Farrah Fawcett's Journey: Golden Girl's Iconic Career

From her glory days as a pinup girl, to her days on "Charlie's Angels," to her valiant fight against cancer, Farrah Fawcett, who died today at the age of 62, became a symbol of the will to live.

At the end of her two and half year battle with cancer, those who know and love Fawcett spoke exclusively to Barbara Walters in the actress's final days.

Watch a special edition of "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET for the Barbara Walters special "Farrah's Love."

"An amazing woman, with simple roots that ... took on challenges that others wouldn't try. I always admire women that are independent, that ... have a dream and look as good as she does," longtime love Ryan O' Neal told Walters.

Farrah's Golden Career: Pinup, Sex Symbol

In 1976, Fawcett was the pinup girl who launched a million fantasies. The iconic poster with her dazzling smile, cascading golden hair and bombshell body sold an unprecedented 12 million copies, catapulting Fawcett into a sex symbol, idolized by both men and women.

As the decade's "It Girl," her hair, which became known as the "Farrah Do," was emulated by millions around the world.

"That signature hair will definitely be remembered forever and ever and ever ... It was an easy carefree haircut, windblown, but also very sexy and very feminine. Everybody wanted it," legendary hairstylist Jose Eber, who has known and worked with the actress for over 30 years, told Walters.

"...But I think that Farrah ... represented to me what a woman was in the 70s," Eber said. "Woman's lib ...There was a freedom about Farrah's look. There was something healthy about her."

In a 1980 interview, just as her career was beginning to blossom, Fawcett opened up to Walters about her self-regard, ranking herself on a scale of one to 10.

"A nine. ... Barely a nine. I was going to say eight-and-a-half but I thought fractions aren't good," Fawcett told Walters.

"I think you have to have all of me in order to think that I'm beautiful. In other words, it's not just my looks. I think I have to speak and move and relate for you to feel that ... for you to feel beauty from me."

Known for her good looks, the actress later told Walters she was "exasperated" by those who seemingly ignored her intellectual side.

"I think it's a little bit of a curse," Fawcett said of her looks.

Farrah's Road to Fame

Growing up in Texas, that so-called "curse" always lingered. In 1969, as a college beauty queen, Fawcett's looks earned her a ticket to Hollywood where she was discovered by a talent scout. At first, she was one more model and actress surviving on guest parts and commercials, selling everything from shampoo to toothpaste.

In 1973, she married actor Lee Majors, who was starring in "The Six Million Dollar Man." Three years later, everything changed when posters of Fawcett in her red one-piece bathing suit flew off store shelves and she entered the world of television with a starring role on "Charlie's Angels."

"She wasn't a great actress then, but she was learning," said Leonard Goldberg, who created the hit, along with partner, producer Aaron Spelling. "She just had that way about her. When she would turn and look at you, you were mesmerized."

Fawcett played one of three undercover, underclothed crime fighters and "Charlie's Angels" became an enormous hit and cultural phenomenon, working to redefine gender roles.

"What we had for the first time were women operating in what was heretofore a man's world," Goldberg said.

But after only one year, Fawcett walked away from the show at the height of her fame to explore a career in film -- a move, the star told Walters, she did not regret.

"I would do it over again ... I felt that I needed to grow," Fawcett said in 1980. "I find that, for me, personally -- and this is in everyday life -- if I'm not growing, if I can't be stimulated in a conversation, then I am bored. And I'm not good when I'm bored."

Jaclyn Smith, one of Fawcett's "Angels" co-stars, told Walters, "I was sad because it was not an actress leaving, it was my friend," but says her friend didn't make a mistake. "When Farrah makes up her mind to do something, uh, it's well thought out, it's well ordered and planned, and it's right for her."

Her career faltered, but Fawcett was determined to take charge of her life. Firing her manager, her publicist and separating from Majors, the sweet blond from Texas revealed to Walters that she was no more.

"I think that when you're kind of just shoved out there and you have to be tough and you're facing tough people and people are saying bad things about you, that all of a sudden, you have to become a little less sweet. ... And with this surge in strength, you lose a little of the softness, I guess," she said.

Tired of being the sex symbol, Fawcett wanted to be taken seriously, so she dove into an unrecognizable role, playing an abused wife, Francine Hughes, driven to kill her husband in the 1984 movie "The Burning Bed."

"I knew that if I wanted to stay in the business, I had to change. I mean, I wanted to change," she told Walters in a later interview.

The TV movie became one of the most highly-rated in history and earned the actress the first of three Emmy nominations.

But if her acting career was finally the triumph she always knew it could be, her personal life wasn't.

Farrah and Ryan: A Hollywood Love Story

After she and Majors parted ways in 1979, Fawcett became romantically involved with actor Ryan O'Neal, who rose to stardom in the 1970 film "Love Story," ironically playing the husband of a woman dying of cancer.

Fawcett and O'Neal carried on a turbulent relationship that spanned two decades. Their first major milestone was the celebrated birth of their son Redmond in 1985.

Though the two never married, they remained one of Hollywood's great love stories.

"I used to ask her to marry me all the time," O'Neal told Walters in an exclusive interview. "But ... it just got to be a joke, you know. We just joked about it."

After 17 years together, Fawcett and O'Neal broke up in 1997.

Four years later, after O'Neal was diagnosed with leukemia, the couple reunited.

"She came right to my side, which I loved her for. And we gradually started to rebuild our relationship," he told Walters.

Fawcett's Courageous Battle With Cancer

As Fawcett helped O'Neal to heal, in 2006, she was struck by the devastating death of her mother and diagnosed with anal cancer -- a relatively rare disease that only affects about 5,000 Americans a year.

"I panicked. I didn't let her know, but I panicked," O'Neal told Walters. "I've been living with cancer for eight years at this point and ... I saw lots of what cancer can do. And I just knew one thing, that Farrah Fawcett was hard to kill."

"Farrah had symptoms for only a fairly brief time before her cancer was diagnosed," said Dr. Lawrence Piro, president of The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, who began treating Fawcett after her cancer did not respond to the first course of treatment. "So there really wasn't an opportunity to find it earlier, it unfortunately just progressed."

Piro told Walters that Fawcett's cancer was treatable, but not curable.

"We had to use the best tools that we could to try to suppress the tumor, but that we would never get rid of it. So, eventually, the likelihood is that she would succumb to her tumor," he said.

With the 2006 diagnosis, Fawcett and O'Neal moved in together.

At her side for the past three years, O'Neal traveled with Fawcett to Germany for more aggressive treatments and, in recent months, was often Fawcett's voice to the media, making it clear that he will always be a constant and steadfast fixture in her life.

O'Neal told Walters that Fawcett is the only woman he's ever really loved.

"He loves her so much," Farrah's longtime friend Alana Stewart told Walters. "When he walks in the room, her face just lights up."

Fawcett died this morning at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., at the age of 62. She was surrounded by O'Neal and Stewart, as well as her doctor, Dr. Lawrence Piro, ABC News has learned.

Watch a special edition of "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET for the full Barbara Walters special "Farrah's Love."

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