Stefanie Powers was born Stefania Zofia Federkiewicz on November 2nd in southern California. Her birth name derives from her Polish ancestry. Her parents separated when she was young, and she grew up with her mother Julie, her stepfather and her brother.
By the age of 15, Powers was temporarily employed as a dancer for ‘The Jets’ on the Hollywood production of West Side Story. While still a teenager and without any formal training as an actor, actor-director Tom Laughlin spotted her. He quickly signed her up to star in the 1960 independent film Among The Thorns.
To develop her acting talents, Powers attended acting classes at 20th Century Fox, MGM and Columbia. However it was a chance encounter with the director Blake Edwards that got her cast in the 1962 film Experiment in Terror playing Lee Remick’s younger sister Toby Sherwood. She was signed by Columbia where she became part of the ‘star system’ and was heavily promoted.
Since then, Powers has become a well-established actress of the stage and screen. In 1966 she became a regular on television playing April Dancer in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., a spin off from the highly successful Man From Uncle. When the series ended in 1967 she continued to work in television but it was not until 1979, when she played the character of Jennifer Hart in the internationally successful Hart To Hart, that she really became a household name. The popularity of her on screen rapport with her co-star Robert Wagner led to a lot of press speculation and increased the popularity of the show. However, after five years it was cancelled.
During the 1980s, Powers starred in numerous television dramas such as the 1984 mini-series Mistral's Daughter, alongside Stacy Keach and Lee Remick, playing twins in Deceptions and playing the lead in the 1988 television movie Beryl Markham: A Shadow on the Sun. During the 1990s, there was a Hart To Hart revival when Powers teamed up with her old co-stars Wagner and Standers to make numerous ‘one off’ television movies based on the original show.
Powers is also an accomplished stage actress, and she has frequently performed on both sides of the Atlantic. She has starred in Matador, The King And I and Love Letters. She has also starred in feature films such as Herbie Rides again and more recently the British comedy Rabbit Fever.
In 1966, Powers married Hollywood star Gary Lockwood however they were divorced in 1972. She met actor William Holden in 1972, and although they never married, they were together until his death in 1981. In 1993, she married French aristocrat Patrick de la Chesnais. They were divorced in 1999. One of the reasons she often cites for the breakdown of her second marriage is her commitment to wildlife preservation and her subsequent need to travel the globe; she frequently travels between Kenya, the UK and the USA.
It was Holden who encouraged Powers to travel when he took her took China, Hong Kong and Kenya, amongst other countries. Following Holden’s death, she established the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, and this charity remains a central feature in her life.