The daughter of an African-American father and Irish mother, Beals was studying American literature at Yale when picked to star in the 1983 romantic blockbuster Flashdance. Playing a welder by day and sexy dancer by night, she became an instant pinup girl with her signature sweatshirt-off-the-shoulder style. But while Beals worked consistently in mostly low-level projects for the next two decades — notably as a femme fatale in Devil in a Blue Dress and a slew of independent films, many directed by her ex-husband, Alexandre Rockwell — she remained indelibly linked to her seminal role. In 2004 she shattered that 20-year-old image when she signed on to The L Word as a workaholic lesbian, a part that revitalized her career and landed her on People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list. An accomplished photographer, Beals’ camerawork is on display in The L Work Book, a behind-the-scenes photo journal of the show, which benefits several non-profit organizations.