Pamela Suzette Grier, popularly known as Pam Grier, is an American actress, who came to limelight after starring in numerous blaxploitation films, such as ‘The Big Bird Cage’, ‘Coffy’, ‘Foxy Brown’ and ‘Sheba Baby’. Criticized for her blaxploitation roles, she made a comeback with Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ and received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. Pam Grier was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and because of her father’s military career; her family moved frequently during her childhood and eventually settled in Denver. She studied at East High School and dreamed of becoming a doctor. She acted in a number of stage productions and participated in beauty contests to raise funds for her college tuition. Apart from ‘Jackie Brown’, Grier has given a number of mainstream blockbusters, such as ‘Fort Apache, The Bronx’ and ‘Above the Law’. She has never been married and has been romantically involved with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and comedian Richard Pryor. Pam Grier received her Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University.
Childhood & Early life
Pam Grier was born on May 26, 1949 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Gwendolyn Sylvia, a homemaker and a nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier, Jr., Technical Sergeant in the United States Air Force. She has one sister and one brother.
Due to the military career of her father, she lived in England and various other places during her childhood and finally settled in Denver. She was raped at the age of six at her aunt’s house.
Pam Grier did his schooling from the East High School in Denver Grier and dreamed of becoming a doctor.
She attended the Metropolitan State College at Denver and appeared in a number of stage productions and beauty contests to raise money for her college education.
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Pam Grier started working as a receptionist at American International Pictures (AIP) in Los Angeles, California. She made her film debut with a brief role in the 1970 movie ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’.
Director Jake Hill discovered her talent and gave her starring roles in his women in prison films: ‘The Big Doll House’ (1971) and ‘The Big Bird Cage’ (1972). She also starred in ‘Black Mama White Mama’ and ‘Scream Blacula Scream’ in 1973.
Pam Grier began her journey of blaxploitation movies in 1970s with Jack Hill’s ‘Coffy’ in 1973. She played similar characters in ‘Foxy Brown’ (1974), ‘Sheba, Baby’ (1975) and ‘Friday Foster’ (1975).
With the demise of blaxploitation, Pam appeared in smaller roles in ‘Drum’ (1976), ‘Greased Lightning’ (1977) and ‘Twilight of Love’ (1977).
She then played larger characters in mainstream blockbusters ‘Fort Apache, The Bronx’ in 1981 and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ in 1983.
Pam Grier starred in ‘Tough Enough’ (1983), ‘The Vindicator’ (1984), ‘Badge of the Assassin’ (1985) and ‘Stand Alone’ (1985). She had a recurring role in the TV series ‘Miami Vice’ from 1985-1990 and in ‘Crime Story’ from 1986 to 1988.
She played the role of Steven Seagal’s detective patner in ‘Above the Law’ (1988). Grier acted in ‘The Package’ (1989), ‘Class of 1999’ (1990), ‘Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey’ (1991) and ‘Posse’ (1993).
Pam Grier made guest appearances on sitcoms: ‘Martin’, ‘Night Series’ and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’.
In 1996, she acted in comic science fiction film ‘Mars Attack’, science fiction action film ‘Escape from L.A.’ and action-gangster film 'Original Gangstas'.
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Pam Grier had the biggest role of her career in 1997 in the crime thriller film ‘Jackie Brown’. Here performance in the film earner her many awards and nominations.
She gave power-packed performance in the comedy series ‘Linc's’ (1999) and in the television mini-series ‘3 A.M’ in 2000.
Her performance in the animated program ‘Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child’ in 2000 was highly appreciated. She also gave impactful performance in the motion picture ‘Bones’ in 2001.
She played Asst. US Attorney Claudia Williams in a drama series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ in 2002. Grier had a recurring role in the TV series ‘The L Word’ from 2004-09.
Pam Grier appeared in the television film ‘Ladies of the House’ in 2008 and three episodes of ‘Smallville’ in 2010. She played a friend and colleague of Julia Roberts in ‘Larry Crowne’ in 2011.
She acted in the martial arts film ‘The Man with the Iron Fists’ in 2012 and the television film ‘Cleveland Abduction’ in 2015.
Pam Grier is best known for her performance in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ in 1997. She received San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
Her work in the comedy series ‘Linc’s’ (1999) and in the television special ‘3 A.M.’ (2000) was also widely appreciated.
Her supporting act in the drama series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ and ‘The L Word’ was also critically acclaimed.
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Awards & Achievements
Pam Grier won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress for ‘Jackie Brown’ in 1997.
She was nominated for NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for ‘Linc’s’ in 1999.
She was nominated for Black Reel Award and NAACP Image Award for Best Actress for ‘3 A.M.’ in 2000.
She was nominated for NAACP Image Award for her supporting act in ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ (2003-2004) and ‘The L Word’ (2005-2006, 2008).
She received her Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2011. She also received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University, the same year.
Personal Life & Legacy
Pam Grier dated basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from 1970 to 1973 and comedian Richard Pryor from 1975 to 78. She was engaged to music executive Kevin Evans in 1998 but the engagement ended in 1999.
She dated marketing executive Peter Hempel from 2000 to 2008. She currently lives in Colorado.
Pam Grier was the first black woman to appear on the cover of MS. Magazine in August, 1975 issue.
She was named as one of Ebony Magazine's ‘100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century’.