A Look Back At Kirstie Alley's Stunning Life

On December 5, 2022, fans of Kirstie Alley were stunned when news of the veteran actor's death surfaced. Alley was beloved for her roles on "Cheers," "Look Who's Talking," and "Veronica's Closet" – and it seemed impossible for many to believe that she had died. Nevertheless, Alley's death was confirmed by her two children, William True and Lillian, on Twitter.


Alley once told People that one of her greatest joys was being a mom, and later a grandmother. As she said, she slowed down her career in 2000 to focus more on her family. "Four years ago I made a decision. I'm gonna be the best mother I can be," she explained.

Of course, that definitely doesn't mean Alley stopped working completely. She continued to show up on the small screen, even as recently as May 2022. Here is a look at the accomplished life of Kirstie Alley, who died at the age of 71.

Kirstie Alley was born and raised in Kansas

Kirstie Alley was born in Wichita, Kansas. Her father, Robert Alley, owned a lumber company and her mother, Lillian Alley, was a homemaker for the family, which also included Kirstie's two siblings, Colette and Craig. Kirstie stayed in the state throughout all of her schooling and enrolled in college at Kansas State University.


Kirstie maintained ties and connections to Kansas as an adult, even after she left home to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. At the time of her death, she still owned a home in the state and, in an April 2007 interview with Good Housekeeping, she admitted to being fond of being from Kanas. As she put it, being from Kansas gave her a kind of edge not unlike that which is often associated with the East Coast. Kirstie told the outlet, "I think there's also something about being from Kansas. Usually people think I'm from New York. The only similarity between New Yorkers and Midwesterners is that what you see is what you get."

It also seems that being from Kansas made Kirstie appealing to fans, as she was more approachable compared to other celebs of her caliber. 


She married her high school sweetheart

In 1970, Kirstie Alley married her high school boyfriend Bob Alley, who just happened to have the same last name as her despite no relation. The two were married for eight years, and Kirstie later admitted to Entertainment Tonight that she had an affair. Kirstie was clear that she and the man, whom she simply referred to as Jake, didn't have sex but did have a physical relationship (via The Hollywood Reporter).


"I didn't have sex, but I think it was worse when you fall in love with someone else, when you're with someone, and you're plotting and you're planning," she explained. "What I did do with Jake was I kissed him. And in my world, in Kirstie world, that meant I had to get a divorce." Kirstie said it took quite a while to forgive herself for the affair. Kirstie and Bob were divorced by 1978, at which point in time her career was already on the rise. In the years following their split, Kirstie didn't speak much about her first husband.

Kirstie Alley's breakthrough role was in Star Trek II

When it comes to big breaks, Kirstie Alley had a really fun one. She was cast in "Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan" by director Nicholas Meyer and made her cinematic debut when the movie was released in 1982. As Alley later told the Chicago Tribune, the role was a game-changer that altered the course of her professional life. As she said, "That was my first acting job. So I owe everything to that film, to Nick."


While Alley's character, Vulcan Starfleet Lieutenant Saavik, would go on to be featured in several subsequent films in the franchise, Alley opted against reprising the role. It turns out that Alley didn't come back to the films for a big reason — the studio wanted to pay her less money for a larger role. This claim was backed up by William Shatner in his book "Star Trek: Movie Memories." He recalled Alley's words, writing, "Paramount's offer came in very, very low; it was less than they offered me for 'Star Trek,' so I figured they weren't interested in me playing the part" (via Heavy).

Alley further substantiated this claim in 2016 when interviewed by StarTrek.com. As she put it, "Like, you're not paying as much as the first one, and it's a bigger role? It just didn't make sense to me."


Kirstie Alley married for a second time

Kirstie Alley found love again and married Parker Stevenson in 1983. The pair met in a bar — though Alley later told People, "I really fell in love with him in Separate Peace." The actor starred in the film in 1971. The two quickly made their relationship work despite their differences. As the outlet noted at the time, they might not have seemed a fit, but their personalities worked well together. Stevenson told the publication that not only was Alley helping him with his own career, but she was also uniquely in charge of hers. He said, "She has a very interesting outlook on life. Kirstie is the only person I know who decided she was going to become a successful actress, made her move here from Wichita and was in a major picture in less than a year." 


In her 2005 memoir, "How To Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life: Reluctant Confessions of a Big-Butted Star," Alley revealed that she suffered a miscarriage while married to Stevenson. Alley wrote, "When the baby was gone, I just didn't really get over it. Neither did my body. I so thoroughly convinced my body that it was still pregnant after nine months that I had milk coming from my breasts" (via ABC News).

Alley and her husband went on to adopt two children. In 1992, two years after her miscarriage, Alley and Stevenson welcomed a son, William True. In 1994, the couple welcomed daughter Lillian (via People). Alley and Stevenson ended up divorcing in 1997.

Cheers brought her mainstream success

Kirstie Alley joined the cast of the beloved sitcom "Cheers" in 1987 following the departure of Shelley Long, who was enormously popular with the cast, crew, and audience. Alley admitted to being nervous to step into those shoes and decided to make a statement on her first day. Alley put on a blond wig and modest dress in honor of Long — a move that the rest of the cast was enthusiastic about (via People).


Co-star John Ratzenberger liked Alley so much that only a week into her tenure on the show, he was telling her she would never be able to exit. Ratzenberger reportedly said, "If you ever want to leave, you'll have to shoot your way out." Fellow co-star Ted Danson was clearly thrilled with Alley's arrival to the show, too. As he told People, "Stand us next to each other and it spells sex. I mean, sparks fly."

Following Alley's death, Danson told People that he'd been on a plane the day Alley died and just so happened to watch an old episode of "Cheers" — the one in which his character proposes to Alley's character. He explained, "She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard. As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died. I am so sad and so grateful for all the times she made me laugh."


Kirstie Alley fell in love with John Travolta

In a 2018 interview on the "Dan Wooten Interview" podcast, Kirstie Alley admitted that she was in love with co-star John Travolta when the pair were filming the 1989 movie "Look Who's Talking." While Alley believed that Travolta was just as interested in her, she said that nothing developed between the two because she was married at the time. 


Alley made it clear on the podcast that she didn't physically cheat on her husband with Travolta, but she believes what did happen was worse. As she put it, "But, you know, I think there are things that are way worse than sexual relationships, than cheating on someone that way. I consider what I did even worse because I actually let myself fall in love with him and stay in love with him for a long time" (via People). 

In fact, Alley continued to nurse feelings for Travolta well after he married Kelly Preston, who ultimately was the one who ended the flirtation. As Alley recounted, "Kelly came up to me, and they were married then, and she said, 'Erm, why are you flirting with my husband?'" Ultimately, that was that.


She achieved career success with Veronica's Closet in 1997

Although "Cheers" came to an end in 1993, Kirstie Alley returned to television in the 1997 sitcom "Veronica's Closet." The show was nearly immediately a fan favorite, and Alley told the Sunday Mirror that returning to the small screen had been a goal of hers for some time, especially since the shooting schedule was more family-friendly. She said, "I'm not one of those people who like to work too hard, and my TV schedule suits me fine. I work four days a week, I bring my two children to the set with me every day, and get paid a lot of money for doing it."


Some fans believed the show was really about Alley's own life — something she denied while still managing to admit that there were some similarities. After joking that she needed to get a divorce because her character was divorced (Alley and her second husband split up the same year the show came out), the actor acknowledged, "Seriously, there are many similarities between me and Veronica, not least that I have to deal with being a public figure. Also I am a woman of a certain age."

While Alley's marriage came to an end as the show kicked off, her success landed her in a new situationship. As reported by the Sunday Mirror, she and "Melrose Place" actor James Wilder were together soon after her divorce was finalized. 


She became a brand ambassador for Jenny Craig

One reason so many of Kirstie Alley's fans loved the actor is that she was often honest about everything, even herself and her own struggles and uphill battles. In 2005, Alley joined the Jenny Craig weight loss team as a brand ambassador and opened up about her personal goals, which included losing weight. By all indications, Alley's time with the company was successful; between 2005 and 2008, she'd lost 75 pounds (via People).


Alley returned to the brand in 2015 with a similar goal. She walked away from that experience having lost 50 pounds, which she told People was important to her. As she explained, "There's this certain place I hit where I felt really energetic and agile. I was like, I want to keep going with this!" 

While a weight loss program like Jenny Craig garners mixed feelings in a lot of people, Alley was refreshingly honest and open about her weight loss journey through the years. In 2005, she told Oprah Winfrey, "I needed a game. I'm one of those people that if you give me a sport or a game or make something really fun for me, then I'm on board. And I was just tired of the whole subject — weight loss, blah blah blah."


Kirstie Alley loved her favorite role as mom and grandmother

By all accounts, including her own, Kirstie Alley relished being a mother to her two children. In 2004, she explained to People that she had decided to slow down the pace of her career to focus on her kids. As the outlet noted, the decision happened around the same time Alley's long-term relationship with James Wilder ended and the conclusion of "Veronica's Closet."


Friends of the actor have commented on her mothering over the years. As fellow actor Kathy Najimy told People back in 2004, "She creates a whole wonderful world for her children. She is in that pool, on that trampoline, in that dollhouse with her children."

Alley's love of parenthood extended to being a grandmother as well. In June 2016, her son William True welcomed his first child, a son. Alley was beside herself with joy. She shared photos of the baby boy on Twitter and wrote, "When your son has a son ... bliss ... yes this is my secret happy news as promised ... Welcome Waylon Tripp Parker."

She made a splash on Dancing with the Stars

Kirstie Alley returned to TV yet again in 2011 when she joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars." Alley was paired with professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and the two made it all the way to the finals of the hit reality series before getting the boot. Alley later told the press that she was okay with placing second, but had hoped to place higher. As she put it, "I feel like we did amazing, but you want to win. We didn't win, so I can't say we didn't have any sadness" (via People). She added, "I wish we would have won, but when I look at what evolved from the first day to now, it's extraordinary."


Alley also admitted that being on the show helped her focus on what she did want to accomplish, both on the series and beyond. As she said, "It made me see that I can work really hard for what I want. I guess at the end of the day, the sweetness would be the ultimate win."

Alley's partner Chmerkovskiy spoke about their experience on the show following the actor's death. He wrote, in part, on Instagram, "You were one of the most unique people I have ever met and easily one of the brightest moments of my personal and professional life."

Kirstie Alley's opinions and beliefs weren't always popular

Kirstie Alley was no stranger to conflict and controversy, but it never seemed like she minded that much. In fact, the late actor was outspoken about her beliefs and opinions, even when they conflicted with those of others. 


In 2014, Alley lashed out at Leah Remini as the latter left the Church of Scientology, of which Alley was a longtime member. During an interview with Howard Stern, Alley revealed that she didn't have anything positive to say about Remini at all. She noted, "When you are generalizing, and when your goal is to malign and to say things about an entire group — there are tens of millions of scientologists in the world — when you decide to blanket statement, 'Scientology is evil,' you are my enemy" (via HuffPost). Alley went on to comdemn Remini for insulting her and other members of the faith.

In 2022, Alley was again in the headlines after she commented on the war in Ukraine. Alley wrote, "I don't know what's real or what is fake in this war. So I won't be commenting. I'll pray instead." Her former "Dancing with the Stars" partner Maks Chmerkovskiy, who was born in Ukraine, recalled a story Alley told him about when she volunteered with relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy. He added, "That same energy is needed right now. No one needs your prayer if you don't know what's real or fake" (via People).


Kirstie Alley's final roles brought her a lot of positive attention

Kirstie Alley continued to enjoy working on television in the final years of her life. In 2019, she joined the cast of "The Goldbergs" alongside former "Cheers" co-stars Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, and George Wendt. The foursome reunited as Geoff's (played by Sam Lerner) customers (via People).


Alley also joined the cast of "The Masked Singer" in May 2022. Her episode featured four characters: Prince, Baby Mammoth, Space Bunny, and Queen Cobra. Alley was revealed to be Baby Mammoth at the end of the episode when she was regrettably forced to go home, but not until after she sang Cher's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)." However, Alley kept things lighthearted and even got the audience engaged in her own song, "Baby Mammoth," that mostly featured the actor repeating the words "Baby Mammoth" over and over (via People).

Kirstie Alley was diagnosed with cancer shortly before her death

Kirstie Alley died on Monday, December 5, 2022. Her two children confirmed her death on Twitter, writing, "We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered." The actor's representative confirmed to People that she'd been diagnosed with colon cancer before her death.


Alley's children revealed that their mother "fought with great strength" and noted that while much of the world will remember their mom as having a "zest and passion for life," she was first and foremost a great mother to her children and grandmother to her grandchildren. William True and Lillian thanked the staff at the Moffitt Cancer Center for caring for their mother in her final days.

Many of Alley's friends and former co-stars also paid tribute to the star following her death. Rhea Perlman told People that she and Alley were exceptionally close, and that she and her children had sleepovers at Alley's home. Perlman said, "Kirstie was a unique and wonderful person and friend. Her joy of being was boundless. We became friends almost instantly when she joined the cast of Cheers. She loved kids and my kids loved her too."