other side.
When things get overwhelming for you, how do you cope?
I stop and feel whatever it is I’m feeling and realize being human is the full orb of emotions, not just the good ones, not just the success, but also the fullness of emotions. I think I could have been more like Teflon, which is shiny and slick but nothing sticks. I want to be more like Velcro in the second half of my life—a little bit loopy, full of holes, probably has collected some lint along the way, but at least it has the ability to connect and really hold on.
What’s your idea of happiness?
I’m going to spend a couple of years in L.A. to see if I can work as an actress, but ultimately, whenever my kids start having kids, I want to take whatever I have of retirement...if I need to, I’ll just get a mobile home in an affordable area of the country and have a place for my grandkids to come so I can be a part of their lives. As long as I have enough money to cook big meals for my family and we can be together—that’s the goal for me.
Are there any upcoming projects fans can look forward to? Do you have any dream projects you want to make happen now?
I had a small part in Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas and that will be out in December. That was really fun. And I’d really love to do a sitcom. I have an idea of doing a sitcom with my daughter who is 20 and moving to L.A. She’s just a delightful actress, and I’d love to do a sitcom with her.
Would you like to see Lisa return to TV? Tell us in the comments below.