Jennifer Grey Opens Up About Plastic Surgery, Patrick Swayze, Former Loves and a 'Dirty Dancing' Sequel

The actress and writer, whose memoir Out of the Corner is out May 3, opens up to PEOPLE about her life in and out of the spotlight since Dirty Dancing premiered 35 years ago

Almost 35 years after Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey is taking herself out of the corner. The daughter of Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey (best known for Cabaret), Jennifer launched into stardom with Dirty Dancing, starring as Baby alongside the late Patrick Swayze in the 1987 coming-of-age film still beloved by fans. Still quoted too, especially this line: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Now 62, Jennifer says she wants to take up as much space as possible. "That's a new feeling," she tells PEOPLE. "To take myself out of the corner — and to recognize that I have been putting myself there, through story, through narratives that weren't giving me the best life. The story I was telling myself about how I got here was not a great story. And not entirely true. I hadn't seen the ways in which I'd made choices."

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In Jennifer's memoir, Out of the Corner, she revises her own mythology, from childhood lessons on beauty and work ethic to her notable relationships with Matthew Broderick and Johnny Depp, formed at the height of her fame. She also revisits her rhinoplasty, two nose jobs which left her unrecognizable to some — and set up a legend she was shunned by Hollywood. "I spent so much energy trying to figure out what I did wrong, why I was banished from the kingdom. That's a lie. I banished myself."

Jennifer Grey photographed exclusively for People by Andrew Eccles at Castex Daylight Loft in Los Angeles, CA on April 14, 2022.
Andrew Eccles

The actress and writer (divorced from Clark Gregg since 2020 they are the parents of a daughter, Stella) has never felt more comfortable in her own skin. "I just wanna feel who I am now. But I think that when you ask other people who you are and you ask people to love you and you take their opinion as a definition of your worth, it's a slippery slope, man."

Here, Jennifer opens up about some of the biggest subjects in her book.

On rhinoplasty:

After your second nose job, at a premiere, Michael Douglas turned around and he didn't recognize you.

"That was the first time I had gone out in public. And it became the thing, the idea of being completely invisible, from one day to the next. In the world's eyes, I was no longer me. and the weird thing was that thing that I resisted my whole life, and the thing I was so upset with my mother for always telling me I should do my nose. I really thought it was capitulating. I really thought it meant surrendering to the enemy camp. I just thought, 'I'm good enough. I shouldn't have to do this.' That's really what I felt. 'I'm beautiful enough.'"

Watch the full episode of People Features: Jennifer Grey on or on the PeopleTV app.

Your mother, who was an actress before marrying your father, had long suggested you get a nose job, from very early in your life.

"She loves me, loved me, always has, and she was pragmatic because she was saying, 'Guess what? It's too hard to cast you. Make it easier for them.' And then I did and she was right. it wasn't like, 'You're not pretty.' It's like, 'Guess what? If you don't want to be an actor, okay. But if you wanna be an actor...' But when I was a kid, I was completely anti-rhinoplasty. I mean it was like my religion. I loved that my parents did it. [Underwent rhinoplasty] I understand it was the 50s. I understand they were assimilating. I understood that you had to change your name and you had to do certain things, and it was just normalized, right? You can't be gay. You can't be Jewish. You know, you can't look Jewish. You're just trying to fit into whatever is the group think."

Shuttling between high school and Studio 54:

At 16, you were living a double life. School during the day, Studio 54 at night. And you began using drugs. You were rebelling, but what did you have to rebel against?

"Yes, there was lots of drugs and drinking. All the time. I had a boyfriend, we were out at clubs at night. I would change at his house and go to school. I was living a double life. I am like just trying to get through the high school years so that I can get on with my life because I am not dating guys my age. I am not interested… I never dated a teenager in my life. I don't think I ever even kissed a teenager."

Jennifer Grey - Out of the Corner
Ballantine Books

"The good girl who is not allowed to be anything but perfect, so she's got to hide this whole other experience, which is really individuating. It's like natural to being too close to your parents and too good and too… You know? I didn't hate them. I love them. Because they were so fucking cool. But they were also controlling. Just perfectionism. There was a perfectionism and expected perfectionism. The standards were high. Everyone around me was very successful. That was a lot of pressure."

And at that point in New York City, on a pure glamorous celebrity angle, were you aware that you were in the middle of the white hot universe? You must have seen some things.

"I saw everything. That's why high school was so frigging impossible. Like, it was so boring. I was hanging out at [Andy Warhol's] The Factory during the day and 54 at night. I was very much in the… in the gang, going out to Andy's house in Montauk where the Stones had just left. We would go hear Dolly Parton sing at Windows on the World, right? And, um, it was when she was doing something with, um, um, um, Mick Jagger, or something. There was something with… There was something with Dolly and Mick. I can't remember. I remember it being Windows on the World and Dolly was performing. Years later, when I looked at Andy's book I looked myself up in the index because I was sure I was going to be there because I was part of this gang for years. And there was like one mean thing he said. And I was like, seriously, that is so humiliating. There was only one thing said to me, about me. And it was like, "And, you know, I would look at Jennifer. I would wonder, you know, why was her… Um, her dad got a nose job. Why wouldn't he make sure she had one too", or something like that. . It's like everywhere I went, I'd be like, "Wait. Excuse me. I'm a person with other features and other amazing characteristics. Why is everyone so hung up on the nose?" But here's the thing. Like I'm always shocked at people's meanness."

An audition for a different iconic dance movie:

You auditioned for a long time. You even auditioned for Flashdance.

"Oh, like I can't even count how many times I screen tested, danced in high heels, tights, and a leotard. Like 10 times. Oh, I was under the impression I was getting it. Then the tights came off, and I was just wearing the leotard and bare legs, just jiggly bits, or whatever, and f-cking high heels, and, you know, just dancing, which was fun. And it was hot. I did not get it and I was devastated. I thought I was robbed."

Chemistry — or lack thereof— with Patrick Swayze:

Dirty Dancing rides on the tension between your and Patrick's characters. You didn't have the best relationship off camera, but you think that fueled the movie.

"The same way Baby and Johnny were not supposed to be together … a natural match, right? And we weren't a natural match. And the fact that we needed to be a natural match created a tension. Because normally when someone's not a natural, you… both people move on, but we were forced to be together. And our being forced to be together created a kind of a synergy, or like a friction. I actually just had a thought about Patrick. I feel like if I could say anything to him now I would say, 'I'm so sorry that I couldn't just appreciate and luxuriate in who you were, instead of me wishing you were more like what I wanted you to be.'"

Literally everyone in America wanted him in some way, and wanted you two to be together. He just wasn't your type, huh?

"And the weird thing was, it's like, "What's wrong with me?" I mean, I was not lacking. And he was married. and very in love with his wife. Whatever he was doing, I was not… I was very busy with Matthew. Like, what could be more different?"

On Matthew Broderick:

What did you learn from your relationship with Matthew Broderick, whom you started dating while making Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey during 59th Annual Academy Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States.
Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

"I learned so many things about myself from my relationship with Matthew. First of all, we were really young. We were in our mid twenties when we got together. And from where I sit now, that's pretty young. And we were, I don't know, I can only speak for myself. I was really in love with him. And I was with a guy who had just, whose star had just, it was, he was in such a high moment of his career because he had done War Games before I met him and he'd won the Tony and Brighton Beach Memoirs and he'd done Torch Song Trilogy. And he was just this genius, smart, funny, cute. I don't know. There was just something so Jewish in New York about him that I just felt like… When you read a little bit more about my family felt like home and all that that entails and you keep reading, you'll figure out a little bit more. My feeling about him is love."

On the tragic car accident in 1987 in Northern Ireland, in which Broderick was driving and two people were killed (Broderick and Grey were injured)

"There was some very, very heavy stuff that went down that changed my life forever and there was no one to blame. And many people might think that I'm here to hell some long held secret. None of that, it's just we had an accident. It was a pure and simple accident that was tragic. And it had very serious traumatic lasting effects on, I'm sure, Matthew and the family of the other women and me."

On Johnny Depp, whom she dated after Broderick:

"There was some heat. It was a f-cking bonfire. It was literally like, "Are you f-cking kidding me? Are you f-cking kidding me? I've never seen a guy like this. And energetically, what it was like being with him, it was like, "Oh, I'm being totally, totally compensated for the shit I just went through."

On her career today

How does this moment of success differ from your first go-round?

"I believe in my heart that the second half of a woman's life is the best half. I can't speak to a man as I've never been one, but I will tell you that my experience is the second half is the best half. I'm sure of it. I've never felt what I'm feeling these days. It gets disrupted by doing press, by getting hair and makeup done, getting glam and styled. (It's not like doing press in the '80s though!) But it turns out I like to write. I like to have a little control. I like to just be right sized. It just feels peaceful, It's not doing the press of the '80s."

On a new Dirty Dancing:

What can you tell us about the possible sequel?

"It was lightning in a bottle, it's like this thing happened, and it's so beautiful, and I can't explain it. No one can explain it. We're working on this sequel, I'm working on it with Lionsgate and working on the script. We've been working on it for a couple of years. And I know in my heart, I would love to give fans or a young, new audience an experience that would never replicate that, but has the same kind of underpinnings. Today people think that their identity is limited, the world has told them what it is. But there are certain people who can see other parts of you. Dirty Dancing was a fairy tale, a successful movie and formula, using dance as a metaphor for embodying your energy and getting out of your head, and your limiting belief systems."

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