The Stunning Transformation Of Molly Ringwald

From Judy Garland's tragic demise to the conservatorships of Amanda Bynes and Britney Spears, it's clear the "child star curse" is real. Nevertheless, some former child stars continue to enjoy a near-unfathomably lavish lifestyle. Somewhere in between the extremes, however, there is a sweet spot — where, for a few former child stars, the work remains steady and notable, yet one can take a yoga class without triggering the paparazzi.

One of those former child stars is 1980s teen movie legend Molly Ringwald. The fifty-something ginger has been working in showbiz since early childhood, but continues to rack up impressive credits. At the same time, she maintains an essential relatability. Also, Ringwald is a musician and published author. She has the additional distinction of being so iconic for her work as a teen that she's been name-checked in the working title of an upcoming rom-com, "Why Can't I Be Molly Ringwald?" (per Deadline). 

Join us as we explore Molly Ringwald's stunning transformation — from "The New Mickey Mouse Club" to "The Breakfast Club" to the Kit Kat Club to the present day, in which her performance as Jeffrey Dahmer's stepmom in Ryan Murphy's Netflix series has put her in one of Hollywood's most powerful clubs (per The New Yorker).

Molly Ringwald got her start on the theater stage

One of the ways in which Molly Ringwald manages to stay so relatable, even as her star continues to rise throughout middle age, is via her social media channels and her website. With regard to the former, Ringwald posts frequently and prolifically to Instagram. With regard to the latter, Ringwald's site offers a wealth of information about Ringwald's career, starting with her community theater stage debut in her hometown of Sacramento, California. 

Her first role, as an illegitimate toddler in "The Grass Harp," led to roles as adorable singing urchins in stage productions of "Oliver" and "Annie." Her first screen credit appears to have been her 1977 stint on Disney Channel's "The New Mickey Mouse Club," in which she wasn't acting, but performing as herself, per IMDb. By 1979, she'd landed a recurring role as Molly Parker on television's "Diff'rent Strokes." That led to a recurring role, playing that same character on the hit "Diff'rent Strokes" spinoff, "The Facts of Life." Unfortunately, after what Ringwald describes on her website as only a "brief stint" on the latter show, she was let go, as were several other cast members, per EW. The rejection was painful for Ringwald, but as you'll see, it led to bigger and better things. 

Why it's a good thing Molly Ringwald got fired from Facts of Life

Molly Ringwald was just 12 years old when she was fired from television's "The Facts of Life." As she told EW, the show's original premise involved a boarding school for girls and featured many regularly recurring characters. But for the second season, producers decided to put more focus on fewer characters. Initially, Ringwald's character was one of the characters they planned on keeping. Then they changed their minds. 

"It was kind of hard as a 12-year-old girl," Ringwald confessed to EW. But seemingly before she even had time to process it, the producers changed their minds yet again, this time offering to make Ringwald's character a "semi-regular." But it was all just too much drama for Ringwald at that point in her life. In any event, it wasn't long before she got cast in her first feature film, Paul Mazursky's "The Tempest," in which she played the daughter of the two lead characters played by John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, Ringwald says on her website. At 13, her performance was skilled enough to earn her a Golden Globe nomination. And it led, of course, to her roles in three iconic John Hughes' films: "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Pretty in Pink," which many say turned her into one the biggest stars of the '80s (via Ranker).

At 16, Molly Ringwald was an enormous Hollywood star

"One of Hollywood's hottest and best actresses is Molly Ringwald," the Chicago Tribune said by way of introduction to its April 1985 interview with Ringwald. At 17, Molly Ringwald was on the cusp of the release of her second John Hughes' film, "The Breakfast Club" and fresh off her star-making turn as Samantha, the adorable, relatable girl whose parents forgot her 16th birthday amid her sister's wedding preparations in 1984's "Sixteen Candles." 

Both films, along with "Pretty in Pink," are regarded as being among the most noteworthy of Hughes' 1980s teen classics, according to Screen Rant. And all three of these films propelled Molly Ringwald into mega-stardom, along with other members of what was known as the Brat Pack, namely: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy, according to Esquire — although some might also include this sitcom actor who came just-this-close to playing Chandler on "Friends." And just to be clear, in the photo above, Ringwald is rubbing elbows at a New York City fashion show with none other than another '80s icon: Debbie Harry, lead singer of the rock band Blondie.

Yet it would appear Molly Ringwald remained humble, as she demonstrated in an interview in which she talks about wanting to be liked by her high school classmates. She also came off as rather wise beyond her years in the aforementioned interview with Chicago Tribune. 

In 1992, Ringwald moved to Paris, France, and stayed for five years

Molly Ringwald appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1986, with the accompanying story referring to her as Hollywood royalty (via Time). The next few years saw her working continuously on both big- and small-screen projects, including the 1990 film, "Betsy's Wedding," in which she played the title character and shared screen time with Alan Alda of "MASH" fame. Accordingly, what Molly Ringwald did next must have seemed perplexing to some. She moved to Paris, according to her website, which describes her as a lifelong Francophile. 

Ringwald was longing for a "normal" life, away from the public eye, she told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. Indeed, for the next two years, Ringwald stuck to "very non-commercial projects," including a couple of French films that don't even appear on her IMDb profile. By 1994, she had taken to returning frequently to the U.S. to work on television projects, including a lead role in Stephen King's "The Stand." 

By 1997, Ringwald was back the U.S. full time (via her website). At first, she stuck mainly to Broadway, including playing the role of Sally Bowles in the 2002 revival production of "Cabaret." But it was back to Hollywood after "messing up" her feet in a national tour of "Sweet Charity." By 2008, she had come full circle, so to speak, playing the mother of teens in "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," and later on the CW's "Riverdale."

Molly Ringwald became an author in 2010 and continues her literary career

In 2010, Molly Ringwald's her first book was published by Harper/IT, per Publishers Weekly. Not quite a memoir, it's characterized by Goodreads as more of a "girlfriend's guide to life." Publisher's Weekly describes this work of non-fiction as being akin to the words of a "well-meaning but distant friend" on various topics of interest to women, while only rarely delving into Ringwald's personal history. At the time, however, Ringwald had already had quite a bit of personal history.

By the time her book was published, she had already married and divorced her first husband, writer Valery Lameignere, whom she had met in France (more on this in a bit). She married current husband Panio Gianopoulos in 2007, with whom she has three daughters (via Biography). However, it was only in her next work of authorship that Ringwald came to address marriage and betrayal head on. "When It Happens to You," a novel told in the form of interrelated short stories, was published by HarperCollins in 2012. 

Although the book deals extensively with marital betrayal, and Ringwald says she's been on both sides of it, she also told the Daily Mail that she didn't mine her own marriage or divorce in writing it. Ringwald has additionally published a translation of Philippe Besson's popular French language novel, "Lie With Me," which was reviewed favorably by the The New York Times.

Molly Ringwald has three children with her second husband

After her big move to Paris in 1992, Molly Ringwald met and married writer Valery Lameignere, as she recounted during a podcast in 2019, per Refinery29. By 2002, the relationship had deteriorated, and Ringwald filed for divorce, according to New York Magazine. At some point after that, although it's not clear exactly when, Ringwald met the man who would later become her second and current husband, Panio Gianopoulos. In Ringwald's 2010 book, "Getting the Pretty Back," one of the more revealing anecdotes that she shares is that "the early stages of her romance with husband number two were mostly conducted over email," according to Publishers Weekly.

Little else is known to the public of their ensuing courtship, but SheKnows reports that the two were married in 2007. The couple has three children together. The photo above shows Ringwald and Gianopoulos and their three kids in 2015, via Instagram. The oldest, Mathilda Ereni Gianopoulos, was born in 2003. The couple's younger children are twins, Adele Georgiana and Roman Stylianos Gianopoulos, born in 2009. 

Mathilda began modeling in 2017, making her debut at New York City's Fashion Week, although Ringwald told Best Life that Mathilda is hoping to break into acting. It would appear that Adele may also enjoy basking in the limelight, per SheKnows. Not much is known about Roman, although Ringwald posts photos of him via Instagram.

In 2015, Molly Ringwald explored new facets of her career

After "The Secret Life of The American Teenager" wrapped for good in 2013, but before Molly Ringwald took on the role of Mary Andrews in "Riverdale in 2017, Ringwald was still acting, but she branched out in several rather interesting directions, particularly in 2015. Not only did Ringwald abandon her trademark ginger locks in favor of buttery blonde that year (albeit temporarily), but she also took on the project of writing an advice column for The Guardian, according to The New York Times and Refinery29

In her first column, Ringwald addressed the question that may have been on many a reader's mind when they heard the former teen star would be taking on the role of "agony aunt" for the British-based outlet — which is to say: Was Molly Ringwald actually qualified to be doling out life advice to earnest readers? "I've been told, on occasion, that I'm not always the best at taking advice," Ringwald confessed (via Flare), but "I'm great at giving it." In any event, many seemed interested in hearing what she had to say. And humble as always, Ringwald devoted her last column to reviewing, and in large part, critiquing, her performance. 

In addition, Ringwald made various concert stops across the country that year in her capacity as a jazz singer, according to Independent News, which notes that Ringwald began singing at age three with her father, a noted jazz performer who died in 2021.

Molly Ringwald has became vocal in the #MeToo movement

In 2017 — the same year that Molly Ringwald began appearing weekly on millions of television screens in a recurring role (which eventually became a regular role, per Refinery29) as Archie's Andrews' mom in the popular CW series, "Riverdale," Molly Ringwald went public with her own #MeToo narrative. In a story she authored for The New Yorker, Ringwald recounted several instances throughout her career in which she was sexually harassed and quite possibly assaulted — in each case by men who had power over her career. 

The first instance took place when Ringwald was 13, and another incident occurred in 1992. We won't recount all the details here, but in the article, Ringwald describes an audition in which a male director humiliated her in front of a male actor and friend of hers. She goes onto say that when she told her agent, he made light of it. "I fired him and moved to Paris not long after," Ringwald wrote.

The actress has been critically re-examining some of her earlier work

Molly Ringwald is proud of the work that she did as a teen actor, and that includes the work that she did with the late John Hughes, who directed Ringwald in three of his classic '80s teen movies, according to Screen Rant. Nevertheless, in the past several years, Ringwald has been publicly addressing the fact that some of the material has not necessarily aged well in the intervening decades, during which society has grown increasingly woke with regard to gender dynamics. 

"I don't make a habit of revisiting films I've made," Ringwald wrote in her second article for The New Yorker, this one published in 2018. However, she made an exception when one of her daughters, then 10 years old, asked her to watch "The Breakfast Club" with her. Their viewing session, which had Ringwald cringing throughout, led to a lengthy re-examination of her entire Hughes oeuvre, which left her struggling to reconcile her affection for the late director and the films that they made together, on the one hand, with her disgust at the misogyny, homophobia, and racism that is not merely depicted but normalized, on the other. Ultimately, it appears that Ringwald has concluded that these films still have value, including entertainment value, as long as it's understood that they don't represent the way things should be (via Screen Rant).

Molly Ringwald practically disappears into her role as a serial killer's stepmom

"Dahmer: Monster — The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" is a limited series from Ryan Murphy about the life and crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was killed in prison in 1994 while serving 15 life sentences for murdering at least 17 men. It started streaming on Netflix on September 21, 2022, according to Forbes. Having recorded 196.2 million viewing hours in the first five days alone, "Dahmer" is shaping up to be one of Netflix's most popular series despite not being universally loved by critics, per Variety. What many in the viewing audience may not even realize, however, is that one of its recurring characters is played by Molly Ringwald.

Ringwald plays Shari Dahmer, Jeffrey Dahmer's stepmother, and Ringwald essentially disappears into the character. According to CNET, she's "barely recognizable." And that's something that is generally said admiringly of acting performances. While most of the reviews thus far are more focused on Evan Peters' eerily accurate portrayal of the title character, it seems likely that Murphy is pleased with Ringwald's work, if the fact that Murphy has already cast Ringwald in his next project is any indication (via Decider).

Her collaboration with the most powerful man in TV will continue

"Ryan Murphy is the most powerful man in TV," The New Yorker wrote in 2018. If you haven't heard of him, we're going to go out on a limb here and guess that you've nevertheless seen or heard of at least one of the high-profile projects in which he's been a writer, director, or producer. These include "NipTuck," "Glee," "American Horror Story," "American Crime Story, and "Feud," not to mention the film adaptation of "Eat, Pray, Love," according to All American Speakers. Oh, and let's not forget the Netflix limited series, "Dahmer," which began dominating America's screen time just as soon as it dropped on September 21, 2022 — even as it polarizes critics (via Time). 

Murphy cast former teen star Molly Ringwald to play serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's stepmother, Shari Dahmer. And her performance has apparently pleased Murphy well enough to find a part for her in his next project, the second season of FX's anthology series, "Feud," according to Deadline. The latest iteration, "Feud: Capote's Women," will also feature Naomi Watts (who also appears in "Dahmer," as a news anchor), Diane Lane, Calista Flockhart, and Chloë Sevigny, among others. Ringwald will be playing the second wife of legendary talk show host Johnny Carson, Joanne Carson, who was a close friend of Truman Capote.