Despite the fame she was entitled to, being born to one of the most sought-after leading men of the early Hollywood years, Jane has always felt a nagging sense of insecurity. Beautiful and extremely talented, Jane’s family life resembled nothing of the glitz and glamor people expect those who are in show business are enjoying on and off cam. The baggage of her childhood would haunt her until she reached her golden years.
It was only then that she re-examined her life and began to forgive her parents for not loving her the way she expected to be loved. Jane’s issues manifested in how she chose her path and the men she married. Three times she was divorced, all of them high-profile separations. Jane went through the darkest phase of her life without showing any hint of misery. She isn’t a seasoned actress for nothing.
But even as she has convinced the public that she’s at the top her game and got everything under control, she wrote everything she went through in her memoir. It came as a shock to everyone, knowing Jane as a flamboyant, bubbly personality. The world had no idea that all along she felt inadequate, unloved, lonely, and sad. Until she found the answers to her questions through Christianity.
Although she had to let go of Ted Turner, Jane knew that she has stumbled upon the answers to her questions. Her faith now stronger, she tells people her age about the importance of changing our views on aging and death. What she realized as she grew older is that little of the things she used to worry about before mattered now. After three failed marriages, she vowed not to ever get married but that doesn’t keep her from giving love another chance. She’s now dating Richard Perry, a dance enthusiast like herself.
Jane’s life is a story worth telling for the inspiration it gives to people who think that there’s no longer hope. It’s a validation of the human spirit’s resilience. Her life was not ideal and resembles that of an ordinary person. What made it special was how extraordinarily brave she was in facing life’s obstacles. She almost gave up but she never retreated. Jane Fonda now exemplifies not only how actresses should be but how a woman of this age should face adversities.
Jane Fonda’s Childhood
Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda or simply “Jane Fonda,” is the daughter of the dashing Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour Brokaw born on 21 December 1937. Coming from a well-to-do family, Jane had everything she needs except for the time of her parents. For some reason, her mother always thought she wasn’t good enough and resorted to having just about any physical enhancements there was. She was manic-depressive and it didn’t help that Henry was always out filming. Jane’s childhood was awkward. Her parents were very loving in their own strange way but it was as if they weren’t seeing Jane as she was.
For the longest time, Jane has seen her parents being together yet not really connecting. When she was around 12 years old, Henry and Frances were divorced. Her mother was institutionalized. Jane and her brother, Troy, were witnesses to their mother’s gradual deterioration. Until one day, while she was upstairs with Troy, she heard her mother’s car pull over their garage. She asked her brother not to go down but he did anyway. That was the time her mother “died.” It took Jane years and years to forgive herself for not going downstairs that day. Something in her doubted if she ever loved her mom the way daughters are expected to adore their mothers.
When she was 14 and attending a private school, someone passed her a magazine containing a write-up about her mother’s death. That’s when she found out that her mother committed suicide and did not really die of a heart attack. Her father married Susan Blanchard when Jane was 14 years old. Then she opted to be sent to a boarding school where she met Carol Bentley.
Carol was her roommate and had a profound influence on her. Jane was growing up into a pretty girl albeit being a tad meatier than other girls. Teenage years were a pivotal period for girls and all Jane felt that time was the pressure of being able to fit in. She found solace in eating which took a toll on her weight. Meeting Carol changed that. She was taught to just throw up after eating lots which developed into a serious eating disorder which we now call bulimia.
Jane Discovers Acting
Although her father was one of the biggest actors of his time, it didn’t occur to Jane to also try out acting. It didn’t strike her as something she’d like to pursue. When Jane was 15 years old, she taught dance at the Fire Island Pines, New York. She completed her secondary studies from the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. She then enrolled in Vassar College in Poughkeepsie but dropped out to pursue a modelling career.
She didn’t become interested in acting until she turned 17 years old and did a play for a charity event with her dad. She loved playing her character but was not really sure if she’s got the talent. Henry wasn’t good at making Jane feel that she’s got what it takes to become an actress. If anything, Jane felt like she wasn’t good enough.
It was Lee Strasberg’s wife who suggested that Jane take up acting class. She didn’t give it much thought at first and instead went to France to study art. Then she just missed acting so much that she agreed to enroll in Lee’s class in 1958. She sat behind Marilyn Monroe.
She never got any praise from Henry about her acting skills, so when Lee told her that she’s got real talent, it gave her a sense of urgency and inspired her to focus on acting. She felt so elated that acting was all she could think about.
Jane becomes an Actress
Two more years have passed before Jane landed a movie in 1960 titled “Tall Story” as June Ryder. The following year, she did three more films, "Period of Adjustment," “The Chapman Report” and "Walk on the Wild Side." Her role as Kitty Twist, a prostitute, in the "Walk on the Wild Side” gave Jane her first Golden Globe award for Most Promising Newcomer.
In 1963, Jane did two movies, “In the Cool of the Day” and “Sunday in New York.” Jane was beginning to attract publicity then—good and bad. While she was called the “loveliest actress” by some publishers, her detractors dubbed her as the worst. But it was her 1965 title role in “Cat Ballou” that made her into a bankable actress. She was 28 years old then and officially became a Hollywood star! It was also that year when Jane married French director Roger Vadim.
After the “Cat Ballou” comedy film, Jane tried her hands at doing romantic dramas. She appeared as Anna Reeves in "The Chase," Renee Saccard in "The Game Is Over," and Ellen Gordon in "Any Wednesday." From wholesome movies, she became a sex symbol in “Barbarella,” a film her husband directed.
Her image would again be reprised upon playing Gloria in Sydney Pollack’s 1969 film, “They Shoot Horses, Don't They?” After almost a decade in show business, Jane Fonda finally garnered her first Academy Award nomination. She just gave birth to her daughter, Vanessa, then. She did not appear in any movies until 1971. Alan J. Pakula sent her the script of what would then be called “Klute,” a thriller movie about a mystery murder. Her marriage with Roger was then hanging in the balance, mainly because of her own doing. She said her husband would come home with another woman and she allowed that because she didn’t want to disappoint him.
As a student of method acting, she went out to meet with call girls so she could better portray the character of Bree Daniels, the lead role in “Klute.” Their life shocked her and she told Alan she can’t be Bree thinking she’ll never do justice to the character. But Alan refused to take no for answer and she ended up playing the role herself which gave Jane her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1971. She said she took inspiration in Roger’s call girls.
The Controversy in Hanoi, Vietnam and Reconciling with Her Father
Just about the time she began acting in the 1960s, Jane also began getting active in movements, such as those that oppose the war in Vietnam. Jane would be embroiled in a black publicity in 1972 when she was photographed singing and clapping with Vietcong soldiers, considered to be America’s enemies. Because of that, Jane was criticized and branded a traitor by many veterans. Jane would live to see some of those who fought in the Vietnam War seething with contempt for her because of that photograph.
Jane finally decided to end her marriage with Roger the following year after the Hanoi Jane controversy and tied the knot with activist, Tom Hayden. In 1977, Jane received BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress, and an Oscar nomination for "Julia." It was followed by another big project, “Coming Home,” where she played the role of Jon Voight’s wife. It was that movie that gave Jane her second Oscar trophy.
When she was able to set up her own production company, Jane had more opportunity to do the film she preferred. This resulted in “Nine to Five” a critically-acclaimed film produced in 1980. In 1981, Jane finally decided to patch things up with her father who she never felt comfortable being with since she was a child. As a mother of two—she has given birth to a baby boy they named Troy—she was compelled to bridge the gap between them by choosing just the perfect film. That came to be as “On Golden Pond.” She starred as Henry’s daughter and Katharine Hepburn played the role of her mother. It was a huge success, and gave his father his first and only Oscar trophy. He was too sick to receive it so Jane did in his behalf. Henry died a happy man five months later.
Releasing the Bestselling Exercise Videos
In 1982, Jane released her first exercise video called "Jane Fonda's Workout." The VHS copies sold like pancakes and Jane became known not only as an actress but also as an aerobics “trainer.” Overall, she released 23 workout videos with the series selling a total of 17 million copies combined—still undefeated in the workout videos history up to now.
Marrying and Divorcing Ted Turner
In 1986, Jane did “The Morning After,” getting yet again another Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She then announced her retirement. Jane and Tom’s marriage was not holding up without any cause to fight for. With both of them being activists, they needed to have a crusade for them to stay interested in each other.
They divorced in 1989. She wasn’t doing any films then and was going through menopause. Ted Turner, after hearing of her divorce, began calling her for a date. Assuming that she was a communist, Ted bragged about having communist friends just to impress her. They were a good match and Jane felt comforted that somebody was telling her that he needed her.
For a time, Jane and Ted were a happy couple. They were content and were happily in-love. But all that would come to an end as Jane neared her 60th birthday and began questioning her purpose in life. She made friends with Christians who taught her about Jesus Christ.
Jane, without telling Ted, felt that they weren’t seeing eye to eye anymore. What made matters worse was Jane wanted to slow down, while Ted was unwilling to do so being a business tycoon and all that. Her feminist views also clashed with Ted’s conservative take on marriage. Before they knew it, the marriage was falling apart. It was difficult for both of them but Jane had to let go of Ted so she could finally seek answers to her questions that she couldn’t leave unanswered.
Arriving at an Answer
Jane decided to get to know herself even before she was born. She began by getting to know each of her family members. She found out that her mom was a victim of child abuse, which affected her psychological balance. It made her forgive her easily and so she was able to move on.
Jane decided to write a memoir, “My Life So Far.” It became a bestseller and inspired readers to become comfortable in their skin and to welcome aging. The third act, as she called her life from the time she turned 60, is the time when people become happier and less stressed over a lot of things. She released her book for more adolescents to make better choices whilst they are young in line of her crusade for women and girls’ well-being.
Going Back to Acting
2005 became Jane’s second birthday. She became a whole new person. First, she went back to acting and graced the movie “Monster In Law,” acting opposite Jennifer Lopez. It was also in that year that she co-founded the Women's Media Center. Because of her involvement in the humanitarian sector and her achievements in the film industry, she was awarded the New York Women's Agenda Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Jane surprised the world when she released two new fitness videos on DVD in 2010, looking as fit as ever in her 70s. She felt like she could do more so she published her second memoir, "Prime Time: Making the Most of Your Life" just recently.
Clearly, Jane is the embodiment of a life well-lived. She encourages older people to re-examine their lives in order to change the coming generation’s way of thinking:
"If we can go back and redefine ourselves and become whole, this will create a cultural shift in the world, and it will give an example to younger generations so that they can reconceive their own lifespan." (Source: Dotsub.com)
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention
- Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at the Emory School of Medicine
- Women's Media Center
- IPC Films
- Civil Rights Movement
- Vietnam Veterans Against the War
- Indochina Peace Campaign
- Feministiskt initiativ
- Alzheimer's Association
- Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
- Elton John AIDS Foundation
- Heifer International
- Peace Over Violence
Awards and Achievements
- 1962: Role in "Walk on the Wild Side" earned her a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer
- 1969: "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" earned her first Oscar nomination
- 1971: Won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for "Klute"
- 1977: Received BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress, and an Oscar nomination for "Julia"
- 1978: Won another Oscar for "Coming Home"
- 1981: Awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award
- 1982 to 1995, 2010: Produced and starred in exercise videos
- 1982: Released her first exercise video, "Jane Fonda's Workout"
- 1986: "The Morning After" earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress
- 1994: Made a Goodwill Ambassador by the UN
- 2004: Awarded the Women's eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century award as one of Seven Who Change Their Worlds
- 2005: Co-founded the Women's Media Center
- 2005: Published "My Life So Far"
- 2007: Received an Honorary Palme d'Or by Cannes Film Festival President Gilles Jacob for career achievement
- 2008: Inducted into the California Hall of Fame
- 2009: Received the New York Women's Agenda Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2010: Released two new fitness videos on DVD
- 2011: Published "Prime Time: Making the Most of Your Life"
- Won two Academy Awards, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes
- Released 23 workout videos with the series selling a total of 17 million copies combined
- Released five workout books and thirteen audio programs
- Received a Tony Award nomination for There Was a Little Girl
YouTube (Jane Fonda TV)
Look To The Stars (Jane Fonda Charity Work, Events and Causes)
JaneFonda.com (About My Faith)
JaneFonda.com (About My Non-Profit Work)
Wikipedia (Jane Fonda)
IMDb (Jane Fonda)
Biography.com (Jane Fonda Biography)
TEDx Women (Jane Fonda)
Dotsub.com (Transcript for Jane Fonda: Life's third act)
CNN (Larry King Live: Interview with Jane Fonda)