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…North Carolina at the age of 18. She set her sights on the UCLA film school, doing five different jobs, one of them as a receptionist at film company, American International Pictures. Her five-job stint was short-lived as she was discovered by Jack Hill, a director who cast her in his “women in prison” B-movies.

“You know, I had to bump heads with a lot of men in the industry,” Grier says. “They were not comfortable with showing a progressive black female in an action role. As a strong woman, I was seen as a threat. There was a fear that women would mimic me in real life. I remember certain people saying: ‘Oh, she’s taking our jobs, she’s castrating men’ – as far as I was concerned, I thought: ‘We don’t need to walk behind you, we should walk beside you.’”

pam grier young

Another experience that “shaped her” was her diagnosis of stage-four cancer in 1988. Grier was in her late 30s, a self-described “health-nut”, running six miles a day, not eating meat and not abusing my body in any way”. She’d gone for a routine cervical smear and got a call from her doctor’s surgery who said they’d found abnormal cells in her test results. She was booked in for an operation to remove the abnormal tissue and told she’d be fine. But,…

Pam Grier: Tougher Than Rape, Cancer & Hollywood  was originally published on

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