Pam Grier: From 'Foxy Brown' And 'Coffy' To 'Jackie Brown'

By | February 25, 2019

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Actress Pam Grier poses for a photo circa 1972 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Pam Grier has gone by a lot of names other than Pam Grier: Foxy Brown, Coffy, Friday Foster, Sheba, Jackie Brown. When Pam Grier stars in a movie, the tough yet beautiful protagonist tends to be a lot like Pam Grier, the person, and Grier's forceful presence lingers in the mind more than any details of the plot. Quentin Tarantino, Jackie Brown's director and an obsessive student of film, declared her the first female action hero in cinema history, and the tag-line for one of her seventies called her “the baddest one-chick hit-squad”. Pam Grier was Foxy Brown -- but Foxy Brown was really just Pam Grier.

The smoking hot, tough-as-nails, undisputed queen of the blaxploitation movie genre that was popular in the early to mid-1970s, young Pam Grier was known for her beauty, curvy physique, prominent Afro hairdo, and big, bold characters. As an actress, Grier was able to evolve as Hollywood evolved. She’s come a long way, baby! From Foxy Brown to her award-winning role on The L Word to her cameo in the acclaimed TV series This Is Us, Pam Grier has shown that she is still a force to be reckoned with. 

Young Pam Grier Had To Be Tough

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Pam Grier in 1971

The daughter of an Air Force father, Grier’s family moved around a lot when she was young -- as military brats will tell you, constantly being the new kids and trying to make friends as an outsider can be a lonely existence. She spent her high school years, following her father's retirement, in Denver, Colorado. Grier was a self-sufficient young woman, comfortable with outdoors pursuits like camping and fishing. Denver wasn't an easy town for Grier, her experience perhaps later informing her on-screen portrayals of no-nonsense heroines.

Denver was tough. That was where I learned you had to fight all the time. I mean fight for your lunch money or act like you didn't have any. I used to keep mine in my sock. It was pretty rough for a kid who had been sheltered on Air Force bases, but I am a quick study--Pam Grier

It wasn't all fights, though. She played organ and piano in a gospel choir, backing up vocalists Philip Bailey, Larry Dun, and Andrew Woolfolk -- a trio later known as Earth, Wind & Fire.