Jennifer Grey is best known for her iconic role as Frances “Baby” Houseman in the movie Dirty Dancing. The hit film was released in theaters over 30 years ago, and since that time the actress hasn’t made a huge impression on Hollywood. This has prompted some fans to ask, “Is Jennifer Grey still alive?” And if so, how old is she? We’ve got the answers for you.
Jennifer Grey Was Born In 1960 And Is Still Alive
Jennifer Grey is alive and well and will turn 63 in 2023. She’s the daughter of Joel Grey, an Academy and Tony award-winning actor, dancer, and singer who’s well-known for his theater and film work. In 2015, at the age of 82, Joel Grey came out to the public with the full support of his daughter.
“I feel very happy for my dad that he has come to a point in his life where he feels safe and/or comfortable enough to declare himself in a public way as a gay man,” Jennifer told People in a 2015 interview. “Mostly because the more people are free to own their true nature, and can hopefully come closer to love and accept themselves as they really are, no matter what age, no matter how long it takes, to finally be free of the lies or half-truths, it is freedom.”
Growing up around show business, Grey knew she wanted to be an actress early in life. After graduating from high school, she attended a professional conservatory for actors in New York City while working part-time as a waitress and auditioning for roles. She started booking commercials and scoring small film roles until 1986 when she landed the role of Matthew Broderick’s sister in the ‘80s classic comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Being ‘Baby’ Was Her Most Infamous Role
Right after making Ferris Bueller, Grey got the role that would change her life. She was cast in Dirty Dancing alongside Patrick Swayze, whom she had worked with on the 1984 flick Red Dawn. Dirty Dancing was a monster hit, catapulting her and Swayze to superstardom almost overnight.
While the two actors had serious chemistry on-screen, there were rumors that Grey and Swayze did not get along. Apparently, they hadn’t had a great experience together on the set of Red Dawn, and some of that ill will spilled onto the Dirty Dancing set. Swayze also expressed frustration with Grey as she struggled to learn some of her dance moves. But in the end, Grey says she thinks the friction only enhanced the couple’s chemistry.
“The thing is that I believe tension is much hotter-looking than just love. And I think there was a very complex dynamic between Patrick and myself for the whole movie,” Grey said in the 2019 documentary I Am Patrick Swayze. “You know you see a cartoon and there is a fight and just you can’t tell who’s who and it’s just a ball, it was a little like that with him and me… whatever our issues were, we had them, but they weren’t talked about.”
Grey added that she ultimately felt very protected by Swayze, as he made it clear her safety during their dancing scenes was his number one priority.
“[He said] ‘I’ll never drop you, and I’ll never let you get hurt,” Grey revealed. “‘I might throw myself around. I might be careless with my own body but I will stand in front of a train for you.’ And that’s pretty fucking good,” she said.
Her Career Came To A Shocking Halt
In 1987, just nine days before the premiere of Dirty Dancing, Grey was involved in a head-on collision while vacationing in Ireland with her then-boyfriend, Matthew Broderick. Both Grey and Broderick were lucky to have survived, as the car accident killed one person. However, Grey was left with whiplash and continued to experience severe neck pain and headaches for years after the accident.
“I had been suffering for so long and didn’t fully realize how pain had taken control of my life,” she told Brain & Life. “I stopped doing so many things that I loved, including dancing, because I didn’t want to make the pain worse.”
Grey’s career was also derailed by a plastic surgery procedure. In 1989, she got a nose job that left her face completely unrecognizable from the one she had in Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off and Dirty Dancing. “I went into the operating room a celebrity and came out anonymous,” she said in a 2012 interview. “It was the nose job from hell. I’ll always be this once-famous actress nobody recognizes because of a nose job.”
Is She Still Acting Today?
While she never went on to become a Julia Roberts-level movie star, Grey did continue her acting career. She received critical acclaim for playing herself in the late ‘90s sitcom It’s Like, You Know, and has appeared on a number of other TV shows throughout the years, including Friends (she was Rachel’s former BFF, Mindy!), The New Adventures of Old Christine, House, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Conners. In 2010—despite being in pain from multiple neck injuries and a ruptured disc— she appeared on Dancing With the Stars and became the show’s 11th season winner.
Most recently, Grey added author to her resume and published a memoir entitled Out of the Corner.
Is She Still In Good Health?
Jennifer Grey has faced a number of health issues over the years, including thyroid cancer (which she beat) and multiple neck surgeries to repair the long-term damage she sustained as a result of her car accident. Fortunately, the surgeries were successful and Grey says she’s grateful she finally decided to have the procedures done. “Living with chronic pain can really wear you down,” Grey told Brain & Life. “I finally got to the point where I wanted my life back. Everyone deserves to enjoy a life without pain.”