Jaclyn Smith Then And Now: The Young Charlie's Angels Star Across The Ages

Jaclyn Smith in 1976. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)
Jaclyn Smith is one of the original Charlie’s Angels, and the only one to stick around on the show for its entire run. She even popped up in the films from the early aughts, but that’s not the only thing that Smith has one. Aside from being one out most pre-eminent female television detectives Smith has her own inexpensive fashion line at K-Mart and she consistently makes appearances in film and television. Smith is one of the most memorable television actresses of the 1970s and ‘80s, and even though she’s not on TV every day she’s still thriving.

She wanted to be a dancer

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This gal from Houston, Texas didn’t start out with a thirst to be on television, she wanted to be a dancer. While studying dance she also double majored in psychology and drama at Trinity University in San Antonio, but the draw of the stage continued to pull at her. She moved to New York to study at the Balanchine School of American Ballet in a move that she said would have been scary without her southern “gumption.” She explained:
From my earliest memories, I always dreamed of becoming a dancer, and through my family’s support and a little southern gumption of my own, I packed up and headed to New York City. It was there, a thousand miles away from home, that I was lucky enough to try a lot of different experiences, meet many wonderful people, learn my craft, hone my skills and really be open to finding a path that was right for me.

From a dancer to a model

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Jaclyn may have wanted to be a dancer but after moving to New York she decided to start modeling, most famously she appeared in a Listerine commercial touting the benefits of fresh breath. At this time Smith says that she wasn’t even thinking about acting, so when she was offered the role of Victoria Winters on Dark Shadows in 1968 she said no thank you. Instead, she went on to become a “Breck Girl” in 1971 before working with Farrah Fawcett as a spokesmodel for Wella Baslam shampoo. It wasn’t long before Smith made another career transition to become one of the most well known faces of the 1970s.

When Charlie calls, you answer

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Charlie’s Angels wasn’t Smith’s first foray into acting, prior to 1976 she appeared in one-offs on everything from The Partridge Family to McCloud and she has a few blink and you’ll miss it roles in a few made for TV movies that even we can’t remember. By the mid-70s she was ready to make the leap to a lead role in primetime television, but her hair almost got in the way of that.
Initially the producers of Charlie’s Angels wanted to have one blonde, one brunette and one redhead as their trio. Supposedly because of this mandate Kate Jackson didn’t even have to audition for her role as Sabrina but Smith was put through the ringer because she was the only actress who wasn’t a redhead auditioning for the part of Kelley Garrett. Thankfully producer Aaron Spelling saw Smith’s chemistry audition with Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson, he knew the three women were money.
On March 21, 1976, Smith took on the role of Kelley Garrett in a backdoor pilot for Charlie’s Angels. She carried on the role until 1981. 

She was one of the first stars to have a personal brand

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Today we don’t think twice about a celebrity having their own line of clothing, makeup, or wellness products but in the 1980s that was a whole different story. She continued to pop up in film and television after her years on primetime but she was most focused on her line of women’s apparel for Kmart, something that paved the way for the stars that followed. Smith advertised for everything from clothing, to towels, to bed sheets, she was a truly the queen of alternative revenue streams by the late ‘80s. As far as her acting was concerned Smith continued taking on roles but she wasn’t worried about trying to make people forget about Charlie’s Angels. In 1991 she told the LA Times:
You can say I want to do this fantastic piece that will make people forget totally about everything, Charlie’s Angels and everything, and I’ll become this new character. But you know something? That’s just a lot of dreaming,. All you can do is choose good projects, and get to work on time, and know your lines, and do your best.

Smith’s 2000s have been spent running an empire

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If sticking with Charlie’s Angels through thick and thin didn’t prove that she picks a lane and stays on it then her work with Kmart shows that she doesn’t like to let a good thing go. In the 2000s she moved hundreds of thousands of shirts and bedding supplies. While she continued to be a success in the business world she drifted away from acting, although she’s gone on to appear in every film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. She’s never chased roles and now that she’s a successful businesswoman she really doesn’t try to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She told the LA Times:
The thing is I’m really not that desperate to work. If it’s not something that has some quality to it then I’d just as soon stay home. I have a great life that I love. My children taught me to stay in the moment, day by day. And that’s it. Just live it.

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