When Jaclyn Smith left her cozy home in Texas at 20 for the Big Apple she wrote home every day. "Today I spent such-and-such for breakfast," she would write to her father.

It wasn't something her parents had asked her to do. In fact, her father responded, "You know, this is part of your college education, enjoy it. See every ballet. Go to every museum. Do whatever you want to do. You don't have to account for every little thing."But accounting for every little thing is typical of Smith, who first gained national attention as the beauteous Kelly Garrett of "Charlie's Angels" and has been accounting for it ever since.

Smith has gone on to star in dozens of TV projects including "Christine Cromwell," "Rage of Angels," "Windmills of the Gods," "The Bourne Identity" and the "Kaliedoscope" that aired on NBC on Oct. 15.

"I guess I was always a good little girl," Smith says as she glances at the menu in the airy restaurant at the Bel Air Hotel.

"With my parents I'm glad I was always a good little girl, but in other areas I could've been not so nice maybe," she says, smiling that darling smile that illuminates Max Factor commercials.

Being "not so nice" would be alien territory to Smith - as soft-spoken and gentle as she always seems on television, even when she's playing a tough-minded detective or a take-charge embassy official.

"It goes against my grain to be aggressive," she says. "Those moments when I am, I always feel a bit guilty because it's not part of my upbringing, my value system. You have to be what you are. You can't really change."

Changing is often the passport to Hollywood's hierarchy and though Smith has often been criticized for her choices, she steadfastly refuses to change.

"Many people still see me as Charlie's Angel - slick, mascara in place, and even if I stripped my face of makeup people see you a certain way. I don't understand it. At times it seems unfair but I have to look at the positive and say, `I'm still working and doing different roles.' But sometimes they do see me as glamorous."

Glamorous is not the right word. Wholesome would be more like it. Even at 42 Smith looks like she should be leading cheers at SMU instead of putting the final touches on production deals and worrying about the kind of world her children, Gaston, 8, and Spencer Margaret, 4, will inherit.

It was a passion for ballet that led her to leave Houston. She studied with George Balanchine and at the American School of Ballet. But sharp-minded ad agents saw gold in that patrician profile and those luminous eyes and she started making commercials.

Soon she became the Breck girl and there are few red-blooded American men over 30 who can't remember caring profoundly that Breck contained far less detergent than other shampoos.

"I loved the (ballet) training I got and it's invaluable today. But I really think I made the right choice because I'm not cut out for the travel and the day-to-day life of a dancer. I like family life too much."

Those commercials established Smith and she became increasingly involved in acting.

"I was in a unique position," she says. "I was never really sweating for the roles because it's not in my nature and I'm not desperate about things like that. I was lucky enough to always make a wonderful living doing commercials and working in different areas. I felt if something is meant to be it would be.

"I never really went to pieces if I didn't get something. Yes, there were roles that I wished I'd gotten and I think I could have done a really good job. But to spend my life going crazy because I didn't get something - that's not in my nature."

What is in her nature is an intense sense of family. Smith is absorbed with her two children and her maternal sense nearly always takes precedence over career goals.

She recently separated from her second husband, British filmmaker Tony Richmond (she was married before to actor Dennis Cole.) The tabloids have been all wrong in their accounts of the split, she says.

"Tony had a drinking problem. He has gotten that under control. He is an excellent father and I don't have any hard feelings. He was very supportive of my career and it had nothing to do with our breakup."

Though she has lots of "friends," her priorities now do not include a new romance. "Why would I want to get into another relationship?" she asks.