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Jayne Kennedy Overton (née Harrison; October 27, 1951) is an American television personality, actress, model, corporate spokeswoman, producer, writer, public speaker, philanthropist, beauty pageant titleholder and sports broadcaster. Kennedy won a 1982 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture award for her performance as Julie Winters in the 1981 film Body and Soul co-starring alongside her then–husband Leon Isaac Kennedy.
Kennedy c. 1980
October 27, 1951
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Other names||Jayne Kennedy Overton|
|Education||Wickliffe High School|
|Successor||Karen M. Haus|
Leon Isaac Kennedy
(m. 1971; div. 1982)
Bill Overton (m. 1985)
|Awards||NAACP Image Award – (1982) Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture (Body and Soul)|
Kennedy won the NAACP Theater Award for Best Producer along with her current husband Bill Overton for their production of the highly acclaimed staged musical, The Journey of the African American. Kennedy is also an Emmy Award winner for her coverage of the Rose Parade and was nominated for an Emmy for her coverage of the news feature on soldiers on the DMZ in South Korea for NBC's Speak Up America in 1980. Ebony Magazine announced as "One of the 20 Greatest Sex Symbols of the 20th Century," and in the 1980s, Coca Cola USA named Jayne Kennedy "The Most Admired Black Woman in America".
Jayne Harrison was born October 27, 1951 in Washington, D.C., to machinist Herbert Harrison and his wife, Virginia. Harrison attended Wickliffe High School in Wickliffe, Ohio. She represented Wickliffe High School at the American Legion's Girls State mock-government program and was elected as a senator to the American Legion's Girls Nation program in Washington D.C. where she won the office of Vice President of the United States and was sworn into office by then VP Spiro T. Agnew. While still in high school, Kennedy was crowned Miss Ohio USA in 1970 (she was the first African American woman to win the title), and was one of the 15 semi–finalists in the 1970 Miss USA Pageant. It was rare for an African American woman at that time to be in the contest.
In 1971, Kennedy and her then-husband Leon Isaac Kennedy moved to California to pursue careers in acting. She began with a stint on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In as a dancer. She traveled as one of the Hollywood Deb Stars on Bob Hope's Bases Around The World Christmas Tour that included stops in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cuba.
In 1978, she won national acclaim as one of the first women to enter the male-dominated world of sports as an announcer on The NFL Today. She went on to be the only female to ever host the syndicated TV series Greatest Sports Legends.
Kennedy has been on the covers of Ebony, Jet, and Essence magazines numerous times. She was on the cover of Playboy in 1981. In the early 1980s she wrote, produced and starred in the Love your Body exercise videos and produced the first in-flight exercise in the sky program for American Airlines, A Aerobics, at the same time, she also had worked as a corporate spokeswoman for Esoterica, Jovan, Revlon, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Bankers Systems, Butterick Patterns and 6 years with Coca-Cola's Tab and Diet Coke. Beginning in the 1990s, Kennedy moved away from the limelight to spend more time with her family.
A mother of four daughters, Kennedy has been an advocate for equality in sports for women and girls. For many years, she worked for the Children's Miracle Network, where she helped raise billions of dollars for Children's Hospitals along with.
A year after high school, Harrison met Leon Isaac Kennedy, a DJ and a struggling actor/writer. They married in 1971. Motown singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson served as best man at their wedding, they later divorced in 1982. In 1985, Kennedy married actor Bill Overton. They have four children: his daughter Cheyenne (1982) and their three daughters Savannah Re (b. November 20, 1985), Kopper Joi (b. May 17, 1989) and Zaire Ollyea (b. September 15, 1995).
- Group Marriage — Judy (1973)
- Ironside episode "The Last Payment" (TV series, 1973)
- Banacek episode "Rocket to Oblivion" (TV series, 1974)
- Sanford and Son season 4 episode 5 "There'll be some changes made" (TV series, 1974)
- The Six Million Dollar Man episode: "The Song and Dance Spy" (TV series, October 5, 1975)
- Let's Do It Again — Girl at Factory (1975)
- The Rockford Files episode: "Foul on the First Play" (TV series, 1976)
- The Muthers — Serena (1976)
- Big Time — Shana Baynes (1977)
- Wonder Woman Episode: "Knockout" (TV series, 1977)
- Fighting Mad (aka Death Force) — Maria Russell (1978)
- Mysterious Island Of Beautiful Women — Chocolate (TV movie, 1979)
- Chips episode: "Kidnap" (TV series, 1980)
- Chips episode: "Mitchell and Woods" (TV series, 1981)
- The Love Boat various episodes (TV series, 1981)
- Body and Soul — Julie Winters (NAACP Image Award, Best Actress) (1981)
- Diff'rent Strokes episode: "The Moonlighter" (TV series, 1983)
- Benson episode: "Three on Mismatch" (TV series, 1986)
- 227 episode: "Washington Affair" (TV series, November 1, 1986)
- Jayne and Leon: Did success break-up their 10-year marriage? (Ebony Magazine–January, 1982)
- Profile, Ebony Magazine (December 1996)