Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
February 8, 2024 ·  4 min read

What Happened to Former “It-Girl” Phoebe Cates?

Staring in movies like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Gremlins,” Phoebe Cates took over the 1980s, becoming one of the most iconic celebrities of that time. Men of all ages fantasized about her. Meanwhile, women wished they could be her.  She had it all, fame, beauty, and talent. However, one day she just disappeared from the spotlight, and few people know why. 

Although Phoebe Cates is best known for being an actress, she actually broke into fame by becoming a model at just 14. Born to a Broadway producer and “television pioneer” in New York City, where she was raised. 

Phoebe Cates Debuts in Modeling

It didn’t take long for Phoebe Cates to discover that she deeply loved performing arts and went on to get a scholarship to the School of American Ballet. Although she felt destined to be a dancer, she eventually sustained a knee injury and instead made her way into Hollywood as a model. Appearing on the cover of SEVENTEEN Magazine, Elle, and even British Vogue, her exotic look appealed to the masses. Her beautiful features and unusual look are thanks to her family heritage, Russian Jewish descent, with some Chinese. 

Although her modeling career took off, Phoebe Cates realized she wasn’t happy, and her heart wasn’t in it. Fortunately, she still had the option of trying to act. Furthermore, that seemed to work out well for the young entertainer.

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A post shared by Phoebe Cates (@phoebecateskline)

Taking a Questionable Role

However, it’s no secret that Hollywood has a reputation for sexualizing women. As a result, Cates was offered a role that required nudity. She struggled to take the job and only did so after her father pressured her to do so. Paradise made its debut in 1982 and featured a nude Phoebe Cates. 

Although she looked great, her reputation was beginning to take a hit, and she was being typecast as less than wholesome. Her next movie,  ‘Fast times,’ was much more fun for her but further played into the idea that she wasn’t a good girl. Again she appeared nude, this time in “ the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history.” 

Still incredibly young, although by now no longer a minor, she quickly became a sex symbol and began taking more of the less-than-wholesome roles. 

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A post shared by Phoebe Cates (@phoebecateskline)

Purifying Her Image

Her role in movies would change when Steven Spielberg directed Gremlins. Despite being apprehensive, he agreed to cast Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer, a wholesome character. Although she began taking less riskee roles, they were for movies that hadn’t done as well as her early acting career. 

She then took less roles in Hollywood and began to appear on stage. The transition allowed her to perform for a live audience and break away from her racy Hollywood reputation. 

It turns out that her bumpy career had nothing to do with her decision to leave Hollywood. Phoebe Cates made her last movie appearance in 1994, filming Princess Caraboo then chose to put her family first. 

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A post shared by Phoebe Cates (@phoebecateskline)

Phoebe Cates Leaves Hollywood

According to her husband, Kevin Kline, the pair had agreed to take turns accepting acting roles. However, “whenever it’s been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children.” He said. 

Although Phoebe Cates appeared alongside her husband in the 2001 film, The Anniversary Party, she still never fully came back to Hollywood. Instead pursued another business venture, fashion.

In 2005, the once sex symbol turned entrepreneur opened a women’s clothing boutique in NYC. Blue Tree, still in business today, is currently under renovation but is still up and running online. 

Quietly Doing Good

She is now 60 years old and still lives in NYC, where she and her husband raised their two children. Their children’s names are Greta, 29, and Owen, 31. Pheobe Cates, like many celebrities, used her fame and fortune to shape a brighter world. She now stays busy working with a number of charities, including those looking to cure Parkinson’s

Besides running her store, Cates works with various charities, including those dedicated to curing diabetes. Cates hasn’t kept away from Hollywood entirely, as she’s often seen on the red carpet with her husband, who’s still active in the industry.

Although she no longer appears on the big screen, she still accompanies her husband to red carpet events. Therefore, you may catch a glimpse of the American beauty alongside Kevin Kline at the next awards show or Hollywood movie unveiling. Phoebe Cates’ skillset is unquestionably diverse, with a long career from a dancer, model, and actress to a “stay at home” mom.


  1. What Happened to ‘It Girl’ Phoebe Cates?Vintage News. Rosemary Giles. January 27, 2023.