Jayne Kennedy Bio04.27.2022
Bio provided by Jayne Kennedy Overton
JAYNE KENNEDY OVERTON
For millions of American women who came of age in the 1960ʼs and 70ʼs, Jayne Kennedy was more than the IT Girl. More than a cherished role model for all women and African-American women in particular ... Jayne Kennedy was an inspiration and an icon! Hers was the career, the face, the image that women young and old, rich and poor, conjured when they thought of a woman whose real life was the stuff of which Hollywood movies were made." - Laura Randolph (author).
Although Jayne has always been humbled by her success, her preeminence in contemporary American media was solidified when she recently stood face-to-face with her photo on the wall of the prestigious Smithsonian National Museum of African America History and Culture, mounted next to Nat King Cole, Diahann Carroll, Nichelle Nichols (“Star Trek”), Diana Ross and The Supremes and Don Cornelius in Oprah Winfrey’s “Television and the Media Landscape” exhibit recognizing Media Pioneers.
Beginning with her Hollywood debut in 1971 she first appeared as a dancer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, performed with Bob Hope's Bases Around the World Christmas Tour which led to three years with the Dean Martin Show as a singer/dancer. Guest starring on TV shows and films filled the mid-70s for Jayne but she is best known for her ground-breaking work on the Emmy Award winning CBS’ The NFL Today. As one of the first female sports broadcasters and the first African- American female in that role, she destroyed the myth that women could not make it in the world of sports broadcasting, blasting the doors wide open for women in sports forevermore.
Moreover, Ms. Kennedy is the only female to host one of televisionʼs longest-running syndicated sports series, Greatest Sports Legends, alongside its Whoʼs Who of great male superstars over its thirty-year run. She is also the first female to ever work ringside as a color commentator for men’s professional boxing through her work for Muhammad Ali Professional Sports. But breaking ground is nothing new for Jayne. There seemed to always be a hurdle on the track as she raced through a career that brought her acclaim as an actress, television personality, producer, exercise guru, talk show host, model, singer, dancer, infomercial host, lecturer, corporate spokesperson, philanthropist and now author. In 2016-2017 found Jayne with the LA24 Foundation to secure the bid to the International Olympic Committee to grant the Olympics to the City of Los Angeles, winning the bid for 2028!
Recently, Black Enterprise's Women of Power Summit bestowed the honor of their 2018 Legacy Award as one of four recipients along with political strategist and former Democratic National Chair, Donna Brazile, Edith Cooper of Goldman Sachs and the legendary choreographer, Carmen Delavellade.
In March 2019 Jayne participated as part of the International Womenʼs Conference at the United Nations in conjunction with Athletes United for Peace moderating the “Commission on the Status of Women” panel. She Executive Produced a documentary short on her career in sports entitled “Interception: Jayne Kennedy / American Sportscaster” which premiered at Marthaʼs Vineyard African American Film Festival in summer 2019. Jayneʼs honors and awards are numerous: an EMMY Award for her 1981 Rose Parade coverage; an EMMY Nomination for her Speak Up America segment on "Korea & the DMZ" an in-depth report on the psychological effects of war on the troops working on the Demilitarized Zone; an NAACP IMAGE Award for “Best Actress” in the film Body & Soul which she co- produced and earned a Golden Globe Best Producer nomination; a CEBA Award for her work in the commercial industry; a NAACP THEATRE Award for “Best Producer” for her staged musical production "The Journey of the African-American”, chronicling 400 years of African-American history in song and dance; a Black Achiever Award as a role model in the African-American community; and while still in high school, the Miss Ohio crown in the Miss USA/ Universe Pageant (the first African American to win the Ohio title); and her most treasured title American Legion Auxiliaryʼs Girls Nation Vice President of the United States as the Senator from Ohio.
Ebony Magazine announced Jayne as “One of the 20 Greatest Sex Symbols of the 20th Century”, Essence Magazine included her in "The 30 Most Beautiful Black Women in History”, BET championed her as one of the "Ten Black Female Firsts in TV Journalism Around the World" and Coca Cola USA poll named her “The Most Admired Black Woman in America”!
Jayne was also a trailblazer in the nascent exercise and fitness video industry ... creating, writing, producing and hosting the series Love Your Body, which skyrocketed to #3 behind Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. The first “exercise in the sky” program, AAerobics, on American Airlineʼs entertainment channels; as well as the first daily syndicated radio morning exercise show entitled “RadioRobics.”
Proving that indeed a Black woman could be the face of corporate America "Jayne was one of the earliest Black women to represent corporate America, and in fantastic brands that are really Fortune 50!” - Debra Langford, Assistant Dean at the USC Marshall School of Business, USC And in that role, Jayne was in high demand as a spokesperson for product endorsements with Coca-Cola (TAB and Diet Coke), Reebok, Revlon, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Esoterica, Jovan Fragrances, Bankers Systems and more. She also teamed up with Butterick Patterns to create the Jayne Kennedy Fitness and Exercise Line of patterns.
As a Children's Miracle Network Telethon co-hosted for 17 years with founders Marie Osmond and John Schneider, along with Marilyn McCoo, Merlin Olsen, Rich Little, and Bob Hope, Jayne helped to raise $4.5 billion for Childrens’ Hospitals across North America.
Despite the achievements of her unprecedented career, Jayne says her most fulfilling role is that of mother to her beautiful and talented daughters Savannah, Kopper, Zaire, Cheyenne, and wife to her actor/ author/ entrepreneur husband, Bill Overton. Acknowledging that without a doubt it has been, “The hardest work I’ve ever done!” Her youngest, Zaire, has recently graduated USC with a BA in International Relation and a minor in Luso-Brazilian Studies. Kopper has a BA in Advertising with a minor in Creative Writing and is a Social and Digital Media Strategist. Savannah has a BA in Sociology, a BA in Intercultural Communications, an MA in Media Studies and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certification from Cornell University. Cheyenne works at one of the top boutique ad agencies in Los Angeles. Recently she launched IT'S A MOTHER DAUGHTER THING! The campaign focuses on her work with each of her daughters, strengthening and renewing her dedication to improve not only their footing in life but bettering the status of all marginalized communities as well. She produced an annual Multicultural Faire for five years for the Santa Monica - Malibu Unified School District, managed two Westside Breakers Club Soccer teams for 10 years sending many of her players to D-1 Universities, as well as aided numerous college bound students guiding them through the college application and scholarship search process. Not a surprise since she also co-hosted Lou Rawls’ Parade of Stars telethon for United Negro College Fund. With Zaire, Jayne helped to co-create and co-produce the inaugural Youth Consortium & Leadership Round Table: Career Opportunities for International Relations workshop (COIR) in March 2015 which was presented in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, American Women for International Understanding, the International Women of Courage Awards and First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2016 COIR was picked up as an official Human Resources Recruiting Event by the US Department of State.
As a Media and Community Advisor Board Member with Resurrecting Lives Foundation they address the status of American veterans and their enemies here at home - homelessness and health care support. The stable of properties she is working on include films, children's books, a documentary on her life and most significantly her long-awaited autobiography entitled Plain Jayne.
The words pioneer and icon barely describes the force of nature that is Jayne Kennedy Overton. And nearly three decades later she is reemerging with an irrepressible surge of creative dynamism, placing the perfect coda on a remarkable career!