Jennifer O'Neill

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Jennifer O'Neill
Jennifer O'Neill, actress, cropped.jpg
O'Neill circa 1982
Born (1948-02-20) February 20, 1948 (age 75)
EducationDalton School
Occupation(s)Actress, model, writer, speaker, horse trainer
Years active1968–present
Dean Rossiter
(m. 1965; div. 1971)

Joseph Koster
(m. 1972; div. 1974)

(m. 1975; div. 1976)

(m. 1978; div. 1979)

John Lederer
(m. 1979; div. 1983)

Richard Alan Brown
(m. 1986; div. 1989)

(m. 1993; div. 1996)

Neil L. Bonin
(m. 1992; annul. 1993)

Mervin Sidney Louque Jr.
(m. 1996)

Jennifer O'Neill (born February 20, 1948) is a Brazilian-born American actress, model, author, and activist. She is known for her modeling and spokesperson work for CoverGirl cosmetics starting in 1963, and her starring role in the Oscar-winning 1971 film Summer of '42.

She also starred in the Howard Hawks western Rio Lobo (1970), and worked in Italian cinema, such as Lucio Fulci's famous giallo horror film Sette note in nero and Luchino Visconti's final film The Innocent (1976). She starred in the cult horror film Scanners (1981), the Rachel Scott biopic I'm Not Ashamed (2016), and the short-lived television series Cover Up (1984–85). Since the 1990s, O'Neill has been a born-again Christian and active in the pro-life movement, and has worked as a motivational speaker.

Early life[edit]

O'Neill was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her mother was English and her father was a Brazilian of Portuguese, Spanish and Irish ancestry.[1] She and her older brother Michael were raised in New Rochelle, New York, and Wilton, Connecticut. When she was 14, the family moved to New York City. On Easter Sunday, 1962, O'Neill attempted suicide because the move would separate her from her dog Mandy and horse Monty — "her whole world".[2] That same year, she was discovered by the Ford modeling agency.[citation needed] By age 15, while attending the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan, she was appearing on the covers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen, earning $80,000 ($717,000 today) in 1962.[2]: 71 

An accomplished equestrienne, O'Neill won upwards of 200 ribbons at horse show competitions in her teens. With her modelling fees, she had purchased a horse, named Alezon. However, it once balked before a wall at a horse show, throwing her, and breaking her neck and back in three places.[2]: 83  She attended New York City's Professional Children's School and the Dalton School in Manhattan, but dropped out to wed her first husband, IBM executive Dean Rossiter, at age 17.[3]


Jennifer O'Neill in Lady Ice (1973)

In 1968 O'Neill landed a small role in For Love of Ivy. In 1970 she played her first lead role in the Howard Hawks film Rio Lobo with her co-star John Wayne. She had a supporting role in Otto Preminger's Such Good Friends (1971) starring Dyan Cannon and Ken Howard.

In the 1971 film Summer of '42, O'Neill played Dorothy Walker, the early-20s wife of an airman who has gone off to fight in World War II. She stated in a 2002 interview that her agent had to fight to even get a reading for the part,[4] since the role had been cast for an "older woman" to a "coming of age" 15-year-old boy, and the director was only considering actresses over the age of thirty.

In 1972, she co-starred with Tom Jones in David Winters's television special The Special London Bridge Special.[5]

O'Neill continued acting for the next two decades. She appeared in Hollywood feature films, made-for-television films, and European films,

In 1976, she acted in Luchino Visconti's last film, The Innocent.

She was originally cast in the Disney film The Black Hole (1979), but was told she needed to cut her hair because it would be easier to film the zero-G scenes. She gave in, drinking wine during the haircut and leaving noticeably impaired. She lost the part after a serious car crash on the way home.[6]

When her movie career slowed, O'Neill took roles in series television.[7] She starred in NBC's short-lived 1982 prime time soap opera Bare Essence and played the lead female role on the 1984 television series Cover Up. On October 12, 1984, Jon-Erik Hexum, O'Neill's co-star in the Cover Up television series, mortally wounded himself on the show's set, unaware that a gun loaded with a blank cartridge could still cause extreme damage from the effect of expanding powder gases. He died six days later.

O'Neill is listed in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History's Center for Advertising History for her long-standing contract with CoverGirl cosmetics as its model and spokesperson in ads and television commercials.[8]


In 2004, O'Neill wrote and published From Fallen to Forgiven,[9] a book of biographical notes and thoughts about life and existence. O'Neill recounted how she underwent an abortion while dating a Wall Street socialite after the divorce from her first husband. Her regrets over the experience contributed to her becoming an anti-abortion activist and a born-again Christian in 1986 at age 38. She also began counseling abstinence to teens. Concerning her abortion, she writes:

I was told a lie from the pit of hell: that my baby was just a blob of tissue. The aftermath of abortion can be equally deadly for both mother and unborn child. A woman who has an abortion is sentenced to bear that for the rest of her life.[10]

O'Neill continues to be active as a writer working on her second autobiography, CoverStory, an inspirational speaker, and fundraiser for the benefit of crisis pregnancy centers across the United States.[11] She has also served as the spokesperson for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign,[11] an organization for people who regret that they or their partners had abortions.

Personal life[edit]

O'Neill has been married nine times to eight husbands (she married, divorced, and remarried her sixth husband Richard Alan Brown).[3] She has three children from three husbands.[2]: 95 : 174 : 209 

  • Dean Rossiter (1965–1971, divorced, 1 child)
  • Joseph Koster (1972–1974, divorced)
  • Nick De Noia (1975–1976, divorced)
  • Jeff Barry (1978–1979, divorced)
  • John Lederer (1979–1983, divorced, 1 child)
  • Richard Alan Brown (1986–1989, divorced, 1 child)
  • Neil L. Bonin (1992–1993, annulled)
  • Richard Alan Brown (1993–1996, divorced)
  • Mervin Sidney Louque Jr. (1996–present)

Ex-husband Nick de Noia was murdered in 1987 by one of his former associates.[12]

On October 23, 1982, O'Neill suffered a gunshot wound in her home on McClain Street in Bedford, New York. Police officers who interviewed O'Neill determined that she had accidentally shot herself in the abdomen with a .38 caliber revolver at her 30-acre, 25-room French-style estate[13] while trying to determine if the weapon was loaded.[14][15] Her husband at the time, John Lederer, was not in the house when the handgun was discharged, but two other people were in the house. Detective Sgt. Thomas Rothwell was quoted as having said that O'Neill "didn't know much about guns."[16]

In her 1999 autobiography Surviving Myself, O'Neill describes many of her life experiences, including her marriages, career, and her move to her Tennessee farm in the late 1990s.[2] She has said that she wrote the autobiography (her first book) "... at the prompting of her children."[2]

O'Neill has dual citizenship, being a Brazilian and U.S. citizen.



Year Title Role Notes
1968 For Love of Ivy Sandy
1969 Some Kind of a Nut The Beauty uncredited
1970 Rio Lobo Shasta Delaney
1971 Summer of '42 Dorothy
1971 Such Good Friends Miranda
1972 The Carey Treatment Georgia Hightower
1973 Lady Ice Paula Booth
1975 The Reincarnation of Peter Proud Ann Curtis
1975 Whiffs Lt. Scottie Hallam
1975 The Flower in His Mouth Elena Bardi
1976 The Innocent Teresa Raffo
1977 The Psychic Virginia Ducci
1978 Caravans Ellen Jasper
1979 A Force of One Mandy Rust
1979 Steel Cass Cassidy
1980 Cloud Dancer Helen St. Clair
1981 Scanners Kim Obrist
1987 I Love N.Y. Irene
1991 Committed Susan Manning
1992 Invasion of Privacy Hillary Wayne Video
1994 Discretion Assured Paige
1994 The Visual Bible: Acts Lydia of Thyatira Video
1997 The Corporate Ladder Irene Grace
1997 The Ride Ellen Stillwell
1999 The Prince and the Surfer Queen Albertina
2002 Time Changer Michelle Bain
2012 Last Ounce of Courage Dottie Revere
2013 Doonby Barbara Ann
2016 I'm Not Ashamed Linda


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Love's Savage Fury Laurel Taggart TV movie
1981 The Other Victim Nancy Langford TV movie
1983 Bare Essence Lady Bobbi Rowan Main role (11 episodes)
1984-1985 Cover Up Danielle Reynolds Main role (22 episodes)
1985 A.D. Messalina TV miniseries
1985 Chase Sandy Albright TV movie
1986 Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star Alison Carr TV movie
1988 The Red Spider Stephanie Hartford TV movie
1988 Glory Days Scotty Moran TV movie
1989 Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal Debralee Taft TV movie
1990 Personals Heather Moore TV movie
1992 Perfect Family Maggie TV movie
1993 The Cover Girl Murders Kate TV movie
1994 Jonathan Stone: Threat of Innocence Nan Stone TV movie
1995 Silver Strand Louellen Peterson TV movie
1996 Voyeur II Elizabeth (voice) Video game
1996 Poltergeist: The Legacy Lorraine Compton Episode: "Revelations"
1997 Nash Bridges Jenny Episode: "Shake, Rattle & Roll"
2000 On Music Row Linda Rodgers TV movie
2000 Heroes and Sheroes Self Reality TV

Books published[edit]

  • Surviving Myself, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1999.
  • From Fallen to Forgiven, Thomas Nelson, 2002.
  • You're Not Alone: Healing Through God's Grace After Abortion. Faith Communications, 2005.
  • Remarkable Women, Insight Publishing Group, 2005.
  • A Fall Together, B&H Publishing Group, 2006.
  • A Winter of Wonders, B&H Publishing Group, 2007.
  • A Late Spring Frost, B&H Publishing Group, 2007
  • Faith Lessons, Insight Publishing Group, 2008.


  1. ^ "BIOGRAPHY | The Official Jennifer O'Neill Site". Archived from the original on February 4, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f O'Neill, Jennifer (1999). Surviving Myself. W. Morrow. ISBN 978-0-688-15992-4.
  3. ^ a b Levitt, Shelley (January 18, 1993). "Seventh Heaven". People. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  4. ^ Park, Louis Hillary (June 2002). "Summer of '42". TC Palm. Archived from the original on February 5, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Lake Havasu city plays a starring role in special". Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. May 6, 1972. p. 12-D.
  6. ^ Weiner, David (December 13, 2019). ""We Never Had an Ending:" How Disney's 'Black Hole' Tried to Match 'Star Wars'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Buck, Jerry (March 5, 1983). "Jennifer O'Neill Swept Into Role In 'Bare Essence'". The News and Courier. p. 3-D.
  8. ^ Cover Girl Advertising Oral History & Documentation Project, 1959–1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
  9. ^ O'Neill, Jennifer (2002). From Fallen to Forgiven. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-0-8499-1715-8.
  10. ^ "People vs. Politicians". National Catholic Register. May 8, 2007. p. 8.
  11. ^ a b Mosher, Megan (September 16, 2011). "Restoration House Celebrates 25 years". Daily Star. Hammond, Louisiana. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  12. ^ Purdum, Todd S. (April 8, 1987). "Emmy-Winning Producer Shot to Death in Office". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  13. ^ Stevenson, Laura (November 24, 1975). "Unlucky in Love". People.
  14. ^ Whitehouse, Franklin (October 24, 1982). "Shooting of Jennifer O'Neill is believed accidental". The New York Times.
  15. ^ "THE REGION; O'Neill Shooting Called an Accident". The New York Times. October 26, 1982.
  16. ^ "Actress claims shooting was accident", Minden Press-Herald, October 26, 1982, p. 1

External links[edit]