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Kennedy in 1980.
October 27, 1951
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Other names||Jayne Kennedy Overton|
|Spouse(s)||Leon Isaac Kennedy (m. 1970–82; divorced)
Bill Overton (m. 1985-present)
|Children||4 (With Overton)|
|Awards||1982 NAACP Image Award: Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture (Body and Soul)|
Jayne Kennedy Overton (née Harrison; October 27, 1951) is an American television personality, corporate spokeswoman, producer, writer, public speaker, philanthropist, beauty pageant titleholder and sports broadcaster. She won a 1982 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture award for her performance in the 1981's film Body and Soul co-starring alongside her then-husband Leon Isaac Kennedy. She won the NAACP Theater Award for Best Producer along with her current husband Bill Overton for their production of the highly acclaimed staged musical, The Journey of the African American. She is also an Emmy Award winner for her coverage of the Rose Parade and was nominated for an Emmy for her coverage of the news feature on soldiers on the DMZ in South Korea for NBC’s Speak Up America in 1980. Ebony Magazine announced as “One of the 20 Greatest Sex Symbols of the 20th Century,” and in the 1980s, Coca Cola USA named Jayne Kennedy “The Most Admired Black Woman in America”.
Born Jayne Harrison in Washington, D.C., to machinist Herbert Harrison and his wife, Virginia. While still in high school, she was crowned Miss Ohio USA in 1970 (she was the first African American woman to win the title), and was one of the 12 semi-finalists in the Miss USA Universe 1970 pageant. It was rare for an African American woman at that time to be in the contest.. She attended Wickliffe High School in Wickliffe, Ohio. She represented Wickliffe High School at the American Legion’s Girls State mock-government program and was elected as a senator to the American Legion’s Girls Nation program in Washington D.C. where she won the office of Vice President of the United States and was sworn into office by then VP Spiro T. Agnew.
In 1971, Jayne and her then-husband Leon Isaac Kennedy moved to California to pursue careers in acting. She began with a stint on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In as a dancer, traveled as one of the Hollywood Deb Stars on Bob Hope’s Bases Around The World Christmas Tour in Vietnam, Thailand, Cuba, etc. She then won a spot of one of The Dean Martin Show’s Ding-A-Ling Sisters for three years, performing in night clubs all over the USA as a singer/dancer.
In 1978, she won national acclaim as one of the first women to infiltrate the male-dominated world of sports announcing with a place on The NFL Today. She went on to be the only female to ever host the syndicated TV series Greatest Sports Legends.
She has been on the covers of Ebony, Jet, and Essence magazines numerous times. In the early 1980s she wrote, produced and starred in the "Love your Body" exercise videos and produced the first in-flight exercise in the sky program for American Airlines, AAerobics, at the same time, she also had worked as a corporate spokeswoman for Esoterica, Jovan, Revlon, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Bankers Systems, Butterick Patterns and 6 years with Coca-Cola's Tab and Diet Coke.
Since the 1990s, Kennedy has remained busy away from the limelight, spending more time with her family. With four daughters, she has been a huge advocate for equality in sports for women and girls. For many years, she worked for the Children's Miracle Network, where she assisted in raising billions of dollars for Children's Hospitals along with Marie Osmond, John Schneider, Marilyn McCoo, Bob Hope, and Rich Little.
A year after High School, she met Leon Isaac Kennedy, who was a DJ and a struggling actor/writer. They married in 1971. Motown's Smokey Robinson served as best man at the wedding. They divorced in 1982. In 1985 she married actor Bill Overton. They have four children: his daughter Cheyenne (1982) and their three daughters Savannah Re (b. November 20, 1985), Kopper Joi (b. May 17, 1989) and Zaire Ollyea (b. September 15, 1995).
TV and filmography
- Group Marriage - Judy (1973)
- Ironside episode "The Last Payment" (TV series, 1973)
- Sanford and Son season 4 episode 5 "There'll be some changes made" (TV series, 1974)
- The Six Million Dollar Man episode: "The Song and Dance Spy" (TV series, October 5, 1975)
- Let's Do It Again - Girl at Factory (1975)
- The Rockford Files episode: "Foul on the First Play" (TV series, 1976)
- The Muthers — Serena (1976)
- Big Time - Shana Baynes (1977)
- Wonder Woman Episode: "Knockout" (TV series, 1977)
- Fighting Mad - Maria Russell (1978) *Death Force -1978
- Chips episode: "Kidnap" (TV series, 1980)
- Chips episode: "Mitchell and Woods" (Pilot TV series, 1981)
- The Love Boat various episodes (TV series, 1981)
- Body and Soul — Julie Winters (NAACP Image Award, Best Actress) (1981)
- Diff'rent Strokes episode: "The Moonlighter" (TV series, 1983)
- Benson episode: "Three on Mismatch" (TV series, 1986)
- Profile, Ebony Magazine (December 1996)