1970s Female Icons: Where Are They Now?

By David NaarLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 10:01:57 PM ET
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The entertainment world was booming in the 1970s, and much of that success can be attributed to the powerful, diverse and wonderful women who were present on screen, on the stage and on the radio.

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These truly iconic women became household names, and through the years they’ve kept themselves pretty busy. Some have remained on similar paths to those they forged in the ‘70s, while others have enjoyed new beginnings. So, what are they up to now?

Melissa Sue Anderson

Known for her breakout role playing Mary Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie between 1974 and 1981, Melissa Sue Anderson was only 12 years old when the show premiered. Throughout its run, Melissa was the only member of the cast to be nominated for an Emmy.

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Since her childhood stardom, Melissa has appeared in a handful of other acting roles. For the most part, she focused her energy in recent times on being a devoted mother to her two children, Piper and Griffin, who are now adults.

Carrie Fisher

It's a rare experience to have your name become synonymous with an internationally beloved fictional character, but that’s precisely what Carrie Fisher built her career on. Starting in 1977, Fisher took on the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars, and fans young and old have been clamoring for more ever since.

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Tragically dying unexpectedly in 2016, Fisher is remembered affectionately by friends, family and fans across the world. In 2017, the last film she appeared in, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was released and was dedicated to her memory.

Barbara Eden

Another woman who hit the fictional-character lottery is Barbara Eden, who starred as the loveable genie, Jeannie, in NBC's hit I Dream of Jeannie. With over 100 episodes, the series made its mark on ‘70s television and beyond.

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Eden continued to find success in showbiz following her stint as a primetime sensation. Though Jeannie may be her best-known character to this day, she did manage to land herself another magical role as Aunt Irma in the early-2000s teen comedy, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Jaclyn Smith

The first of an iconic trio, Jaclyn Smith starred as Kelly Garrett on Charlie's Angels from 1976 through 1981 when the show finished. She was the only one of the three angels to stick it out until the end.

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Though she hasn't done much acting outside of the Charlie's Angels sphere, she did reprise her role as Kelly in 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and the 2019 film remake, too. She may not be on screen often these days, but Smith has turned her attention to the beauty business, where she has developed brands of clothing and perfume.

Farrah Fawcett

Perhaps the most widely known of the three angels, Fawcett had already landed several television roles before Charlie's Angels premiered. It was her depiction of angel Jill Munroe, though, that secured her place as a household name and international sex symbol. She even inspired a unique hairstyle, the "Farrah-flip."

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Charlie's Angels was what propelled her to fame, but she actually only appeared on one season of the show. Following her departure, she found further success and racked up five Emmy and six Golden Globe nominations. Sadly, Fawcett spent three years battling cancer and passed away in 2009.

Goldie Hawn

Decidedly disproving the age-old myth that women aren't funny, Goldie Hawn found fame initially through the acclaimed sketch comedy show Laugh-In. Throughout the ‘70s, she starred in many films and earned the title of "bankable star." Whatever she touched turned to box-office gold.

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Hawn took a break from show business in 2002, but in 2017 she made her return when starring alongside Amy Schumer in Snatched. Hawn is also mother to superstars Kate and Oliver Hudson and to actor and former ice hockey player Wyatt Russell. Her charitable fund, The Hawn Foundation, helps underprivileged children.

Linda Ronstadt

The first non-Hollywood starlet on our list, Linda Ronstadt has had a prolific musical career that spans genres. First establishing herself as an artist in the 1960s, Ronstadt was also voted the Top Female Pop Singer of the 1970s. Earning 10 Grammys, three American Music Awards and an Emmy, her list of accolades is seemingly endless.

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While Ronstadt is still alive and well, she had to retire from her music career in 2011 due to a degenerative condition that was affecting her voice. She’s continued to make public appearances though and earned her place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019.

Mia Farrow

Mia Farrow got her start in the fashion world in the ‘60s, but in the ‘70s she really found her rhythm when she entered the wonderful world of Hollywood. Famous especially for her performance as the famous literary character Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, Farrow became known as an ingenue.

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Aside from her work as an actress, Farrow is well known for her humanitarianism. With 11 children, seven of whom were adopted from underprivileged situations, Farrow clearly has a soft spot for kids who need a caring mom.

Raquel Welch

Known as a brunette bombshell and sex symbol in the 1970s, Raquel Welch worked hard to prove that her talent and drive were worth much more than her pretty face. She came to be known for her bold portrayals of strong female characters and for breaking the traditional-actress mold.

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Even still, it’s clear that her beauty has transcended time; she was named one of the "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" in 1995 and one of the "Hottest Women of All Time" in 2011. In 2007, Welch became one of the faces of MAC cosmetics.

Cybill Shepherd

Like many other women on this list, Cybill Shepherd started as a model and then transferred over to film once she'd found some success. We're lucky she found her way to the screen, because her talent is something we wouldn't have wanted to miss. From Taxi Driver to The Heartbreak Kid, Shepherd's stardom grew exponentially in the '70s.

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Throughout the years, she's continued to be cast in exciting roles both on-screen and on the stage. She's also been an outspoken activist and has worked hard to further causes like LGBTQ+ rights.

Candice Bergen

Starting off her career in the spotlight as a model for Vogue, Candice Bergen began to find success in the world of film in the late '60s. Things worked out — she starred in multiple films in the '70s and broke out even further in the '80s when she landed the role of Murphy Brown on the sitcom of the same name.

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The beloved role won her five Emmys and two Golden Globes, and the show ran for a whopping 11 seasons. She's remained a star since, and in 2018, fans were ecstatic to get a relaunch of Murphy Brown.

Faye Dunaway

In terms of stars who really inspired everyone with their performances in the '70s, Faye Dunaway certainly ranks high on that list. Her career launched in a big way in 1967 with Bonnie and Clyde, but Dunaway didn't stop there. The following decade was a busy one for her as she starred in blockbusters like Roman Polanski's instant classic, Chinatown.

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Though she has continued to act throughout the years, the last two decades have seen little of Dunaway's acting chops. Famous for her dislike of interviews and public appearances, she's kept her private life to herself.

Billie Jean King

A standout on a list full of musicians and actresses, Billie Jean King, renowned tennis star, deserves a place here without a doubt. Her legendary status was secured when she won "The Battle of the Sexes" — a tennis match she played against fellow pro, Bobby Riggs.

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She ranked number one in the world at one time and won 39 Grand Slam titles in all. King's story is an inspiring one that was recently fictionalized in the 2017 film, Battle of the Sexes, with Emma Stone portraying the iconic athlete.

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand is one of those celebrities who never seems to slow down. Her music career, as both a singer and an actress, was secured in the 1960s, but the '70s delivered even more success for this ambitious star. Her six-decade career has won her awards of every variety, including a Kennedy Center Honor and Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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These days, Streisand sits on the shortlist of entertainers who have achieved EGOT status (having won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards). She's also produced number-one albums in each of the last six decades.

Pam Grier

Pam Grier is a force to be reckoned with, and she rose to prominence in the blaxploitation sub-genre that emerged in the 1970s. In films such as Coffy and Foxy Brown, Grier positioned herself as a true star who wasn't afraid to cross boundaries.

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Dubbed by Quentin Tarantino as "cinema's first female action star," Grier later collaborated with the prolific filmmaker in his 1997 crime film, Jackie Brown. From 2004 until 2009, she starred in the groundbreaking series The L Word. She's also a champion for organic gardening and founded the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center.

Meryl Streep

There are few other actresses whose names are associated with high-quality acting the way Meryl Streep's is. Her career has been a masterful one, and her awards and accolades are almost too numerous to mention. In the ‘70s alone, she won a Tony, an Emmy and an Academy Award.

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Even today, Streep's recent roles have seen her acting in both award-winning movies and TV shows. Described by many as the greatest actress of her generation, she's been nominated for a record 21 Academy Awards. Despite her mega-stardom, Streep has maintained a relatively normal personal life.

Talia Shire

Not shying away from the most serious of serious films, Talia Shire gained audiences’ respect through her roles in huge blockbuster successes — in The Godfather series and as Adrian Pennino in Rocky. She received Academy Award nominations for these complex roles.

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Since acting in these unbeatable roles, Shire has steadily continued to appear in films and on television. A member of the famed Coppola family, she has quite the impressive family tree, with nephew Nicolas Cage and brother Francis Ford Coppola among her more-famous relatives. She also has three children from two marriages.

Jodie Foster

Starting her acting career at age 6, Jodie Foster's big break came when she was 14 and appeared in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, which was released in 1976. Foster continued to act as she grew up, and her talent never faltered one bit.

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As intelligent as they come, Foster took some time off acting to attend Yale University. As things progressed, Foster found herself looking for a new challenge and decided to step behind the camera, beginning her work as a director. She's continued to keep busy as both an actress and a director in the past decade.

Cicely Tyson

Another model-turned-actress, Cicely Tyson has been associated with her portrayal of strong female characters for seven decades now. She had a slow start to her career but gained acclaim in a 1972 film, Sounder, for which she was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe.

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At the age of 95, it would seem inevitable that she’d begin to slow down, but Tyson continues to work in the field she loves so much. She’s played a regular on the ABC hit series How to Get Away With Murder and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2015.

Diane Keaton

Making her film debut in the 1970 romcom Lovers and Other Strangers, Diane Keaton really hit the ground running when she appeared in 1972's The Godfather. Since then, she's been a beloved Hollywood star who has had a jam-packed career boasting diverse roles.

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A longtime collaborator with Woody Allen, Keaton worked with him on eight films between 1971 and 1993. She has worked as a producer on numerous films in the past few decades and has also dipped her toes into the worlds of writing, real estate development and photography.

Rene Russo

Rene Russo's big break came in an unexpected moment — while she was attending a Rolling Stones concert in 1972. An agent noticed her and signed her to a modeling agency. Throughout the rest of the decade, she transformed into a top model, appearing on a variety of magazine covers.

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In the 1980s, Russo repositioned her career and entered the world of acting. She's had consistent success there since then. Recently, she's appeared in several Thor films as the title character's mother. She's also become an advocate for mental health awareness, speaking openly about her struggles with bipolar disorder.

Debbie Harry

Born Angela Tremble, Debbie Harry rose to fame as the lead singer of the new wave band, Blondie. They released their first album in 1976. Only formed two years prior to this mega-successful album release, Blondie shot to stardom.

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The band took a break between 1980 and 1988, and in this time, Debbie pursued a solo musical career and dabbled as an actress. After the band got back together, they continued to find success. In 2019, her memoir, Face It, was released.

Mary Tyler Moore

As a woman who had the country laughing for the entirety of her career, Mary Tyler Moore gained traction on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s. Once it became clear that audiences wanted more Mary, she was given a sitcom of her own, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran from 1970 to 1977.

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Breaking gender boundaries from the start of her career, Moore continued to work as a social advocate for several causes as she grew older. After a series of health complications, Moore passed away at the age of 80 in 2017.

Jane Fonda

Like Ronstadt, Jane Fonda had already found success in the 1960s, but the ‘70s were when she really started shining. Earning her first Academy Award for her portrayal of Bree Daniels in 1971's Klute, Fonda's career continued to skyrocket.

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Aside from her impressive career in TV and film, Fonda has remained active in the political sphere, where she has always exercised her clout in order to make a difference. Through the years she has earned an impressive list of awards, including seven Golden Globes and two Academy Awards. She currently stars in Netflix's hit show, Grace and Frankie.

Kate Jackson

The second angel on the list, Kate Jackson starred as Sabrina Duncan in Charlie's Angels and was the first of the three women to be cast. Believe it or not, the title of this now internationally recognized franchise was conceived by Jackson herself.

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Nominated for three Emmys and four Golden Globes, Jackson found success beyond Charlie's Angels in series like Scarecrow and Mrs. King. While she may not have appeared on screen since 2009, she did announce the forthcoming release of her memoir in 2010 — though it’s yet to be published.

Sissy Spacek

Initially pursuing dreams of success as a singer, Sissy Spacek had plans that didn't quite pan out as she hoped. So, she refocused her energy on acting. It turns out her plan B was a pretty decent one, as her talent was recognized nearly immediately in 1973's Badlands.

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Spacek continued to star in majorly acclaimed blockbuster hits. She’s acted in several films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in the last four decades. Recently she's worked on TV shows for major streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon.

Carol Kane

An actress with a style all her own, Carol Kane earned her first Golden Globe nomination in 1975 for her role in Hester Street. This performance drew Woody Allen's eye, and he cast her in one of his most successful films to date, Annie Hall.

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Kane hasn't done much slowing down as she's gotten older. She did an impressive stint on Broadway in various productions of Wicked. Kane still acts on a regular basis and recently appeared in Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Diana Ross

Another musical sensation who will remain an icon for decades to come, Diana Ross was already a hit thanks to the Supremes when the 1970s kicked off. However, that decade marked her brave entrance into the solo-artist world. Her first album contained the number-one hit, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." We all know it!

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Ross has racked up a stellar amount of recognition through the years and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as part of the Supremes. Hugely successful artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna have counted Diana Ross among their biggest musical influences.

Sigourney Weaver

Born Susan Alexander Weaver, Sigourney technically also got her start in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, though her role was a non-speaking one. After being cast in Alien, though, her career sailed to superstardom. Soon after, she was dubbed the "Queen of Sci-Fi."

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Her roles have paved the way for many more strong and independent female protagonists to exist within the sci-fi genre and beyond. Weaver has continued to reprise her roles from both Alien and Ghostbusters in subsequent sequels and has done work as an environmentalist, specifically with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Donna Summer

Singer-songwriter Donna Summer became the "Queen of Disco" in the 1970s. “Love to Love You Baby" and “I Feel Love" are a couple of her big disco hits. She stole the world's heart with her versatile vocal range and attention-grabbing fashion sense, making high slits and plush furs popular. 

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Music was in her blood. Summer made more top charters from the 1980s to the 2010s. One of her final recordings was "To Paris With Love." The talented artist stayed busy making appearances on TV shows and becoming a guest judge on the show Platinum Hit. Sadly, Summer passed away in 2012.

Chaka Khan

Yvette Marie Stevens, better known by her stage name Chaka Khan, became the Queen of Funk in the 1970s. With a career spanning more than five decades, the legendary diva has wowed fans with her vocals and iconic outfits of fur bras and fringe suede pants. 

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The 10-time Grammy Award winner still releases new music. In fact, Khan collaborated with Major Lazer's Switch on the 2018 single, "Like Sugar." She's also teamed up with Ariana Grande to produce "Nobody" for the Charlie's Angels soundtrack in 2019.

Jacqueline Bisset

English actress Jacqueline Bisset has been a long-time show stopper. The brunette with sparkling green eyes starred in an impressive list of films, including Airport, Day for Night and Murder on the Orient Express. Many fans also call her a fashion icon of bell-sleeved tops and flares. 

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Bisset continues to work in the entertainment industry, appearing in multiple films year after year. In 2015, the star joined Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette in the film Miss You Already. She has also dipped into some TV series.  

Stevie Nicks

If you're a big Fleetwood Mac, you'll remember the band's jaw-dropping vocalist, Stevie Nicks. The singer mesmerizes audiences with her sweet raspy voice and mystical fashion. In the 1970s, her signature looks featured flowing skirts, shawls, platform boots and top hats. 

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Throughout the years, the gypsy songstress has mostly performed as a solo artist. However, her solo work didn't stop her from reuniting with the band. In 2015, Fleetwood Mac went on tour across North America. Fans can also spot Nicks making cameos on the hit series American Horror Story, where she serenades the cast.

Gloria Gaynor

Gloria Gaynor also became a disco queen in the 1970s, creating era hits like "I Will Survive," "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Let Me Know (I Have a Right)." Many disco enthusiasts have called her Summer's biggest competitor, but they're both brilliant in their own ways.

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In the 1980s, Gaynor became a gay icon after releasing the song "I am What I am." The song played all the time in nightclubs, and grew in popularity among the gay community. However, her music career died down until the 1990s. Recently, she has made TV appearances and remixed her classics.

Olivia Newton-John

This final woman on our iconic women of the '70s list may be last, but she's certainly not least. Olivia Newton-John's appearance as Sandy in the 1978 musical film Grease led to her recognition and admiration across the USA and beyond. To this day, new generations of viewers are still falling in love with Sandra Dee and singing along to the film’s catchy tunes.

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Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/IMDb

Aside from her acting roles, Newton-John has also had a wildly successful career as a singer. She's spent much of her career giving back to causes she cares about, like animal rights.