‘The Donna Reed’ Star Shelley Fabares Once Opened Up About Her Most Notable Feature

by Liz Holland

The Donna Reed” star Shelley Fabares opened up in an interview about her most eye-catching feature, which may surprise you. Fabares suffers from an autoimmune disorder, which caused her liver to deteriorate in 2000. The actress was in desperate need of a transplant and feared for her life.

Before receiving her transplant, she was getting her hair done one day and saw another customer at the salon with a fun spiky hairstyle dyed bold colors. She asked her hairstylist what the process was like for a style like that, and after he explained it, he asked Fabares if she wanted to try it for herself. Fabares shares that she thought,  “This is the first time in my life since I was three years old—because that’s when I started working—that no one can say to me, ‘Oh, you can’t do that’ … It was almost hard to take in how liberating that was. No one can tell me I can’t do it and I’m dying, so if not now, when?”

Shelley Fabares Falls, Gets Back Up Again

Fabares fell in love with the style and keeps it to this day, long after she received the liver transplant she needed. However, leading up to the life-saving surgery was a scary time for the actress. She was suffering from esophageal bleeding, resulting from a fall she took that broke all her ribs on her left side. The bleeding made the need for a liver transplant much more urgent.

Fabares said, “More than half the people on the liver transplant list don’t live long enough to get one.” She continues, “I was very much aware that I was living on borrowed time. The strain was enormous, but there was also a level of acceptance within me. There are no words to express what this experience is like – physically, psychologically, and spiritually.”

Thankfully, Fabares is alive and well and continues to thrive. In a 2020 Time Magazine piece Fabares wrote, she dived into who “Donna Reed” really was. The piece was written shortly after former president Donald Trump made a comment about an “angry” female journalist. “It wasn’t Donna Reed, I can tell you that,” he said.

Fabares addressed this in her article. The actress joked, “Donna Reed would have scared the living… well, you know.” Fabares continues, “Though known for the sweetness of her roles in It’s a Wonderful Life and as the archetypal 1950s and ’60s housewife and mother on The Donna Reed Show—on which I played her daughter—the real Donna Reed was also a great, savvy, brilliant woman who was as good at calling out fakes as she was at standing up to injustice.”

Although Fabares hasn’t appeared on screen since 2006, “The Donna Reed” remains loved by many, showcasing the actress’ impact on media.