At the time of FLASHDANCE, was it generally known among the public that Jennifer Beals was biracial?
Like, was it mentioned in interviews and profiles of her?
Not at all. No one knew - it would have been a bit scandalous. As crazy as it seems.
But a couple of black people I knew had suspicions and said that she was.
My mom noticed and mentioned as soon as we left the theater. I thought she was crazy, but a few months later we saw an interview, where she discussed being bi-racial, and my mom mentioned how she always knew.
I'm black by the way.
I recall people mentioning/questioning it but don't recall a news story about it. Then again, I was very young.
I never heard it mentioned but I didn't read any interviews.
I knew, no one mentioned as a rumor in person, so I must've heard something about it on tv, or read something. It wasn't scandalous and it wouldn't have been even if it was better publicized. It was 1983 not 1953.
I don't think it was a huge secret or intentionally kept a secret. And, I don't think anyone cared. Frankly, I thought (at the time) that she was Italian.
I think people were more focused on her torn sweatshirt.
It was also widely known that Irene Cara wasn't actually black as she appears, but a dark skinned Hispanic.
It was well known enough that I think this fact later threw off the plot twists and revelations of the otherwise excellent "Devil In A Blue Dress".
R1 here - I guess it depended on your age and where you lived.
Most everyday white people did not know.
When Irene Cara first fell at her recital we all knew she had the guts of a proud, strong, black woman inside her somewhere. Bitch got up and started again. And that is when the magic happened!
She could always pass for white, but you can tell she's mixed if you look really hard. She is gorgeous and hasn't aged a day (did you see her in the audience at DWTS?). Her ethnic vagueness has enabled her to land roles that would otherwise likely go to white women.
There may have been speculation and rumors, but it wasn't confirmed until JET Magazine outed her.
Even then, she didn't discuss it much until later in her career.
"Fame costs. And this is where you start payin'. Unless your name is Irene Cara, in which case your bill has been paid in full; please proceed to stardom."
I recall it being mentioned when the movie came out, and without any fuss, in People or another national magazine.
"Or we'll make you star with Sting and you'll disappear."
Beals is gorgeous and if she had a bit more talent she could have been a big film actress.
Same with Cara, who wasn't beautiful but was extremely cute.
I wasn't around back then, but people must have been pretty naive not to know. I looked at pics of Jennifer Beals online and I could tell immediately she was mixed. Of course, mixed-race people weren't nearly as common back then as they are today. Tons of twentysomethings are black/white mixes.
Remember her follow up to Flashdance was that wack ass bride of Frankenstein movie with Sting? That quickly killed her mainstream career. I also remember years ago (90s?) she was on David Letterman talking about a trip to Italy with "my friend Gwyneth Paltrow" (before she became fishsticks Goop) and even then I couldn't figure out what was so great about Gwyneth that makes her able to worm her way into these friendships.
People in the 80s weren't as obsessed about racial and ethnic genetic traits and whether so and so was "mixed race"...if you were beautiful (Vanity, Beals)hot,talented,creative etc. you were in the club. There was far less race baiting in the media and far more integration and cultural blending in music. (Prince & The Revolution). It only lasted until maybe the late 80s ...by the time the 90s rolled around racial divides(at least in music) were becoming more noticeable.
She looked more biracial then than she does now.
I remember being more shocked finding out that she went to Yale, and was actually still a student there when she made Flashdance.
This was the time before young actresses lined up to interrupt their careers to go to the Ivies, the only ones who'd done so then were Jody Foster and Brooke Shields.
I remember reading articles during the release of Flashdance mentioning her being mixed and how it gave her an air of exoticism. It certainly wasn't considered controversial or questionable.
My God, do you people think the 80s was like the Jim Crow era?
Everybody I knew was aware Lisa Bonet from the Cosby Show was mixed and guess what?
Nobody gave a shit!
R20 True, Rae Dawn Chong was also a very hot thing at the time. She was in everything for a few years.
People were more shocked to find out that Beals didn't really dance at all in the film. She also didn't do the bike riding in the opening credits.
I was attending a high school for creative and performing arts in Pittsburgh in the mid 80's. I can't even begin to tell you how we were all so obsessed with Fame, Flashdance, and to a lesser extent, Footloose.
I remember see the promos for the movie before it came out(I'm two weeks older than Beals,btw)and she turned her head in one of the commercials with her face highlighted against an(ironically)white background and I said to my mother without hesitating,"that girl is black!" My mother refused to believe me and asked how was I so sure and I just knew. Well, a few week later the 'controversy' that she hadn't done her own dancing erupted along with the fact that she is biracial! Also, one of her costars in the movie, Kyle Heffner I think his name is, well both of his parents are black and look it! He says both he and Beals knew about each others background but did not discuss it.
Also a bit of trivia-did you guys know that the part came down to Beals and Demi Moore and that the producers brought in a few construction workers and show them the pics of Beals and Moore and asked the men "who would you rather?" They all unanimously said Beals and the rest is history!
R20 is correct, there was far less of a fixation on race. Everybody was fixated on the glamour of the movie, it really was a HUGE blockbuster hit. The camerawork, clothes and the music and dancing propelled it beyond belief.
From what I've heard, Flashdance was definitely a cultural "moment." And that torn sweatshirt thing was copied by women all over the country.
You don't really see movies having a huge impact on the culture in this day and age like they did in the past.
Poor Demi....that must have devastated her to hear that.
I remember it differently. I remember it being talked about in the media quite a bit. Maybe because I was in hs and my bff at the time was gorgeous and multiracial, so I was more aware of it thru her. She considered herself black, but had all the gradations of light v dark down and was really happy that someone that looked a lot like her was getting attention in the media because it reflected back on her. She got competitive with other 'light' or multiracial girls, but not white or dark girls. She considered herself better looking than Beals...and she was.
It wasn't well-known at the time. Beals herself how the producers asked her not to discuss it.
It may have been brought up in passing in some profile but the public was unaware.
Trojan Bellisario of Pretty Little Liars is part black, too. She and Beals are in a web series together. Who knew?
I thought she was half pony.
I was in early high school when this came out, and half my friends worshipped this movie and every last detail of it. They wanted to *be* Jennifer Beals. It was commonly known in my far flung burg that she was biracial, so I assumed it was everywhere. It seems pretty obvious to me.
Flashdance in general was one of the more annoying trends of the mid 80s, and considering the competition, that's saying something.
[quote]Beals is gorgeous and if she had a bit more talent she could have been a big film actress.
It wasn't a lack of talent that derailed Jennifer's trek to superstardom. It was sort of self-inflicted. She turned down MANY plum movie roles in favor of school. She was offered the female lead in "Purple Rain" but turned it down to go to Yale (it went to Apollonia and the rest is history). She was also offered a role in "St. Elmo's Fire" but turned it down, too, to stay in school. She once said that her agents have been pissed at her many times throughout her career because she turned down so much money and so many film offers. She's just one of those actresses who doesn't need to be a STAR. Doing small, arthouse films that mean something to her is her thing.
Yes, Kyle T. Heffner aka "Ritchie" from "Flashdance" is also mixed.
I remember being astonished to hear of Beals getting some "Black Woman of the Year" award shortly after the film came out, so it wasn't a big secret. I myself had no clue, but then I hadn't been paying that much attention to her.
And yes, that movie changed every women's clothing department in the country. Suddenly there was nothing for sale but sort, slouchy, off-the-shoulder casual stuff inspired by that movie. I couldn't find any professional wear.
[quote]You don't really see movies having a huge impact on the culture in this day and age like they did in the past.
What an idiotic thing to say.
r39 name one movie in the past 10 years that's had a big impact on the culture and influenced fashion.
Totally agree with R20. I don't remember the subject being brought up at all back then. People simply didn't care as much about things like that back then.
r39 movies don't have cultural and fashion impact anymore because they're all about robots or people in robot costumes causing explosions that involve other robots.
Kind of hard to adapt that to the average teen girl's wardrobe.
R36, she's been doing mostly television. I suppose it's because that's where the money is (not in art-house movies). Also, Jodie Foster took time to go to Yale and she was able to have a great film career. So going to college can't be an excuse for Beals.
Jodie Foster was THE child star of the 70s. Jennifer Beals hadn't had that much of a career before she went to Yale. She seems happy with her choices though, so I guess they were the right ones for her. I thought she was at her most convincing as an actress on the L Word, playing a character that seems the opposite of her real life personality.
Jennifer Beals seems like she didn't want superstardom, and just wanted to be a working actress. Being a superstar isn't for everyone.
Watching this right now. It isn't a story - its a series of set pieces.
Why the hell is she wearing a tuxedo at dinner with this guy?
In what universe is there a combination of a steel town dive bar and exotic/artsy burlesque show.
Only to people with two eyes.
People were more obsessed with her bra trick in the movie.
At the time, I don't think it was a question people were comfortable asking, in general.
This generational discomfort was perfectly expressed by Amy Poehler in a Parks & Rec ep, where she gives Ann (played by the biracial Rashida Jones) one of her patented bizarre compliments: "I’ve said this to you before and I know it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re thoughtful and you’re brilliant. And your ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot."
What can I say, we're the Flashdance generation.
It was well-known here in Chicago. She's grew up on the south side of Chicago and I believe she gave the "I never felt like I belonged because my father was black and my mother was white" speech.
What I also remember was the over-emphasis of her academic history. She attended a prestigious HS here in Chicago and was a full-time student at Yale when she got the role of Alex in Flashdance. She went on to finish her studies after filming ended.
The father was black. They lived in an African American neighborhood when he was alive. He died when she was ten. Then the family moved to Lincoln Park and she went to Francis Parker, a very toney prep school.
I did hear that in preparation for her role in Flashdance, Ms. Beals, although she had no formal skills in acting, or singing, or dancing, did "move in with a family of welders for a week."
Joke credit belongs to...??? Joan? Bette? Kathy? Mario? Waylon & Madam? Seacrest?