Kim Basinger was hardly the first successful model to head to Hollywood in hopes of a career on the big screen, but few have managed to achieve the same degree of public acclaim and professional recognition that she has earned. Born in Athens, GA, on December 8, 1953, Kim Basinger was raised in a family of entertainers; her father had been a jazz musician and her mother a dancer who was part of the "water ballet" chorus in a handful of Esther Williams musicals. Basinger's parents enrolled her in dance classes at an early age to help her overcome a strong case of shyness; in time, she discovered she enjoyed both dancing and singing, and began contemplating a career in show business. She began competing in beauty contests as a teenager, and won the Junior Miss Georgia pageant, which took her to the national competition in New York City. By this time a striking and statuesque blonde beauty, Basinger was spotted by a representative of the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency and offered a contract; while she had hoped to make her mark as a cabaret singer, she wisely decided moving to the Big Apple was a step in the right direction. Before long, Basinger was earning 1,000 dollars per day through modeling jobs, and had signed on as the Breck Shampoo girl; in her spare time, she studied acting and picked up occasional singing gigs.
In 1976, Basinger decided to take a more serious stab at acting, and moved to Los Angeles. Within a year, she made her television debut as a female police detective in the pilot for a short-lived crime drama entitled Dog and Cat; in 1978, she landed the starring role in the made-for-TV movie Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold, appropriately playing a beautiful Southern girl who comes to Los Angeles in search of stardom. After being cast as Lorene Rogers in a TV remake of From Here to Eternity (a role she reprised in a subsequent series based upon the film), Basinger finally made her way to the big screen in the low-budget drama Hard Country. But while it (and Basinger) received good reviews, her screen career didn't take off in a big way until 1983, when she was cast opposite Sean Connery in the James Bond adventure Never Say Never Again. She also posed for a well-publicized layout in Playboy which, coinciding with the film's release, certainly didn't hurt her growing popularity.