Jennifer Beals

American actress

Jennifer Beals (born 19 December 1963) is an American actress who is known for her roles in The L Word, The Chicago Code, Flashdance and Devil in a Blue Dress. She is also an advocate for LGBT rights, women's issues and the environment.

Love is the greatest light, the brightest torch, and will always be the greatest instrument of change.


I'm always interested in that moment when someone decides it's not good enough, and even though it's painful, they're willing to make a change.

On love:.

  • There is no wasted effort. There is no wasted effort. It will all add to the path. It will all add to the journey. Somehow. You just can't even imagine how it will. But you just need to do things fully to the best of your ability. And you go towards the thing that you love. What you love to do.

On storytelling:.

  • It has been said, "History is written by the victors." I take this to mean we can make ourselves victorious by writing, and then rewriting our own stories. In a country and culture so dominated by media, by the manipulation of words and stories, telling the tales of people whose stories historically have not been told is a radical act and I believe an act that can change the world and help rewrite history.
  • [About the end of the The L Word] Everything has its cycle. I think it’s appropriate for us to be ending now. But the beauty of storytelling, and the beauty of film and television is that it continues on.
  • [On the importance of positive representations of LGBT people in the media] You know, I don't think it's helpful to anyone to... for example, say that every LGBT person is wonderful and perfect and without flaw, and lets all ring the bells to perfection. I think it's much more helpful to tell the story as truthfully as you can, and with all of its complications, because that's also when people recognize themselves, and that's when people who are not part of the LGBT community will recognize themselves within that character. And then [they] hopefully empathize and maybe there'll be some kind of shift.
  • With more mainstream filmmaking, the problem is who’s making the decisions. They’re not artists. The key creative decisions are being made by lawyers and accountants—that’s a very precarious situation. It’s precarious because it really does matter. Icons are being made and manufactured. People say it’s just a movie—but it’s not.

On social and personal change:.

  • I believe that people want to turn from fear towards hope, from divisiveness towards unity, from intolerance to an understanding that we all belong to one great community. Within all the chaos, within the despair, the not knowing, the anger, the anxiety, there is always the possibility for change. There is a seed of hope. And I'm not talking about a pie-in-the-sky kind of hope, but a kind of hope that calls on each and every one of us to stand up and be counted — a kind of hope that calls on each and every one of us to give the very best of ourselves — not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all of us, collectively.
  • I'm interested when people will stand up for themselves. I'm always interested in that moment when someone decides it's not good enough, and even though it's painful, they're willing to make a change.
  • It behooves all of us to have everyone experience their deepest, most beautiful, most profound and powerful self, because those people are more apt to give their gift to everyone else rather than shudder in fear.
  • People get a sense that something is really wrong in government and in our culture. There is a corruption, not only in politics, but of spirit as well, when people are so quick to be violent with one another. I think everybody would like to be able to find a solution to make things better. We have the desire to reform inside of us, and we get frustrated because we don’t know how to change things, even if it comes to our own behavior. Sometimes you get frustrated because you don’t know how to stop that thing that you know is either hurtful to yourself or someone else.
  • Politics is a lot like sex - if you want something, you have to ask for it, if they’re not doing it right you’ve got to speak up and show them and if you still don’t get what you want, then there is nothing wrong with doing it yourself.
  • “I’ve had my letters from klansmen, believe me...I could always navigate it. I don’t know if that’s just because I was conditioned to navigate it. But I always could. It just made me determined to work even more...Every single thing is narrative. Our understanding of things is a narrative. It’s the narrative of who’s in power. It’s the narrative of the person in the bodega down the street. What is the story that I’m telling myself? Am I telling myself the story that my teachers told me that I was? Am I telling myself the story that my parents told me that I was? How do I come to the narrative that serves my highest good?

On women and gender:.

  • Inside every woman there is a Kali. [Hindu goddess who morphed into seven hidden beings to win a battle] Do not mistake the exterior for the interior.
  • [On what she learned from working on The L Word] I think that I learned the most clearly was how connected we all are. And that (does air quotation marks) "gay issues" are also women's issues because homophobia is a form of misogyny…And I feel much more motivated to speak out when I see something that I don't like or that just smells wrong…I see how all women are connected. You know, and that we are all either repressed or we repress ourselves in certain ways, and that's truly codified within the culture. And that I'm not so far removed from that woman in the Congo who's terrified to go out into the woods to look for firewood.
  • One of the things that the show did for me was bring up so many women’s issues and the notion that homophobia is a form of misogyny. The women’s community and the gay community are interrelated, whether you’re straight or not. It also made me realize how connected women are everywhere. Women who are gay are repressed in similar ways as women who are straight.
  • The fact is we are all, no matter where we live, surrounded constantly by stories, whether they are literal, oral or visual...the benign story I'm really growing tired of is the "humorous" story of the blonde woman who is either injured or humiliated all in order to sell beer. Not funny. I am tired of these stories. I am angered by these stories. There are other stories far more wondrous — stories of women claiming and reclaiming power, stories of rage and resistance and indefatigable courage, and stories of women and some men — reaching across great divides and into the most treacherous places on Earth where turmoil reigns and violence against women is unchecked, taking the hands of those women, helping to lift them up and leading them toward safety and sanctuary and self-determination.
  • Every set is a man's world. Even on 'The L Word,' the crew was primarily men. The whole world is a man's world, unless you're in a nunnery. And even that is colored by what you're allowed, what doctrine you're allowed to practice.
  • [Speaking about women’s friendships] If two women go to a bar and they are fighting over men, it makes it much easier for the men. If two women are very close and they act as… it makes it very difficult for the men to pull one over on anybody.
  • Women are so often segregated to their sexuality, and how they appear. In fact, there’s a lot of talk, even now, I think in most jobs this is true…people will say, when a woman rises to power, they ask, ‘who did she sleep with?’ You know, it couldn’t possibly be about her acumen, it couldn’t possibly be about her intelligence. It’s got to be about her body, because that’s how women get ahead.

On gay, lesbian and bisexual issues:.

  • I hope through The L Word to become an honorary member of the gay tribe. I cherish the thought that some young girl or woman somewhere may one night turn on the television and for the first time ever see her life represented -- not as an isolated incident but as a multiplicity. Her overwhelming fear may have been that she might never find her tribe, she might never find love and now she knows that they are both out there waiting for her.
  • ...[B]eing part of The L Word made me realize how much more television can be that what I had experienced in my lifetime in terms of being able to be of service to people. I had so many fans come up to me who were really deeply appreciative of the show and what it had meant for them and their own sense of identity and their own sense of inclusion in our society and in our culture.
  • There is this incredible, indelible community that has sprung up around the show, a community that gathers in homes and clubs, from Los Angeles to Topeka, Kansas and around the world. A community that, in some places, meets quietly in a lesbian bar that doesn’t even exist depending on whom you ask.
  • [Speaking about the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy] The health of a democracy is directly dependent on hearing the voices of its individual citizens. Silence is destructive. What could mar our safety more than this restrictive policy that requires its citizens' silence? What could mar our safety more than this restrictive policy that quietly attacks its own citizens' very selfhood out of fear? What keeps us truly unsafe as a country on a day-to-day basis is our inability to look inside and experience ourselves as a multitude, as a complexity. And as sure as I'm standing here, things are not always black or white, but sometimes they can be both.
  • [Speaking about her dedication to advocating for LGBT rights] I think after playing Bette Porter on The L Word for six years I felt like an honorary member of the community. They are not just gay issues. They affect everybody because they affect the fabric of our community. I am in a position to be helpful...people are indoctrinated and they have their point of view but hopefully slowly but surely we can help change the paradigm. That's what I hope for and it's happening little by little. It's not easy.
  • I was doing press for the show and they were going to show a clip from The L Word that included a love scene of sorts between me and another character, and she had the audacity to say, 'If there are any children in the room, you might want to ask them to leave.' And my mind was blown open and I said to her, ‘If it had been a heterosexual love scene, would you have asked the same question?’ I asked her on air, because I thought, it’s important to ask -- it contextualizes the import of the show." My feelings were hurt and it just spoke to me of what the gay and lesbian community has to deal with on a day-to-day basis in terms of popular media.
  • Now, at this time, I think there’s too many people who feel comfortable with hate speech. It’s become too commonplace, and acceptable. And it’s not okay, and we’ve got to change that…I think we also have to take responsibility for the words that come out of our mouths, because we are all connected. We are all part of one community.
  • [Speaking about same-sex marriage] It’s about familiarity, and I think the only reason they’re uncomfortable with the notion of same-sex marriages is because they haven’t come into contact with gay and lesbian couples enough to understand that it’s about love—and that it is a civil right.
  • [Demystifying lesbian sex for an interviewer] In a way, the sex isn’t really that different... From what I can tell, no, not really. All the things that men and women do together, think of everything that men and women do together, women and women can do together. And that makes you realize that sex is just simply about connecting with another person, or about intimacy…

On roles for women in Hollywood:.

  • When I started out, there weren't that many strong female roles, especially women who weren't just strong emotionally. I mean this is a also woman [her character on The Chicago Code, Teresa Colvin] who is strong physically, who isn't afraid of physicality. But now there are a lot more roles for women that are quite strong. I think the Academy Award nominations bespeak how many really great roles there are for women right now, and that's primarily because women are creating those roles for themselves.
  • [Regarding how the L Word change how she selects her roles] I really have a lot less tolerance for being subjugated to simply being the emotional center of a story, rather than being the active portion of the plot. It's as if women can't drive the action so often in stories. I don't know who made up that rule but it can get very frustrating if there's not more to play.

On fame:.

  • [Regarding Flashdance-related fame] It was very clear to me that it’s not real. It’s not real…I was never the little girl who thought I wanted to be famous. My first real quest that I can recall…other than wanting to be a jockey…was trying to figure out who or what God was. That really drove me for quite some time…I had a notion that there was this mystery that I didn’t really know anything about, and I wanted to try to figure it out….so fame was not my driving force.

On spirituality and ethics:.

  • Whether it’s that moment in acting when everything is suspended and you’re not yourself, or breaking through the veil of a very long run or swim, or hearing my daughter laugh—they are all pathways to what I think God must be.
    • Interview in More Magazine, p. 165 (December 2010).
  • [About compassion] You can have the ‘golden rule’—do unto others as you would have others do unto you. But then you take it one step farther—where you just do good unto others, period. Just for the sake of it.
  • [On the message of the Dalai Lama] We are in a very important time, where it’s clear that we live…in a pluralistic society. And certainly the Internet has made it clear that the actions of one group of people on one side of the globe can instantaneously affect the actions of another group people on the other side of the globe. So in this time when we are all so interconnected, the idea of practicing tolerance and non-discrimination doesn’t mean that you weaken yourself or that you weaken your society. On the contrary, I think it means that you’re able to strengthen yourself and your society.
  • I was never that kid practising an acceptance speech in the mirror, holding an award. I was the kid who wanted to know, who was God? What is God? That was my obsession. I mailed away for catechism lessons from an advertisement in the back of the Silver Surfer comic, but that wasn’t what I meant. Then I started collecting Bibles. Then I moved on to tarot cards. My mom was just horrified. Cut to two years from now – I’ll have started a religion based on Star Wars.

On creativity and imagination:.

On health, healing and fitness:.

  • [On yoga] Once you've completed a wonderful class, you get a sense of the deepest, purest part of yourself. You feel like you are connected to everybody else in the world.
  • [On meditation] ...that's the single most important thing that I do...there's something about understanding who you truly are. The essence of everyone is so beautiful that it's startling.
  • [On handling stress] When you start projecting on the future—"Oh my God, I gotta do this and I’m not there yet"—well, of course you’re not there yet because you’re here now. That time will come…I try to stay in the moment as much as I can and find whatever joy I can in that moment, no matter what it is. Then it doesn’t feel as stressful.
  • [On dealing with physical and emotional pain] … a friend taught me before I gave birth…“don't try to take your mind away from the pain. Go right into the centre of the pain”, because when she did that she found the pain dissipated. It's true for me anyway, but it's not always possible, I admit. It has become a valuable exercise to apply to different things in life, of not avoiding or disregarding pain or bad feelings. I just have to remember that nothing in life is ever stagnant and that this grief or ache is going to change because everything in life changes.
  • [On cancer] One of the problems is that the notion of cancer has been so normalized. You hear about it so often, and it's not ok... it's not ok to normalize this disease. And with all of the pinkwashing that goes on —where companies are selling products based on breast cancer month — it's a lovely gesture, but consumers get so used to it that it becomes more normal.

On herself:.

  • I don’t know that I’ve ever fit in, ever. And I say that not in a bad way. I mean, in some ways, it’s a relief not to fit in, because you get to look at different sides equally. Like I don’t know that I have always found my tribe. My tribe are the people who don’t feel like they fit in. And frankly, I think that a lot of people don’t feel like they fit in.
  • [On how she goes about trying to live authentically] Well really listening to my point of view and if I am on a set, say, that doesn't really value a woman's point of view, regardless of how they feel, continuing to give my point of view and try to find a way to be heard and not diminishing myself because other people are diminishing me. Because that, I think, is the worst temptation — that, you know, you judge yourself by how others are judging you, and to fall into that trap is to walk into the realm of self-annihilation.
  • When I was younger, I enjoyed being strong, and I loved it when my heart was very strong, but I think it was also about submitting to the cultural idea that if you're a 22-year-old woman, you have to look a certain way. I'm not into that anymore. But I do appreciate it when my clothes fit.
  • [What her career looks like] "It looks like a marathon. And I'm proud that I'm not a DNF (did not finish). I'm not a DNF yet. I just kept going. I think that's been the key is just to keep going and really try to get better and try to be as truthful as I can and hope that good things come my way."

On Chicago, her hometown:.

  • What’s shocking is to see six-year-old children jump roping in the street at 2:00 a.m.—that’s shocking—a block away from drug dealers. Just to see that the gap in the circle is education, in my mind, primarily for young women, because it’s the young women that are raising the kids and that’s where the circle, I think, perpetuates itself.
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