If you grew up in the ’80s, you grew up learning the facts of life from, well, The Facts of Life. A spinoff of the popular show Diff’rent Strokes, it became one of the longest-running sitcoms of the decade during its nine-year, 200-episode arc. An entire generation came of age with Tootie Ramsey, Natalie Green, Jo Polniaczek, and of course, Blair Warner. But like so many friends from our teen years, chances are you’ve lost touch with your old pals from the Eastland School for Young Women. In other words, time for an update!
Today, Lisa Whelchel—the actress who iconically played the blue-blooded Blair—is 58 years old. And while she’s appeared in only a handful of Hollywood productions outside of The Facts of Life and its TV movie reprises, she’s had a full and varied career since her days as a teen star. Read on to see her now, and to find out what she’s been doing since!
In the mid-’80s, while The Facts of Life was enjoying peak popularity, Whelchel turned her attention to music. In 1984, she released her first and only solo album, a collection of Christian tunes entitled All Because of You. The album was a success—it reached No. 17 on the Billboard Contemporary Christian music charts, and Whelchel was even nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Inspirational Performance.
The actress has shared that her ambitions had little to do with growing a career as a recording artist—she was motivated by the chance to share a message of Christian faith with other young people. “The only reason I recorded the album in the first place was that I was on The Facts of Life and I knew that it was teenagers watching it,” Whelchel explained to Fox News in 2020. “I wanted to use my platform to be able to influence and impact teenagers… But I knew if I stood up there and preached that, they wouldn’t listen for longer than five minutes.” Music, she says, was a means for “impacting them with a message that was life-changing for good.”
In 2012, Whelchel became a celebrity contestant on the CBS reality competition Survivor: Philippines, ultimately tying for second place despite contracting West Nile Virus. After the show, she was voted “fan favorite” and was even awarded $100,000 for the honor.
However, Whelchel shared with Entertainment Weekly that she struggled emotionally after appearing on the show. “When I was on television in the eighties, it was before the Internet and social media so, although I got my fair share of public judgment and even shaming, this was so much more,” she explained. “It didn’t help that I was more raw and open and undefended than ever before.”
The star admitted to crying for weeks after the show wrapped and described “a whole new round of PTSD” when the season eventually aired. “This many years on the other side of it, I’m grateful. It was the equivalent of giving hundreds of people sledge-hammers and submitting myself to a fairly painful ego-annihilation. Ultimately, freedom to just be is on the other side of that, but it sure hurts getting there.”
Besides her work in the world of entertainment, Whelchel is also an accomplished author with 10 books under her belt. She has written on a range of topics including faith and prayer, motherhood and parenting, homeschooling, adult friendships, and more. She was honored as a Gold Medallion nominee in the Family and Parenting Category for her book on child discipline, entitled Creative Correction.
Additionally, she has appeared as an inspirational speaker at churches and conferences.
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In 1988, the year The Facts of Life wrapped, the young star married Steven Cauble, a pastor at her church. They went on to have three children, and ultimately divorced in 2012.
Over a decade later in 2019, Whelchel reportedly married her second husband, Pete Harris, a Nashville-based psychologist. “I’ve been divorced for 10 years, so it was not something I was wanting to rush into,” she shared with Fox News shortly after the wedding. “At the same time, I always knew I wanted to get married again. I think about half the divorced women and friends that I know, they said never again. I always knew I wanted to get married again.”
“I love marriage,” she shared, adding that what’s “really important” to her now is having “a best friend that I want to spend the next 40 years of my life with.”