One of Jones' earliest appearances was as a contestant on Merv Griffin's syndicated US television program Dance Fever in 1979, and then later as a member of the dance duo Motion, dancing choreographed routines with the show's host, Deney Terrio. Jones performed in Annie (1982), Staying Alive (1983) and Snow White Live (1980), and had a bit part in The Beastmaster (1982). Her big break came in The Flamingo Kid (1984), which was followed by the film version of A Chorus Line (1985). In 1986, she appeared in American Anthem, co-starring gymnast Mitch Gaylord, and in 1987, she appeared on the cover and in a semi-nude pictorial in the March issue of Playboy.
Other credits include 1988's Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach and the baseball film A League of Their Own (1992) with Geena Davis and Madonna.
Jones served as host of an infomercial for Jackie Chan and as the "master instructor" for a workout video produced by The FIRM. She and daughter Paulina were featured in the movie Alpha Dog.
Playing on her surname, she appeared in a 1986 TV commercial endorsing Jones Sausage along with other people who shared her last name.
Jones was born Janet Marie Jones in Bridgeton, Missouri, the daughter of a business executive. She attended Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
Jones, who was engaged to Vitas Gerulaitis from 1985-1987, first met Gretzky when he was a judge on Dance Fever in 1984. They met again at a Los Angeles Lakers game in 1987, and on July 16, 1988, married in a lavish ceremony at St. Joseph's Basilica that was broadcast live across Canada. That August 9, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. One of the motivations behind the deal was rumoured to be furthering Jones's career. Jones refuted this in "Kings Ransom", saying she would not have allowed herself to become "barefoot and pregnant" were she intent on pursuing her career. She and Gretzky have five children: Paulina (born December 19, 1988), Ty Robert (born July 9, 1990), Trevor Douglas (born September 14, 1992), Tristan Wayne (born August 2, 2000), and Emma Marie (born March 28, 2003).
Paulina and Dustin Johnson announced their engagement on August 18, 2013. Ty played hockey at Shattuck-Saint Mary's, but quit the sport, and currently attends Arizona State University. Trevor was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 MLB draft. He was traded on March 20, 2014 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Matt Scioscia, son of Angels' manager Mike Scioscia. In June 2014, he was named to the roster of the Orem Owlz.
Jones introduced Vanna White to Merv Griffin while appearing on Dance Fever, leading White to her long-term engagement as a presenter on Wheel of Fortune
On February 7, 2006, Jones and a half-dozen NHL players were among those implicated in a New Jersey-based sports gambling ring allegedly financed by Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet. Then-Coyotes' general manager and Gretzky's former agent, Michael Barnett, admitted to placing a bet on Super Bowl XL through Tocchet.
Gretzky told reporters that Jones "would sit down at some point and answer questions that everybody has for her and be her own person" while denying any involvement. Jones released a statement through the Coyotes: "At no time did I ever place a wager on my husband's behalf. Other than the occasional horse race, my husband does not bet on any sports."
The Newark Star-Ledger revealed that New Jersey State Police wiretaps have Gretzky speaking about the ring. Lawyers for the couple later announced that there was no evidence of any betting on their part, and neither would face criminal charges. "They were trying to paint something that just wasn't true," Jones later told Chatelaine Magazine. "It's unfair that Wayne and I have had a great marriage for 20 years and a nice family, and the people in the media could care less if they are trying to cause friction in your marriage, trouble in your family, and make your kids feel a certain way. That was a little hurtful because it was like, 'Why? What have we ever done to you?'" In 2007, she took part in a high-stakes golf tournament broadcast by ESPN. The NHL prohibits personnel from betting on its own games, but does not have a policy against other sports betting.
On March 15, 2006, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office announced it would subpoena Jones to testify about the alleged ring as soon as a grand jury convenes. On May 8, Tocchet and Jones filed notices in New Jersey that they intend to sue the state for defamation, claiming each lost business opportunities in the wake of the investigation.