Farrah Fawcett became a massive celebrity following her stint on Charlie’s Angels – her signature hairstyle and “pin-up” status only served to bring her even more fame.
At the same time, Fawcett endured tough times in her life. She was involved in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against her former employer her love life was notoriously complicated from time to time.
In the 1990s, she was involved in a relationship with actor Ryan O’Neal, which was nothing if not chaotic. The saddest part of all, though, was that she eventually decided to break up with him because of one very shocking discovery.
Here’s all you need to know about cult actress Farrah Fawcett!
Farrah Fawcett was born on February 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas. She was the second daughter of mother Pauline and father Jim – her mother worked as a homemaker, her father as an oil field contractor.
Farrah Fawcett – early life
Farrah was actually named Ferrah – an Arabic word for joy – at birth. However, she decided to change it at a later stage.
Fawcett would become one of her generation’s most good-looking “golden girls.”
As reported by the Texas Monthly, her mother, Pauline, recalled that when she carried Farrah into a store, women stopped their cart to say, “She looks like an a-n-g-e-l.” Pauline also claimed that children around their neighborhood came to their house just to see her.
However, it wasn’t all positive for Farrah. Though her mother loved that people adored her daughter, it became a problem for her later on.
Farrah knew she was pretty, but that in itself posed problems for her.
“I always felt so self-conscious,” Farrah’s mother Pauline recalled the actress saying. “I wanted people not to look at me because so many people kept looking at me.”
Of course, looks aren’t everything, but there’s no denying that Fawcett’s appearance became a considerable part of her life.
Moving to Los Angeles
She was voted “Most Beautiful” by her classmates for three years running in high school. Then, after she moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas in 1965, she was again voted “Most Beautiful” during her freshman year.
Fawcett studied microbiology and art at the University of Texas. Just a year after she enrolled, however, a new kind of career began to gain speed.
After Farrah was voted one of the “Ten Most Beautiful” women at the University of Texas, a picture of her reached Hollywood PR man, David Mirisch. He thought she looked great, and decided to call her to try and get her to move to Los Angeles, where he said he could help her begin a modeling career.
Now, Mirsch had several other known clients, including Perry Como and Patt Boone. While Farrah was still studying, he phoned her to convince her to quit and make the move to Hollywood.
Fawcett wanted him to speak to her father, but Mirisch was persistent.
Finally, upon finishing her junior year, Farrah was convinced. She got her photo taken in a Texas Park by a photographer for the Texas Student Publications. Her idea was to go to Los Angeles for a short time to see what it was like; she planned on returning to university for her senior year.
Farrah Fawcett – ‘Charlie’s Angels’ & legendary poster
As we now know, that never happened.
Fawcett moved to Los Angeles, and it wasn’t long before she had signed a contract with Screen Gems that reportedly paid her about $350-a-week. She began appearing in commercials such as Wela Balsam and Ultra-Brite toothpaste, whilst also doing work for Max Factor and Mercury Cougar Cars.
Farrah wasn’t only a great model, but also a promising actress. She was soon appearing in television commercials and, after several more gigs as a model – which entailed posing on dozens of magazine covers – she began getting jobs as an actress in the mid-1960s.
She initially appeared in television series such as I Dream of Jeannie, The Partridge Family, and The Flying Nun.
At that time, Farrah was on a steady rise towards fame. Then, everything changed in 1976, as she became world-famous thanks to two jobs.
Famed television producer Aaron Spelling had cast Farrah in the 1975 television movie Murder on Flight 502. Through that, he had been left very impressed with her acting.
Afterwards, he decided to cast her in a brand new television show named Charlie’s Angels, a show which would center around three female detectives.
“We were looking for the California beach-girl type, and Farrah was perfect for that,” he wrote in his 1996 memoir A Prime-Time Life. “She was drop-dead gorgeous and the living image of the beautiful L.A blonde in tennis shorts or a bathing suit.”
“Her hair helped make the show”
The show aired in September, 1976, and though critics were rather harsh, the fans loved it.
Farrah starred as agent Jill Munroe, appearing alongside Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith on the show. According to Spelling, she was the main reason Charlie’s Angels was received so well among viewers.
“We thought about changing it for a moment in the beginning, and had we been doing a traditional cop show, we would have,” he wrote. “But her hair helped make the show. It became one of our signatures.”
Fawcett’s hair became a huge thing worldwide, and the actress from Texas quickly turned into a huge celebrity. In 1996, the New York Times even declared that Farrah might have had the most famous hair of the seventies, perhaps even of all time.
“Her feathered, high-lighted, layered phenomenon was a work of art that looked as if it had just come out of the sea and had been tossed by the wind into a state of careless perfection. Farrah’s hair was emblematic of women in the first stage of liberation – strong, confident, and joyous – before the reality of mortgage payments and single parenthood set in,” the Times wrote, as quoted by Texas Monthly.
Yet after just one season of Charlie’s Angels, Farrah had enough.
Sued for breach of her contract
She felt that the production’s long hours weren’t great, and the script wasn’t good enough. As a result, she declared her contract invalid and left.
What followed was a lawsuit against her for $7 million for breach of contract. In a settlement, Fawcett later agreed to return for six more episodes. She appeared in only 29 episodes out of 115 – but was still the giant star.
“I left Charlie’s Angels because I felt creatively stifled,” Farrah said.
“Now, when I go back to Charlie’s Angels, it is much better. I have a chance to work with the writers on the script and the director. I can treat it like a business, I could not do that before, I was hurt at first because I was sued.”
She added: “I read things in the press that hurt, like things that girls had said. All of that is past now. We are all friends again. I feel much better.”
Not only did Fawcett become a major Hollywood celebrity through Charlie’s Angels, but she also appeared on a poster which pretty much changed her life.
In 1976, the same year as the drama television series aired for the first time, she appeared on a poster wearing a one-piece red bathing suit. It became one of the best-selling posters of all time – and helped turn her into the global star she became.
“The combination of that poster with Charlie’s Angels was a phenomenon that was hard to escape. Something like 12 million boys plus had that poster on their walls, so it’s hard to avoid the big smile, big hair, and that bathing suit,” Mike Pingel told Closer.
“I am constantly watched”
At the same time as Fawcett became known worldwide, life as a celebrity wasn’t always great.
In a 1979 interview, she stated that writers could make up stories about her because they knew they would sell.
“I go through life thinking everything is wonderful,” Farrah Fawcett said. “People keep things from me. I don’t read most of the things about me. You almost have to quit reading to keep from being hurt. Writers write unflattering things bout you because that sells.”
“Sometimes I get very sad,” she added. “I just want to go out and be myself; I would like to just go shopping or go to the movies and buy popcorn and sit quietly in the audience. But I am constantly watched. Things like going to dinner with friends become very precious.”
She’s spoken several times about how she wants to have control of all aspects of her life and brand. Yet, as we all know, Hollywood can be a notoriously harsh environment to work in.
Farrah Fawcett – private life, husband, children, marriage
“I think what has bothered me the most was all of the merchandising. Things over which I had no control: the bedsheets and things like that. I didn’t, like any of that, but there wasn’t much that could be done about it,” she explained.
The beginning of the 1980s was tough on Fawcett, as she continued her career in television. She got plenty of roles, but no performance that could cement her role as a great actress.
Then, in 1984, Farrah produced and starred in the television The Burning Bed, for which she earned national recognition and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special.
Five years later, she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special in Small Sacrifices. Then, in 2001, she earned a third nomination for her work in The Guardian.
At the same time as Fawcett grew into a cult figure, her private life was a rocky one. She was married to Lee Majors between 1973 and 1982, but she’s also had several high-profile relationships over the years, including one with Canadian filmmaker James Orr.
The one that became most famous – and perhaps more important to Fawcett – was her long-term relationship with actor Ryan O’Neal.
Relationship with Ryan O’Neal
O’Neal saw Fawcett for the first time in 1979. He was a good friend of Lee Majors, said he’d caught a glimpse of a “beautiful girl,” one day. That girl turned out to be Farrah.
“She’s delightful, full of childlike warmth,” O’Neal wrote in his 2012 book Both of Us: My Life with Farrah. “There is no pretense or cattiness about her whatsoever, she’s vibrant and wholesome, refreshing in this town.”
When Majors was out of town one night, he asked O’Neal to take Farrah to dinner. They pair went out, O’Neal soon became a member of Lee Major and Farrah Fawcett’s inner circle.
As he spent more time with the couple, he also got a front-row seat to watch their marriage breaking down.
“They were saying the marriage was over, and I was saying they were terrific together,” O’Neal recalled.
“She said, ‘Lee, remember when we were first married, and we were in Nevada, and you’d leave me in some dinky cabin and go to a bar? You’d tell me to get undressed and get in bed and wait for you, but you never came back.’ His answer was ‘Same man now as I was then.’”
Though Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors didn’t divorce until 1982, the couple had separated by 1979.
Walked in on her boyfriend with another actress
As for Fawcett and O’Neal, they didn’t hide their relationship – though O’Neal was one of Majors’ friends – and even kissed in front of the press while being asked questions.
“Farrah and I have no plans to marry — nor do we have plans to separate,” O’Neal said. “Don’t fix what ain’t broken.”
In 1985, Fawcett gave birth to the couple’s son, Redmond O’Neal. However, the relationship didn’t last forever.
In 1997, Farrah Fawcett reportedly walked in on her boyfriend with actress Leslie Ann Stefanso. In 1998, the couple split, but they reunited when O’Neal was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. Five years later, Farrah Fawcett was diagnosed with cancer herself, and Ryan dedicated his time to taking care of her.
“The hair is gone,” he told People while he was watching over her.
“Her famous hair. I have it at home. She didn’t care. I rub her head. It’s kind of fun, actually, this great, tiny little head. How she carried all that hair, I’ll never know. She doesn’t have a vanity about it.”
“It’s a love story. I just don’t know how to play this one. I won’t know this world without her. Cancer is an insidious enemy,” O’Neal added.
Farrah Fawcett – cause of death, net worth
On June 25, 2009, Farrah Fawcett passed away, age 62. Her son Redmond lost his mother, and Ryan O’Neal lost his soulmate. Furthermore, the world lost an incredible star. At the time of her death, Farrah was said to have had a net worth of around $20 million.
In his book, O’Neal explained how Farrah passed away in his arms.
“After the priest leaves, I lie down next to her, wrap my body around her to keep her warm, and then take her hand. I can feel a steady pulse… I caress her hand for hours. Her heart refuses to quit,” O’Neal wrote in Both Of Us: My Life With Farrah.
“I’m left alone with my love. I take her hand. I can still feel her pulse, but now it is fluttering. She’s trying to let go. Her heartbeat slows, then disappears. On the morning of June 25, Farrah slips into eternal sleep.”
Even though O’Neal got to spend three decades with Farrah, he still harbors regrets about the past.
“I would have been much kinder, more understanding, more mature,” he told People, saying he wished he could have a do-over.
“I’d lose some of the savagery. I don’t know how she got cancer; maybe some of it was me.
“But ultimately, there was never a day I didn’t love her.”
Farrah Fawcett turned into a Hollywood legend, and we will never forget her many performances on-screen.
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