Beautiful Stars Of The '80s Who Still Excite Today
By | May 20, 2021
Madonna has always been a wild child
Everyone who came of age in the 1980s has a special connection to the favorite stars of the era. Whether they found comfort in the goth aesthetic of Winona Ryder or the chic style of Brooke Shields, these stars continue to mean something to the teenagers of that fateful era. But what are they up to now?
Stars may look like they're infallible and unflappable, but look closer and you'll see that they're not that different from everyone else. They grow and change just like everyone else, and they find new ways of expressing themselves.
These untold stories of stars of the '80s will shed light on what they were doing in their heyday and what they're up to today. Even if a few of these stars are still super famous you'll never guess what some of your favorite celebrities are doing today.
In the 1980s no one was as ubiquitous as Madonna, the Queen of Pop. After years of training as a dancer, working at Dunkin' Donuts, and doing her best to survive in the wasteland that was the late '70s and early '80s in New York City she broke through with songs like "Lucky Star" and "Holiday." In spite of her five times platinum debut album, it wasn't until 1984 that she became capital m Madonna.
Even before recording her second album, "Like A Virgin," Madonna knew that she had to take control of her career and do something spectacular. She later said to biographer J Randy Taraborrelli:
I had to prove them wrong, which meant not only proving myself to my fans but to my record company as well. That is something that happens when you're a girl. It wouldn't happen to Prince or Michael Jackson. I had to do everything on my own and it was hard trying to convince people that I was worth a record deal. After that, I had the same problem trying to convince the record company that I had more to offer than a one-shot singer. I had to win this fight.
Madonna in 2020, still looking fierce
Today, Madonna is still as popular as she ever was, and she hasn't stopped writing, recording, and producing. It's clear that she has a preternatural need to create, to be an artist. Not one to let anything get in her way, Madonna is still pushing the envelope and creating on her own terms.
While speaking about her constant push to create, Madonna told Harper's Bazaar:
I like pushing the envelope. But I don't like to do it just for the sake of doing it. I don't like to be provocative for the sake of being provocative. I like to be provocative. I like to make people think. I like to touch people's hearts. And if I can do all three of those things in one fell swoop, then I feel like I've really accomplished something.
Before Pamela Anderson became famous, she was the 22 year old known as The Blue Zone Girl for Labatt's Beer in 1989
Before she was a Baywatch babe, Pamela Anderson was just a young woman who liked to watch Canadian football with her friends. In the summer of 1989 she was enjoying a BC Lions game when a cameraman focuses his attention on her and put her up on the big screen. As soon as she appeared onscreen the audience went up in cheers.
Shortly after her fateful trip to the BC Lions game Anderson was offered a modeling contract with Labatt Beer. She appeared on posters and in ads as the Labatt Zone Girl, her face was all over Canada for years even after she made her way down to California to seek out a massive modeling career. Even now, it's amazing to think that she got her start while enjoying a football game.
No slow motion is needed to see how gorgeous Pamela Anderson remains
Pamela Anderson remains a going concern in pop culture, likely thanks to the multitude of episodes of Baywatch in which she starred. Those slow motion shots of Anderson in a red bathing suit seared her image into the minds of viewers around the world, making her more than just a model/actress, they made her a star. In the modern era, Anderson's greatest power is that she's able to take the star power that she gained in the '90s and use it for good.
While speaking with the New York Times, Anderson explained that today she does what she can to help people around the world even though she's still perceived through her old career:
There’s things to consider in different places. I know many people think there’s no positive things, but there’s always something you can find that maybe you can encourage.
It's confounding to think that Cameron Diaz was once just a high school student, a kid going to class and cheering on the field at football games. Audiences think of her as the stunning singer in The Mask, or as the tough as nail secret agent in Charlie's Angels, but not as a regular teenager. However, it's clear from this shot that she was never actually "regular."
At the time that this photo was taken Diaz was attending high school in Long Beach, California, studying alongside none other than Snoop Dogg. It's genuinely fascinating that these two stars were attending the same school, even though it's likely that their paths didn't really cross. Well, Diaz said that they did meet once or twice even if it was for reasons that were a little cloudy.
Cameron Diaz is all grown up
In the 2010s Cameron Diaz said that she had enough with the entertainment industry and dropped out of filmmaking altogether. Not only was she exhausted with the 12 hour days and the press tours, but she realized that she didn't have a life of her own. When a chance presented itself for her to take a step back she took it and never looked back.
While speaking with Gwyneth Paltrow, Diaz explained that she was tired of acting and that she just wanted to do something for herself:
I just decided that I wanted different things out of my life. I had gone so hard for so long, working, making films and it's such a grind. I didn't really make any space for my personal life.
Throughout her life Carrie Fisher was always the keeper of the Star Wars flame even after George Lucas had moved on to the prequel films that many fans were initially iffy on. However, Fisher's torch bearing for the landmark series often came with her keen insight on the series and the way it affected its stars. One of Fisher's most eye opening notes about the films is the way that she felt isolated as a young woman in the big money-making world of science fiction.
While speaking with NPR about her time as a young space princess Fisher explained how lonely things could be for a young woman in a galaxy far, far away:
It's mostly - crews are still mostly men. I mean, I like that they have a continuity girl. So they don't call her continuity woman. It's a continuity girl, and they're women in makeup and hair and wardrobe, but not in camera, not in sound, you know, and not in special effects. It's all men.
Carrie Fisher returned to her iconic role as General Leia in the 2010s
Fisher didn't struggle following the end of her time playing Princess Leia. She found work in romantic comedies and as a script doctor on huge movies in the '80s and '90s. She didn't even expect to be brought back to the world Star Wars, but when the call came she jumped at the chance.
While speaking about her return to the Star Wars saga Fisher noted how wild it is for a woman of her age to be included in a big budget tent pole series:
I’m a female in Hollywood over the age of — let’s say 40 and we could also say 50… they don’t have to ask you to work at that age. I’ve been Princess Leia for 40 years. So what, I’m gonna stop now that it’s really ridiculous to be someone named Princess Leia or General Leia? It’s ridiculous. I mean ridiculous in a good way.
Bette Midler and her back-up singers The Harlettes in the early 1980s
The Divine Miss M spent the '70s and '80s flitting between personas on stage and onscreen, wowing audiences not only with her voice but with her ability to create a specific vibe. For Midler, doing something like that didn't just take charisma or stage presence, it required her to be a different person every night. If that sounds hard it's because it was.
Midler spoke about having to switch between personas to NPR, noting that she did that as a way to hide who she really was:
I think I'm doing what all the girls do. Now that's what they do; they didn't used to. But I was trying to hide; I was hiding. I was entertaining, but I was also serving myself. I didn't have to give too much of myself because I was busy creating another character.
The Divine Miss M remains fabulous
As Bette Midler has become a grand matriarch of the stage and screen she's settled into herself, but she says that she still likes to put on a character. No matter how shy she is, Midler uses her outlandish characters as a way to get outside of herself for just a little while. Thankfully she can always take off her makeup and go home at the end of the day.
Midler spoke about her need to turn off for awhile and shy away from the spotlight, even when she has to be camera ready. She explained:
I'm a shy person. I was born sort of shy and I don't really like to be on all the time. One of the things that used to distress me about the situation that I found myself in once I became well-known is that when I would go to a social gathering people would expect me to be that person that I was on the stage. You know, that kind of loud-mouth, brassy, in-your-face, that girl who would flash you, and I didn't want to be that in a social gathering. I wanted to be the lady that I am.
Bo Derek rocking cornrows back in 1980
The world was wowed by Bo Derek when she showed up, complete with cornrows, as the perfect woman in the romantic comedy 10. The hair, the perfect skin, and the bathing suit made Derek an instant onscreen icon even though she didn't even have dialogue. It's truly wild just how popular she became with just a wee bit of screen time.
In an interview with Variety, Derek said through all of the crazy popularity that followed 10 the most exciting part of it all was being paid to travel to a beautiful location in Mexico:
It was such a life changing moment for me. I honestly thought I was just going to go to a resort in Mexico and get paid to go to a resort in Mexico. I just wanted to have a good time. I had no idea that anything would come of it.
Bo Derek, now with a more natural look
For Derek, a young woman that never saw herself as an actress, she initially wanted to work in a surf shop and be a beach bum. Her sudden fame found her receiving "overwhelming" offers for films that would have made her a mint but she was confident enough in herself to not take those roles. Even though she turned down plenty of offers she managed to do pretty well for herself.
Today, the actress no longer rocks the cornrows or tan bathing suit but she still pops up from time to time onscreen. Most recently, Derek wrote about her life as a young actress in her biography where she spoke about her ups and downs. It's great to know that long after 10 she remains on top.
In 1981, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, appeared in a cloud of smoke on KHJ-TV and was all gothic bluster and valley girl chit-chat. Local Los Angeles viewers didn't know what they were watching but they couldn't take their eyes off the television. Sure, these local viewers may have wanted to watch a horror movie, but it was Elvira that kept them coming back.
The woman behind Elvira, Cassandra Peterson, had been kicking around the entertainment industry for years, but she hadn't had a hit until she decided to go goth. Peterson wanted to make her character more of a ditzy valleygirl, but the producers of the series wanted her to be more like their previous horror host, Vampira, so vampiric Elvira was born. The valley girl vocals stayed, but out went the platinum blonde hair and in came the jet black wig.
Elvira is still spooky and sultry today
Today, Elvira remains the Mistress of the Dark, complete with her deeply goth look and saucy one-liners. After locking into the horror world Elvira held the world in her grasp and didn't let go, and the fans loved her for it. She's had sellout live shows at Knott's Berry Farms, she's starred in her own films, and she's a constant presence during the spookiest months of the season.
While speaking with Consequence of Sound about what it's like to be a woman in horror, Cassandra Peterson explained that while she feels somewhat outside of the norm, it's always been that way for her:
When I was a kid in the ’50s, my cousin took me to see House on Haunted Hill, and it changed my life. Well, that was that for me, and I was only in second or third grade. From then on, I wanted to buy Famous Monsters of Filmland comic books, and when it was Christmas, I would beg my parents for Aurora model kits of like The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I remember people just thinking I was such a freak because even boys weren’t into horror back then.
Christie Brinkley modeling a swimsuit in the 1980s
Hailing from Lipstick City itself (that's Los Angeles for everyone outside of the west coast), Christie Brinkley found herself on the right side of the camera after she was disovered by a photographer in the early '70s. However, Brinkley never had dreams of being a glamorous model. She was a surfer girl who would rather hang at the beach than primp and pose all day.
Three national campaigns later and Brinkley was rethinking the whole not being a model thing. By the early '80s she had appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue three times and made a major impression in National Lampoon's Vacation. Even though she came to prominence in the '70s, Brinkley was unstoppable in the '80s.
Once a sun worshipper always a sun worshipper ☀
Today, Christie Brinkley remains at the top of her game in spite of the unfortunate rhetoric that places models out to pasture by the time they're in their 30s. Brinkley has aged gracefully and still works as a spokesperson for many of the companies that she established a relationship with in the '70s and '80s. She knows as well as anyone that it's important to dance with the ones who brought you.
While speaking with People Magazine, Brinkley noted that while many women in the entertainment industry are pushed out when they're still in their prime she bristles at that thinking and refuses to step down because of her age:
Women are not to be brushed under the carpet because they're a certain age. When I started out, I remember very clearly a group of successful models saying, 'You will be burned up and thrown away by the time you're 30.'
Christina Applegate played Kelly Bundy during her time on the television series Married with Children, that aired from 1987 to 1997
When Christina Applegate showed up as Kelly Bundy on Married With Children she was a revelation. Loud and proud, hair to the sky and with snarky valley girl wisdom she was a lightning rod for young audiences who were ready for something new. Hers was a look that said, "this ain't your parent's sitcom," and it helped bring in an entirely new demographic to primetime TV.
To hear Applegate tell it she wouldn't have taken the role had she been offered the part earlier in her career. She says that she was angsty and considred herself to be "serious." She told the LA Times:
I was a dark kid. I always thought serious projects were going to be my jam. But the show really helped me to let go of being so serious all the time.
She may have ditched the rocker hair but she still looks amazing
Decades after her time on Married With Children Christina Applegate is still going strong on screens big and small. Aside from being an integral part to the beloved Anchorman series, Applegate stretches her muscles with new takes on the noir genre and the ever-expanding Bad Etc films. She's low key one of our most hardworking actors.
It's amazing to think that a lifetime of beloved work came from a chance to decision to take a job on a primetime comedy rather than in something more dramatic. That just goes to show the way that life can change in an instant no matter who you are. All you have to do is take a chance when the time is right.
Dolly Parton rocking the red carpet in the late 1980s
Dolly Parton is one of those stars that's impossible to look away from, both because of the way she looks and because of her unstoppable charisma. She's a powerful performer with a collection of hits that's absolutely jaw-dropping. Even though she's one of the most prominent country and pop songwriters of the '70s and '80s her critics still point out her looks when attempting to detract from her work.
While speaking with Barbara Walters in 1977, Parton explained that she knows what people think of her but she really doesn't care:
Oh I know they make fun of me, but all these years the people have thought the joke was on me, but it’s actually on them. “I am sure of myself as a person. I am sure of my talent. I’m sure of my love for life and that sort of thing. I am very content, I like the kind of person that I am. So, I can afford to piddle around and do-diddle around with makeup and clothes and stuff because I am secure with myself.
Is it just us or does Dolly Parton look exactly the same as she did decades ago?
With decades of good work and good will under her belt it's clear that Dolly has won the argument over whether or not she's a legitimate performer or just the flash in the pan that many critics believed her to be. It's invigorating to see that she still blends style and substance in a way that few artists are able to do. On top of it all she does it effortlessly.
Dolly continues to write and perform whenever possible. In the 2010s she headlined the Glastonbury Festival and even nabbed a couple of Guinness World Records for being the artist with the most decades with a top 20 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and most hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart by a female artist. After all that she's still not slowing down. Go on, Dolly.
In the 1980s Phoebe Cates was easily the most beloved teen star of the decade. She may not have been a member of the brat pack but she didn't really need to be. With her star turn in Fast Times in Ridgemont High she became the dream of every teenager boy in America.
Cates is only one of many in Fast Times of Ridgemont High, but she made the most of her small amount of screen time and small red bikini. She continued popping up in films throughout the '80s, but nothing else in her filmography compares to her role in one of the greatest teen movies of all time. By the '90s she dropped out of the spotlight forever.
Phoebe Cates has a much more demure style today
After marrying fellow actor Kevin Kline in 1989, Cates slowly receded from the spotlight and began raising a family. She continued to act, but her final film role was in 2001's The Anniversarry Party - a film in which she appeared with her husband and two children. Since then she's led a quiet life in New York.
Cates mostly keeps to herself these days, but while speaking about their marriage in 1988 Kevin Kline said that more often than not she prefers to stay home. He explained:
We have agreed to alternate so that we're never working at the same time... [but] whenever it's been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children.
Elizabeth Hurley During Her Punk Phase
This definitely isn't the way that audiences are used to seeing Elizabeth Hurley, the gorgeous star of the first Austin Powers film and Bedazzled. She's so well known for her long brown locks and supermodel looks that seeing her all punked out is absolutely wild. It just shows that we all go through phases when we're young, even super famous actresses.
Hurley said that when she was growing up in England she was always friends with punk rockers, but that she didn't adopt their look until people started noticing her beauty on the street. She told The Sun:
I think what happened is that so many men took an interest, I wanted to make myself look as ghastly as possible. I did not want them to whistle any more... My mum probably minded a lot because I looked so terrible. The thing I regret about those punk days was that my mother said if I took my nose ring out, she would let me have driving lessons. Of course, after that, I could not possibly take it out.
Less punk but still cool
By the '90s, Hurley was no longer bringing anarchy to the U.K. and instead she was the toast of England. She made massive headlines across the world when she showed up to a premier in a black Versace dress held together by golden safety pins (still punk), before becoming one of the most sought after romantic comedy leads of the decade.
Today, Hurley splits her time between making appearances on the small screen and using her fashion line to help with charitable causes across the world. Most notably, she's worked with Elton John and Estee Lauder on awareness campaigns that have allowed her to put her fame to good use. That's not bad for a former punk who didn't take driving lessons.
Kathy Ireland is easily one of the most beloved supermodels of the late '80s. Aside from being a stunning presence on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition, Ireland's bubbly persona and interview ready charisma helped her transcend from supermodel to star of screen big and small. It's honestly crazy to think of just how popular Ireland was at the height of her career.
Modeling careers can only last for so long. While some of the biggest of the big are able to maintain their on camera work for decades, most models are well aware of just how ephemeral their work is. Ireland didn't wait around to become obsolete, and in 1993 she started her own branding company and became one of the most wealthy former models on the planet.
There's no more one piece bathing suit baseball for Kathy Ireland
Ireland has continued to make appearances onscreen from time to time, but her focus shifted from being on camera talent to becoming a mogul. Her earliest foray into the business world was with a branded line of socks at K-Mart which turned into a massive hit. She branched out into clothing and swimwear before contuing to pump juice into her brand and move into home furnishings.
It's this line of home furnishings and clothing that made Ireland more wealthy than her modeling ever could. Between 2005 and 2012 her brand generated $2 billion in sales, making her the world's richest model. And to think, it all started with a few pairs of socks.
Flea and Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1983.
Whoa, it's hard to believe that these two ever looked so young. It's not that they look particularly old today (keep scrolling to see just how little they've changed) but in this photo they look like little punk rock babies. Taken early in their career, this shot shows just how Flea and Anthony Kiedes have always been the heart of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
In their early days, the Chili Peppers were inspired by funk and punk and they brought their wild mix of influences to clubs across Los Angeles. As crazy as their early performances were, the band secured a seven album deal with EMI in 1983 and while they weren't the multi-platinum taste makers that they are today right off the bat they did manage to sell a few hundred thousand copies of that record. All of that success came from these two wild kids.
Anthony Kiedes and Flea are still crazy after all these years
Nearly four decades after beginning their journey into the unkown as the Red Hot Chili Peppers these two are still together. The band has undergone some serious changesm both with their members and their sound, but Flea and Kiedes remain the beating heart of the band and that's never going to change.
While speaking about the way the band has continued to move like a machine through time, Flea explained that he and Kiedes are always going to be together because they're more than just bandmembers at this point:
I met Anthony when I was 15, and our relationship has not always been easy. It’s been antagonistic and we battle like brothers would do—though I don’t know because I’ve never had a brother. We fight, we argue, we hurt each other’s feelings, and we’re different people. But the meaningfulness of the connection was in some ways more profound than those that I felt with my family, and obviously it’s why we’ve been hanging out hard for over 40 years now.
It wasn't clear that Jamie Lee Curtis was going to be a successful actress when she first got into the entertainment industry as a teen. She may have been the daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, but her first acting gig on the television adaptation of Operation Petticoat was a bust. It wasn't until she took on the starring role in a series of slasher films that her look turned around.
By the 1980s, Curtis was a legit star. With roles in films like Trading Places, Perfect, and A Fish Called Wanda she showed that she was more than just a scream queen - she was a dramatic powerhouse and a comedy horoine to boot. If anyone thought Curtis' peak would be in the '80s they were very wrong.
Short hair, don't care
It's hard to comprehend just how popular Curtis has remained in the modern era. She's transitioned effortlessly from horror to action, to comedy, and back to horror with the ease of a figure skater. Clearly not one to rest on her laurels it doesn't seem like she's going to stop acting any time soon.
How does she keep up her non-stop work schedule and return to the big screen again and again decades after her earliest roles? Curtis says that sobriety is the key to her success:
My sobriety has been the key to freedom, the freedom to be me, to not be looking in the mirror in the reflection and trying to see somebody else. I look in the mirror. I see myself. I accept myself. And I move on because you know what? The world is filled with things we need to do.
If any one star had a hold on the 1980s it was Heather Locklear. Not only was she the number one pinup girl of the era but she was a mainstay on primetime television. As the star of two massive TV shows - Dynasty and TJ Hooker - it was impossible to miss her while watching TV on a weeknight.
One of the most fascinating things about Locklear is the way that she has the vibe of a star who would be all over primetime in the '70s. Doesn't she just look like she would have been right at home on Charlie's Angels and the Love Boat? They really don't make stars like Heather Locklear anymore.
She was still rocking flower power in the early '80s and she's all smiles today
Even though Locklear isn't omnipresent on television the way she was in the '80s, she's still all over the place like a bad penny. If you've got Locklear on the brain you won't be able to stop seeing her on shows across the spectrum. Whether you're into law office dramas or just classic sitcoms this iconic actress finds a way to make an appearance.
Locklear's career shows that even when stars fade they don't disappear forever, at least not unless they want to. It's great to know that we're going to be seeing this blonde beauty across streaming platforms for years to come. And of course, there's always reruns.
Keith Richards, minus a wrinkle or two, at Longview Farms in North Brookfield, MA prior to the Stones’ 1981 tour.
There's something that's unquestionably cool about Keith Richards. It's not just the clothes he wears or the groove shaking music that he makes with the Rolling Stones, it's his entire aura as a rock n roll machine. Even though this photo was taken after the band's "prime," they were actually just hitting their commercial peak in this era.
By 1981, Richards and the Stones were beyond their days as the moddish boys from London who turned rock music on its head, but they were scoring bigger hits than ever with their album Tattoo You. The album was mostly made up of outtakes from previous records but it still featured massive hits like "Start Me Up" and "Hang Fire." Their tour in support of the album went on to be one of the biggest and longest runs of their career.
Even in his golden years Keith is the coolest guy in the room
Even in his 70s Keith Richards remains the pinnacle of rock n roll. Not only is he still writing and performing with the Stones, but he's an accomplished author whose autobiography is easily one of the best rock books of all time. If it's true that we get better as we get older, Richards is living proof of that fact.
If anyone has earned the right to sit back and relax it's Richards, but he can't seem to stop working. It's truly inspiring to see someone who's so successful continue to reach for the brass ring even when he's won time and time again. It's enough to make you want to put on a jaunty hat and try your hand at his out there version of life.
Lynda Carter during the aerobic craze in the 1980s
After Wonder Woman came to an end in the '70s, Lynda Carter showed that she didn't need the lasso of truth or an invisible car to get what she wanted. She stayed on the air with a series of primetime specials where she was able to showcase her comic ablities and her bombastic singing voice (which was her first love), and she even took a run at the aerobics video circuit.
From her early days on the pageant circuit Carter has always been someone who's been in shape. It makes sense, if you're going to be on TV you want to look your best, especially if one of your gigs is showing people how to get fit. Still, she wasn't long for the aerobics world and went back to more traditional roles.
Still a wonder woman
Today, Lynda Carter is more beloved than she's ever been. She pops up on TV shows like Supergirl and she even made a blink and you'll miss her appearance in 2020's Wonder Woman 1984. It's clear that she's accepted her role as an elder statesman in the world of superheroes.
Much like many stars her age, Carter credits her longevity with staying sober. She says that she stopped drinking altogether in her 50s and she never looked back. Her decision to keep the straight and narrow path is definitely laudable, and if it helped her get to where she is today then we couldn't be happier for her.
Model/actress/the main reason to watch 'Weird Science' Kelly LeBrock, 1980s.
For many people who grew up in the '80s there's never been another star like Kelly LeBrock. This model/actress isn't just an icon of the era because of her looks. She has a charisma to her that made John Hughes' Weird Science feel just a little bit realistic even if she was playing a woman who was created by two nerds using a computer during a lightning storm.
The wildest thing about LeBrock showing up in Weird Science is that she almost didn't take the part. When the call came through she was on vacation in the south of France and couldn't pull herself away. She explained:
When I was first offered that role I turned it down because I was having way too much fun in the South of France with Sting, and I didn’t want to go back to the U.S., so they had hired someone else. After about three weeks of shooting the girl had to be fired, so they called me up and said we will give you whatever you want, so the next day I was on a plane to Chicago.
She may have slipped out of view, but she's still the fantasy of teenagers everywhere
Kelly LeBrock's star may have faded at the end of the '80s but that doesn't mean that she doesn't remain one of the most beloved presences of the era. As long as teenagers are watching Weird Science and wondering if it's possible to create the perfect person then LeBrock will continue living rent free in the cultural consciousness. That kind of infinite longevity has to feel good.
LeBrock is a genuinely private celebrity but when she does step off her California ranch it's usually to take part in charitable work. She spends much of her time working with the terminally ill, especially children, and she pops up every now in then in indie films. Frankly, we're just happy to see her no matter what she's doing.
Demi Moore was underage when she appeared on the cover of the January 1981 issue of the adult magazine Oui
Demi Moore's route to superstardom is far more circuitious than her near ubiquitousness would make it seem. Born Demi Gene Guynes in Roswell, New Mexico, she signed up with the Elite Modeling Agency when she was only 16, and married a musician named Freddy Moore all in the span of a few years. With her truly cool name in place (nothing against Demi Guynes, but come on), Moore traveled to France where she poised for the cover of Oui.
Moore has never been excited to be on the cover of Oui at such a young age, although by the time researchers were pulling up those photos she was already on her way to the top of Hollywood. The early '80s were a little little shakey, but things popped off in a big way with her starring role in St. Elmo's Fire. After that breakthrough she essentially went on to run the '80s and early '90s.
Today, Demi Moore takes the reigns on her life
While many of Moore's contemporaries have faded from the limelight she remains someone who still turns out incredible work. After taking on a delightfully villanous role in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Moore started taking on serious roles into the 2010s. It's really wonderful to see someone who's worked so hard flourish as they get older.
After all of her ups and downs Moore is still surprising viewers with the depth that she can bring to the screen. Now seen as a role model, Moore's advice for young people who want to follow in her footsteps is truly sage:
You have to really want this. You have to really be willing to put in the effort, knowing you’re going to face a lot of rejection. My biggest advice is don’t take anything personal and don’t look for someone outside of you to validate you.
In the 1980s Jon Bon Jovi was the perfect star to kick off MTV's Hedonism Weekend in Jamaica with Samantha Fox. Not only was he "Slippery When Wet," but Bon Jovi was easily one of the biggest party bands of the decade. They put the X in excess and made sure that their fans were along for the ride.
Taking a whole crew of rockers to Jamaica couldn't have been a walk in the park, aside from the logistical aspects of the weekend it has to be hard to keep that many people in check for a solid 48 hours. That being said, Bon Jovi is one of those bands that seems like they were able to have a good time without going absolutely off the chain. Maybe that's why MTV elected to bring them down to the carribbean instead of Van Halen.
From posing with Samantha Fox to posing as a silver fox
No longer just a big haired rocker from New Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi has his fingers in as many soups as one can. In the '90s he started up an acting career that ran parallel to his time with the band, you can see him in everything from The West Wing to U-571, and he started investing in sports teams. He mainly focuses on football but he seems like the kind of guy who would venture into anything if it made fiscal sense.
Aside from picking up football teams and appearing on TV, Bon Jovi is a serious philanthropist. He works throughout New England to rehabilitate homes and bring cash to poverty stricken neighborhoods through volunteer work and jobs programs. He's one rocker who really did something with his fame.
Rebecca De Mornay as Lana in Risky Business (1983)
Rebecca De Mornay turned heads across the world when she appeared in 1983's Risky Business, a savvy, sensual take on the teen comedies of the era. She'd only been auditioning for six months when she was offered the role that changed her life forever. This wasn't just life changing for her, it was life affirming.
While speaking with the LA Times in 1993, Mornay said of the strange trip that began with auditioning for Risky Business:
I had only been auditioning for six months--which is nothing--when I got the female lead in a feature film that went on to become a monster hit. I got a nine-year ride on one film.
Rebecca de Mornay returned to the small screen in the 2000s
It can't be easy to become a megastar with a role in your first film, let alone when you're still in your early 20s. While many stars with a similar early trajectory flamed out or went off the deep end, De Mornay found a middle ground between stardom and a private life. Many stars have tried it but De Mornay seems to have perfected it.
Audiences may feel like they haven't seen De Mornay in years, but she's all over the place if you know where to look. In the 2010s she mainly went the independent route for the big screen, but when it comes to television she's made a meal out of shows like Law & Order, ER, and Jessica Jones. Is Rebecca De Mornay the one star who figured out how to stay out of the spotlight and stay in the public consciousness? It looks that way.
Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills in the flick The Karate Kid, 1984
Is there anyone who grew up during the '80s who didn't have a crush on Elisabeth Shue the moment she appeared on screen in The Karate Kid? As Ali Mills, Shue played the classic California every-woman that everyone imagined when thinking of suburban Los Angeles. According to Shue, she couldn't have been further from Ali.
While reminiscing about her time filming Karate Kid, Shue said that not only was she jealous that co-star Ralph Macchio got to learn karate, but that she was way more athletic than he was:
I remember being incredibly jealous that Ralph got to learn karate and I didn’t. I made fun of him a little bit. I had to pretend to be bad in The Karate Kid. I had to pretend that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was better than Ralph Macchio at soccer.
Elisabeth Shue made her way back to Cobra Kai in 2020
While a teen karate movie is exactly the kind of thing that one would think would produce a bevy of one hit wonders, that's not the case for Shue. She's maintained a steady presence on television throughout her career, but when she was asked to return to the role that made her a household name she nearly balked. Not only had she not played the role in literal decades, but she didn't know where she fit into a show like Cobra Kai.
Shue spoke with Entertainment Weekly about returning to the role of Ali decades after the hit and she explained that it wasn't as weird as she thought it would be.
It was so fun to realize that all of our chemistry was exactly the same. My chemistry with Ralph was the same, the same with Billy — it was odd! It was literally like a high school reunion; it felt like no time had passed.
Sarah Jessica Parker during the '80s
If any star of the '80s has a career that parallels the phrase "I've been everywhere, man" it's Sarah Jessica Parker. She made her stage debut in the Broadway musical Annie in 1977 before taking on the leading role in Square Pegs. While that series only ran for a single season it showed audiences that she was capable of both belting out a song and shining on the small screen.
Throughout the '80s she popped in small roles in a series of films that would show just how elegantly she could handle being a supporting player. In both Footloose and Flight of the Navigator she turns otherwise thankless roles into straight up talent shows. Looking back on her run in the '80s it's clear that she was destined for something big.
By the 2000s Sarah Jessica Parker was a red carpet mainstay
Sarah Jessica Parker's career really does show what can be done with hard work. She spent the '90s taking on supporting roles in films that have come to be considered classics: Hocus Pocus, Mars Attacks, and Ed Wood all gave her space to do what she does best - act. She really became the SJP we know today when she took on the role of Carrie Bradshaw in HBO's Sex in the City.
Was it this one role that opened her up to an all new audience or was it years of hard work that pushed her over the top? It's really a combination of both; all of that hard work has a cumulitave effect that can turn someone's career into a speeding train. On top of all of that, Parker has become a name in both fashion and publishing, which shows just shows how much she's picked up over her time in the biz.
During the 1980s no one thought that Sharon Stone would be the huge star that she became in the '90s. During the first decade of her career she appears in a series of B-Movies but none of them afforded her the eyes on the screen that she needed. Why wasn't she being offered the roles she deserved? Stone says it's because she was a "bookworm."
As unquestionably beautiful as Stone is, she says that it was nearly impossible for her to get roles in Hollywood. She said that producers could basically see that she was a wallflower and they didn't want that, so she decided to take her career into her own hands. She explained:
I decided because I was a very bookworm person that I had to use my intelligence of how to be sexy. So I was very good friends with the woman who was photo-editor of Playboy magazine and she was always saying that Hugh Hefner wanted me to be in Playboy. I thought, ‘you know what, this would be an intelligent step for me because if I tell people that I’m sexy, they’ll think I’m sexy’. So I showed her some black and white pictures that Man Ray had taken of his wife and said, ‘something like this’. And I got Basic Instinct, like five minutes later.
There will never be another Sharon Stone
Stone's decision to make sure that people perceived her as sexy worked like gangbusters. Not only was she suddenly the apple of every casting director's eye, but she became a legitimate star thanks to films like Total Recall and Basic Instinct. Stone is the first to say that while she was painted to be a saucy onscreen dame, she's anything but.
Today, Stone is still acting but she's also an accomplished songwriter and she's the mother to three adopted children, which is where her concentration lies. In 2014 she explained the excitement she feels when thinking about watching her sons grow up:
My children are at a fantastic age. They are boys, all three of them. They are seven, eight and 13 and this is the first time that as a group they are having experiences that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. I want them to remember being together in Morocco, running up and down sand dunes, riding camels, and walking through souks.
Slash in 1982 before Guns N’ Roses was started, and he was known as Saul
Even if you're a Guns N' Roses superfan you're probably not used to seeing Slash without his iconic tophat or Les Paul. Taken when he was still one of thousands of guitar players in the Los Angeles metal scene, this photo shows that everyone - no matter how famous - starts somewhere. Even so, it's clear that Slash (then going by Saul) had the mysterious it.
When asked about how he came to pick up the famous tophat, thus creating his whole persona, Slash says that in true GnR fashion he stole it:
I guess this was in 1985, Guns N’ Roses was playing at The Whiskey. I went down to Melrose and I never had any money. I was looking for something cool that I could wear at this gig. I went into this store... I saw a top hat through the window, so I went in to look at it and tried it on. I thought, Oh, this would be cool. I looked around and no one was really paying attention to me. I just took a chance on it and walked out with it... I wore it that night and it just became a thing. I think the hat was good for me to be able to hide behind.
By the '90s Guns N' Roses was both the biggest band in the world and the biggest mess in the world. Slash exited the band more the decade was half way over with and went on to do his own thing with Slash's Snake Pit as well as with a series of solo projects that only served to grow his legend. However, the world was set back on the right trajectory when he rejoined the band in the 2010s to bring the rock back to the world.
Now back in the fold with GnR, Slash notes that the band is far less contentious than they were in the '80s and '90s. But more than that, he says that playing with the band is like going home:
I’m just a player that really loves writing and performing. With Guns N’ Roses, that’s where I come from, so it has a really important meaning for me. We built this thing really against all odds and out of nothing, so that for me is my home base. When we go out and play, there’s a certain type of chemistry and a certain type of energy that only exists in that combination of folks. It’s a lot of fun. Obviously, I was gone for a long time and when I came back into it, I didn’t know what to expect and it ended up being one of the most memorable periods of my life.
Supermodel Brooke Shields even had a doll that had her famous Calvin Kleins on
Brooke Shields was, without a doubt, the most famous teenager of the 1980s. Thanks to her ad campaign with Calvin Klein Jeans Shields wasn't just any old model, she was literally an it girl whose visage couldn't be avoided. It's safe to say that the experience was a head trip for the young woman who was still in high school.
People were truly obsessed with Shields in the 1980s. Not only was she a pin-up, but she was a legit movie star thanks to her roles in The Blue Lagoon and Pretty Baby, she was just inescable. Shields was so popular that by the time she was 20-years-old she had already published the autobiography On Your Own.
It's like she hasn't aged a day
As if propelled by some invisible engine Brook Shields remains on the forefront of the fashion business. She's not just remembered for her ad decades ago, she literally did anything and everything she ever wanted to do in the entertainment world. She deserves to be celebrated.
So what do all of these decades in the fashion and entertainment industries mean to Shields? To her, it's all about being able to say she's confident in her decisions. She told The Guardian:
I can sit at a lunch today and not think, ‘Oh, I’m so lucky to be here.’ I can think, intellectually, I can have a conversation with anybody. I’ve been around so long, I’m not scared to go and talk to Anna Wintour or whoever. And then I can also say, well, you did have an impact on the fashion industry. And I’m a mom, and I’m a businesswoman. I can go into these meetings now, and I’m not looking over my shoulder saying: is somebody on to me?
Tanya Roberts in the movie The Beastmaster (1982)
Tanya Roberts may never have reached that vaulted A-list status but by the 1980s she was one of the biggest cult stars of the era. Aside from co-starring in Beastmaster and being a Bond girl, she was only Charlie's Angels. That's not just an acting gig, that's being a part of television history.
Roberts became somewhat of a journeywoman throughout the '80s. Not only was she known for her roles in genre pictures, but she popped up in everything from a Mike Hammer film to Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. Critic Pauline Kael referred to her as a "walking, talking icon."
Tanya Roberts found a second onscreen career with That '70s Show
One of the most inspiring things about Roberts is the way that she never stopped looking for her next big break. Not one to settle on the laurels of the '70s and '80s, Roberts continued acting in small pieces throughout the early '90s. However, her most well known role of the time looked back to her days with Charlie's Angels.
In 1998, Roberts was cast in That '70s Show as Midge Pinciotti. Was it stunt casting? Absolutely. But it was also a brilliant way to use a known quantity like Roberts on a show that was all about a decade that means so much to so many people.
Cyndi Lauper on stage, 1984
She's so unusual, at least that's what Lauper's debut solo album wanted her audience to think. The poster girl for the mix of pop and new wave, Lauper brought fun and effervescence to MTV at a time when people wanted something light in their lives. Lauper's album connected with seemingly everyone who heard it, and it wasn't long before it sold 22 million albums.
That kind of fame wasn't easy for Lauper, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Things got so out of hand that Lauper says she had to hide whenever she went out in public. She told the Independent:
I got so famous I couldn’t wear my jewellery out anymore, and that was tough, because I used to wear a lot of jewellery. I had to hide my hair as well. Thing is, it being pink made me feel more alive, made me feel more… me. Every other woman was blonde, and I never wanted that.
Beautiful in blonde
It's inarguable that Cyndi Lauper is one of the biggest pop stars of the '80s, what with the success of her debut album and its massive singles. But how does someone keep that success going for decades? Over the course of four decades she's continued to hit the stage hard whether she's playing her own songs or winning a Tony Award for her performance in Kinky Boots on Broadway.
While speaking with Billboard in 2019, Lauper said that she's not done changing and growing. Noting that she still wants "to be a great artist," Lauper admitted that she's working on an adaptation of the 1988 film Working Girl. She may be "so unusual" but she's never going to stop working.
Winona Ryder, 1980s
There's no actress that really captured the indoor kid spirit of the '80s quite like Winona Ryder. With roles in legitimate classics like Heathers and Beetlejuice (the list really goes on and on), Ryder crafted an aesthetic that showed fellow weirdoes exactly how to look and carry themselves. It's possible that much of the "college rock" look of the '80s comes from Ryder.
While Ryder may have been a goth at heart, she also knew how to poke fun at herself. Which is exactly what she said she was doing with Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice:
It was fun to play that up. My friends just love that movie because I’m making fun of myself in it. Most of the clothes I wore were my own.
In spite of her ups and downs Ryder has never really gone away. She's maintained a kind of underground status even though she's easily one of the most beloved actresses of the '80s. Even though time marches on, she still has the glimmer and spark of the young woman who entranced viewers with her dark comic sensibilities.
Ryder says that she doesn't really care about what people think of her, she's just doing what she's always done. After learning that she was included on a list of Ten Most Beautiful Women from Harper's Bazaar, Ryder responded:
I didn’t know what to say. If anyone followed my advice, I don’t know what they’d look like. I’m not a big one on—I don’t know what to call it—getting all glamorous. I don’t really worry about my looks, and I don’t worry about getting old. Exterior beauty doesn’t mean a lot to me. I mean, sure I like to look nice—sometimes.