From the minute she was born, actress, activist, and fitness fanatic Jane Fonda was destined for greatness. In fact, she was named after Jane Seymour, the beloved third wife of English king Henry VIII. It seems, however, that she was also set to experience great tragedy.
From her mother dying on the dawn of her teenage years to a gambling addiction and struggles with relationships and motherhood, Fonda’s life was as much filled with tragedy as it now is with success.
Want to walk in the shoes of the iconic Jane Fonda? Watch the video right to the end to experience her rollercoaster-like life. And don’t forget to like this video and subscribe to our channel (and) for more insider videos. Click that little bell for notifications, too!
Jane Fonda Experienced Death at a Young Age
Fonda’s early years were marred by trouble. Fonda’s mother, the beautiful socialite Frances Ford Seymour, married her famous actor father, Henry Fonda, in the 1930s. Their marriage, Henry Fonda would later admit, was a difficult one. Seymour suffered from what is now thought to be bipolar disorder. She was frequently institutionalized, which left Jane Fonda feeling abandoned and unloved.
In 1950, when Fonda was only 12 years old and her brother, Peter Fonda, was 10, her mother committed suicide. Their father told them she died of a heart attack. Shockingly, the siblings only discovered the truth many years later after reading it in a magazine. For a long time, Fonda struggled to forgive her mother. As a child, she even blamed herself for her mother’s death. Today, after a life long-lived, she says she’s been able to empathize with her struggles.
Jane Fonda Didn’t Get Along With Her Father
At the time of her mother’s death, Fonda’s father had already risen to stardom. Following his success on Broadway, he transitioned to leading movie roles. He was most famous for playing the part of an upstanding American man.
At home, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He was cold and distant with his distraught children, and he even married again mere months after their mother’s death.
Henry was very critical of Jane’s appearance. He often told her she needed to lose weight, which she believes led her to develop an eating disorder. When she fractured her spine, she walked around in severe pain for weeks until she worked up the courage to ask him for help. Thinking her father thought she was frivolous and foolish, she longed for his love. The next chapter in Jane Fonda’s life will prove that you never know what goes on behind closed doors.
Jane Fonda Struggled with an Eating Disorder for Decades
Fonda spent her high school years at the Emma Willard boarding school for girls. Though the school was strict, Fonda remembers her time there fondly. “It was the greatest gift my father could have given me,” she says.
Despite this, she also blames her years at boarding school for her spiral into a lifelong battle with bulimia. Though the seeds were likely sown by her father, who, according to what Fonda wrote in her autobiography, My Life So Far, was obsessed with skinny women.
After a lifetime of being told to lose weight for roles and jumping in and out of inappropriate relationships, Fonda finally started to take control of the disease at the age of 46. With the help of belief in a higher power, her own famous fitness workouts, and Prozac.
Jane Fonda’s First Husband Was a True Rogue
Did you know Jane Fonda is a college drop out? She gave up on her degree at Vassar College in 1958 and moved to New York to attend the famous Actors Studio. She worked on Broadway and appeared in a few forgettable movies before upping and moving to France. It turned out the French adored her, and she quickly became a household name.
It was there that she met her first husband, French-Russian filmmaker Roger Vadim. (Vanity Fair reports their first meeting was on her birthday, of all days.) Fonda quickly fell for Vadim’s passionate, romantic outlook–a life that was a world away from her strict, loveless childhood. They married in 1965.
Unfortunately for Fonda, the sheen of new marriage wore off quickly. Vadim would constantly ask her for money, and she had to dip into her inheritance. Fonda later found out her husband used the money to pay off gambling debts. Vadim had an insatiable appetite for attractive young women and insisted on an open marriage. He would often bring home dates, much to Fonda’s dismay.
In the late 1960s, Jane Fonda became interested in political activism. Vadim didn’t share her enthusiasm for social causes. Despite the couple having a child together, who they named Vanessa Vadim, they split in 1973.
Jane Fonda Wasn’t Always a Proud Feminist
Today, Jane Fonda is proudly feminist. But even she admits it took her a long time to get there.
As a young child, she developed the idea that to be a woman meant you needed to be thin, pretty, and kind. You couldn’t be smarter than a man, and being paid less than a man wasn’t anything to worry about. I really thought I didn’t deserve more, she once admitted. In interviews, she has said she was sexually abused as a child. She was once fired from a job for refusing to sleep with her boss.
Her outlook changed in the 1980s when she started taking on feminist roles. She starred in the comedy movie 9 to 5, which was an early critique of workplace gender discrimination. In 2018, she took up the cause for female domestic and farm-workers in the USA, who are often the victims of sexual abuse and extortion. She confronted US lawmakers, challenging them to increase their protections and salaries.
Jane Fonda’s Second Marriage Ended in Heartbreak
Jane’s activist leanings led her to participate in a number of anti-Vietnam war rallies, where she met Tom Hayden. The year was 1971, and Hayden was an A-list activist. He was a passionate Civil Rights campaigner and was one of the infamous Chicago 7.
The couple married a few years later and moved to Santa Monica, where they founded the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED). While Hayden was busy running for office, Fonda earned the money to fund his campaigns with movie roles and her now-iconic Jane Fonda’s Workout.
The marriage, it seems, was doomed from the start. Hayden was condescending toward Jane Fonda’s activism efforts, especially when several of her anti-war protest efforts were ill-perceived by Vietnam veterans. On a trip to North Vietnam, rumors abounded that American POWs had been tortured into agreeing to meet with her.
In the 1980s, Hayden cheated on Fonda with another woman. The couple split in 1988. Despite their relationship troubles and the fact that they parented a child together (little Tom Hayden), Fonda gratefully credits her former husband with helping her learn more about movement-building, politics, and activism.
Jane Fonda Felt She Wasn’t a Good Mother
Jane Fonda has two biological children. Her first husband, Roger Vadim, fathered her daughter, Vanessa Vadim. She had her son, Troy Garity, with her second husband, Tom Hayden. Fonda also has an adopted daughter, Mary Williams, who came to live with her and Hayden when she was 16 after her father was jailed for involvement in the Black Panthers.
Fonda has often said she wishes she’d taken her children with her to her activism activities. Instead, she left the childrearing in the hands of Hayden. She told the New Yorker, “My son once looked up at me when I was tucking him into bed and said, ‘What’s the point of having a mother?’” Today, Fonda is trying to make up for lost time by spending as much time with her family as possible.
Jane Fonda Gave Up Her Work for Her Third Husband
Right after her divorce from Tom Hayden in 1990, Fonda was already being pursued by potential suitors. This time, it was millionaire Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, who was knocking on her door. He read about Fonda’s divorce in the media and called her to ask her out. They were married a year later.
In a fashion that was now becoming typical of all her marriages, Fonda quickly found out that Turner was cheating on her. Despite the afront, the couple stayed together, with Fonda giving up acting and her political work to become a glamorous, wealthy socialite.
Fonda, however, was unhappy with the role. She left Ted Turner in 2001, telling The New Yorker that she felt who she was as a person was disappearing.
Jane Fonda Mourns the Loss of Her Brother in 2019
Fonda was not always close with her younger brother, Oscar-nominated actor Peter Fonda, though she has always loved him for what she says is his sweet, sensitive personality. In later life, the siblings didn’t see each other as much as they’d like. Peter Fonda sighted their differing attitudes to life as the cause.
Lung cancer took Peter Fonda from his family in 2019. Jane Fonda recalls the time the siblings spent together just before his death as a beautiful time filled with laughter.
Now in her 80s, Fonda has had her fair share of health scares. Just before her nomination for Best Actress at the 2016 Golden Globes, she had a double mastectomy. She’d had a breast tumor removed six years earlier, though it’s unclear if the two surgeries are connected.
She has also implied she has skin cancer, stating to British Vogue that she frequently goes to the doctor to get things cut off. And her lifelong battle with bulimia is the likely culprit behind her development of osteoporosis.
Overall, though, Jane Fonda is thrilled with her life as an older woman. I never, ever thought I’d live this long, she says.
Jane Fonda Has Embraced the Single Life
Jane Fonda dated music producer Richard Perry for a decade before the couple broke it off in 2017. Though they remain friends, she is keen to keep her relationships with men strictly platonic for the foreseeable future.
She’s happy being single and sees singledom as a way to live up to her feminist ideals. In the years before she met Perry, she embraced the opportunity to “heal the wounds patriarchy had dealt me.” it was during this time that she became the “whole, full-voiced woman” that she is today.
So ends the enthralling drama that is the life of the unbeatable Jane Fonda. Despite her difficult childhood and many failed marriages, Jane Fonda, now a thriving octogenarian, proves that you can overcome a tragic past and come out of it stronger than ever before.
Did Jane Fonda make the right decision to stay single? Or do you think she needs to find her soulmate? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. And if you learned something new about your favorite star, be sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe to Facts Verse for more celebrity reveals.