At the age of 76, most people start slowing down. But, Jean Bell Judis is unlike most septuagenarians. The multi-talented model and actress, who made headlines in the 1960s and 1970s, continues to blaze trails as the Guinness World Record’s oldest competitive rope skipper.
Judis’ recognition by Guinness is just the latest in a long line of pioneering accomplishments that began when she became the first African American to participate in the Miss Texas contest and later became the first Black to grace the cover of Playboy magazine. She went on to act in dozens of films and TV shows, paving the way for the many Black performers in the industry today.
Yet, if Judis’ designation in the 2020 edition of Guinness Book of World Records is any indication, she’s still moving forward and has no plans to slow down. In fact, her advice to all ages is to “take care of your health.”
“I just want people to think about their health because it is so important. If you don’t have your health, nothing else is good,” said Judis, whose birth first name is Annie, in an exclusive Sentinel interview. “I am grateful to be living now at 76 and I have no pain or problems yet.”
Jumping rope is one way that Judis stays in shape and even led to her seeking the world record-holder status. Always an active bowler and tennis player, she incorporated regular gym visits and walking into her exercise regimen as she aged. Then, she had a dream about being in the Guinness Book and learned that the oldest competitive rope skipping was a category she could enter.
“The last winner was 60-years-old and at the time, I was 75. Since I still went to the gym twice a week, which included jumping rope for 10 minutes, and walked about an hour every Monday, I said, ‘This is a piece of cake,’” recalled Judis. “All I have to do to enter is to jump free style for one minute and I could do that a few minutes without stopping!”
Judis submitted a video showing her jumping for the required time and moving to her favorite song, “I’m Every Woman.” After a careful review by a panel of judges, she was informed on Feb. 23, 2019 that she was the new winner and absolute surprise was her first reaction.
“I am so excited about it. I can’t believe that I am the only person in the world that can jump rope at my age. That is just amazing,” exclaimed Judis, who is the wife of Gary Judis and mother of Troy Moore and Darin, Adam and Shanice Judis.
“And now that I am 76-years-old, I can beat my own record because I am one year older now. There is a contest coming up in March in Saratoga, California and perhaps I will try to get into that one.”
Also, Judis noted that jumping rope helps her to burn calories, maintain a youthful appearance and feel good mentally, physically and spiritually. However, it’s not the only activity that significantly contributes to her overall well-being because she pursues many more creative outlets.
Declaring “painting is my passion,” Judis has created several works of art that hang throughout her home and she has even sold some of her works. She has also designed illustrations for books, “The Fish That Lives in a Tree” and “Me and Turtle,” written by acclaimed children’s author, Cal Wilson. And in addition to painting, Judis enjoys gourmet cooking.
Judis admitted that she’s “really blessed and happy,” and as well as thankful for a range of memorable experiences in her life such as working as a Playboy bunny, being featured on the cover of Jet magazine and becoming the second Black woman to appear as the Playboy centerfold. She also dated the actor, Richard Burton.
“I lived with Richard in Switzerland for a while and he wanted to get married, but I didn’t want to marry an alcoholic because I do not drink,” said Judis. “But, he was a nice guy, so I got him get sober and return to his ex-wife, Elizabeth Taylor.” Columnist Earl Wilson noted Judis’ success with “drying out” Burton in the Syracuse Herald-Journal in September 1975.
“I worked with a lot of interesting people and they were all good to me. I had a lot of fun,” said Judis, who acted in several movies including “Trouble Man” (1973), “The Klansman” (1974), “Three The Hard Way” (1974), “TNT Jackson” (1975), and “The Choirboys” (1977). Her television credits encompass several episodes on “The Beverly Hillbillies” as well as “Sanford and Son” (1973), “That’s My Mama” (1974), “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (1975), “Baretta” (1976), and “Starsky and Hutch” (1977).
For the past 41 years, Judis has been married to Gary Judis and she said their life has been good and healthy since they not only love each other so much, but also consistently frequent the gym. As for the future, she plans to keep encouraging others to practice healthy habits and consider adding walking or jumping rope to daily activities.
“I also want to motivate people to get out there and walk or jump rope five minutes a day,” insisted Judis. “You can get yourself in good shape. You would be surprised how it will help your body and your health!”
Managing Editor Brandon Brooks contributed to this article.