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Bo Derek Then And Now: Behind The Braids And The Bikini

Written by Jacob Shelton

Bo Derek wasn't always Bo Derek -- she came into this world as Mary Collins, and as a teenager she wasn't exactly driven. In fact, the future 10 star and poster girl seemed content doing almost nothing when she was 16. It was California in the early '70s, and like a stereotypical blonde beach bunny she would rather spend the day at the beach, catching rays with her friends, than attend school. She was slacking -- or was she doing research? After all, consider that breakthrough movie role and the poster that also made Bo Derek a household name: She was a blonde girl, in a swimsuit, on a beach. So maybe all that truancy was good for something.

First Up: In High School, Bo Derek Cut Class For A Month

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Narbonne High School's loss would prove to be the world's gain, though even now Derek isn't exactly proud of her high school attendance recordShe told Interview magazine"I skipped school for a month straight. It was terrible; I got in big trouble. My mother was working a lot, so she was gone often. I would leave school and hitchhike to the beach." 

Bo Derek Doesn't Regret Dropping Out Of School...

She went on to say that she doesn't regret dropping out of high school, because she wouldn't have the life she has now if she'd stayed in school. Dropping out of school and going to Europe doesn't work for everybody, but it definitely did the trick for her. By her early 20s, she was an iconic beauty, famous temptress of the film 10 and the accompanying movie poster. Her acting was often criticized, and movies like Bolero and Tarzan The Ape-Man were derided as flimsy showcases for her face and figure -- but none of that really mattered. Bo Derek became a leading sex symbol because of her early films and in spite of them. Fans couldn't get enough of those beguiling blue eyes, prominent cheekbones, and bikini-body curves. There's a reason she's been on the cover of Playboy magazine more times than any other celebrity (who wasn't a Playmate). The former Mary Collins has always had that "Bo mojo."

We've never stopped being fascinated by her, and she doesn't disappoint -- although her appearances on TV and the silver screen are sporadic, she remains glamorous and entertaining, always a welcome addition at charity photo ops, and always entertaining with her shoot-from-the-hip answers to interview questions. Keep reading to find out what led the original "10" to that fateful run down the beach, and what she’s been doing since.

Class-Cutter Bo Derek Had Her Mom Fooled. The Truant Officer, Not So Much...

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In a conversation with Interview Magazine, Derek explained how she managed to skip school for a month straight without anyone noticing.

"A truant officer showed up at my mom’s house. She had no idea I was skipping school, and she was furious. She was a working single mother, and she’d been getting up early in the mornings to drive me to the bus stop. And, to find out I didn’t get on the bus - I went around the corner and stuck out my thumb with my girlfriends." She admitted that she feels bad about all the truancy now, but that she tries not to think about it. 

Bo Derek's Mom Had The Hots For John Derek

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Bo Derek recalls that her mother swooned over John Derek before Bo had even met him, calling the actor-turned-director "so handsome." When Bo, then Mary Collins, went to an interview with her future husband to see if she was right for a part in a movie he'd be shooting in Greece, she didn't really know who he was -- but she ended up agreeing with her mother's assessment of his looks. This might have made it awkward when young Mary (Bo) and older John started hooking up while on set.

When John Derek was a young guy he was a total looker -- after all, he was married to Bond girl Ursula Andress and Linda Evans. But by the time he met Bo, he was in his mid-40s and bearded. Bo was 17. It looks a little creepy because it is. It is pretty darn creepy. 


Bo Derek's Mother Was A Makeup Assistant For Ann-Margret

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After divorcing Derek’s father, her mother married stunt performer Bobby Bass, but because the family couldn't live on a mere stuntman's salary she put her hair and makeup skills to use and became a makeup artist to the stars.

Her mother, Norma Bass, went to work for Ann-Margret (Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las VegasDirty Old Men) and started bringing her daughter around for days on end. It was on set with Margret where Bo (still Mary Collins) was discovered. She was hanging out backstage with her mom when Margret’s manager came in and said “you should be in pictures," and the rest is history.

Did You Fall For Bo Derek's Cornrow-Style Braids? Thank Her Husband

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Even though John Derek didn’t direct 10 (that was Blake Edwards), he still had a hand in creating its most famous scene. Specifically, he insisted that the young Bo Derek wear her hair in braids so she stood out among the rest of the women from the '70s. The unconventional look certainly worked on George Webber (Dudley Moore's lustful character in 10), and pretty much every man who saw the film.

She told Interview Magazine, "It was the tail end of the 1970s and everything was fluffy, and I'm blond, and … What are you going to do to look different? John had always thought that that would be a good look for me, just for photography—he’s a great photographer. And we tried it. And he said, 'Why don't you take these pictures into Blake and see if he'll go for it. It would be really good for the part, so you don’t look ordinary.'"

Bo Derek Never Cared About Being A Sex Symbol

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Even though she’s a perfect 10, Bo Derek told The Hollywood Reporter that she never cared about being a sex symbol, which might even make her all the more sexy. 

"That whole sex symbol thing I never took seriously to begin with. Thank goodness or I’d be suffering right now, because it’s out of your hands what happens to you with age. But it was fun making fun of myself."

Whether she wanted to be one or not, Bo Derek was a sex symbol, as so many 10 posters hanging on bedroom walls would attest -- and she's maintained that glamour effortlessly, for four decades. 

How Long Do You Think Bo Derek Was Married To John Derek?

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Even though the beginning of the relationship was tumultuous to say the least, Bo and her husband – actor turned director John Derek – were married from 1976 to his death in 1998. The two first met when she appeared in his film Fantasy, which filmed in Greece. While on set, the two began a love affair that would end Derek's marriage with his third wife Linda Evans.

Because Bo was underage when their relationship began, the two had to stay in Europe until she was 18 so her husband wouldn't spend time in jail. That being said, they stayed together for over two decades, which is better than most couples.

Welcome To Fame, Bo Derek, Mobs Will Chase You Now

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While chatting with People Magazine in 1998, Derek told the magazine how she first experienced fame following her small role in 10 – as huge, rushing, oncoming mobs of people. "Someone would spot me and start running down the street, and by the time they got to me it was a huge mob. I get recognized now, but the hysteria isn’t there."

Thankfully the madness has died down, or Derek would never be able to get out and dedicate herself to so many causes.

Yes, Bo Derek Really Did Star In An X-Rated Film

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Before you get too worked up, the X-rated film Derek starred in is a legit movie, it’s just incredibly racy. In 1984’s Bolero Derek starred as a young woman criss-crossing the world in search of the perfect man to take her virginity. 

The film went through a torturous post-production, with Cannon Films dropping the movie over the poor quality. The film did eventually make its way to theaters, although it barely screened. That being said, Bolero still made its money back and was seen by audiences -- frequently late at night on Cinemax, of course. If you've ever wanted to see Bo Derek fight a bull, this is the movie for you. 

She Won A Golden Raspberry Award For 'Worst Actress Of The Decade' 

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Ah, the Golden Raspberry, the booby prize no movie star wants to win. It's the long-running award for the worst performances in film -- essentially the opposite of an Academy Award. Throughout her life, Derek has been nominated for six of these "awards," and she's won three. Most notably, Derek won for worst actress of the decade and worst picture for Bolero.

Bear in mind, though, that Derek was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1980 for her small part in 10. Make one movie as a heaven-sent sexually-liberated beach babe and they nominate you for an award; make five of them and you become a punchline.

Sexy People Face Persecution, According To Bo Derek

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After her breakout role in 10, Derek believes that she was stigmatized for being sexy. "I had such a big target on my back after that. Everything the press was saying was so negative. ... There’s still a lot of that around. And I always thought it was funny, a good Christian girl could go up and bump and grind and be vulgar on stage, but God forbid you should just take off your clothes—you crossed the line."

As true as this may be, Derek's made the best out of being blackballed by the industry. Living well truly is the best revenge. 

Bo Derek Has A Dog Named Aidan, Named After Her Husband's Sex And The City Character

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Here's a Bo Derek factoid that's just too cute to ignore. In 2018, Derek and John Corbett adopted a German Shepard named Aiden -- Corbett's character from Sex and the City. The dog was "pet of the week" according to Santa Ynez Valley News, which likely played a part in the adoption. 

If you keep up with Derek on Instagram then you know how much she loves being with her dogs, but now that Aiden's a part of the pack, do John and Bo have to adopt a dog named Jenny (after Jenny Hanley, Bo Derek's character in 10)? 

Nobody Exploited Bo Derek More Than Bo Derek Herself

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One of the biggest criticisms of Derek's career is how she essentially just made money off her body, when asked about this is in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning she answered, "I'm not complaining because what I did as soon as I became famous is, I objectified myself. I thought, 'Well, if this is what it is, I'm going to do it.' I created my own posters, I made my own movies. I produced them. Maybe I could’ve gone out to prove, 'Oh, I'm a real actress, I’m not a physical being.' But I pretty much exploited myself, too, at the same time."

Bo Derek Still Feels Bad About About Breaking Up Linda Evans's Marriage 

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While speaking with Interview MagazineDerek confessed that she still feels bad about breaking up John Derek and Linda Evans, even though they’ve fully buried the hatchet.

She explained, “I was at least halfway responsible for some serious pain she went through. She’d been very gracious and kind… And I just saw her yesterday, funny enough. We were at a jewelry trunk show for charity. And she was just as fabulous and wonderful as ever. I always feel like sh*t when I’m around her. It’s just ingrained, years later.”

Who says celebrities are heartless? Almost 40 years after the Derek-Evans marriage ended -- it was John's third -- Bo still feels terrible about something that she did in her teens.

Poachers Beware: Bo Derek Works On Anti-Shark-Poaching Causes In the Galapagos

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Derek has been vocal about her support of anti-poaching regulations in the Galapagos Islands. In 2007 she wrote an article for CNN discussing the harm that animals in the region are facing, and how she's specifically helping out by working with WildAid in order to keep sharks in the area from being poached by "finners."

Aside from simply stopping poachers, Derek believes that by educating people about the items they're buying she can curb poaching before it starts. Specifically, she wants to reach out to the people of China. But, as the star writes: "Reaching China's 1.2 billion people is no easy task, but by recruiting the likes of Yao Ming, Jackie Chan and Chinese Olympic medalists as eloquent and passionate advocates, and with the support of Chinese state media, we are reaching nearly half the Chinese population with TV, messaging, 'when the buying stops, the killing can, too.'"

Bo Derek Is An Honorary Green Beret

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Aside from putting time into equestrian and humanitarian causes, Derek also dedicates her time to US Veterans of all stars and stripes. She's worked on multiple USO tours, served as honorary chair of Veterans Administration's National Rehabilitation Special Events, and has put in so much time that the VA awarded her bestowed upon her an honor considered its highest award.

Derek is now considered an honorary green beret, and while that's simply a gesture from the military, Derek's work is worthy of recognition. How does one woman find so much time to dedicate herself to so many causes? Does she have a clone, or does she simply not sleep?

Bo Derek Has Never Had A Facelift (No, Really)

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Bo Derek is inarguably one of the most beautiful people on the planet. Even at 62 she's a complete stunner. In a recent interview with CBS News Sunday Morning Derek discussed what a drag it is getting older, especially in the public eye. 

She told the show, "I realize how artificial it is, beauty, I realize that it doesn't last forever, that's for damn sure. I get credit on one hand for not having had a facelift, and then on the other hand it's, 'Oh my God, why doesn't she do something?'" If you're ever feeling bad about yourself, remember that Bo Derek does too.


Bo Derek Keeps Herself Busy With Projects Such As A Fragrance For Dogs (It's Good)

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Now that she’s out of the spotlight, Bo Derek works on a ton of small projects to keep her busy. One that’s near and dear to her heart is her pet care company, Bo Derek Pet Care. Derek does quite a bit of work with animals, and her pet care company is just one aspect of her animal loving spirit.

She says that she started out of necessity because of all the smelly dogs she wanted to live in her house. Her passion is covering the hounds in a fragrance that's not overpowering, but that makes dogs smell like anything but a dog.

Bo Derek, Is Really Not A Fan Of Breakfast Foods

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If you ever get the chance to have a meal with Bo Derek, make sure you avoid breakfastIn fact, just get lunch with her. Or ever better, grab dinner. Or maybe a late night snack. Whatever you do, just don't show up at her ranch hoping for a full spread before 11am.

The knockout film star admitted that even though she gets up early, she's not one for a hearty breakfast. "Breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day, so it might be a bowl of oatmeal, boiled eggs or my favorite Danish pancakes." 

Bo Derek Is Never Going To Have Kids, And Here's Why

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Even though she was married to John Derek for 22 years, she and her husband never had children. Now that she's been with her beau John Corbett for almost the same amount of time she's still never become a mother. 

She explained, "For a long time I wanted children. When I was about 30 or 32, I really thought about it. But John [Derek] had two children from a previous marriage, and it wasn't really natural for him. I had to consider that eventually I would be raising a child alone. So, when the time came, he said yes, we were all set and I said No."

Just How Much Younger Is Bo Derek's Handsome Young Boyfriend?

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You wouldn't expect Bo Derek to need any help in the dating department, but it turns out in 2002 she was looking for love and out of luck. Luckily, John Corbett was looking for a date to an Oscar party. In 2015 John Corbett told Today. "I said, 'I'm not dating anyone,' and [someone] said, 'I'll get you a date, Corbett!' And [they] set me up with Bo." For her part, Derek said she liked Corbett "instantly... I kept saying to my friends, 'I'll wait until all the sparks and all that get going.' And it finally happened."

Although the two stars seem to be from completely different eras -- Bo being a late-'70s sex symbol and John having his heyday in the '90s -- they're not as far apart in age as you might think. Bo is older, but only by five years.


Bo Derek Loves Horses And Has Always Loved Horses

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Derek's film career may have slowed, but if you run in the equestrian circles of southern California (and who doesn't?) you've no doubt seen her face advocating for horses. She's been riding horses since childhood and her personal ranch hosts Andalusian horsesalso known as pure Spanish horses.

While you may not be able to glean her love of horses from her film work, Derek's love of these long-faced, four-legged creatures runs deep. When she's not riding them for fun she's taking part in everything from local horse shows to chats about how to decrease pain in riding crops. If you're itching to meet Bo Derek, maybe buy a horse? 


Eat What You Want, Look Like Bo Derek -- The Diet That Only Works For Bo Derek

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It can't be easy to keep the body of a supermodel forever. One might say it's impossible. But Bo Derek apparently doesn't need any help keeping herself fit.

In an interview with Women's Fitness, Derek was blunt about her diet. When asked about whether or not she counts calories the former model and actress said, "Have you seen what Michael Phelps eats? Swimming allows me to eat whatever I want." Keep that in mind come swimsuit season, if you want to get a great bod without going on a diet, just swim some laps.

Young Bo Derek Got To Try Out Sailing Prototypes On The Water

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Before she was Bo Derek, Mary Collins was a babe who more or less lived on the water. Her father, Paul Collins, was an executive for the catamaran manufacturing company Hobie Cat, which explains why she was drawn to the ocean from a young age.

In a conversation with Interview Magazine she explained, "My father actually lived next door to Hobie Alter [creator of the Hobie catamarans]. So growing up, we had prototypes and experimental things that we could play with; it was just fabulous." It seems Bo Derek really did live the Southern California good life.


What's Bo Derek's Swimming Jam? Books...

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Music gets the blood flowing, but not for Derek. When she's working out she wants to listen to a real page turner. While you, a not world famous model/actress, listen to tunes during your workout, Derek prefers a good thriller.

She told Women's Fitness that she swims for a mile three days a week at her local YMCA while listening to the Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor on her waterproof iPod. That's right, she still uses an iPod. She's kicking it old school while remaining a true fitness icon.

Riding Crops Are Less Cruel, Thanks To Bo Derek

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Derek has long been a proponent of animal safety, especially horses. In 2009 she made it her mission to change the tools that jockeys use to get their horses going – specifically by using softer, padded riding crops that don't sting the horses when they're used. This is a big deal for Derek who regularly rides horses and attends races.

It's likely that many people who keep up with horse racing don't even know that a softer, gentler riding crop can be used to get a horse to run faster. It's wild that Bo Derek is changing the world so many years after getting out of the Hollywood spotlight. 

Bo Derek Is On The Board Of An Equestrian Club

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Bo Derek has been in love with horses and the equestrian lifestyle since she was a child, but in 2018 she was finally made a member of the the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Board of Directors. After the announcement she said, "They are my favorite people in horse racing and I'm glad to join in as they continue to elevate the sport that I love."

This is a perfect fit for Derek, who would just be working with horses anyway. She might as well put her expertise to work, and who doesn't like being on a board?


Bo Derek Did 'Sharknado 3' Because She Is A Shark Advocate 

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When the call came in for Derek to appear in Sharknado 3 she was in the middle of the Galapagos Islands, working to save – you guessed it – sharks from poachers. She said"I haven't worked in a long time, I was in the Galapagos Islands with a group of conservationists and we'd been working on shark-finning for a long time." She thought the rest of her conversationalist crew would pressure her not to take the role, but that's not the case. Derek continued, "They all said, oh, we love Sharknado. I thought they'd say, don't do it, it's terrible for our cause, [but] they said, do it, it's fantastic. So I did it."

How Bo Derek And John Corbett Are Helping Vets Find Jobs

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In 2012 Derek and her beau, John Corbett, gave an interview to NBC about their initiative to help returning vets get jobs, specifically by getting them one free year of advertising in the yellow pages which will hopefully get those vets some business.

She explained, "A returning veteran wanting to start a new business will get for free, advice on advertising programs, business plans, everything that these people in the independent Yellow Page world have such experience in. They'll help them create ads, business plans and they will get free ads for a full year in the Yellow Pages."

Remember The 'Northern Exposure' Guy? He's Bo Derek's Boyfriend

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After her husband of over twenty years passed away from heart failure, Derek found herself in a relationship with fellow actor John Corbett (Sex in the City, Northern Exposure). The two have been dating since 2002, and they're still as happy as they were when they were set up by Corbett's agent for an Oscar party. 

Derek explained their long lasting romance thusly: "We enjoy each other's company; we make each other laugh. After 15 years we still hold hands; we still have barbecues with friends a couple times a week." You can find these two around one of their many homes in southern California.

And The Sexiest Celebrity Couch Potato Is... Bo Derek?

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In an interview with The Star, Derek admitted that if she had her druthers she'd just hang out all day and be a blob, so she has to actively keep from doing that. She said, "I don't go to gyms and when I travel, I vegetate and get horribly out of shape. When I start to put on a few pounds, I just take on a project and get busy. If you go on a diet you just become obsessed with food. If I think, 'I should diet,' it just triggers a switch in my brain. If I think, 'I better diet,' all I do is eat, eat, eat. So I put in a vegetable garden this summer. It sure beats the gym."

Don't Expect An Invitation To The Bo Derek-John Corbett Wedding

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Even though she's been in a relationship with actor John Corbett since 2002, Derek doesn't have any plans to get remarried -- ever. Luckily, her beau's on the same page. Corbett told the Huffington Post that it's easier to just be together than get married and make it "this whole thing."

Speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Derek added, "We talk about [marriage] sometimes, but we don't have children and we're not young, so there isn't that pressure or need to get married." These two have over a decade together, they don't really need to get married to make us swoon.

Want To Get Bo Derek's Fashionable Look? Too Bad, She Made It Herself

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You might think that someone as famous as Derek would pay to have their clothes tailored, and maybe she does when it's time to walk the red carpet, but when it comes to fitting into her favorite jeans she just whips out the sewing machine and gets to work.

"I have a strange shape, anything that needs an ass. There are just so many things I know to stay away from. And I'll wear inexpensive as well as expensive clothes, it just depends on the item. My grandmother taught me to sew and I used to make all my school clothes. You learn so much, what cuts are going to work for you. It's such an art." 

Polar Bears Are Safer, Thanks To Bo Derek

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In 2012, Derek and Virgin Group billionaire Richard Branson began working together to save Canada's polar bear population. She knows that she can't stop poaching or the encroachment of global warming, but that doesn't mean she's going to stop trying to make the world a better place.  

She told CTV News, "Right now there's such a debate on climate change -- who is responsible, the science of it. There's a lot of work to be done and I realize that. But in the meantime we must save polar bears and sharks."

Mega-Star Bo Derek Never Cared About Being A Star

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Even though Bo Derek's never really disappeared from the public eye, she admits that she was never chasing stardom, it’s just something that happened.

She told The Star, "You really have to have that hunger and drive in this business, and I never had it. But you're young and you find yourself in it and at the place where I was -- which was at the top for a while. Life is nice when you pursue other interests and things you care about."

Bo Derek Got The 'Northern Exposure' Moose Head In Her Possession

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In an interview with Architectural DigestDerek admitted that her favorite thing in her Santa Ynez house is the stuffed moose head from Northern Exposure, which her boyfriend stole from set. "My favorite thing is something my boyfriend, John Corbett, stole from set. The moose head from Northern Exposure. I hung [it] in the bar in our living room."

How cool is that? And how crazy is it that Corbett was able to steal the literal mascot of Northern Exposure? The dream of the '90s is alive in Bo Derek's house; does she has anything from the Sex and the City set, or were the producers onto Corbett's thieving ways by then?

Bo Derek Was In Sharknado 3, And Loved Every Minute Of It

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After she finished filming 2015's Sharknado 3, Derek admitted that appearing in the movie wasn't hard work, but that it offered her a chance to be on set, which is something she can't get enough of. 

She told ABC News, "It wasn't really acting. But being on a set, I love the business, I love the film business. And it's always been good to me. I don't need a lot. I never needed the adoration or the praise. I loved the work, and still do." Hear that, film students? Maybe you can get Bo Derek to act in your senior thesis. 

At Age 60, Bo Derek Can Swim Farther Than You

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Even though Bo Derek claims that she only swims about three miles a week at her local YMCA, it turns out that she's got enough stamina to hang with professional level swimmers. In 2016, Derek took part in a 3,000 meter (that's 1.86 miles) open-water marathon in Spetsis, Greece. At the time she told ET Online that part of the reason that she took up swimming again was so she could eat anything she wanted. Sounds like a plan, Bo!

It's reported that she "belatedly" reached the finish line because of the weather, but who among us can say we've swum through the choppy waters of Europe and lived to tell the tale?

Bo Derek Has Lived A Charmed Life, A Fact Not Lost On Bo Derek

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Bo knows exactly how blessed she's been in life, so she's not taking anything for granted. It's easy to think that celebrities, especially those who've led as charmed a life as Derek, are forgetting all the doors opened for them thanks to their fame, but that's not how it is with Derek.

In a recent interview she said, "I'm intelligent enough to know that my life has been embarrassingly good." That's a great place to be -- whether we're movie stars or not, we should all want to feel we've lived a life that's "embarrassingly good."

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.