Joan Severance is a former top fashion model and actress, who became well known as a supermodel in the ‘80s, a Playboy model in the 90s, then a movie and TV actress with age-defying beauty, and lately, for her charities and business endeavors.
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Early life and family
Joan Marie Severance was born on 23 December 1958, in Houston, Texas USA, to John C. Severance and Martha Severance. Her family moved a lot, and she lived in 12 places because of her father’s work as an IBM Systems Manager while her mother was a homemaker. They lived in Libya for a time, but had to leave in 1967 when war broke out between Israel and its neighboring countries, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, known as the Six-Day War or the Third Arab-Israeli War. They returned to the US and settled in Houston. Not much else is known about her family.
Joan was a straight-A student when she attended Westbury High School in Southwest Houston, and matriculated in 1977. She started working as a model at age 15 to save money for her college tuition, as she had plans of becoming a veterinarian. However, she took a different path and pursued a career in modeling instead.
Joan was discovered by a local photographer named Alan Martin when she entered the local Miss Houston beauty pageant. He introduced her to the American modeling agent and founder of the Elite Model Management, John Casablancas, who signed her up with the agency, and sent her to work in Paris.
She started her modeling career in Paris at age 18, and was certainly successful as she graced the covers of various fashion magazines such as Vogue Paris and Sportswear International. She also worked with top designers, including Chanel, Armani and Versace. Joan then moved to New York after eight months, and became one of the top models in the US, reputedly earning $7,500 a day. She was able to land over 40 commercials such as for international cosmetics companies such as L’Oreal, Maybelline, and Revlon, as well as for Breck Shampoo and Windsong Perfume.
Although Joan supposedly quit her modeling career in the late ‘80s, it seemed that she continued to an extent, as she appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine, being featured nude in January 1990 and November 1992 issues.
Even at age 52, she was featured in a six-page editorial of the 2011 Spring/Summer issue of the Genlux Magazine. She landed the Celine Spring 2017 campaign, then in 2018, she was on the cover and editorial pages of the 2018 Fall/Winter issue of the Re-Edition Magazine at age 60. She is currently under Metro Models agency.
Movies and Television
However, Joan did pursue an acting career in the 1980s – she was encouraged to go to auditions by her friend, Robin Leach, who was an entertainment writer and reporter. Her debut film was “Lethal Weapon” (1987), which starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, although her role as the Girl in the Black Playsuit was uncredited. This comedy-action movie grossed over $120 million against the production budget of $15 million.
Her debut on television was in CBS’ crime drama series, “Wiseguy,” which aired from 16 September 1987 to 8 December 1990 for four seasons with 75 episodes. She was cast for the role of the female antagonist, Susan Profitt, and appeared in nine episodes in 1988. A year after that, she was again cast as a villainess, this time Eve in the comedy film, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,’ with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder as the main leads. It received negative reviews from critics and had a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although the movie was a success at the box office with a gross of almost $47 million against a budget of $18 million. In 1990, she was part of the Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn-starring, “Bird on a Wire,” which made a killing at the box office with a worldwide gross of almost $139 million.
She landed the leading role in the action-comedy movie, “Black Scorpion,” in 1995, part of the movie producer “Roger Cogman Presents” series shown on the Showtime cable network. Her role was that of a police detective, Darcy Walker, who had a secret identity as the Black Scorpion. Its sequel, “Black Scorpion II: Aftershock” released in 1997, also had Severance for the title role.
The “Love Boat: The Next Wave” was the revival of the ABC’s hit comedy-drama series, “Love Boat.” Joan played the role of Security Chief Camille Hunter and was part of the main cast, which also included Robert Urich and Phil Morris. It aired for two seasons from April 1998 to May 1999 with 25 episodes. She also appeared in various TV series such as “One Tree Hill” (2004), “Wicked Wicked Games” (2006-2007), “Masters of Sex” (2013), and “NCIS: Los Angeles” (2016).
Severance was in more than 30 films and 20 television series.
Joan met Eric Milan when she’d just started working as a model for Elite Model Management in Paris, and married him in 1977. They separated in 1984 after seven years because they said they grew apart. She then reportedly dated former Major League Baseball player Keith Hernandez (1985-1986), Italian actor Francesco Quinn (1987), and Australian billionaire James Packer (1995). In an interview, she said that she met someone whom she believed had all the qualities she wanted in a mate sometime after doing the “Love Boat” revival in 1999, and married him, but that ended in divorce too, without her revealing who that person was.
Joan was in a relationship in 2002 with British TV personality Robin Leach, who was well known for hosting the show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (1984-1995). They appeared in season three of the “Celebrity Wife Swap” in 2014 and he referred to Joan as his “lifelong heartstring.” Not much information was revealed about their relationship. or when it ended. Robin died on 24 August 2018.
She is married to Rom Gemar, who mostly worked behind the scenes in the movie industry, in the camera and electrical department in movies such as “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” in 2005 and “Jolene” in 2008. He was in the art department and was cast in a minor role in the movie, “Steal Me,” in 2005, and was a cinematographer in “Dream Slashers” in 2007. There is no information on when she met and married Rom.
Interesting facts and rumors
- She’s fluent in French and speaks conversational Spanish.
- She entered the Clairol Long and Silky contest at age 16 and won 2nd place, earning a scholarship to a local modeling school. Years later, she became one of the endorsers of Clairol.
- Gene Wilder was her acting mentor.
- Joan is an advocate for the holistic lifestyle.
- She is said to have obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Health from Clayton College of Natural Health (CCNH). However, the college ceased operations in July 2010 and a class action lawsuit was filed against them in November of that year because they apparently did not receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. It’s not known if Joan was part of the class action suit.
- Joan wrote the book, “Manifest Your Mate: A Journey for Attraction,” published in 2017. It was while she was shooting the series, “The Love Boat” in 1998 when she started making her wish list of what she wanted in a partner or mate, and it became the blueprint for her book. She stopped writing it after marrying someone whose name was not disclosed, then resumed writing it in 2016, a couple of years after the divorce.
- She studied with the renowned French chef and restaurateur, Roger Verge, at his cooking school in Mougins in the South of France. She later became the owner and chef of a restaurant in New York, and also the part-owner of the Good Food catering company.
- Severance created an interactive game, txTylz®, and is currently developing it for mobile application. It is a game in which you form words, phrases and sentences in a crossword manner in two minutes, using the handcrafted txTylz pieces. Each piece has a letter, number, symbol, or figure on it that can be used literally, phonetically, or symbolically.
- In 2013, she was the host of the play-inspired fashion show, playCHIC, for the annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair of the Chicago Toy & Game Group. It featured high fashion meets game brands and toys on the catwalk. Joan participated and donned the txTylz game-inspired gown.
- Joan gives commercial acting lessons. She also created and established the Severance Play workshop that aims to help people undergoing or has been through a divorce by acting.
- She has a hair care line – Joan Severance Clean (Hair Wash), Smooth (Nourishment), and Why Not (No Tangles).
- She also has a candle line – JS Designs Candle Collection in which she molds the candle herself or sources them; she makes custom-designed candles for her clients using metal studs, doe skin, leather, etc.
- Joan is also an interior designer.
- In April of 2017, she made a video for Vogue wherein she shared her beauty routine and secrets, and it has attracted more than 16 million views.
Part of the profit from her interactive phraseology game goes to people with Vitiligo, a skin condition in which white or discolored patches appear on the skin because the skin loses pigment cells. Joan has had this condition since she was young. She is also one of the celebrity endorsers and supporters of the I Am Waters Foundation, that aims to help those without access to clean water, especially the homeless. Other charities she supports include Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.
Joan is 5ft 9ins (1.79m) tall, weighs 120lbs (55kg), and her vital statistics are 36-28-39. She has gray hair and blue eyes. She wants to age gracefully, and not undergo surgery to look young. Her shoe size is 9 and she wears a size 4 dress.
She is a multi-talented person, who ventured not just into modeling and acting, but also into the restaurant and catering business, game invention, providing acting lessons and workshops. It does not come as a surprise then that sources estimated her net worth to be around $8 million as of April 2020.