A thin, naturally attractive brunette with a personable smile and the brains to match her beauty, actress Jennifer Beals was virtually propelled to overnight stardom and fashion icon status with her energetic performance in director Adrian Lyne's 1983 dance drama Flashdance. Though her career would suffer a slight setback when it was revealed that Beals didn't perform all of her own dance moves in the sleeper hit, the talented actress would endure to make something of a comeback in the late '90s.
A Chicago native who was traveling in Europe when her publicist called her for a New York audition that the filmmakers were pitching as a "female Saturday Night Fever," Beals booked the first flight back to the states and, despite the presence of thousands of other eager young actresses, somehow managed to stand out from the crowd to impress producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Beals' only other film work to that point was as an extra in 1980's My Bodyguard, so it was quite a gamble to cast a virtual unknown in the lead. This was especially true, given that, days before the film's premiere, Paramount Pictures sold off 25 percent of the film; however, the gamble paid off and Flashdance became nothing less than a cultural phenomenon. With ripped, oversized sweaters adorning teenage girls nationwide, it seemed as if Beals had the cinematic world at her fingertips -- and then the bottom dropped out. When it was later revealed that Beals impressive moves weren't entirely her own, audiences felt betrayed (as if action stars really do all of their own stunts) and subsequently protested the burgeoning actress without taking into consideration that she was the dramatic core of the film.
Opting to continue her education at Yale immediately following Flashdance's production, roles in such efforts as The Bride (1985) and Split Decisions (1988) were squeezed in during Beals' summer breaks. Though neither effort did much to forward Beals' career, the actress would continue to appear in such quirky, low-budget efforts as Vampire's Kiss (1989) and Blood and Concrete (1991) moving into the 1990s. Beals was married to director Alexandre Rockwell in 1986, and in 1992 she would appear opposite Steve Buscemi and Seymour Cassel in Rockwell's comedy drama In the Soup.
If the majority of the 1990s found Beals relegated to mostly unseen independents, high-profile roles in such acclaimed efforts as Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), and The Last Days of Disco (1998) proved without a doubt that the now-established actress certainly had the skills and endurance to maintain a successful screen career. Though the early years of the millennial turnover may have found Beals on shaky cinematic ground with such efforts as Jim Wynorski's Militia and the tiresomely derivative sequel Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying (both 1990), her reputation as something of an independent darling would solidify with roles in such critically acclaimed indies as The Anniversary Party (2001) and Roger Dodger (2002). Despite her divorce from Rockwell and remarriage to another man unassociated with the film business, Beals would later turn up in the Rockwell-directed comedy 13 Moons (again opposite Buscemi), while preparing for roles in such upcoming features as Runaway Jury and Break a Leg (both 2003). In 2004 Beals took a turn as a lesbian in the made-for-cable series The L Word. In her spare time Jennifer Beals is an avid photographer.
Jennifer Beals is biracial, with an African-American father (deceased since she was 10) and an Irish mother. She is a graduate of Yale University.