Farrah Fawcett's early interest in athletics was overshadowed by her W. B. Ray High School classmates' realization that she had a serious problem -- she was exceptionally beautiful. Upon graduation, she was voted "Best Looking" -- the first of many instances of beauty based recognition that would form her gateway into the entertainment universe. A two-year stint at the University of Texas was next, and there she proved to be a lot more comfortable in the Delta Delta Delta Sorority than in microbiology class. Farrah Fawcett was still getting an A in Hotness 101, however, and Cashbox magazine photographed her for the university's "Ten Most Beautiful Coeds" spread -- the first of two pictures that would significantly alter her destiny.
A Hollywood agent saw the college photo and encouraged Farrah Fawcett to move to Los Angeles. She did just that and made her acting debut on a 1969 episode of I Dream of Jeannie opposite blond beauty-of-the-moment Barbara Eden. A year later, Fawcett held the distinction of appearing in the same film as two other sex symbols -- Raquel Welch and Mae West. Unfortunately, the film was Myra Breckenridge, which garnered a reputation as one of the biggest cinematic train wrecks in movie history. Fawcett retreated to television and commercials, one of which found her opposite football great Joe Namath.
1976 marked The Year of Farrah Fawcett. After guesting sporadically on husband Lee Majors' show, The Six Million Dollar Man, she starred as athletic detective Jill Munroe in the girl-powered Charlie's Angels. While the show emphasized skin over substance, it became a ratings winner, breaking new ground as a hot series anchored solely by women. That same year, a now legendary pinup poster of a swimsuit-clad Farrah Fawcett was released, spawning utter Farrah mania, and selling over eight million copies. Now a highly coveted wall companion for young American men, Fawcett's added exposure in shampoo and toothpaste commercials -- for Wella Balsam and Ultra-Brite, respectively -- further cemented her place as the "It" girl of the decade. Countless women wanted a hairstyle like hers, while countless men wanted to play with her hair. And then, just like that, she was gone… sort of.
Feeling pressured to balance her work and married life, Farrah Fawcett "pulled a David Caruso" and left her career-making TV series after only one season. A legal settlement forced her to guest star on the show intermittently, but her plan was to make feature films instead. The plan was initially a failure, so Fawcett dropped off the radar significantly and began pursuing stage acting to further reinvent herself. It paid off when she reemerged in the 1984 TV movie The Burning Bed, nominated for an Emmy as a mother who kills her abusive husband. The fact-based film is still considered a milestone for its frank portrayal of the once-taboo topic of domestic violence.
Farrah Fawcett's strong character streak continued through the '80s, with another career highlight being her portrayal of a woman who turns her would-be rapist into a helpless victim. The film was Extremities and her work in the film earned her a Golden Globe nomination, affirming once and for all that her talent rivaled her looks. Those looks would return to prominence again -- at age 48(!) -- when Fawcett bared all for Playboy's December 1995 issue, which sold four million copies, good enough to stand as the magazine's best seller of the decade. Two years later, she marked her 50th birthday with another top-selling Playboy spread, a pay-per-view special called Farrah Fawcett: All of Me, and an Independent Spirit-nominated acting performance as a preacher's wife in The Apostle.
Farrah Fawcett's professional career became intertwined with her personal struggles toward the end of her life. In 2006, she was diagnosed with anal cancer and after extensive treatment and a brief remission period a year later, the cancer returned and later spread to her liver. After extensive speculation about her condition consistently made the tabloid rounds, Fawcett bravely organized her own television special, Farrah's Story, which chronicled her cancer battle firsthand. The NBC special aired in 2009 and attracted over 9 million viewers, putting Fawcett's sex symbol face on the disease, and promoting testing and early detection for others who may be at risk. Farrah Fawcett passed away on June 25, 2009, at the age of 62, in Los Angeles.