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Female Teen Stars of the '80s: Then and Now

Updated September 23, 2021 63.1k views32 items

Despite the big hair, excessive amount of blue eyeshadow, and bedazzled jean jackets, these female teen stars managed to look cool even in the sometimes tragic-styling of the '80s. From the nostalgic high school films that were easily some of the best movies of the 1980s to the synth-laden pop numbers, these ladies of the eighties stood the test of time. Some had careers spanning well into the '90s while others burned bright and fast before settling into the quieter life.

They all made their mark on the decade as mere teenagers, and we are thankful for all of the hair-teasing they endured to do so. Read on to find out where your favorite teen star from the '80s is up to nowadays, and bask in the warm nostalgic glow of their iconic roles, films, and songs. 

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  • Kristy McNichol - Then

    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    Kristy McNichol's portrayal of her character Letitia "Buddy" Lawrence on the hit show Family is a staple of '80s TV. Buddy was part tomboy, part brat, part afterthought, and all-American. Simply put, the casting of McNichol for the part was genius. 

    The Emmys thought so too. McNichol received two Emmy awards for best supporting actress during her time on the show. She was the undisputed teen superstar of television. 

    After Family left the airwaves, she focused on a film career, co-starring with Matt Dillon and Tatum O'Neal in Little Darlings. She continued to work in films throughout the '80s, but unfortunately, she was in a string of box office failures. TV work saved her from this rut when she was cast in the sitcom Empty Nest. She remained on the show for four years before leaving after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder

    • Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

      McNichol has retired from acting but remains busy with other activities, mostly teaching acting and working with various charities. 

      In 2012, she came out of the closet announcing she was a lesbian. She's been with her current partner for over 20 years. She stated she chose to do so to help young lesbian girls who are being bullied for their sexual identity. Yeah, Buddy!

      • Age: 59
      • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
      • Credits: Empty Nest, Family, The Pirate Movie, White Dog

      #798 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021#68 of 109 The Greatest '80s Teen Stars#303 of 322 The Greatest American Actresses Of All Time

    • Debbie Gibson - Then

      Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

      Gibson was born a singer and performer: she wrote her first song when she was five. She started performing in her teens touring across the states in a nightclub act, while at the same time working on what was to be her debut album Out Of The Blue. The album hit the streets in '88 and went triple platinum. The concert tour video for the album also went double platinum. 

      An instant star, she dropped another album in '89, Electric Youth, which went double platinum. Capitalizing off her teen idol status, Gibson introduced a perfume fragrance for girls alongside her album.

      • Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

        Gibson continued to release albums in the '90s, which sold decently, but not nearly as well as her first two ventures. Nonetheless, Gibson kept busy recording (she formed her own record label in 2006) and appeared on stage as well as on TV,  even serving a stint as a judge on American Idol

        These days, the singer still tours heavily. She's made a bevy of appearances on celebrity reality shows and continues to record. 

        • Age: 51
        • Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
        • Credits: American Juniors,Debbie Gibson: Live Around the World,The Apprentice,Welcome to the Dollhouse

        #219 of 500 The Best Female Vocalists Ever#174 of 465 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '80s#247 of 355 The Hottest Women Over 40 in 2013