The daughter of an African-American father and Irish mother, Beals was studying American literature at Yale when picked to star in the 1983 romantic blockbuster Flashdance. Playing a welder by day and sexy dancer by night, she became an instant pinup girl with her signature sweatshirt-off-the-shoulder style. But while Beals worked consistently in mostly low-level projects for the next two decades — notably as a femme fatale in Devil in a Blue Dress and a slew of independent films, many directed by her ex-husband, Alexandre Rockwell — she remained indelibly linked to her seminal role. In 2004 she shattered that 20-year-old image when she signed on to The L Word as a workaholic lesbian, a part that revitalized her career and landed her on People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list. An accomplished photographer, Beals’ camerawork is on display in The L Work Book, a behind-the-scenes photo journal of the show, which benefits several non-profit organizations.
- Made her film debut as an unbilled extra in 1980's My Bodyguard.
- Did not perform much of the actual dancing in her 1983 hit, Flashdance. But the baggy, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt look she affected became a fashion rage.
- Considered for the role of Dana Scully in The X-Files, which starred fellow Yale classmate David Duchovny.
- Is an avid photographer.
- Starred as art curator Bette Porter in the groundbreaking lesbian drama The L Word
- Gave birth to a girl in October 2005 with husband Ken Dixon.
- Authored the behind-the-scenes photographic journal The L Word Book, which benefits several charities.
- 1984, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Nominee
- Gregory Beals — Brother
- Bobby Beals — Brother
- Ken Dixon — Husband
- Alfred Beals — Father
- Edward Cohen — Stepfather
- Alexandre Rockwell — Ex-husband
- Jeanne Cohen — Mother
- Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States (BA in American Literature, 1987)