Jane Fonda Biography
Jane Fonda Biography – childhood
Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda was born in New York City.
Jane was born with the "blue genes." Before Jane’s birth, her mother, Frances Seymour had used to be a style icon for the socialites. She was bright, outgoing and very attractive. Jane’s father, Henry Fonda was a famous actor. Fonda parents’ relationship was very complicated, which became even worse when Frances suffered from postnatal depressions after the birth of Jane and Peter (Jane’s younger brother). In Jane’s child phantasies about herself, she was a lonely ranger. The little girl could not understand deep clinical depression of her mother and her father’s being rarely available. She learned to pretend that everything was fine, avoid talking about her feelings, make things easier, leave her real self behind, in order to win her father’s approval. It would take her many years to learn to be herself and learn to communicate her emotions.
Jane Fonda Biography – from tomboy to teenager
Jane was twelve when her mother committed suicide while under the treatment in a psychiatric hospital. In a short period of time Jane’s life changed. Her father married socialite Susan Blanchard, who was only nine years older than Jane. Suzan brought laughter and sparkle into the family. She became Jane’s role model, second mother, trusted friend, the person who really cared for Jane and her brother Peter. According to Fonda, Susan had taught her how to be a stepmother. Unfortunately, this marriage of Henry Fonda also ended in a divorce.
By the age of fourteen Jane had transformed from a tomboy into a teenager who suddenly felt imperfect and anxious about her looks. Her father added to her misery, as he had always been fond of women being thin. Having overheard her father saying that her legs were "too heavy", Jane spent days in a despair.
Jane Fonda Biography – striving for perfection
In her book "My Life So Far", Jane Fonda shared her thoughts about the tyranny of perfection which had used to be her obsession for many years:
"Completion, as Carl Jung said, is what we humans should strive for. But completion (wholeness) isn't possible until we stop trying to be perfect. The tyranny of perfection forced me to confuse spiritual hunger with physical hunger. This toxic striving for perfection is a female thing. How many men obsess about being perfect? For men, generally, good enough is good enough."
Jane’s addiction to anorexia and bulimia, which she later called "diseases of denial" started during her years at The Emma Willard School. At that time she did not think of it as of addictions – she only wanted to be thin. In the later years, she came to realization of the addictive and damaging nature of what she was doing. However, she also discovered that she could not stop… Only in her forties, Jane Fonda managed to overwin her food addictions. Even later, in her sixties, she could finally make peace with herself, accepting herself with all her imperfections.
Jane Fonda Biography – spiritual hunger
During her years at Emma Willard School, Jane, according to her own words, was waiting for a meaning. She tried to impress by copying other people and making up her own personality from these pieces. People surrounding her, usually thought of her being experienced and sophisticated, which was partially a reflection of her father’s fame. Deep inside, however, she thought of herself as boring and fat.
In 1955 Jane Fonda was accepted at Vassar College. She did not feel motivated by her teachers and with her studies. At that time girls generally did not go to college to prepare for a profession. Most of the girls at college were dropping and getting married. Jane dropped Vassar after two years, not knowing why and what she had been studying for.
After some time, her father made it clear to Jane that she had to learn to support herself. She was suffering from bulimia and deep depression.
Jane Fonda Biography – the power of coincidence
She had never before considered a chance to become an actress. Her father made it clear that this profession was very difficult to succeed in. Besides, she believed that actors were too self-centered and egotistical. And as she thought, she was a too boring person to ever succeed on this path.
It was a pure coincidence that Jane played chess with the children of Lee Strasberg who was associated with the acting style called the Method. "Why not to give acting a try?" they kept saying to Jane. At first Jane was reluctant, but finally she agreed to give it a try and join Lee Strasberg private acting classes. Lee Strasberg students included great actors and actresses of the time: James Dean, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Al Pacino.
Only after she had been accepted Jane started thinking of how she was going to pay for the classes and her rent. Someone suggested to try to get modeling work with Ford Modeling Agency. Surprisingly for Jane, she was accepted. In 1959-1960 Jane Fonda’s face was featured in many magazines – Life, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Ladies’ Home Journal. Eileen Ford, the director of Ford Modeling Agency, said about Jane Fonda:
"She was something. She was terribly insecure about her looks and the impact she had on people. She was astonished to learn that people would be interested in using her and paying her well."
Jane Fonda Biography - a break through
In the beginning of her acting classes, Jane felt completely unfit. She just kept promising herself that she was just trying this out… Then came the day when she had to be on stage for the first time, and she experienced the moment of truth known to actors: performing in front of the audience and yet feeling perfectly herself and in the moment… She had expected anything but the comment she heard from Lee Strasberg: "I see a lot of people go through here, Jane, but you have real talent."
This moment turned her life upside down. Starting from this point Jane knew why she lived and what she wanted to do. The classes provided her with self-confidence she needed so badly. She worked hard and did not take anything for granted.
Jane Fonda Biography – professional acting
Her first role in "Tall Story" in 1959 left her unsatisfied with herself and her abilities to act. She returned to New York and decided to never go back to movie making. Her bulimia and anxiety were getting out of control.
Shortly after, Jane got a role in "There Was a Little Girl", which was her first Broadway play. The play lasted sixteen performances and got her the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for "the most promising actress of the year for drama."
In 1963 Jane received a message from her agent with an invitation to come to France for a remake of "La Ronde". At that moment Jane was busy filming her sixth movie. It looked like a good idea to escape from Hollywood where everyone knew her as a daughter of Henry Fonda. She agreed.
Fonda ended up staying six years in France working with Roger Vadim, the famous French film director who was famous for polishing women personalities. Jane would marry him and give a birth to her daughter Vanessa Vadim.
Jane Fonda Biography – Jane Fonda as Barbarella
"Barbarella" was one of the first films that made Jane Fonda internationally famous. It would take her long years to understand why the film became a classic and enjoy it’s charm. With all her personal insecurities about her own body and her sufferings from bulimia, playing a sexual heroine in the film where she had to be naked, was very difficult for Jane.
"The New Yorker" wrote about her performance: "Her American-good-girl innocence makes her a marvelously apt heroine for pornographic comedy…"
Jane Fonda Biography – Jane Fonda activism
Filming "Barbarella" at the time that so major changes took place in the world, added to her emotional turmoil. The images of Vietnam War Jane had seen on French television, antiwar movement in France and conviction of people who said that this war could not be won, raised many questions which Jane could not answer from the comfort of her home in France. She decided to move back to America.
Since 1970, Jane Fonda became a political activist. It changed her view of the world and her own place in it forever. Everything she said and she did from this point came from her heart and with a true conviction. However, she was not ready for the massive public exposure she would experience since then.
Jane Fonda Biography – Jane Fonda in Vietnam
A lot has been said about political controversy surrounding Jane Fonda and her political actions. Her trip to Vietnam remains one of the most controversial issues in her life. In her book "My Life So Far", Jane Fonda gives explanation to the background of this trip:
"I went (to Hanoi) because I wanted to expose the lies of the Nixon administration and help stop the killing on both sides. I believe the trip made it harder for Nixon to distract the public’s attention from his escalation of the air war, and perhaps it helped end the bombing of the dikes… I wanted to speak to U. S. pilots as I had done on so many occasions… I did not ask them to desert… Nothing I did caused any POWs to be tortured… I do regret that I allowed myself to get into a situation where I was photographed on an antiaircraft gun…" Attacks on Jane Fonda on this issue have not ended until this day.
Since her trip to Vietnam, the public opinion about her personality would become surprisingly diverse. Unexpected hatred of some people who hardly knew her, would go along with admiration, love and support she felt from other people. In spite of her personal insecurities, Jane Fonda was always admiringly strong in her political and social position. She knew that activism was right for her, that killing in Vietnam had to be stopped. And she never hesitated to use her celebrity to help people who were bullied or deprived of safety or opportunity.
"I am still baffled by those who feel that criticizing America is unpatriotic, a view increasingly being adopted in the United States since 9/11 as an excuse to render suspect what has always been an American right.
An active, brave, outspoken (and heard) citizenry is essential to a healthy democracy."
Jane Fonda Biography – Jane Fonda in "Klute"
She won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1971, playing a prostitute in "Klute". This was an event of a great importance for the actress, the acknowledgment of her acting talent and celebrity. She won her second Oscar in 1978 for "Coming Soon". This evidence of her success would not stop her from further searching for an answer about her true life mission.
Jane Fonda Biography in Books
Jane Fonda Biography – Jane Fonda Workout
"The crucial thing about creating a successful business… is timing – giving people something they really want that they can’t yet get anywhere else."
In 1979, Jane Fonda started the venture that made her famous beyond all expectations. The Jane Fonda Workout started from her enthusiasm to promote exercises that had worked wonders for herself. Two years later, she wrote her first book "Jane Fonda’s Workout Book" which became a bestseller and was later translated in more than fifty languages. Due to the phenomenal success of the workout video, it was later expanded to twelve audio programs and twenty-three videotapes which presented the workout in basic form, easy form, for older people, kids, etc.
Jane Fond Biography – Personal Life
"… Women choose their men and not the other way around."
Fonda was married and divorced three times (Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden, Ted Turner). She managed to keep good friendship with each of her former husbands. Speaking about her marriages, Jane Fonda said:
"I feel that I chose well. I learned and grew with Vadim, Tom and Ted (sometimes because of them, sometimes in spite of them), and I am grateful for that. I also have to say that in hindsight,
each divorce, painful though it may have been at the time, marked a step forward, an opportunity for self-redefinition rather than a failure – almost like repotting a plant when the roots don’t fit anymore."
Jane Fonda describes herself as a liberal and a feminist.
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