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See "Baywatch" Star Brooke Burns Now at 44

The actor is also an Emmy-nominated game show host.

Like many children, Brooke Burns dreamed of being a dancer. Born in Texas, she studied ballet for more than a decade before a skiing injury in her early teens left her with a torn ligament in her knee—and changed her fate. That accident put her on the path to a career in acting that would soon see her pick up the surfboard as one of the sexy lifeguards on the hit series, Baywatch. Since she left that series in its final season, Burns has rarely been out of view of the cameras—though today she's known for much more than her acting. Keep reading to find out where she is today at age 44.

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She's still acting.

Brooke Burns in 2011
Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images

After her skiing accident, Burns began modeling at age 15, and soon after turned to acting, appearing in the syndicated 1996 sitcom Out of the Blue and on four episodes of Ally McBeal. In 1998, she joined the cast of Baywatch, then in its ninth season, playing aspiring lifeguard Jessie Owens.

When Baywatch was retooled into Baywatch: Hawaii, Burns was one of only a handful of cast members who stuck with the series, but she wound up leaving during the 11th (and final) season due to her pregnancy.

Her later acting roles on television include the 2004 prime time soap North Shore, the 2006 comedy/drama Pepper Dennis starring Rebecca Romjin, and the 2008 sitcom Miss Guided. She also guest-starred in episodes of Just Shoot Me!, CSI: Miami, and the 2009 reboot of Melrose Place.

Burns has also appeared in films, including the 2001 comedy Shallow Hal with Gwyneth Paltrow and direct-to DVD fare including Single White Female 2 and Death to Supermodels. She's taken on roles in 15 made-for-TV films including the holiday movies The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, A Star for Christmas, and Christmas Connection.

Most recently, she's appeared in five films in the Gourmet Detective mystery film series airing on the Hallmark Channel, playing a homicide detective who teams with an ex-chef (played by Dylan Neal) to solve culinary crimes. The most recent entry aired in 2020.

"If you were ever a fan of Murder, She Wrote, which I was growing up, then you'll like this show," she told the pop culture site AssignmentX.

She became an award-nominated game show host.

Brooke Burns in 2002

Burns' first major job after leaving Baywatch was serving for two seasons as the host of the 2002 NBC series Dog Eat Dog, in which contestants faced off in physical challenges, trivia, and other games and stunts.

In 2008, she co-hosted the Fox game show Hole in the Wall, based on a Japanese series in which contestants attempt to contort their bodies to fit through oddly shaped openings in moving styrofoam walls. In 2011, she co-hosted the trivia competition You Deserve It, which ran for just six episodes.

From 2013 to 2015, she hosted the quiz show The Chase on GSN (earning an Emmy nomination) and also the car-focused competitive reality series Motor City Masters. Since 2020, she has served as the host of GSN's Master Minds.

"I got into [hosting] because when I became a mom I realized that a lot of acting is very long days and out-of-state travel," she said in a 2020 interview with West Michigan Christian News. "With Master Minds, we shoot six shows in one day and then I get to be a full time mom for a while. It's been a perfect fit for me. I genuinely love people and I have so much fun hosting…more fun than I have acting."

She has two children, who are 17 years apart.

Brooke Burns and her daughter Declan in 2017
David Livingston/Getty Images

Burns has two children. In 1999, she married actor Julian McMahon, and they had a daughter named Madison in 2000. The couple divorced in 2001.

In 2003, the Baywatch star dated Bruce Willis, and the two were even rumored to be engaged, though they ended their relationship in 2004.

In 2013, Burns married director Gavid O'Connor, and they welcomed daughter Declan in 2017. The 17-year gap between children left the star feeling especially grateful for a second chance at raising a daughter. "Children are such a blessing. I am so grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to do it again," she said in a 2020 interview with More Than a Review. "I'd like to think I'm much wiser, it's definitely been a more peaceful journey the second time around."

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A serious injury gave her a new purpose in life.

In 2005, Burns was very nearly paralyzed in a freak diving accident at her Los Angeles home. Though she eventually fully recovered after a surgery that involved inserting a titanium rod in her neck, she suffered from "survivor's guilt," she told the publication Brain & Life, and dedicated herself to serving as an advocate for others who experienced spinal cord injuries.

She has worked with the Life Rolls On Foundation, which helps spinal cord injury patients recover through participation in sports, as well as the Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation and the North American Spine Society. "Whether it's doing interviews or helping with fundraisers, I hope to increase public awareness of spinal cord injuries," she said.

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Joel Cunningham
Joel Cunningham is a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn. Read more
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