Pam Grier

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Pam Grier
Pamela Suzette Grier, 2012 (cropped).jpg
Grier in 2012
Pamela Suzette Grier

(1949-05-26) May 26, 1949 (age 70)
EducationEast High School
Metropolitan State College
Years active1970–present
Known forCoffy
Foxy Brown
Sheba Baby
Friday Foster
Jackie Brown
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Partner(s)Kareem Abdul-Jabbar[1]
Freddie Prinze[2][1]
Richard Pryor
Kevin Evans
AwardsSan Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best ActressJackie Brown

Pamela Suzette Grier (born May 26, 1949) is an American actress. She achieved fame for her starring roles in a string of 1970s women in prison and blaxploitation films for American International Pictures and New World Pictures, most notably Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). Her other films during this period include The Big Doll House (1971), The Big Bird Cage (1972), Black Mama, White Mama (1973), Scream Blacula Scream (1973), The Arena (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975), Bucktown (1975) and Friday Foster (1975). Described by Quentin Tarantino as cinema's first female action star,[3] she starred as the titular character in Tarantino's 1997 crime film Jackie Brown, for which she received a Satellite Award and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She has also been nominated for a SAG Award.

For six seasons, Grier portrayed Kate "Kit" Porter on the Showtime television series The L Word, which ran from 2004 until 2009. She received an Emmy nomination for her work in the animated program Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child.

Early life[edit]

Grier was born on May 26, 1949, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the daughter of Gwendolyn Sylvia (née Samuels), a homemaker and nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier, Jr., who worked as a mechanic and technical sergeant in the United States Air Force. She has one sister and one brother.[4] Grier has stated that she is of mixed ancestry consisting of African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne heritage.[5]

At age 6, Grier was raped by two boys when she was left unattended at her aunt's house. "It took so long to deal with the pain of that," she says, "You try to deal with it, but you never really get over it," she adds. "And not just me; my family endured so much guilt and anger that something like that happened to me."[5] Because of her father's military career, the family moved frequently during her childhood to various places such as England before eventually settling in Denver, Colorado, where she attended East High School. While in Denver, she appeared in a number of stage productions, and participated in beauty contests to raise money for college tuition at Metropolitan State College. While in college, she was date raped.[6]


Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired to work the switchboard at American International Pictures (AIP).[7] She is believed to have been discovered by director Jack Hill,[8] who cast her in his women-in-prison films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s blaxploitation movies, playing big, bold, assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill's Coffy (1973), in which she plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers. Her character was advertised in the trailer as the "baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!" The film, which was filled with sexual and violent elements typical of the genre, was a box-office hit. Grier is considered to be the first African-American female to headline an action film, as protagonists of previous blaxploitation films were males. In his review of Coffy, critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its believable female lead. He noted that Grier was an actress of "beautiful face and astonishing form" and that she possessed a kind of "physical life" missing from many other attractive actresses.[9]

Grier subsequently played similar characters in the AIP films Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby, and Friday Foster (both 1975). With the demise of blaxploitation later in the 1970s, Grier appeared in smaller roles for many years. She acquired progressively larger character roles in the 1980s, including a druggie prostitute in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), a witch in Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983).

In 1985, Grier made her theater debut in Sam Sheppard's Fool for Love at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.[10]

Grier returned to film as Steven Seagal's detective partner in Above the Law (1988). She had a recurring role on Miami Vice from 1985 to 1989 and made guest appearances on Martin, Night Court, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She had a recurring role in the TV series Crime Story between 1986 and 1988. Her role in Rocket Gibraltar (1988) was cut due to fears by the film's director, Daniel Petrie, of "repercussions from interracial love scenes."[11] She appeared on Sinbad, Preston Chronicles, The Cosby Show, The Wayans Brothers Show, and Mad TV. In 1994, Grier appeared in Snoop Dogg's video for "Doggy Dogg World".

Grier with moderator Jarrett Crippen during a Q&A session at the 2013 Wizard World New York Experience

In the late 1990s Grier was a cast member of the Showtime series Linc's. She appeared in 1996 in John Carpenter's Escape from L.A. and 1997 with the title role in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, films that partly paid homage to her 1970s blaxploitation movies. She was nominated for numerous awards for her work in the Tarantino film. Grier appeared on Showtime's The L Word, in which she played Kit Porter. The series ran for six seasons and ended in March 2009. Grier occasionally guest-stars in such television series as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (where she is a recurring character).

In 2010 Grier began appearing in a recurring role on the hit science-fiction series Smallville as the villain Amanda Waller, also known as White Queen, head agent of Checkmate, a covert operations agency. She appeared as a friend and colleague to Julia Roberts' college professor in 2011's Larry Crowne.

In 2010, Grier wrote her memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, with Andrea Cagan.[12]

Grier received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2011. That same year, she received an honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University.[13]

She founded the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center with the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. The purpose is to teach people about organic gardening, health and nutrition among other things.[14] The museum named its first garden in honor of Grier in 2011.[15]

In January 2018, Grier revealed a biopic based on her memoir is in the works titled Pam.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Grier lives on a ranch in Colorado.[16]


Grier has never been married but she had a few high profile relationships.

Grier met basketball player Lew Alcindor before he became a Muslim. Soon after they began dating, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar proposed to Grier, but gave her an ultimatum to convert to Islam.[17] He said, "If you don't commit to me today, I'm getting married at 2 this afternoon. She's a converted Muslim, and she's been prepared for me," adding, "once you become Muslim, you might appreciate another wife." Grier declined, so he got married that day.[18]

Grier met comedian Freddie Prinze while promoting her film Coffy in 1973. They fell in love and considered marriage.[18] Prinze wanted her to have his baby, but she was reluctant due to his history of depression and drug addiction.[12][19] They remained in touch after she broke up with him. She was one of the last people Prinze spoke to before he fatally shot himself in 1977.[6]

Grier met comedian Richard Pryor through her relationship with Prinze, but they didn't begin dating until they were both cast in Greased Lightning.[18] She helped Pryor learn to read and tried to help him with his drug addiction.[6][12] After six months sober he relapsed.[18] In her memoir, Grier revealed her sexual relationship with Pryor caused cocaine to enter her system. During an appointment, she was informed that she had a "buildup of cocaine residue" around her cervix and vagina which her doctor called an "epidemic" in Beverly Hills. He asked her if perhaps Pryor put cocaine on his penis to sustain his erection; she was unsure.[20] He then asked if her mouth went numb while performing oral sex on Pryor, to which she said it did, and he linked it to the Novocaine-like effects of cocaine. Grier confronted Pryor about protecting her health, but he refused to use a condom.[19] Pryor married another woman while dating Grier in 1977.[21]

Grier was formerly romantically linked to Soul Train host Don Cornelius[22] and basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.[23]

In 1998, Grier was engaged to RCA Records executive Kevin Evans, but the engagement ended in 1999.[24]


Grier was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer in 1988, and was told she had 18 months to live. Through vigorous treatment she made a recovery and has been in remission.[25]

Awards and nominations[edit]





Year Title Role
1970 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Partygoer
1971 The Big Doll House Grear
Women in Cages Alabama
1972 The Twilight People Ayesa
Cool Breeze Mona
The Big Bird Cage Blossom
Hit Man Gozelda
1973 Black Mama White Mama Lee Daniels
Coffy Coffy
Scream Blacula Scream Lisa Fortier
1974 The Arena Mamawi
Foxy Brown Foxy Brown
1975 Sheba, Baby Sheba Shayne
Bucktown Aretha
Friday Foster Friday Foster
1976 Drum Regine
1977 Greased Lightning Mary Jones
Twilight of Love Sandra
1981 Fort Apache, The Bronx Charlotte
1983 Something Wicked This Way Comes Dust Witch
Tough Enough Myra
1985 Stand Alone Cathryn Bolan
1986 The Vindicator Hunter
On the Edge Cora
1987 The Allnighter Sgt. McLeesh
1988 Above the Law Delores 'Jacks' Jackson
1989 The Package Ruth Butler
1990 Class of 1999 Ms. Connors
1991 Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Ms. Wardroe
1993 Posse Phoebe
1996 Original Gangstas Laurie Thompson
Escape from L.A. Hershe Las Palmas
Mars Attacks! Louise Williams
1997 Fakin' da Funk Annabelle Lee
Jackie Brown Jackie Brown
1999 Jawbreaker Detective Vera Cruz
In Too Deep Det. Angela Wilson
Holy Smoke! Carol
2000 Snow Day Tina
Fortress 2: Re-Entry Susan Mendenhall
Wilder Detective Della Wilder
2001 Ghosts of Mars Commander Helena Braddock
Bones Pearl
2002 The Adventures of Pluto Nash Flura Nash
2005 Back in the Day Mrs. Cooper
2010 The Invited Zelda
Just Wright Janice Wright
Machete Maidens Unleashed! Herself
2011 Larry Crowne Frances
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel Herself
2012 Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day Detective Barrick
Mafia James Womack
The Man with the Iron Fists Jane
2017 Bad Grandmas Coralee
Being Rose Lily
2019 Poms Olive


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Roots: The Next Generations Francey Miniseries
Episode: "Part IV (1917–1921)"
1980 The Love Boat Cynthia Wilbur 2 episodes
1985 Badge of the Assassin Alexandra Horn Television film
1985–1990 Miami Vice Valerie Gordon 3 episodes
1986 Night Court Benet Collins 2 episodes
1986–1988 Crime Story Suzanne Terry Recurring role
7 episodes
1987 The Cosby Show Samantha Episode: "Planning Parenthood"
1988 Frank's Place Neema Sharone Episode: "Frank's Place – The Movie"
1989 Midnight Caller Susan Province Episode: "Blood Red"
1990 Knots Landing Lieutenant Guthrie 2 episodes
1991 Monsters Matilde Episode: "Hostile Takeover"
1992 Pacific Station Grace Ballard Episode: "My Favorite Dad"
A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story Linda Holman Television film
1994 In Living Color Herself Episode: "Mrs. Ikefire"
The Sinbad Show Lynn Montgomery 2 episodes
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Janice Robertson Episode: "M is for the Many Things She Gave Me"
1995 The Marshal Marshal Vanetta Brown Episode: "Rainbow Comix"
Martin Herself Episode: "All the Players Came"
1996 Sparks Ms. Grayson Episode: "Pillow Talk"
The Wayans Bros. Erica Episodes: "Goin' to the Net"
1998 Mad TV Host Episode #3.25
Pinky and the Brain Julie Auburn Voice role
Episode: "Inherit the Wheeze"
Family Blessings Mrs. Quincy Television film
1998–2000 Linc's Eleanor Winthrop Series regular
35 episodes
1999 The Wild Thornberrys Mother Springbok Voice role
Episode: "Stick Your Neck Out"
Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child The Empress' Nightingale Voice role
Episode: "The Empress' Nightingale"
Hayley Wagner, Star Sam Television film
For Your Love Brenda Episode: "The Sins of the Mother and... the Boyfriend"
2001 The Feast of All Saints Suzzette Lermontant Television film
3 A.M. George Television movie
2002 Night Visions Dr. Lewis Episode: "Switch"
Justice League My'ria'h Voice role
2 episodes
2002–2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Asst. US Attorney Claudia Williams 2 episodes
2003 First to Die Claire Washburn Television film
2004–2009 The L Word Kit Porter Series regular
70 episodes
2008 Ladies of the House Roberta "Birdie" Marchand Television film
2010 Smallville Amanda Waller 3 episodes
2015 Cleveland Abduction Nurse Carla Television film
2018 This Is Us Grandma Episode: "This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life"
2019 Bless This Mess Constance Main role
2019 A Christmas Wish Mary Television film

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2013 Grand Theft Auto V Radio Presenter DJ on in-game radio station 'The Lowdown 91.1'
2017 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Herself



  • 2010: Foxy: My Life in Three Acts (ISBN 9780446548502)


  1. ^ a b "The Illest Na Na". Vibe Magazine. February 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Freddie Prinze". Vibe Magazine. February 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Pam Grier". Wizard World. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  4. ^ Mal Vincent (January 6, 1998). "She's Back, And She's Ready To Kick Butt. Pam Grier Is Baaaaaad, And Was not very nice The Man Who Doesn'T Take Notice". The Virginian-Pilot Archives. Norfolk, VA. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  5. ^ a b John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer (September 18, 2010). "Pam Grier, queen of 1970s blaxploitation films, speaks in Cleveland on her book tour". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Fleming, Mike (January 16, 2018). "'70s Screen Icon Pam Grier Speaks On Sex Harassment & Her Biopic With Jay Pharoah Playing Richard Pryor". Deadline.
  7. ^ Robinson, Louie (June 1976). "Pam Grier: More Than Just a Sex Symbol". Ebony. pp. 33–42 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Wixon (March 1, 2005). "Filmmaking "for the fun of it": An Interview with Jack Hill". Film Criticism. 29 (3): 46–59.
  9. ^ "". Coffy. Retrieved May 11, 2006.
  10. ^ "Pam Grier Makes Debut In Stage Production". Jet: 62. October 21, 1985.
  11. ^ "JerryattheMovies". Foxy Brown and Elmer Gantry? Nay, nay. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  12. ^ a b c Lee, Felicia R. (May 4, 2010). "Pam Grier's Collection of Lessons Learned". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  13. ^ Walker, Yvette (October 16, 2011). "Dionne Warwick, Pam Grier receive honorary doctorates from Langston University". NewsOK.
  14. ^ Nash, Suzi (February 26, 2015). "Pam Grier: Growing awareness through education, activism". Philadelphia Gay News.
  15. ^ "National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame - Dallas/Ft. Worth". National Multicultural Western Heritage.
  16. ^ Foxy (28 April, 2010) Hachette Book Group - via YouTube
  17. ^ Marchese, David (September 15, 2019). "Pam Grier on Maintaining Her Independence and Identity in Showbiz". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  18. ^ a b c d Getlen, Larry (April 18, 2010). "Foxy: my life in three acts". New York Post.
  19. ^ a b Grier, Pam (2010). Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. Springboard. ISBN 978-0-446-54850-2.
  20. ^ Munzenrieder, Kyle (April 26, 2010). "Pam Grier: 'Cocaine? In My Vagina?'". Miami New Times. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  21. ^ Summers, Chris (August 25, 2013). "The demons that drove Richard Pryor to make us laugh". BBC.
  22. ^ Blount Danois, Ericka (2013). Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America's Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-4803-4101-2.
  23. ^ "People Are Talking About..." JET Magazine. Johnson Publishing Company. August 16, 1973. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
  24. ^ "Pam Grier Talks About Her: Engagement To A Younger Man, Booming Career, Surviving Cancer, Plans To Have A Baby". Jet: 36–39. April 13, 1998.
  25. ^ Shaitly, Shahesta (December 10, 2011). "Pam Grier takes raunch to the ranch". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Turner Broadcasting Announces 2003 Trumpet Awards Honorees". WarnerMedia.
  27. ^ "Trumpet Awards Honorees Include Destiny's child, Spike Lee, Pam Grier". Jet: 14–15. February 24, 2003.
  28. ^ "9th Annual 20/20 Award Winners Announced | 20/20 Awards | Films that have stood the test of time".

Further reading[edit]

  • Sims, Yvonne D. (2006), "Here comes the queen", in Sims, Yvonne D. (ed.), Women of blaxploitation: how the black action film heroine changed American popular culture, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, pp. 71–92, ISBN 978-0-7864-2744-4.

External links[edit]