• Born Kari Kathleen Markussen in Manhattan, New York in 1961
• Early career included singing on the soundtrack of "Sesame Street" and performing in Off-Broadway plays
• Best known for her role as Katie Kanisky in the NBC sitcom "Gimme a Break!"
• After retiring from television in the early 2000s, she became a motivational speaker and host on QVC
• As of 2020, her estimated net worth is $88 million
Kari Michaelsen is an American actress and a motivational speaker, who rose to fame with her role as Katie Kanisky in the NBC’s hit sitcom, “Gimme a Break!” in the 1980s.
Early life and family
Kari Michaelsen was born Kari Kathleen Markussen on 3 November 1961, in Manhattan, New York, to Arne Markussen of Norwegian heritage and Roberta Stevenson. Her father was a singer while her mother was a dancer. They moved to Beverly Hills in 1975. Her mother died of bone cancer at age 77 in 2000. On her Instagram, she paid tribute to her mom on International Women’s Day for being her best friend, mentor, supporter, and biggest fan. She said, ‘I love you more than words can express, and continue to try to be a Light, as you were every day of your life.’
She also greeted her mother on her birthday on March 8 by posting a montage of old photos of her mom, whom she referred to as her angel in heaven. Her birthday greeting for her father on her IG was all about being grateful to God for blessing her with a kind, loving, and supportive dad, and that she still misses him.
She matriculated from Beverly Hills High School in 1979. She then took a Psychology course at the University of California, Los Angeles, but was not able to graduate because it was during this time when she was cast for the role of Katie, one of the main characters in the sitcom, “Gimme a Break.”
Kari began her career early as she sang on the soundtrack of the highly popular children’s television show, “Sesame Street,” and she also performed in Off-Broadway plays at age 11. She made movies in the early ‘80s, such as the American comedy-horror film, “Saturday the 14th,” that had a box office return of $4 million and the “Terror in the Aisles,” featuring clips from “Friday the 13th” and other horror films, which had a box office return of more than $10 million.
Throughout the 80s, she won guest spots on various television series including the sitcom, “Diff’rent Strokes,” the comedy-drama series, “Eight is Enough,” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
Her big break came when she was cast for the role of Katie Kanisky in the popular sitcom, “Gimme a Break!” that ran for six seasons from 1981 to 1987. Her acting was recognized here and she was nominated for Best Young Actress in a comedy series at the Young Artist Award in 1983. She received another Best Young Actress nomination in 1984, but this time it’s for her role in “The Kid with the 200 I.Q.” which is a made-for-television comedy film from NBC. In 1989, she did the movie, “Girl Talk,” and was a guest in one episode of “Full House,” and quit acting. Her reasons for quitting were not disclosed.
Success as a host
She took business courses after her last movie and TV projects.
In 1999, she co-hosted a morning radio show in Santa Barbara, California, with Lee Marshall, and it ran on three stations. She left the show after months had passed, and hosted the TV program, “In the Spotlight,” in 2000, where she interviewed celebrities, namely John Travolta, Martin Sheen, and Kenny Loggins. The show aired twice weekly on four California counties.
Success as a motivational speaker, QVC host
In 2001, she retired from television work and focused more on becoming not just a host but also a motivational speaker, consultant, coach, and media and marketing mentor. She became a host at the “Get Motivated” Business Seminar that went on tour across the United States to motivate or mentor people on marketing, leadership, and communication strategies.
The event was held in venues that accommodated 10,000 to 25,000 people, and had guests or motivational speakers, such as Rudy Guiliani, Steve Forbes, Sarah Palin, and other well-known personalities who excelled in their field or chosen career. She also hosted wealth expos in Toronto in 2018 and in New York and LA in 2019 with guest speakers, namely Sylvester Stallone, Pitbull, and Tony Robbins.
She establihed her own company, Michaelsen Enterprises, and went on to conduct other educational seminars like “The Maximum Credibility Success Summit” for business owners who wanted to learn more about marketing and public relations. Kari became the Brand Ambassador and creative consultant for Barefoot Dreams, which is an international brand of luxurious blankets and apparel for newborn, toddler, and adult.
To promote the brand, she has a weekly show on QVC, which is an American broadcast television network for in-home shopping experience. She also uses her personal IG account to further promote the brand. Other shows in QVC where she can be seen are “PM Style” and “The Find,” which are on QVC’s Primetime Apparel Shows.
She is currently single, and there is no news of her dating or being in a relationship.
She met Andy Gibb on the set of “Gimme a Break” in 1983 when he became a guest on the show, and started dating. Andy was into drugs, and the two ended their relationship after two years. He died of myocarditis on 10 March 1988, at the age of 30.
#homebound Sending All of you my Thoughts and Prayers during this very Scary time…. With Love 🙏❤️🙏 (Thank Goodness for Starbucks Drive Thru) #coronavirius #shelterinplace #prayersforusall
He was a singer, songwriter, and teen idol, who became popular in the 70s with six singles that reached Top 10 in the US. He was also the younger brother of Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb of the internationally famous pop music group, Bee Gees. In 1985, she dated Michael J. Fox, who is a multi-awarded Canadian actor, comedian, and film producer. They were both doing shows for NBC at that time. They broke up in 1986.
Kari met David Waldock, a 52-year-old Mercedes Benz executive, while she was shopping for a car. They were married in July 2002, two years after getting engaged, and had a son whom they named Nickolas. His birthday is on November 19. They all lived together in a four-bedroom ranch-style home in Westlake Village, California. After seven years, they divorced in 2009. Her son graduated from middle school in May 2019. He is a golfer, and she accompanies him whenever he goes out to play golf and compete in golf tournaments all over the world.
She is a proud “Golf Mom” and is very supportive of her son’s career by being his personal assistant, photographer, publicist, and biggest fan.
Rumors, controversies, and interesting facts
- She reportedly beat Helen Hunt for the role of Katie Karinsky in “Gimme a Break”
- Kari used to compete in gymnastics, and Nadia Comaneci was her childhood idol and inspiration during that time
- At the “Circus of the Stars,” she did a split on the high wire 35 feet in the air without safety belt while wearing a skimpy costume
- There was an article in Riverfront Times in May 2011 about the “Get Motivated!” seminar on 27 April 2011 held in St. Louis with Kari as the emcee. The seminar, with guests that included former First Lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other celebrities, was allegedly just a get-rich-quick scheme of the organizers, where you pay $1.95 to attend, but might end up paying more or will be charged monthly if you give your credit card number and do not read the fine print on the contract that says you have to send a cancellation notice on a particular day. You do get to hear from these popular personalities, but you also have to listen to hours of sales pitch from other speakers.
Back on QVC this Tuesday October 27th with Barefoot Dreams at 10pm Eastern/ 7pm Pacific on their Hit Show "The Find" pic.twitter.com/GUU40Q3NTf
— Kari Michaelsen (@KariMichaelsen) October 25, 2015
Kari has a slim build. She is 5ft 3in (1.6m) tall. Her weight and vital statistics are unknown. She has blonde hair and blue eyes.
It is not revealed how much she earns from hosting, being a motivational speaker, and of owning her own company. However, sources estimated her net worth at around $88 million as of early 2020.