Jenifer Estess was born in Illinois and went to New York University to study drama, intending a career as an actress. Instead, she co-founded the Naked Angels Theatre Company in New York with actor Fisher Stevens and others, and remained the producer and director of the company until 1993, when illness forced her to resign. Estess suffered from myotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as motor neurone disease or as Lou Gehrig's disease, a degenerative condition. She established Project A.L.S. in order to raise funds for medical research into the disease. Her memoir Tales from the Bed: Living, Dying and Having It All (2004) was published posthumously and made into a film of the same title.