Born Mary Ferrah Leni Fawcett, on February 2, 1947, in the coastal city of Corpus Christi, Texas, she was the second daughter of Pauline, a homemaker, and Jim Fawcett, an oil field contractor. She later changed her name to Farrah. She attended John J. Pershing Middle School in Houston, Texas, a school which is now the magnet program for fine arts. From 1962-65, Fawcett attended W.B. Ray High School, where she held the title of “Most Beautiful Student” for all four years. In the fall of 1965, Fawcett enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin, where she planned to major in microbiology and joined the Delta Delta Delta sorority. The following year, a Hollywood publicist saw her photograph and asked her to come to California to work as a model.
Initially, her parents forbade her to go. However, in the summer of 1968, they conceded and accompanied Fawcett on her trip out west to Hollywood. Within two weeks of arriving, she landed a modeling contract. Immediately inundated with offers to star in TV commercials and print advertisements, Fawcett’s plan to return to school fell by the wayside. Fawcett remained in Hollywood and began a relationship with actor Lee Majors. The couple dated for five years before marrying on July 28, 1973. That same year, Majors began starring in his own hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, in which Fawcett made several guest appearances. On September 22, 1976, Fawcett debuted as former policewoman Jill Munroe in the TV series Charlie’s Angels. Also starring fellow beauties Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, the Aaron Spelling drama premiered to high ratings. The critics had a dimmer view but the public loved it and the three women were an overnight sensation. Shortly after the show debuted, a poster of Farrah dressed in a seemingly innocent red bathing suit sold 12 million copies.
The image, which catapulted Fawcett to superstardom, epitomized her perfect combination of girl-next-door innocence and blonde bombshell sexuality. Furthermore, the layered hairstyle that she sported became such an overwhelming trend with American women that a Farrah Fawcett shampoo was launched.
Despite her overwhelming popularity, Fawcett didn’t return for the second season of Charlie’s Angels. Spelling, who wielded a large amount of power in Hollywood, sued the actress for breech of contract. Faced with a $7 million lawsuit, Fawcett settled out of court by agreeing to make periodic guest appearances on the show over the next two years.
Fawcett turned her attention toward film roles, appearing in Logan s Run (1976), Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978), Sunburn (1979), Saturn 3 (1980), and The Cannonball Run (1981). Fawcett was praised for her first dramatic television performance in the 1981 miniseries Murder in Texas. Fawcett and Majors separated in 1979 ending their 9-year marriage.
She began a long relationship with actor Ryan O’Neal, and the couple had a son, Redmond, in 1985. After seventeen years together, Fawcett and O’Neal broke up but remained close, then later reunited. In I984, Fawcett produced and starred in the made-for-TV movie The Burning Bed, which was a searing portrait of domestic violence. For her compelling performance as a woman driven to kill her husband after suffering for years under his physical abuse, Fawcett earned national recognition as well as an Emmy nomination.
Fawcett also won acclaim in the stage and a movie version of Extremities (1986), in which she played a rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker. In 1989, she played a mother who shot her children in another miniseries, Small Sacrifices, receiving a second Emmy nomination. Her third Emmy nomination came in 2001 for her work in The Guardian.
Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Fawcett’s projects were predominantly TV movies. Her credits included Between Two Women (1986), Nazi Hunter: The Beate Karsfield Story (1986), Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story (1987), Double Exposure: The Story of Margaret Bourge-White (1989), Criminal Behavior (1992), and The Substitute Wife (1994). In 1997 Fawcett played a significant role m the acclaimed religious drama The Apostle, opposite Robert Duvall, which introduced her to a new generation of moviegoers. In 2000, she returned to film starring alongside Richard Gere and Helen Hunt in the Robert Altman comedy Dr. T and the Women (2000).
In 2006 Farrah was diagnosed with anal cancer. She was declared cancer free on her 60th birthday on February 2, 2007, however, three months later Fawcett’s routine doctor’s visit revealed that the cancer had returned and had metastasized to her liver. She flew to Germany to pursue alternative treatments some of which are not allowed in the U.S. From the moment Fawcett was diagnosed with cancer until her untimely death, O’Neal remained by her side.
During the next two years, her courageous battle was filmed for the 2009 Emmy-nominated documentary Farrah’s Story, and viewed by 15 million people. Since then, it has been shown world wide, and has touched and inspired millions more. Farrah Fawcett died on June 25, 2009 at the age of 62.
The world had lost their Golden Girl, but her legacy and her spirit will live forever in our hearts!