Kristy McNichol is a former American actress, singer, and producer who rose to fame as a child star in the 1970s and continued acting successfully into the 1980s. She appeared in popular TV shows like Family and Empty Nest and movies like Little Darlings. However, at the peak of her career, McNichol abruptly retired from acting in 1998 at the age of 36.

In 2012, she publicly came out as a lesbian and revealed that she had been living with her partner Martie Allen for over 20 years. McNichol cited anti-gay bullying as the reason she decided to come out when she did. Despite leaving acting over two decades ago, many people still remember McNichol for her prolific career and are curious what she has been up to since retiring.

Kristy McNichol’s Background and Early Acting Career

Kristy McNichol was born on September 11, 1962 in Los Angeles, California. From an early age, she knew she wanted to perform and started auditioning for commercials when she was 3 years old. McNichol landed her first acting role at the age of 6, appearing in an episode of the TV show My Three Sons in 1969.

Her big break came in 1973 at age 11 when she was cast as Patricia Apple in the TV drama Apple’s Way. McNichol received critical praise for her performance, with TV Guide raving that she gave “one of the most stunning performances ever contributed to a series by a child.”

After Apple’s Way ended in 1974, McNichol continued acting in shows like Love, American Style and Starsky & Hutch. Her career really took off in 1977 when she was cast as Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence in the drama series Family. The role earned McNichol two Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series in 1977 and 1979, making her one of the youngest Emmy winners ever at 15 and 17 years old.

Peak Popularity in Movies and TV Shows in the 1980s

Building on her success in Family, McNichol transitioned to starring roles in feature films like Little Darlings (1980) alongside Tatum O’Neal. She showed her versatility as an actress by also appearing in popular comedies like Only When I Laugh (1981) and Just the Way You Are (1984).

In 1982, McNichol returned to TV to star in the NBC sitcom Empty Nest as Barbara Weston. She portrayed Weston for over a decade until retiring from acting in 1998. The part earned her another Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy Series in 1988. McNichol also voiced characters for animated shows like Extreme Ghostbusters.

Some of McNichol’s other notable acting credits in the ’80s include:

  • The Pirate Movie (1982) – Co-starring Christopher Atkins
  • Love, Mary (1985) – With Rachel Ticotin
  • Dream Lover (1986) – With Ben Masters
  • Two Moon Junction (1988) – With Louise Fletcher

Music Career and Public Coming Out

In addition to acting, Kristy McNichol pursued a music career starting in the late 1970s. She released two albums, Kristy and Jimmy McNichol in 1978 and Kristy McNichol in 1980. The first album, a collaboration with her actor brother Jimmy McNichol, featured the single “He’s So Fine” which reached #70 on the Billboard Hot 100.

McNichol’s most recent public appearance was in 2012 when she came out as a lesbian in People magazine. She explained that she wanted to make a public statement to stand up against the bullying of LGBTQ youth. McNichol also shared the first photo of her longtime partner Martie Allen. They had already been living together for over 20 years at that point.

What Is Kristy McNichol’s Net Worth?

Estimates of Kristy McNichol net worth range from $4 million to as high as $7 million. She accumulated significant wealth from her acting career spanning three decades as well as music album sales and tours. Even though McNichol retired from Hollywood in 1998, residual payments from reruns and royalties have likely contributed to her net worth over the years.

Some sources claim McNichol’s net worth could have been even higher, possibly up to $25 million, if she had not stepped away from acting while still successful in the late 1990s. However, it seems the former child star has done well financially despite leaving Hollywood over two decades ago. McNichol has kept a low profile since retiring from acting and focuses on pursuits outside of the entertainment industry.

Kristy McNichol Net Worth Summary Table

Estimated Net Worth Range $4 million – $7 million
Sources of Income Acting, music, royalties
Years Actively Working 1969 – 1998
Peak Salary Per Year Up to $750,000
Age When Retired From Acting 36 years old
Last On-Screen Role 1998 on Empty Nest

Where is Kristy McNichol Now?

Ever since stepping away from the spotlight in 1998, Kristy McNichol has lived a quiet, private life and made very few public appearances. Based on her 2012 coming out interview, she splitting time between Los Angeles and Florida with her partner Martie Allen.

In 2021, McNichol made a rare appearance via Zoom for a virtual cast reunion of Family. Her former co-stars said she looked happy and healthy during the reunion. While McNichol has never publicly commented on why she retired at the peak of her career, some speculate she simply lost her passion for acting.

These days, McNichol enjoys activities like tennis, yoga, and spending time with her partner outside of the public eye. She does not appear interested in making a Hollywood comeback. However, McNichol’s contributions to film and TV in the 1970s and 80s will not be forgotten. Her performances continue to entertain new generations of audiences.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kristy McNichol

When did Kristy get her big break as an actress?

Kristy McNichol’s big break came in 1973 at age 11 when she landed the role of Patricia Apple in the drama series Apple’s Way. Her performance earned high praise and signaled the start of her successful acting career.

What types of roles was she known for?

McNichol often played likeable teenagers and young women in dramas and comedies. Some of her most famous roles were Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence on Family and Barbara Weston on Empty Nest.

Why did she retire from acting in 1998?

McNichol has not publicly commented on exactly why she stepped away from acting. However, it is believed she simply lost passion for it after working consistently from age 6 to 36.

How much money did she make per year at her peak?

At the height of her career in the 1980s, Kristy McNichol earned an estimated $750,000 per year from acting and music projects.

Is she still acting or making public appearances?

No, McNichol retired from acting in 1998 and has lived very privately ever since. She rarely makes public appearances, with the exception of her coming out interview in 2012.


Kristy McNichol was one of the most sought-after young actresses of the 1970s and 80s with an impressive resume of roles in TV, film, and music. While she retired from Hollywood over two decades ago at just 36 years old, McNichol left behind many iconic performances that are still enjoyed by audiences today.

Though she keeps a low profile now, McNichol says she found happiness with her partner Martie Allen away from the spotlight. Estimates place McNichol’s current net worth between $4 and $7 million, evidence of a prolific nearly 30-year acting career at the top. Kristy McNichol’s contributions to entertainment continue to delight audiences young and old even many years after she left show business behind.