Whatever Happened to Jayne Kennedy?
Jayne Kennedy first came onto the Hollywood scene as a dancer for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, alongside Goldie Hawn.
Afterwards, she was lucky enough to be one of the hardest working black actresses in film and television during the 1970s, in spite of Hollywood’s racist casting procedures.
She was married to black actor and former D.J., Leon Issac Kennedy, and the pair was one of the first black Hollywood power couples.
Infamously, the couple was also one of the first couples to fall prey to the leaked sex tape syndrome.
Throughout her career in the limelight, Jayne Kennedy, hit many “firsts” for black women and women everywhere, and she is one of the most beloved celebrities.
The Beauty Queen
In 1970, Jayne Kennedy made local history when she became the first African American woman to be crowned Miss Ohio.
Soon afterward, Jayne broke new ground again when she became one of only a handful of black women who made it to the semi-finalist round of the annual Miss America pageant.
Continuing the tradition of being a groundbreaking woman, in 1978, Jayne Kennedy became one of the first women to enter the sportscasting arena.
She joined the cast of NFL Today as a studio analyst during the years when the Pittsburg Steelers (Super Bowl XIII & XIV), the Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XV), and the San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XVI) were kings of the game.
Jayne Kennedy was also a model. Her image regularly graced the front pages of Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine during the 1980s.
In 1981, she made history yet again when she became the first African American actress to make the front cover of Playboy Magazine. Copies of the magazine immediately sold out as soon as the issue hit the stands.
Her then husband, Leon Kennedy, made the deal with Hugh Heffner's famous rag, and although her image was featured prominently on the front of the magazine, there were absolutely no nude photos of Jayne.
The Children’s Miracle Network is a non-profit organization that raises money and awareness for children’s medical issues.
It was founded by the Osmond Family and John Schneider, and since its inception in 1982, it has raised more than $4 billion dollars for nearly 200 children’s hospitals.
Through the years, Jayne Kennedy has been an active advocate for the Children’s Miracle Network. When she retired from television, she became an even more active advocate for the non profit organization.
Retirement from the Limelight
Jayne Kennedy was diagnosed with endometriosis during the late 1980s. She and Leon Issac Kennedy eventually divorced, and she went on to marry character actor Bill Overton.
She and Overton are still married, they have three children, and they mostly stay away from the limelight.
Her latest appearance to date is a 2011 episode of the TV One series, Way Black When. During that episode, she sat down and discussed her groundbreaking career with comedian Sinbad.
Jayne Kennedy Overton has become a credit to Black History, Women’s History, and an all around living legend. Those of us who were around during her heyday will always remember her fondly.