09:31 AM EDT 11/21/2014

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Kristy McNichol

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Kristy McNichol on Life After Hollywood: I'm 'Happy and Serene'

Kristy McNichol Opens Up About Life After Hollywood: I'm 'Happy and Serene'

Originally posted 11/06/2014 07:00PM

In the '70s and '80s, Kristy McNichol was one of the most popular actresses of her generation, starring in movies like Little Darlings and TV shows like Family and Empty Nest.

Then in the '90s, she stepped away from the spotlight – for good.

On Wednesday night, PEOPLE caught up with the actress at the Love Boat reunion in Fort Lauderdale, where the cast gathered to christen a new Regal Princess cruise ship and celebrate 50 years of Princess Cruises. McNichol, who appeared as a guest star on the show, said she left show business to "see what else was out there."

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Kristy McNichol Is 'Overwhelmed with Love and Support' | Kristy McNichol

Kristy McNichol Is 'Overwhelmed with Love and Support'

Originally posted 01/11/2012 07:40PM

Since she decided to come out about her sexuality to help kids who have been bullied, Kristy McNichol says the response has been tremendous.

"I'm overwhelmed with the love and support of my family, friends and fans," McNichol, 49, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

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Empty Nest's Kristy McNichol Wants to 'Be Open About Who I Am' | Kristy McNichol

Kristy McNichol Wants to 'Be Open About Who I Am'

Originally posted 01/06/2012 06:20PM

Kristy McNichol has been out of the public eye for 20 years. Now she's chosen to come out – to try to help kids who are being bullied.

McNichol, 49, who has lived with her partner Martie Allen, also 49, for the past two decades, decided to make a statement about her sexuality and share this photo because she is "approaching 50" and wants to "be open about who I am."

She "is very sad about kids being bullied," her publicist Jeff Ballard tells PEOPLE. "She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different."

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Filed Under: Kristy McNichol

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