With her sweet smile and twinkly eyes, White made her name playing seemingly dopey blondes. But how canny she was – and what a revolutionary

Golden Girls star Betty White dies aged 99Betty White: a life in pictures

Betty White, who had one of the longest careers in TV history playing ditzy blondes, was actually one of the toughest and most wised-up brunettes in showbiz. Yet such was her skill in shaping her public image – through talkshows, gameshows, sitcoms and multiple autobiographies – that from early on she was seen as something more than a mere TV personality: an actual type.

In her later years, she was held up by many as the ultimate example of how to be an older person. Amy Poehler, in her book of essays Yes, Please, recalls the time White appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2010: “I asked her what she was going to do after the show. ‘I’m going to fix myself a vodka on the rocks and eat a cold hotdog,’ she said. It confirmed for me that growing old was awesome,” Poehler writes.

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