While many pageant title holders never become more famous than they were when they were crowned, others go on to impressive careers in the entertainment industry. One of those winners is Lynda Carter, who was Miss World USA in 1972, just a few years before she was cast as Diana Prince, a.k.a. the title character, in the live-action Wonder Woman TV series. Before that, she’d made some guest appearances in other shows, but it was her time as the DC superhero that cemented Carter as a star. Today, the 70-year-old icon is still acting—and paying tribute to her most famous role. Read on to find out more about her life today.
Carter got her start as an entertainer in music. Instead of going to college, The New York Times reports, the future star decided to take to the road, making money singing in various touring bands. But she didn’t see a bright future if she continued on that path, so she returned to her home state of Arizona and signed with a modeling agency. That’s how Carter started her pageant career.
In the early ’70s, however, pageants were not exactly in vogue. “You have to visualize the time. Women’s lib! Burn the bra! Gloria Steinem!” Carter told the Times in 2018. “And I had some guy telling me I needed a chaperone and had to go cut a ribbon somewhere. It wasn’t me.” From there, she concentrated on acting, and soon landed the role of her lifetime.
Wonder Woman ran from 1976 to 1979, and the star had no trouble finding work after it came to an end. Carter’s post-Diana acting roles include Super Troopers, Sky High, Law & Order, Smallville, and several TV movies and stage productions. In 2020, she made a surprise appearance as fellow Amazonian warrior Asteria in Wonder Woman 1984, sharing the screen with current onscreen Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. On TV, Carter re-entered the DC universe playing President Olivia Marsdin on Supergirl from 2016 to 2018.
She’s continued to pursue music, as well, and has released five full studio albums. The first, Portrait, came out when Wonder Woman was still on the air, and the most recent, Red Rock N’ Blues, came out in 2018. Carter also starred in a handful of musical TV specials in the ’80s and has supplied voice performances for several video games.
As a model and spokesperson, the star has been the face of campaigns for brands including Maybelline and Lens Express.
Carter married her former agent, Ron Samuels, in 1997, but the couple divorced in 1982. In 2018, when Closer Weekly asked the star what advice she’d give to herself at 20 years old, she answered, “Don’t marry the first person that proposes to you!” She continued of Samuels, “”He was a lot older, and I was just stupid.”
In 1984, she married lawyer and executive Robert A. Altman, and the couple welcomed two children together: James Altman, 33, and Jessica Altman, 31. Carter and Altman were married until his death in early 2021 of complications from a medical procedure.
“Robert is the love of my life and he always will be,” Carter wrote in an Instagram tribute. “Our 37 years of marriage were an extraordinary gift. We shared the passion I hope everyone is lucky enough to experience in their lifetime. We protected each other and were each other’s champions always.”
Earlier this year, Carter marked 23 years of sobriety in an interview with Daily Mail. She said that she began drinking in her mid-20s, during what proved to be her unhappy first marriage.
The actor opened up about her alcoholism publicly in 2008. She told The Insider (as reported by People) that she sought treatment at a rehab facility after Altman asked her to get better for him and their kids. She’s also said that alcoholism runs in her family. “Addiction feels so shameful but it really is a disease, and if you have got the gene that turns it on, it is devastating,” she told MyRecovery.com.
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Carter has stayed engaged with the Wonder Woman fandom, not only by supporting the new big screen iteration of the hero but by taking part in various events and documentaries paying tribute to the character.
“I went with my family—my grown children and my husband—to the premiere, and my heart was pounding,” she said at a Library of Congress event after 2017’s Wonder Woman was released, as reported by USA Today. “And I was taken up because the essence of who that character is for so many of us, and for so long: there’s a goodness; there’s a heart. It’s about something. It’s about who we are as people against the violence. It’s about defending what’s right.”
The star has also parlayed that inspiration into different forms of activism. Carter has been an advocate for AIDS and breast cancer research, the LGBTQ+ community, and other causes. Amid the rise of the #MeToo movement, Carter also opened up about sexual harassment in the industry, including the abuse she says that she endured from a man she declined to name but said had been identified publicly by others.
“Ask any woman, they’re not surprised,” she told The Daily Beast of the outpouring of stories. “It’s been going on for years. It’s not news to us [women], but it is news to you [men]. We’ve been trying to tell you. We’ve been trying to tell you for a long time and you haven’t listened.”