From 1979 to 1988, The Facts of Life was a primetime television staple. The sitcom focused on the lives of a few girls and their housemother at an all-female boarding school. All of the main characters are memorable in their own way, with Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner taking the role of the beautiful, goody two shoes archetype. Despite her good looks and acting chops, Whelchel has largely managed to keep herself out of the spotlight since The Facts of Life went off the air. Here’s what she’s been up to in the years since The Facts of Life ended.
She turned down an audition for the role of Rachel Green in Friends
We know Friends character Rachel Green as the role that really put Jennifer Aniston on the map. Though it’s hard to believe now, Aniston wasn’t the only one considered for the role. In an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? Whelchel revealed that she was asked to read for the part. Though she said she had a feeling the show would see tons of success, she ultimately didn’t feel comfortable playing the part because of its heavy sex themes.
Despite the show’s popularity, Whelchel said she doesn’t regret not taking the role. “I don’t regret not taking that opportunity,” Whelchel said in the interview. “My kids, on the other hand, I remember my daughter once said, ‘Are you telling me that Brad Pitt could have been my father?'”
She left acting to focus on her family
Once The Facts of Life went off the air, Whelchel all but disappeared from the silver screen for a time. According to her website, she left Hollywood after she got married and gave birth to three children in a span of three years, becoming a stay-at-home mom.
“I loved acting and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I had but nothing came close to the joy of being a mother,” she wrote on her site. But don’t write her off just yet. She also shared she’s learned to never say never, adding, “I’ve decided to throw my acting hat back in the ring and go another round in Hollywood.”
Her faith is really important to her
Though Whelchel revealed on the 100 Huntley Street show that she wasn’t raised in a church-going family, eventually faith became an extremely important part of her life. “It felt like every time I walked through those church doors, it felt like my heart had found its home,” Whelchel said of finding her passion for religion. Religion remained an integral part of her life since her childhood, and she even went on to travel and give religious lectures.
“I travel and my message is about the love of God and grace that is available to us if we dare to receive it and sometimes it’s more difficult to receive grace than even believe that it’s been given,” she told Fox News, adding that her faith doesn’t mean she necessarily fits a certain mold. “I think that’s quite sad that if someone professes to be a Christian they are sometimes put into a really small Church box.”
She became an author and life coach
Despite leaving the acting world behind for a while, Whelchel didn’t stop working completely. Quite the contrary, in fact. She kept herself super busy, becoming a life coach and the author of over a dozen books in addition to traveling for religious lectures, according to her website. While many of her books center around religion and her faith (and helping others in their own religious journey), Welchel’s books also include a memoir and a guide for parents considering homeschooling their children.
In her work as a life coach, Whelchel utilizes Skype to aid clients in “creating a safe place to explore your desires, asking powerful questions to bring clarity and championing you to step confidently into the life you were created to live.”
She rarely keeps in touch with her Facts of Life co-stars
Despite how close the actresses were during The Facts of Life‘s long primetime run, Whelchel wrote on her website that the girls have since drifted apart. “Other than seeing each other at an occasional function, our paths rarely cross,” she wrote. “It’s kind of like high school. We were best of friends, but then our lives all went in different directions.”
In 2011, the cast reunited for the first time since the show ended at the TV Land awards and sat down for a feature on Good Morning America. While they may not see each other often, their chemistry in 2011 was just as evident as ever.
She was on a season of Survivor
Whelchel ditched Blair’s prissy image behind in 2012 when she joined the cast of Survivor: Philippines. “I’m outdoorsy,” she told People in 2012. “I love to exercise and be outside. I don’t care what I’m wearing, and I don’t care if I’m uncomfortable. I am nothing like Blair.” Though she didn’t win (Denise Stapley came out on top), she said her time on the reality show “was a wonderful experience,” and admitted in an interview with WellBella that it was grueling both physically and mentally.
“What I took home from the experience was more of an acceptance of all of me, not just the ‘good’ parts of me,” she said. “The humanity that sometimes I’ve tried to pretend I don’t struggle with.”
She got divorced in 2012
According to Radar Online, at the age of 25 Whelchel married a much older man that her father chose for her. Unfortunately, they split up in 2012. In an appearance on The Jeff Probst Show (via Radar Online), she said she stayed with her husband long after she realized she didn’t want to be in the marriage anymore because she believed in the commitment of marriage.”I stayed for my children. I stayed for… I thought it was the right thing to do,” she told Probst.
She revealed to People that the divorce was finalized just before she left to join Survivor, though she and her ex remain friends and even watched the premiere of the show together. “I just never thought it would happen to me,” she said. “It was painful to realize that it wasn’t going to work out. We will always be friends. And we will always be family, too.”
She returned to acting in 2013
Despite her long hiatus from Hollywood, Whelchel has recently made a return to the acting world in a move she admitted on The Mungle Show was nerve-wracking. “This is really hard starting all over,” she said. “I hope this works and I hope I can make a living and I hope somebody will hire me!”
Her comeback started with a role in A Madea Christmas, a role she landed thanks in part to her Survivor appearance. “Tyler Perry is a Survivor fan,” she explained. “He was following me on Survivor and producing the movie at the same time and called my agent to see if I might want to audition.”
Then, in 2014, she starred in the Hallmark Channel’s made-for-TV movie For Better or for Worse. She even got the chance to act alongside her former Facts of Life cast mate Kim Fields. “When they said that they were gonna hire Kim Fields to play my assistant I just thought, ‘oh man, that just sounds too good to pass up,'” Whelchel said in an interview with Us Weekly. Whelchel also shared on The Mungle Show that getting back into acting was easy. “I loved every minute of it,” she said.
Her dream is starring in another sitcom
Since The Facts of Life was so successful, it’s no surprise that Whelchel dreams of returning to the small screen. In a 2015 interview with Justin Root, she revealed she’d love to get the chance to work on another sitcom, especially if she was able to work with her daughter Clancy. She also revealed that if she could, she’d write herself into the Modern Family script. Not a bad choice! In the meantime, she told Root, “I’m also doing some work with the Hallmark channel, movies and backdoor pilots for a one-hour series for them and I’m creating it.”
Her acting career began picking up speed in 2016
After A Madea Christmas and For Better or for Worse, Welchel’s acting career continued to gain momentum again. In 2016 Whelchel appeared in two films, the made-for-TV Hearts of Spring and the Canadian production A Snow Capped Christmas. And it turns out acting might just run in the family.
In Hearts of Spring, Whelchel’s co-star was her own daughter Clancy (making her dream of working with her as she mentioned to Justin Root a reality). Though she mentioned on her website that she didn’t want her children to get into show business, she told Fox News that she’d support her daughter’s dreams “as long as she got a college degree” — so Clancy got a four-year degree in only two years and promptly moved to California. Whether the two of them ultimately get their sitcom, only time will tell.