Jennifer O'Neill's career has been outstanding, but her life has not been a walk in the park. She got pregnant at 22, but her then-fiancé's response to the apparent good news was unexpected.
Model and actress Jennifer O'Neill has gone through a lot in life, including miscarriages, a suicide attempt, and nine marriages. However, the thing that impacted her life the most was an unwanted abortion.
Jennifer O'Neill with her daughter Aimee in 1972 and O'Neill in an interview with "Today" in October 2016 | Photo: Getty Images - YouTube/TODAY
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February 1948, O'Neill was raised between New Rochelle, New York, and Wilton, Connecticut. She lived with her father, Oscar, who ran a medical supply company, and her mother, Irene.
From a very young age, O'Neill understood that life was not always easy. Growing up, she felt unheard by her parents, and her need for them to love her became "very painful."
She pointed out that children develop self-respect from their parent's unconditional love, something she didn't have. As a result, she tried to take her own life when she was just 14 years old.
Jennifer O'Neill on April 27, 2019 in Parsippany, New Jersey | Photo: Getty Images
The actress once admitted that she didn't want to die but to be heard. She added it was her way to rebel against her parents' decision to move to New York City. She said what looks like a bump in the road for an adult might appear catastrophic for a teenager.
Fortunately, O'Neill didn't die, but she was in a coma for about two weeks. Apart from that, her parents ignored her cry for help and made it clear that her "stunt" wouldn't work with them. She explained:
"Nothing was ever understood, recognized, dealt with, or healed. What happens to people like me is that radical events get stuffed down, and they are never healed."
Jennifer O'Neill's interview about her abortion posted in October 2020 | Photo: YouTube/Jennifer O'Neill
RISE TO FAME
During the family's time in Connecticut, O'Neill fell in love with horses. However, she could no longer care for them after moving to New York City. Her parents didn't even let her take their dog with them.
Once in New York City, a few neighbors told O'Neill that she could model. While she didn't care much about that career initially, it was a way to buy her own horse, so she went to Eileen Ford's agency and got signed "on the spot." She was just 15.
[Her fiancé] would do everything to "emotionally and verbally coerce" her into aborting their baby.
Shortly after, she appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine and was earning $80,000 a year by 1963. Sadly, life had many more tragedies prepared for her, including a broken neck and back at age 15, the result of a horse-riding accident.
Her first significant part in a film came at 21 when she appeared in "Rio Lobo" next to John Wayne. She then portrayed Dorothy in "Summer of '42," one of her most memorable roles.
TROUBLED LOVE LIFE
While O'Neill's professional life has been outstanding, her relationships — including her first marriage at 17 — have made headlines over the years. She admitted she was in a hurry when she married Dean Rossiter in 1965 and wouldn't recommend any other 17-year-old girl to marry.
At the time, though, tying the knot seemed "pretty normal," especially because she had been traveling the world alone since she started modeling at 15. She also wanted the "anchor" of having a family and kids to come back home to.
With Rossiter, O'Neill had her first kid, Aimee, at 19. After that, she dealt with postpartum depression, a condition unidentified back then. Given that she had already attempted suicide, she placed herself in a hospital where she received shock therapy.
O'Neill and Rossiter divorced after six years, where she then met a "very powerful man" in New York. She fell so in love with him that she considered he was the one and even got engaged. She noticed that he wasn't the one after getting pregnant, though.
She "deeply" hated herself for years after the abortion.
When O'Neill's fiancé learned she was expecting a baby, he looked up at her "with an expression [she] just didn't recognize" and said she was getting an abortion.
The unnamed man went as far as to promise her that he would do everything to "emotionally and verbally coerce" her into aborting their baby. While he kept saying it was the right thing to do, O'Neill believed it was not.
She even contacted her parents to get some advice, and they urged her to get an abortion as she could always have more kids. O'Neill added:
"I was threatened to a point where… I don't blame him. I failed. I couldn't stand up to it. So, he took me to the doctor, and the abortion was performed."
OUTCOME OF HER ABORTION
O'Neill even underwent shock therapy to help overcome the pain. It didn't help, though, as her mind and heart were not in synch, and it left her mentally stimulated but emotionally disconnected.
The only thing that really helped her was her relationship with God, but even that took a long time. When she was 38 years old, she became a born-again Christian and expected to heal everything right away.
However, she felt that she received God's forgiveness for her abortion only after a decade. She confessed that she started to love after placing the Lord at the center of her life. Before, she was just craving for love and demanding to be filled up by others.
Nowadays, O'Neill is married to music producer Mervin Louque — her eighth husband and ninth marriage — and has three adult children. She is also sure that God has saved her life more than once, including when she tried to take her own life as a teenager and when she accidentally shot herself in 1982.
O'Neill believes that God gave her a platform to show people that there is hope and they can heal, just like she has done so many times.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, don't hesitate to get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "help" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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