In the early 1980s, a low-budget horror-comedy film called The Toxic Avenger took the world by storm. Made on a shoestring budget by Troma Entertainment, The Toxic Avenger told the story of Melvin, a hapless janitor who falls into a vat of toxic waste and is transformed into a hideously deformed superhero.
One of the supporting actresses in the film was Cindy Manion, who played the girlfriend of one of the bullies who torments Melvin.
With her girl-next-door looks and charm, Manion quickly became a fan favorite. However, after The Toxic Avenger, Manion seemed to disappear from the public eye.
Whatever happened to the actress who won the hearts of exploitation movie fans everywhere?
Cynthia was born in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, but only stayed there for a few days. She is the daughter of an Air Force colonel, which meant she moved every two to three years throughout her life. She has lived on both the east and west coasts of the U.S., all over Europe, East Africa, and the Seychelles Islands.
Cynthia moved to the Seychelles Islands in the middle of her fourth-grade year. The islands are located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, four degrees south of the Equator, 1,000 miles off the coast of East Africa. She lived there for three and a half years. The islands are known for their clear blue waters and beautiful sunsets, including the “green flick” phenomenon. Cynthia recalls playing ping pong with her father and watching the sunset from their home on top of a mountain called LA mesere.
Cynthia was initially resistant to moving to the Seychelles, especially since the islands weren’t on any map she checked. However, once there, she fell in love with the beauty and uniqueness of the place. She attended Regina Mundi Convent for school, where she had unique experiences like swimming during lunch breaks and using quill pens with inkwells.
After the Seychelles, Cynthia’s family moved to Germany, Mississippi, California, and Virginia as her father got reassigned.
When Cynthia was 21 and attending Georgetown University, her mother passed away from leukemia.
This left her in charge of caring for her younger siblings as a single mother at 21 years old. She started working various jobs like modeling and acting around her school schedule to provide for her siblings.
After finishing 2 years at Georgetown, Cynthia drove to New York City to pursue modeling and acting full time. She started with just $400 to her name and struggled to pay rent and eat.
She pounded the pavement going to modeling agency after agency, finally getting a job after 3 weeks. She began booking more modeling jobs and acting roles, befriending stars like Pearl Bailey.
In 1984 she would land her most significant role in the Troma cult hit, The Toxic Avenger.
The Toxic Avenger
“The Toxic Avenger” is a 1984 American superhero black comedy splatter film directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman. It has since become a cult classic, known for its campy humor, over-the-top violence, and unique take on the superhero genre.
The film tells the story of a weak and nerdy janitor named Melvin who, after being pushed into a vat of toxic waste by a group of bullies, transforms into a deformed creature with superhuman strength.
As the Toxic Avenger, he seeks revenge on those who wronged him and fights against corruption in the town of Tromaville.
Cindy Manion plays the character Julie in the film. Julie is one of the girlfriends of the bullies who torment Melvin. She is depicted as a mean-spirited and shallow individual, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others, especially Melvin.
Her character is instrumental in setting the events of the film in motion, as she is involved in the prank that leads to Melvin’s transformation into the Toxic Avenger.
Life Outside Acting and Modeling
After pursuing acting and modeling in New York City, Cynthia decided to leave that career to raise her young son in a quieter environment.
They moved to Maryland to be closer to her father. Seeking a job with flexibility, Cynthia began working for Nordstrom.
She quickly got promoted from salesperson to managing stores and buying inventory for multiple locations on the East Coast. But the corporate travel increased, so Cynthia again pivoted to spending more time with family.
On a friend’s advice, she took an unconventional turn and started a career in copier sales.
Currently, Cynthia continues to work selling copiers, a career she fell into 22 years ago when she wanted more time with her young son. Many of her long-time copier clients feel like family after decades of working together.
Now that her son is grown and married, she is focusing again on her passion for writing. Cynthia recently published her motivational fictional book “Black Pearl: A Love Letter to the Ocean.” It’s a fictional story, but draws on her love of the ocean and overcoming adversity. She hopes it will inspire women to reconnect with their childhood dreams and live life to the fullest.
Cynthia explains the book promotes literacy, learning to swim, and appreciating the healing power of the ocean. She plans to donate proceeds to literacy foundations. The story follows a woman struggling in the corporate world who has a life-changing experience that helps her regain purpose.
Looking ahead, she plans to write more books, go on speaking engagements, and organize literary events and ocean cruises to connect with readers.
Even in her 60s, Cynthia is embarking on new adventures and encouraging others to pursue their dreams too. Her contagious optimism, gratitude and joy for life remain as strong as ever.