Early Life and Career
Jennifer Grey was born on March 26, 1960 in New York, United States. She is the daughter of stage and Academy Award-winning screen actor Joel Grey and former singer/actress Jo Wilder. She attended Dalton School where she studied acting and dance. There, she also met her best friend actress Tracy Pollan.
Following her graduation in 1978, she studied at Manhattan’s Neighborhood Playhouse where she trained as an actress for two years. While auditioning for roles, she supported herself financially by working as a waitress. She then began her career by appearing in a commercial for Dr Pepper at the age of 19.
In 1984, she made her film debut with Reckless. That same year, she had a minor role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club and starred in the war film Red Dawn. The following year, she was cast in John Badham’s American Flyers.
In 1986, she gained wider recognition when she played Jeanie Bueller in the John Hughes comedy film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off alongside Matthew Broderick. The film became successful and garnered positive reviews as well. She then reunited with Patrick Swayze, whom she had worked with in Red Dawn, to play Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing.
The low-budget film was a surprise hit and it became the first movie to sell one million copies on video. It has since been considered a classic feature. The film also catapulted Grey into international stardom and earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.
In 1988, she voiced Airelle in the animated film Gandahar. This was followed by Bloodhounds of Broadway where she played the role of Lovey Lou and Murder in Mississippi, playing the part of Rita Schwerner. During the early 1990s, she mainly appeared in several made-for-television films including Criminal Justice, If the Shoe Fits, and Eyes of a Witness.
In 1992, she starred in the film Wind, which only had a moderate box office success in the United States. She then returned to acting in television films like A Case for Murder, The West Side Waltz, and Since You’ve Been Gone. She also made guest appearances in such TV series as Friends and Fallen Angels.
In March 1999, she starred as herself in the television series It’s Like, You Know…, which aired until January 2000. She then appeared alongside Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli and Kathy Bates in the CBS TV film The West Side Waltz, which was adapted from Ernest Thompson’s play. She also played a small role in the 2000 romantic film Bounce, starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow.
This was followed by the 2001 film Ritual. Her next role would come five years after in the made-for-television movie The Road to Christmas. In 2007, she was cast as Daphne in the television series John from Cincinnati. The following year, she starred in two films: Redbelt and Keith.
She then went on to make more appearances on television with her guest spots in The New Adventures of Old Christine and in the medical series House. In 2010, she competed in the 11th season of the reality television show Dancing With the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Derek Hough and they went on to win the competition.
Plastic Surgery and Career Decline
In the early 1990s, the Dirty Dancing actress underwent two rhinoplasty procedures. The second one was necessary to correct the problems that the first procedure left behind. The result dramatically altered her appearance that even her close friends failed to recognize her. The major change in her looks negatively affected her career, causing her to primarily appear on television rather on the big screen.
When asked about the experience, she said: “I went in the operating room a celebrity – and came out anonymous. It was like being in a witness protection program or being invisible.” Because of the negative impact it brought on her acting career, she considered changing her name to start her career anew but she eventually decided against it.