Whatever Happened to Jayne Kennedy?

Updated on July 20, 2017

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.

Jayne Kennedy as a Ding a Ling girl on Martin & Rowan's "Laugh In"
Jayne Kennedy as a Ding a Ling girl on Martin & Rowan's "Laugh In"
"Body & Soul" was a movie she made with her first husband, Leon Isaac Kennedy
"Body & Soul" was a movie she made with her first husband, Leon Isaac Kennedy

The Sportscaster

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.

The Model

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 Philanthropist

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.

Jayne Kennedy Overton, Bill Overton, and their Beautiful Family Today
Jayne Kennedy Overton, Bill Overton, and their Beautiful Family Today

Questions & Answers

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      • Rachelle Williams profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachelle Williams 

        7 weeks ago from Tempe, AZ

        Very Well Said, Don!

      • profile image

        Don Huffman 

        7 weeks ago

        She was a fine actress and very nice looking. She did well on the NFL today, alot of first's as a black actress. I'm white and had a big crush on her. I alway's watched anything she did in the movies & on TV. I remember she played a cop on a Police story episode with David Janssen, she was wonderful. She is a credit to her race. The human race.

      • profile image

        John murphy 

        10 months ago

        As a young sailor not only did I have an opportunity to meet miss Kennedy back stage at the 1971 Bob Hope Christmas show I danced two slow songs with here. I never forgot those few moments.

      • Rachelle Williams profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachelle Williams 

        11 months ago from Tempe, AZ

        I agree, Mike! Absolutely, positively nothing "average" about this woman's beauty...

      • profile image

        Mike Lowery 

        11 months ago

        I agree with you on most thing's Doris, but have to disagree with you on her being a little overweight & having average beauty, back in her heyday. She was one fine beautiful black woman, during those day's. Just saying...

      • profile image

        C. Frazier 

        13 months ago

        Never ever use Slomin"s Shield. You will be very sorry Complete rip off. Equipment is cheap

      • profile image

        Doris 

        13 months ago

        I thought that even back in the early years of her supposedly success as a beauty queen she was a little overweight . Her beauty was average but to me her success was as the first female football analyst . There's no way that I would have given up that position for anybody but she was not a good actress and Leon didn't help By placing her in those underrated movies . Overton was her demise. He totally wiped her out . Never seen anyone take a celebrity down as fast ad he did . Some men are just bad for a woman that's trying to have a successful career because of their jealousy. Unlike Vanessa Williams who was a complete success and has has killed it when it had come to her career Vanessa didn't allow any man to stop her success . She was whom I admired and she was as beautiful or more beautiful than Jayne Kennedy . To me Jayne was overrated then and put in a category where she didn't belong to begin with . She didn't have what it took to be a total success and she aged horribly . She now is just a housewife and gas been for many years . Leon Kennedy started with the takedown and Overton totally took her down . Sorry that happened . It should have totally gone in another direction .

      • profile image

        Wayne Henderson 

        14 months ago

        Jayne is still a beautiful woman. She made many ground breaking history of black women. I am still one of her biggest fans.

      • profile image

        My name is Mary 

        16 months ago

        Every since I can remember even until this day people would say you look like Jane Kennedy. I think this is why I think about her once again just several weeks ago a man

        reminded me again you look like Jane K. to be honest I do resemble her she has a beautiful family.

      • profile image

        Gerald 

        18 months ago

        I saw the tape when it 1st came out. Raunchy as hell. Rumor has it Leon released it in Las Vegas because he had no career. Didn't think about losing his meal ticket.

      • profile image

        Leslie 

        2 years ago

        It would have been nice if she had kept herself up but .her weight skyrocketed and she doesn't look like herself at all as some of the others like Pam Grier and the other black beauties back in the seventies . With all of the enhancements nowadays along with diet and exercise that should not have happened . Her husband seem to still have kept his identity but maybe raising a family took her away from all of that .

      • profile image

        Beautiful as Jayne 

        2 years ago

        If God wanted Jayne Kennedy to stay with Leon he would have blessed their marriage with children. Mr. Jim Wesley you should find a hobby. It is evident that Jane was not in a healthy marriage. It appears that LK took advantage of the Beautiful Women who was his wife! How awful!!!

        God blessed Jane Overton with a beautiful family after the gloom!!! She will always shine bright!!

      • profile image

        Diane 

        2 years ago

        Wondered what happen just saw u and the james character of THE GOOD on the love boat be blessed beautiful lady.

      • profile image

        Joe 

        2 years ago

        You are legedary and missed.

      • profile image

        Elle 

        2 years ago

        That has got to be Leon! Sounds just like him!... Smh! God Bless You Jane! You still are Gorgeous and your girls are, as well❤️

      • profile image

        Jenna 

        2 years ago

        Jim Wesley sounds like a deranged lunatic....she must've turned him down sometime in his life & he can't accept it... Hey....you know what? I bet that's Leon Kennedy in disguise !!!

      • bat115 profile image

        Tim 

        2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

        She was a very underrated and underused actress.

      • profile image

        Lisa G 

        3 years ago

        Jim Wesley is mentally disturbed. For over the course ofa year he has copied and pasted his comment to every article on Jayne Kennedy. You sound as if you were the wronged party and curse. Please get some help.

      • profile image

        Pam 

        3 years ago

        Jane Kennedy was and is an excellent role model. You are still a beautiful woman who ages gracefully. As you can see we all love you and miss you. The important thing is that you are loved, you are happy and enjoying your life as yourself. God bless!

      • profile image

        debbie 

        3 years ago

        U were & always will be my role model. I grew up watching u come to life. Stay STRONG Jayne, cause u are & always will be the most BEAUTIFUL BACK WOMEN IN THE WORLD. Thanks!

      • profile image

        Patsy 

        3 years ago

        You are a beautiful woman always wondered what happened to you.

      • profile image

        Lisa 

        4 years ago

        OK. Found out that Jayne also apparently also raised her step-daughter, Cheyenne.

      • profile image

        Lisa 

        4 years ago

        Forgot to say that I miss Jayne Kennedy. I hate that she disappeared after she remarried. However, I hope she (as well as her family) is happy and well.

      • profile image

        Lisa 

        4 years ago

        That is not Bill Overton in that family picture. Also, they have three daughters, so one of those girls is not Jayne's. Not sure who she is.

      • profile image

        Patricia Wade 

        4 years ago

        I always admired Jane, she had a softness about her. A beautiful spirit and carried herself in a beautiful manner always. A lot of people said Jane and I could pass for sisters because I favored her so much. Love Jane and always will

      • profile image

        gina 

        4 years ago

        Wow!!!!!!! Just speechless.

      • profile image

        Jim Wesley 

        4 years ago

        Jayne Kennedy's demise from show business resulted because she sacrificed her marriage, reputation and entire career for a married Bill Overton. When Jayne Kennedy divorced Leon Kennedy the impact on her career and personal life was as if someone had placed a curse upon her entire life. When interviewed in Jet and Ebony magazines about her new marriage to Bill Overton, she emphasized a blissful marriage, sugar and spice everything nice. This was a total exaggeration, because the facts don’t support it. In the first six years of her new marriage, her weigh increased from 147lbs to over 200lbs, each year of her blissful marriage she ate herself out of the previous year's clothing, you couldn't get two arms around her. In a blissful marriage you live for the admiration, affection and love of your spouse. Bill Overton observing his spouse who was one of the most beautiful women in the world year by year slowing descend is disturbing. She destroyed her marriage, career and reputation for him. Typically a person that's severely brokenhearted and depressed about their life will demonstrate very low esteem. The harsh reality that she paid to much for what she got became inevitable year by year. She anticipated her career was over, why keep herself up, no request for movies or TV roles, she didn't care what people thought about her anymore. Some blame was put on her medical condition endometriosis, she had the same medical condition during her 10 year marriage to Leon Kennedy and she flourished throughout the entire 10 years as one of the most elegant women in the world. Many married couples with a spouse that has endometriosis, determine the number of children they want early in there marriage, have the all the children in consecutive years, then the operation and move on with there lives. Having her three children over a fifteen years period is confusing. After each pregnancies ends the endometriosis returned causing limitations in her ability to personally care for her baby, nauseating pain and limited sexual relations. After her divorce from Leon Kennedy ' the get it done guy' it was her responsibility to guide her career. She was very inexperience in business, many times she was considered for motion picture and TV roles but none materialized, she couldn't secure any offers. Now she realized what she had lost in Leon Kennedy, Bill Overton was a male model/playboy. She learned the harsh reality of show business negotiations that were hidden from her view when Leon Kennedy was her business manager, that bedroom politics sometimes determine the deciding edge, you must be willing to compromised your morals, she had lost the respect of many fans and executive Moguls.

        I'm very sadden by what she experience with all the potential she possessed, watching it just waste away. I'm a fan that celebrated the most beautiful woman in the world, her smile illuminated a full moon, her awesome graciousness was an inspiration to many women who inspired to be beautiful. Her accomplishments can't be diminished regardless of the events in her personal life.

      • Man of Strength profile image

        Man of Strength 

        5 years ago from Orlando, Fl

        My father was a big fan of Jayne Kennedy. To this day he says she was the most beautiful Black actress ever.

      • Paul Edmondson profile image

        Paul Edmondson 

        5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

        Interesting and nicely done Hub. Is she one of the first women to be an analyst for NFL football?

      • profile image

        James Johnson 

        5 years ago

        Jayne kennedy was so flawless. I enjoyed watching her. Drea Avent is this generations version of Jayne Kennedy...she is gorgeous and knows her sports.

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