Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay is an American actress, best known for her role as New York City sex crimes Detective Olivia Benson on the NBC television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a role that has earned her multiple awards and nominations, including an Emmy and Golden Globe.

The daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield and actor/bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, Hargitay is a former beauty queen who made her film debut in the 1985 horror-comedy film Ghoulies, and her major television debut in the 1986 adventure drama series Downtown. She appeared in numerous roles in film and television shows throughout the late 1980s and 1990s before being cast as Olivia Benson, a role that led to her founding the Joyful Heart Foundation, which provides support to women who have been sexually abused.

Early life
Hargitay was born at St. John's Hospital in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of actress and 1950s-era sex symbol Jayne Mansfield. Her father was the Hungarian-born former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay. Her first and middle names are Hungarian and refer to Mary Magdalene (Mariska is a diminutive of Mary). Her family name means "of Hargita". Hargitay was raised Roman Catholic. She has a half-sister, Jayne Marie Mansfield; two brothers, Miklós and Zoltán Hargitay; and a half-brother, Antonio Ottaviano (also known as Tony Cimber), a former director whose works include the female wrestling show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

Hargitay's parents had divorced in May 1963, but a judge later found their Mexican divorce invalid. They had reconciled a few months before Hargitay's birth in January 1964, but soon separated again; in August 1964, the Mexican divorce was ruled legal. A few weeks later, Mansfield married the director Matt Cimber, who had directed her in a 1964 production of the William Inge play Bus Stop. On June 29, 1967, Mansfield was killed in an automobile accident on a stretch of U.S. Highway 90 between New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana. Her boyfriend, Sam Brody, and the driver were also killed. Asleep in the back of the vehicle, Hargitay, then three and a half years old, was left with a zigzag scar on one side of her head. Her brothers Miklós and Zoltán were also in the car, but escaped with minor injuries. After the death of their mother, the three siblings were raised by their father and his third wife, Ellen Siano. Hargitay dislikes comparisons with her famous mother and at age 18 said, "My dad was Mr. Universe," she says, "so it would be fun for me to be Miss Universe."

While a student at her Catholic secondary school Marymount High School, Hargitay was active in cheerleading, student government, athletics and the theater program. She enjoyed acting and enrolled at UCLA after graduation from high school in 1982. That same year, Hargitay was crowned Miss Beverly Hills USA. By the time she was a freshman in college, Hargitay had an agent and several small roles to her credit. She attended UCLA School of Theater Film and Television (where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma) until she left before graduating, when she began her acting career. Hargitay attended Groundlings theatre company in Los Angeles, CA. Her improv teacher was Kathy Griffin. Griffin stated in an interview, "We started class, and in the Groundlings curriculum, one of the first exercises you do is the cliched 'trust' game. I made everyone stand in a circle, with me in the center, and I said, being onstage, you have to trust your fellow actors, especially when you're an improviser. You're going to be there for each other, and they're going to be there for you. For example, I'm going to fall back, knowing that you'll catch me. Then I let myself fall backward, and sure enough, I was caught. Everyone gets out some nervous laughter, and then they all took turns doing it. By the time it got around to Mariska Hargitay, we'd already done it with ten or eleven students, and they had clearly gotten the point. Then it was Mariska's turn. 'Okay, Mariska, cross your arms in front of you and gently fall back,' I said. She fell back and nobody caught her. She fell flat on her ass. I was horrified. This had never happened in one of my classes before."

Personal life
On August 28, 2004, in Santa Barbara, California, Hargitay married Peter Hermann, an actor and writer whom she met on the set of Law & Order: SVU, on which Hermann plays the recurring role of Defense Attorney Trevor Langan. On June 28, 2006, Hargitay gave birth to their son, August Miklos Friedrich Hermann, by an emergency caesarean section. She appeared in the January 2007 issue of Self magazine where she stated that the 15-hour work days on the set of SVU – combined with the stress of an increase in episodes filmed each week – caused her to resort to food for comfort and by her third trimester, she had gained 54 pounds and developed gestational diabetes. She explained in the interview, "I was overwhelmed by my lack of energy. All I could do to survive was to eat". In April 2011, Hargitay and Hermann adopted a baby girl, Amaya Josephine. In October 2011, she and her husband adopted a baby boy, Andrew Nicolas Hargitay Hermann, who had been born in mid-2011.

Upon winning her Emmy on August 27, 2006, Hargitay made a point of thanking her father for everything he had done for her in her life. Just 17 days later, on September 14, 2006, her father died from multiple myeloma in Los Angeles, California, at age 80.

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