Jennifer Beals (born December 19, 1963) is an American actress and a former teen model. She is known for her roles as Alexandra "Alex" Owens in the 1983 film Flashdance, and as Bette Porter on the Showtime drama series The L Word. She earned an NAACP Image Award and a Golden Globe Award nomination for the former. She has appeared in more than 50 films.
Beals was born on the southside of Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Jeanne, an elementary school teacher, and Alfred Beals, who owned a grocery store. Her father was African-American and her mother is Irish American. She has two brothers, Bobby and Gregory. Her father died when Beals was ten years old, and her mother remarried, to Edward Cohen. Beals has said her biracial heritage had some impact on her, as she "always lived sort of on the outside", with an idea "of being the other in society". She graduated from the progressive Francis W. Parker School. Beals also was chosen to attend the elite Goodman Theatre Young People's Drama Workshop. Beals attended Yale University, receiving a B.A. in American literature in 1987. While at Yale, Beals was a resident of Morse College.
Beals had a minor role in the 1980 film My Bodyguard, then came to fame with her starring part in Flashdance. The third-highest grossing U.S. film of 1983, it is the story of 18-year-old Alex, a welder by day and exotic dancer by night, whose dream is to be accepted someday at an illustrious school of dance. Beals was cast for this key role while still a student at Yale. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film received an Academy Award for Best Song. Many of Beals' elaborate dance moves were actually performed by stunt double Marine Jahan.