Who was Tammy Faye Bakker?


Tammy Faye began trending on social media after the trailer for The Eyes of Tammy Faye — an upcoming biopic starring an uncanny Jessica Chastain in the titular role — was released on June 9.

So, why was Tammy Faye famous? Born Tammy Faye LaValley in 1942, Tammy Faye was a Christian singer, televangelist, media personality, author and talk show host. Alongside her controversial first husband Jim Bakker, she co-founded The PTL Club (also known as The Jim and Tammy Show), one of the most popular televangelist programs of its time.The show aired for 14 seasons.

The former couple also founded a now-defunct Christian theme park and resort in South Carolina called Heritage USA. It was created in 1978 and, in its heyday, drew 6 million visitors annually. It closed its doors in 1986.

Jim and Tammy Bakker on Television Program
Bettmann Archive

The pair were often criticized for their opulent lifestyle and alleged misuse of ministry funds. They gained national notoriety after Jim was convicted of fraud and conspiracy, and sentenced to federal prison. He was also accused of drugging and raping his secretary, and then later paying her off through PTL Club funds. Tammy Faye and Jim divorced in 1992, and shortly after she married her second husband, Roe Messner.

As a pop culture figure, Tammy Faye was well-known for her glamorous makeup and fashion statements, along with her outgoing personality. Opposing the more traditionally conservative views of other televangelists at the time, Tammy Faye was also a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and was one of the few famous figures who reached out to HIV/AIDS patients during the epidemic in the '80s.

Following her diagnosis with colon cancer over a decade earlier, Tammy Faye passed away in 2007. She was 65.

So, what is The Eyes of Tammy Faye about? Directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Chastain (who stars alongside Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker), the drama film will focus on the rise and fall of Tammy Faye's empire in the '70s and '80s, as well as her marriage to Jim.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye hits theaters on September 7. Watch the trailer, below:

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