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WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Former 'Ties' star Justine Bateman takes on fashion

Designing woman

Bateman
Justin Bateman strikes a pose in one of her hand-designed cardigans in 2001; Bateman, bottom corner, smiles for a "Family Ties" publicity shot in 1985.  


By Robin Hindery
PEOPLE

(PEOPLE) -- It would have been Mallory Keaton's fantasy come true.

All the oldest daughter on "Family Ties" wanted was to become a successful fashion designer. These days, Justine Bateman is living out her former character's dream, spinning a new yarn with the sexy knit clothes and accessories she designs, a business that sprang from her lifelong love for knitting.

Bateman, 36, started out making clothes for friends, but in 2000 it became clear that knitting was turning into more than a hobby. "I just started getting more and more ideas than I knew what to do with," she told Women's Wear Daily in 2001. So Bateman decided to take a break from acting, even allowing her Screen Actors Guild card to lapse. "I went to my (acting) manager and I said, 'I'm not acting anymore. Thanks for everything.'"

It was a bold move, but Bateman, whose credits include the 1988 film "Satisfaction" and the 1996 sitcom "Men Behaving Badly," says she craved more freedom than she could have while trying to sustain an acting career. "When I was an actress I was paid to wear what they ask you to wear and say what they ask you to say," she told Fashion Wire Daily in 2001. "As a designer, I can make a sample any time I want."

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The daughter of Kent, a producer and director, and Victoria, a flight attendant, Bateman began her acting career as a teenager (brother Jason, now 33, followed in her footsteps). Her first major role -- and the one that shot her to fame -- was as the ditzy daughter on the hit comedy "Family Ties," which aired from 1982 to 1989. Michael Gross, who played her TV dad, told PEOPLE in 2000 that Bateman's clueless Mallory "was more of a departure from her real self than anybody else on that set. Justine was no airhead."

Her happy persona on the show also hid the suffering Bateman was experiencing in her offscreen life. In 1996, she revealed to TV Guide that she had turned to a 12-step program in 1993 after suffering from an eating disorder during her years on "Ties."

Today, Laurel Canyon, California-based Bateman is happily focusing her energies on Justine Bateman Designs and her family: She and her real-estate developer husband, Mark Fluent (whom she married in January 2001), had their first child, son Duke Kenneth, on June 18. After a few years away from show business -- and with her fashion line doing well -- Bateman has decided to begin "exploring new opportunities in acting" again.


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