The American sitcom dominated 80s television, and one that lasted the test of audiences was The Facts of Life. From typical snobby boarding school girls to the women that tried to keep them in line, the show gave us pretty much everything 80s that we love, from big hair to Molly Ringwald.
A spin-off of the series Diff’rent Strokes, the show centered around a small group of girls, with the alpha being Blair Warner. The sassy, wealthy, and could-be shallow Blair was perfectly portrayed by then-teen actor Lisa Whelchel. Barely 15 when the show first aired, Whelchel made her mark on screen, wanted and envied by girls and boys alike. Has Lisa had any more of her brilliant ideas since her time at Eastland Academy? Let’s find out.
In the southern state of Texas, born in Littlefield and raised in Fort Worth on May 29th, 1963, Lisa Diana Whelchel made her debut to parents Virginia (Genny) and James (Jimmy) Whelchel. In 1981, when she was a teenager, her parents divorced, with her mother remarrying two years later in 1983 to Roy Coleman. Lisa has one younger brother, James Cody, and one younger half-brother, Casey Coleman.
Whelchel was the young age of eight when she first felt the call of fame, and she spent the next few years performing in musical theatre. She enjoyed her time on stage so much that she wrote a letter to Disney Studios to be able to audition for The New Mickey Mouse Club.
Every young actor’s dream at that time was to be a Mouseketeer, and in 1977 Lisa joined their ranks. She was on The New Mickey Mouse Club for 11 episodes during the two seasons, and went on to pop up in three episodes of The Magical World of Disney from 1977 to 1979.
Lisa shifted from Disney to Diff’rent Strokes, appearing on the show for two episodes before she landed the role (playing the same character) that would cement her spot in fame.
The Facts of Life
Lisa’s time on Diff’rent Strokes helped get her a main role on the spin-off sitcom The Facts of Life, about the happenings at an all-girls boarding school in upstate New York. Lisa returned to the character of Blair Warner, the spoiled, rich, rebellious teen who came across as an arrogant brat, but throughout the seasons developed a pretty good character arc. By the end of boarding school life, she had real friends and put her money to good use to help the school she attended and the local community center stay open.
For all 201 episodes across the nine seasons, Lisa’s Blair helped get the main gaggle of girls in trouble, while sometimes helping them get out of trouble as the popular, brainy blonde leader of the group. Being on one of the longest-standing sitcoms of the 80s helped put Lisa in pretty much every living room in the country, and in a handful of other countries around the world. The series went on to be nominated for a few Emmys, and Lisa was nominated for a multiple Young Artist Awards for her time on the show.
Whelchel would go on to portray Blair in the TV films The Facts of Life Goes to Paris in 1982, Back to Next Saturday in 1985, The Facts of Life Down Under in 1987, and she came back for the 2001 The Facts of Life Reunion.
What did Lisa do after The Facts of Life?
Lisa took a bit of a break after all of her time playing Blair, but returned to TV in a surprising way when she appeared on the twenty-fifth season of Survivor in 2012. She made it all the way to be the co-runner-up on the Survivor: Philippines season, so, not too shabby there.
She appeared in one more movie, the 2013 feature film A Madea Christmas as Nancy Porter. On the smaller screen, Lisa kept to TV films, starring in Hearts of Spring (on which she also served as co-executive producer) and A Snow Capped Christmas in 2016.
In 2019, Lisa reunited with her old Facts co-stars for the romantic drama movie You Light Up My Christmas.
What is Lisa Whelchel doing now?
Whelchel has one upcoming project in the works. She’ll star alongside Anthony Michael Hall, Arielle Bodenhausen, Kylee Levien, and Dee Wallace in the sci-fi film Roswell Delirium, which is in post.
Outside of acting, you can keep up with Lisa on her personal Instagram page, where she posts about her family and her Antiques Roadshow-type show (with a bit more energy) titled Collector’s Call.
While she isn’t huge on the convention circuit, you could book her to speak at your next event.
Lisa married Associate Pastor Steven Cauble in 1988, who worked at the church she attended, The Church on the Way. The pair went on to have three children, son Tucker Stephenson, born in 1990, daughter Haven Katherine, born in 1991, and daughter Clancy Elizabeth, born in 1992. Whew, those were some busy years for her. Unfortunately, the two divorced after 23 years of marriage, finalizing things in 2012. Maybe that’s what prompted her time on Survivor.
But Lisa found love again in psychologist Pete Harris, with the two marrying in 2019. Harris has one child from a previous relationship, and Lisa is a proud stepmother.
Not a lot of teen actors from the 80s can boast that they are relevant – and working – all of these decades later, but Lisa Whelchel is one that beat the odds. While The Facts of Life still holds up today, we can’t wait to see what brilliant things she gets up to next.