Teaching Students About Jan Smithers
Jan Smithers is a versatile and talented actress, best known for her role as Bailey Quarters on the hit television show, WKRP in Cincinnati. Born in North Hollywood, California on July 3, 1949, Smithers’ rise to fame in the entertainment industry serves as an outstanding example of perseverance and hard work. By incorporating her life story into your curriculum, you can help students understand the challenges that come with forging a career in the arts and appreciate the contributions of influential yet relatable figures from history.
Before her big break in WKRP in Cincinnati, Jan Smithers had a relatively normal childhood. She attended William Howard Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California. Jan’s life took a significant turn at the age of 16 when she appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in March 1966. The cover photo showcased teenagers and their evolving culture at the time. This exposure led her to pursue various modeling jobs, before making a foray into the film industry.
Jan began her acting career with several commercials and minor roles. Her first significant acting job came with a part in an episode of “The Love Boat” in 1978. WKRP in Cincinnati catapulted her to stardom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The sitcom told stories about the staff at a struggling radio station in Cincinnati and featured other iconic characters such as Venus Flytrap (played by Tim Reid) and Doctor Johnny Fever (played by Howard Hesseman). While WKRP lasted only four seasons, Jan’s performance left a lasting impact on audiences.
Overcoming Personal Struggles
After WKRP in Cincinnati ended, Jan took on fewer acting roles to focus on family life. She faced personal challenges during this period, including divorce from her first husband, Kipp Whitman. Fortunately, she persevered and found stability in her personal life by marrying her longtime co-star, James Brolin, in 1986. Together, they started a family and remained married until their separation in 1995.
Lessons for Students
Teaching students about Jan Smithers provides an opportunity to discuss valuable life lessons such as:
1. Perseverance: Jan faced several personal challenges throughout her life but continued to find success both professionally and personally. Her journey demonstrates to students the importance of pushing through difficult times and the rewards that come from hard work and determination.
2. Authenticity: Unlike many Hollywood actors, Jan built a career on being herself—genuine and relatable. Encouraging students to embrace their uniqueness can help them realize that authenticity is crucial for success in any field.
3. Balancing Career and Personal Life: Jan’s transition from acting to focusing on family allows students to understand the importance of striking a balance between professional ambitions and personal relationships.