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I'm Old & I'm Fat': Kelly McGillis Reunited with Kids & Battles Genetic Disorder after Quitting Hollywood

Olawale Ogunjimi
Jul 12, 2022
04:30 P.M.
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Kelly McGillis has been through a lot, including three failed marriages. The actress is now battling a disorder, but thankfully, she has her daughters to support her. Here is a glimpse into her personal life, including her trying times.

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In 1986, the action-adventure movie "Top Gun" hit the theaters and catapulted many of the cast members into stardom, including Kelly McGillis. The actress had featured in two other productions before "Top Gun," but the attention she garnered from them was nothing compared to the 1986 blockbuster.

She starred opposite Tom Cruise, playing his love interest and flight instructor, Charlie Blackwood. Following her appearance in the movie, McGillis became one of the most desirable ladies in Hollywood. Pretty, talented, famous, and rich, the actress was one-of-a-kind in the eyes of many.

American actors Tom Cruise, as Lieutenant Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell, and Kelly McGillis, as Charlotte 'Charlie' Blackwood, in a promotional portrait for "Top Gun," directed by Tony Scott, 1986. | Source: Getty Images

American actors Tom Cruise, as Lieutenant Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell, and Kelly McGillis, as Charlotte 'Charlie' Blackwood, in a promotional portrait for "Top Gun," directed by Tony Scott, 1986. | Source: Getty Images

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American actor Tom Conti described McGillis as a woman who knew better than to splurge emotions all over the screen. While many considered McGillis to be beautiful, besides being talented, the actress herself did not entirely agree with them.

"I'm not cast in these roles because I'm beautiful. I'm not some great beauty. I don't look like a model. I don't have a good sound image of myself," McGillis noted.

Kelly McGillis sits at a desk in a scene from the film "Top Gun," 1986. | Source: Getty Images

Kelly McGillis sits at a desk in a scene from the film "Top Gun," 1986. | Source: Getty Images

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It was saddening to hear, as one would think that things were going right for the actress, thanks to her thriving career. But McGillis was struggling in her personal life and did not know who she was.

She would later reveal that at the time, it was challenging for her to have any sense of self-worth other than what she was doing for a living. According to the "Witness" star, she tried to be something she was not, which ruined her life in many ways.

INSIDE MCGILLIS'S MARRIAGE TO FRED TILLMAN

Actress Kelly McGillis and husband Fred Tillman attend The Acting Company's John Houseman Awards Gala on April 17, 1989 at Pierre Hotel in New York City, New York. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Kelly McGillis and husband Fred Tillman attend The Acting Company's John Houseman Awards Gala on April 17, 1989 at Pierre Hotel in New York City, New York. | Source: Getty Images

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After struggling with self-worth for a while, McGillis finally decided to step back from the spotlight to build a family. On January 15, 1989, she married Fred Tillman, a wealthy yacht salesman, and the duo moved to Key West, Florida. A year later, the couple expanded their family.

They welcomed their first child, Kelsey Laurel Tillman, on May 24, 1990, and on April 10, 1993, the couple's second child, Sonora Ashley, joined the family.

Things seemed to be going well for McGillis for the first time in a long while, but everything went south four days after Sonora was born. Tillman was arrested and fined.

Actress Kelly McGillis, husband Fred Tillman, and daughter Kelsey Tillman attend the "Getting Even with Dad" New York City premiere on May 15,1994, at Plaza Theater in New York City, New York | Source: Getty Images

Actress Kelly McGillis, husband Fred Tillman, and daughter Kelsey Tillman attend the "Getting Even with Dad" New York City premiere on May 15,1994, at Plaza Theater in New York City, New York | Source: Getty Images

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After the incident, the couple reconciled, but their union was forever changed. They eventually divorced in 2002, after staying married for 12 years. Sadly, McGillis also lost custody of the children while in rehab for her alcohol addiction.

McGillis eventually won the victory over her addiction, after which she decided to focus on her daughters. She turned down acting opportunities.

MCGILLIS'S RELATIONSHIP WITH HER GAY PARTNER

Actress Kelly McGillis attends the "Stake Land" premiere at The Film Society of Lincoln Center on October 27, 2010 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Actress Kelly McGillis attends the "Stake Land" premiere at The Film Society of Lincoln Center on October 27, 2010 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

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A few years after her marriage to Tillman ended, McGillis would insinuate that the union was doomed from the beginning. According to the actress, she was madly in love with the yacht salesman, but deep down, she knew it was not true. McGillis admitted:

"I was never dishonest with Fred about my past and history, but it was a big struggle with me."

The actress was convinced that her love for her ex-husband was a lie because she knew she was gay. She had already met her future partner, Melanie Leis, before her marriage to Tillman ended. The pair met in 2000 at Kelly's, a bar owned by McGillis and Tillman.

Kelly McGillis | Source: Getty Images

Kelly McGillis | Source: Getty Images

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Not long after, the actress and Leis went out for a friend's birthday, and McGillis knew there was something special about her during that outing. Eventually, after the "Top Gun" star's marriage ended, they started dating and moved in together.

McGillis was finally showing her true self, and what was amazing was that her kids accepted her sexuality. "My kids have always been very understanding," the actress mentioned.

However, McGillis decided to keep the relationship private until 2009, when she finally came out during an interview with SheWired.com. With her true self out in public, the actress enjoyed her romance with her partner.

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Kelly McGillis arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time" at Grauman's Chinese Theater on May 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

Kelly McGillis arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time" at Grauman's Chinese Theater on May 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

After dating for almost a decade, Leis popped the big question, and McGillis said yes. On September 15, 2010, they exchanged wedding vows in a civil ceremony at the Collingswood Municipal Court in front of 11 friends. McGillis said on the wedding day:

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"I HAVE no secrets anymore."

Sadly, McGillis and Leis' marriage was short-lived. The pair called it quits in 2013, and Leis described it as the worst time of her life. Regarding their divorce, McGillis said the relationship was not working anymore. According to the actress, she and Leis changed and grew at different rates, and at a certain point, the Hollywood icon could not stay if her partner was unwilling to work on herself.

WHERE IS MCGILLIS NOW?

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A few years after her divorce, McGillis appears to have wholly found herself. She lives an ordinary life away from the spotlight in North Carolina and loves spending time with her daughters. In 2019, she told Entertainment Tonight:

"My relationship to other people became far more important than my relationship to fame."

But all is not well with the actress. She is struggling with Alpha 1 Antitrypsin disorder. This is an inherited condition that causes lung and liver disease. Some symptoms include shortness of breath after mild activity, reduced ability to exercise, wheezing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, and recurring respiratory infections.

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It also causes emphysema, a lung disease characterized by a barrel-shaped chest, hacking cough, and difficult breathing. As McGillis battles the illness, she has come to terms with the fact that her appearance has changed. This is the reason she claims she was not asked to reprise her role in the latest "Top Gun" movie. In her words:

"I'm old, and I'm fat."

Kelly McGillis leaves the Los Angeles Times portrait studio on January 19, 2013 in Park City, Utah | Source: Getty Images

Kelly McGillis leaves the Los Angeles Times portrait studio on January 19, 2013 in Park City, Utah | Source: Getty Images

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McGillis also revealed that she has recently been turned down for roles due to her refusal to go under the knife or dye her grey hair blonde. Still, the actress does not want to change herself and is comfortable with her looks.

"I'd much rather feel absolutely secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age as opposed to placing a value in that other stuff," she told Entertainment Tonight.

For McGillis, what matters most is having her daughters around, as family is everything. In addition, the actress still has fans willing to support her through thick and thin.

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