In 1970, Jayne Kennedy was the first black woman to win the crown of Miss Ohio. She advanced as one of the top 15 finalists in the 1970 Miss USA competition. The pageant queen and actress also became one of the first black woman sportscasters in the country. Eight years after the Miss USA pageant, Kennedy was a starring host on CBS Networks’ NFL Today.
Jayne (Harrison) Kennedy was born in 1951 in Washington D.C. She and her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Kennedy was a star student and role model.
In 1976, Kennedy had a role on the hit show “The Rockford Files”. Her next big role was opposite Lynda Carter in an episode of “Wonder Woman” (TV series) in 1977. This led to a television film called “Cover Girls”, in which Kennedy played a secret agent-type character, similar to Charlie’s Angels. When Farrah Fawcett left the show, it was said that casting directors considered Kennedy for the role, but like the black actress Judy Pace, she was turned down, likely because of her skin color.
Kennedy held many roles in film and entertainment. She traveled with Bob Hope on his overseas tours to entertain American troops in Southeast Asia in the late 1970’s. She worked as a regular on “The Dean Martin Show” as a dancer, which led to television roles in popular series like “Shaft”, “Kojak”, “Sanford & Son”, and “Starsky & Hutch”. Kennedy even had a small non-credited role in “Lady Sings the Blues” with Diana Ross.
In 1981, Kennedy won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as Julie Winters in “Body and Soul”. That same year, she was the first black woman on the cover of Playboy magazine.
A workout enthusiast, Kennedy produced and starred in her hit workout video “Love Your Body” in 1982 (Watch video below). During that time, she was a spokesperson for both Coca Cola’s Tab brand and Diet Coke. Soon would come her award winning role in “Body and Soul”, written and directed by her then husband, Leon Isaac Kennedy. The couple wed in a ceremony in which Motown legend Smokey Robinson served as the best man. Unfortunately, the union did not last, and the two divorced in 1982.
In 1985, Kennedy wed Bill Overton, one of the actors from the set of “Cover Girls”. They raised four daughters together. Kennedy was last scene working with the Children’s Miracle Network as a spokesperson, along with other national charity organizations.
After her run in Hollywood, Kennedy committed her time to raising her children.