“Dirty Dancing” was one of the biggest surprise film hits of the 1980s, and it catapulted its two main stars, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, into the spotlight. Prior to her rise to fame, Grey had other moments of success with “Reckless” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Grey was born on Mar. 26, 1960, in Manhattan, New York. Being raised by two actors, it was no surprise when Grey herself found a love for the art. She is the daughter of Academy Award-winning actor Joel Grey and actress and singer Jo Wilder. Studying dance and acting at Dalton School in Manhattan, Grey made a friend with a fellow actress, Tracy Pollan. She graduated in 1978 and studied at Manhattan’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre for two years.
It wasn’t long until Grey began picking up jobs in the industry. She first appeared in a commercial for Dr. Pepper when she was 19 years old before making her film debut in “Reckless” in 1984. Shortly after this, she also had a small role in “The Cotton Club.”
Grey began finding more success for herself as she landed more jobs, with one of her most notable roles being the sister in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in 1986, where she starred opposite Matthew Broderick. The film was a hit and launched Broderick into stardom, as he also starred in “Inspector Gadget” and voiced the character of Simba in “The Lion King” movies. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” also helped Grey pick up more roles later on.
While Grey had worked with Patrick Swayze in the movie “Red Dawn” in 1984, she didn’t have as big of a role as him in the film. However, the two were equals in the 1987 hit film “Dirty Dancing.” The movie followed a coming-of-age love story between the two main characters, played by Grey and Swayze.
During an interview with Glamour Magazine in 2015, Grey talked about how she wasn’t sure if there could be chemistry between her and Swayze on-screen. “I didn’t think we had chemistry,” she said. “It doesn’t have to do with whether you like someone or not. It’s just you either have it or you don’t.”
Grey’s opinions on Swayze changed during filming as she realized that they actually balanced each other out. “He was a great dancer and he was fearless,” she said. “His fearlessness with my fearfulness… together was like a marriage where you have two opposites. He’d do anything and I’d be scared to do anything.”
The movie didn’t feature any big stars, nor did it have a well-known director. It also wasn’t planned to be a big release, and instead, it was meant to have a one-week-theater release and go direct to video. “Dirty Dancing” was such a success that it became the first movie to sell more than one million VHS copies. Meanwhile, the film’s soundtrack, a significant part of its appeal, was also incredibly successful, with the movie’s main song “(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life” winning both Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Original Song, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Duet.
“Dirty Dancing” catapulted Swayze and Grey into instant stardom and was a defining moment for Grey as it earned her her first Golden Globe nomination. Swayze also received a Golden Globe nomination for his part in the widely successful film.
Aftermath Of ‘Dirty Dancing’
The actor went on to star in other films, like “Road House” in 1989 and “Ghost” in 1990. He was even given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997 for all his work in motion pictures. Unfortunately, Swayze had a few health issues over the course of his life, as he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and later had pneumonia. The star passed away on Sept. 14, 2009, at 57 years old.
While Swayze’s career was consistent following the film’s release, Grey’s career path was a bit different. Grey suffered a few unfortunate events that took place just before “Dirty Dancing” was released. Her career didn’t come to a complete stop, but it was not as fruitful as it could have been.
During the 1990s, Grey had two rhinoplasty procedures. While only one was planned, it went wrong, resulting in a second procedure being needed to correct the mistakes. Grey’s new nose drastically changed her appearance, making her almost unrecognizable and affecting her career. Thankfully, Grey was able to move past the incident and even laugh at herself. She starred as herself in “It’s Like, You Know…” from March 1999 until January 2000, where she even made fun of her nose job. Grey continued to land minor roles throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, appearing in “The West Side Waltz” and an episode of “Friends.”
In 2010, Grey was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” partnered with professional dancer Derek Hough. Fans were able to witness Grey’s incredible abilities in dancing during her performance in “Dirty Dancing,” and her time on the competition show was no different.
The Accident That Changed Her Life
Despite having to overcome stress, exhaustion, and a few injuries while competing, Grey came out on top and won her season of “Dancing With the Stars.” She was finally receiving the appreciation and acknowledgment that she wasn’t able to enjoy when she was younger. Since then, Grey has taken on more acting roles, including parts in “Red Oaks” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Although Hollywood is well-known for altering the looks of its stars, Grey’s story is an example of how outside pressure to conform to society’s expectations can have significant consequences. Grey is still undeniably beautiful, but the features that made her unique were stripped from her face and ultimately played a part in stalling her career progression. Sadly, this was not the only setback the star faced that further pushed her away from the spotlight.
Grey was involved in a tragic car accident that would change the trajectory of her life and contribute to her never becoming the star she could have been. Grey was on vacation with her then-boyfriend, Broderick, in August 1987. Broderick had been driving their rental car on the wrong side of the road, and they collided head-on with another vehicle.
The mother and daughter in the other car were instantly killed, while Broderick fractured his leg and ribs. Grey walked away with minor injuries but also with an overwhelming sense of survivor’s guilt. Broderick was charged with dangerous driving but eventually was convicted of the lesser sentence, careless driving, and paid a small fine. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
What Grey Is Up To Now
Grey talked about how important it was for her to feel comfortable in her body, especially since she has had her fair share of injuries and surgeries over the years. “I’ve always been interested in living my best life and pursuing the things I love and being physically strong and resilient enough to have the physical strength to do just that,” she said. “I have this desire to maintain a certain vitality, but like most of us, it’s declining slightly because of the aging process. I believe in our lifetime we’re going to see a huge change because science is on our side.”
Grey has not stopped working on her overall well-being as it is incredibly important to her. “There’s so much that I’m powerless over, but I have power over what I eat, how I structure my life and who I spend time with,” she explained.
Fans have been extremely happy to see that Grey is in a much better place emotionally and that she’s been able to finally savor some of the well-deserved fame she earned with her early acting roles. On top of that, Grey has fully grown to love herself and, at 62 years old, is absolutely beautiful, both inside and out. The actress posted a revealing photograph of herself to her Instagram in April 2021 of her dancing on a pole.
While she may never be able to get back all of those years that she lost, she has made up for some of the time, and most importantly, the world has been blessed with witnessing her talent once more, as Grey continues to make an impact on the entertainment industry today.
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