'Charlie's Angels' Farrah Fawcett's rise from iconic swimsuit poster to mega-stardom

From her love with Ryan O'Neal spanning decades to roles on 'Charlie's Angels,' 'The Burning Bed' and more, her closest friends and family share memories of Fawcett.
9:15 | 05/24/19

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Transcript for 'Charlie's Angels' Farrah Fawcett's rise from iconic swimsuit poster to mega-stardom
Good evening. And tonight, a deeply-personal look at a beloved 1970s icon. Farrah Fawcett. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of her death we are seeing intimate videos. She was the it girl of the '70s and for a generation of Americans, Farrah Fawcett personified the notion of sex appeal. Do you think of yourself as sexy? Oh, yes. Do you think of yourself as beautiful? No. No. I don't. I think you have to have all of me in order to think that I'm beautiful. It's not just my looks. I think I have to speak and move and relate. For to you feel beauty from me. And of course, a big part of her was that hair. It was like a wave, it was enormous and went all kinds of corrections. Reporter: And every girl tried to get some facsimile of the Farrah haircut. It was that wing tip deal. It was like the haircut that conquered America. Reporter: It's been nearly ten years since the legendary actress died after a battle with cancer. She documented her journey on camera with best friend Alana Stewart. We started filming everything. Reporter: Including the emotional moment when she had to shave off her famous golden hair. It was widely understood, even at the time Farrah was going through this, chemotherapy made you sick. She had done everything to keep from losing it. And the last round of chemo she had, she lost her hair. And that was, that was hard for her. I went over as soon as possible, because she was noticing something. I could tell that her hair was starting to fall out. Your hair would fall out think said. She was starting to lose her hair. I mean this hair is like falling out and falling out. And I'm sticking it in my pockets and hiding it. It was very important for Farrah to shave her own head. So that she was removing her hair and cancer treatment wasn't removing her hair. It's kind of like that fine line between being a victim and a She wasn't sure she wanted the camera rolling, and I convinced her to let me keep it rolling, because I thought it was going to be an important moment. I've always believed that positivity is a necessity. So through the pain and suffering of intense radiation and chemotherapy, I looked ahead to the future. To the day when I would be able to return to my life. Farrah was the last person who thought about getting sick. I mean, Farrah was the golden girl to everyone. So it was such a shock to the whole world when she got cancer. Reporter: Farrah Fawcett arrived in Hollywood in 1968 and quickly landed an acting contract. For me to become an actress is like for me to become president. Something I never prepared for. Hollywood, beauty needs no resume. If you look like Farrah Fawcett, you're going to find work in Hollywood. Reporter: She met and married the $6 million man. TV and movie star Lee majors. Her big break came in the mid-1970s, thanks to a now-famous photo shoot. She came out in a one-piece red suit. And she said something like so what do you think of this, Bruce. And I said yeah, I think we've got something to work with. It's sexy, because that's my figure. And my nipples were showing, but that's me. I mean, it's -- I don't know. Reporter: That photo would become the poster plastered across America. And her a-list superstar status was cemented with her career-making role in "Charlie's angels." When we came up with "Charlie's angels" in '75 we knew we had the perfect vehicle for her. They were ready to have them as icons, because the country had already been through the start of the women's liberation movement. Here were these healthy, strong American women who could beat up guys on their own. Reporter: She left the series after only one season, hoping to capitalize by jumping to the big screen. She would eventually be nominated for four emmies, including one for the TV movie "The burning bed." Leave me alone! Talk about trying to change your image. It was about a true story of a woman who had been a terrible victim of domestic abuse. I hoped when I took the role, I knew it was going to have a strong impact, one way or another. And I thought let it be good, let it be powerful, let it be important and that these women benefit from it. Reporter: By the 1980s, she and Lee majors divorced and she got involved with another actor, the love of her life, '70s heartthrob, Ryan o'neill. The couple would have a son, Redmond. They stayed together off and on for the rest of her life. O'neill was there in 2006 when she was diagnosed with cancer. What did you think when you heard Farrah has cancer? I panicked. I didn't let her know, but I She decided to go through the traditional treatment at UCLA. And three months later the cancer was gone. And we were celebrating. May 14th, 2007. It had been a little over three months since I was declared cancer free. And if I was still cancer free today, well, today would be the first day of the rest of my life. But my doctors asked me to come in and get my test results in person. And that is never a good sign. That was when I heard it. The fourth word. I never thought I would hear. Recurrence. Reporter: Despite the devastation, she said yes when friend Alana Stewart asked her to record her fight against cancer. And it was just the two of us moist of the time. It was just me and a little camera and her. There were no barriers. You know how people put up walls of politeness or they don't talk about this, or they don't talk about that. Just everything was out on the table. Reporter: Her quest for treatment would eventually take her to Germany. Farrah made her decision to go to Germany and did some alternative treatments. She was relentless in trying to find a cure. She was extremely brave. I don't know what lies ahead in Germany. But, as I reflect on past decisions I try to remind myself that I'm the girl who always believed in change. Never picking the obvious path, but the path that was a little bit risky. Definitely scary. But sure to be full of challenges, rewards and change. For better or worse. I hope and pray that these changes will help me to become better and stay alive. At the time, it was hope, a fantastic hope. We had a wonderful doctor, Dr. Ursula yacob, and she made us believe anything was possible. Farrah just connected with her immediately. Farrah and Ryan both did. They found it had metastasized to her liver. And she had eight or nine tumors in her liver. She was aware of what she had and the chances she had. We have tumor cells, not only the blood. We have tumor cells in the organs and liver. The prognosis, you will find a very bad survival rate. Are we here in time? It's very bad. Yeah. It will be hard time for you. But you should know there is a chance for you and there is hope for you. I love her more than I ever have loved her, just by how she deals with this horror story. Reporter: She underwent several difficult and extremely painful treatments. There was a time when she was so sick, and she was just throwing her guts up. And I shut the camera off, and she said why are you not filming this? And I said because I don't want to invade your privacy. And she said no. She said this is what cancer is.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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