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.

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

More by this Author

Comments 20 comments

James Johnson 3 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.

Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

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

Man of Strength profile image

Man of Strength 3 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.

Jim Wesley 2 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.

gina 2 years ago

Wow!!!!!!! Just speechless.

Patricia Wade 2 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

Lisa 2 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.

Lisa 2 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.

Lisa 2 years ago

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

Patsy 18 months ago

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

debbie 16 months 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!

Pam 14 months 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!

Lisa G 13 months 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.

bat115 profile image

bat115 11 months ago from Los Angeles, CA

She was a very underrated and underused actress.

Jenna 8 months ago

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

Elle 7 months 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❤️

Joe 7 months ago

You are legedary and missed.

Diane 3 months ago

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

Beautiful as Jayne 3 months 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!!

Leslie 5 weeks 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 .

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article