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

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. 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

  • Molly Ringwald - Then

    Molly Ringwald embodied a timeless teen angst in the various John Hughes films she starred in throughout the '80s. Queen of the Brat Pack, Ringwald is considered by some as the greatest teen star of all time. 

    Like many teen idols, she started out as a child actor. She even had a small role on the TV series Diff'rent Strokes, but was fired after the producers decided to revamp the cast. But she continued on, singing on a couple of Disney produced albums. Then came 16 Candles - the movie that put her on the map. After that came a string of teen oriented movies produced by John Hughes: The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, The Pick Up Artist - all of which were box office hits. All of them served to make Ringwald one of the biggest girl teen idols of the '80s and '90s.  

  • Now well out of her teens and a mother of three, the actress continues to act sporadically in various films and tv projects. She was cast as the main character's mother in the series The Secret Life of the American Teenager that ran from 2008 to 2013. In 2017, she was cast as Archie's sometimes-absentee mother on the hit teen drama Riverdale.

    Ringwald has authored two books and never stopped singing. She released a jazz compilation in 2013 titled Except Sometimes and tours the U.S. to promote the album and her singing career.

    • Age: 55
    • Birthplace: Roseville, California, USA
    • Credits: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, The Secret Life of the American Teenager
  • Susan Dey - Then

    While her costar David Cassidy may have gotten the lion's share of teen idol attention during their Partridge Family years, Susan Dey was hardly without a big fan base of admirers. 

    Starting off as a child model, Dey won the part of Laurie Partridge with no acting experience. Pretty impressive, considering she seemed like such a natural as the talented and cute sister of the group. After the show went off the air, Dey worked in a few films and TV movies sporadically throughout the late seventies and early eighties, including her role on L.A. Law.

  • After Partridge Family came Grace Van Owen - Dey's role on the popular show L.A. Law which ran from 1986 to 1992. Dey won a Golden Globe for the role and was nominated for an Emmy three times. She also worked on the show Love And War after L.A. Law for a few seasons, but was replaced by Annie Potts in 1995. 

    Since then, the actress has kept a low profile. She serves as a board member for the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA Medical Center.  


    • Age: 70
    • Birthplace: Pekin, Illinois, USA
    • Credits: L.A. Law,The Partridge Family,Looker,Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night
  • Kristy McNichol - Then

    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

  • Kristy McNichol - Now
    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: 60
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
    • Credits: Empty Nest, Family, The Pirate Movie, White Dog