“Being sexy is just one part of being a woman and an actress. But
if the part calls for sexy…” Mariska Hargitay.
Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Mariska Hargitay is widely
recognized while playing Detective Olivia Benson in NBC's spin-off
drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (a.k.a.
“SVU”; 1999 - present). The daughter of the '50s and '60s
screen siren Jayne Mansfield and Hungarian bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay
has also appeared in a recurring role on “ER” and in the
films “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995), “Lake
Placid” (1999) and “Perfume” (2001).
5' 7” tall, German/English and Hungarian descendant Hargitay, who
has 36-24-36 measurements, won the Miss Beverly Hills pageant in 1982.
She was named by People magazine as one of their “50 Most
Beautiful People” in 2005 and “World's Most Beautiful
People” in 2006. Before her marriage with actor Peter Hermann,
Hargitay was romantically linked to executive Lance Young in 1990.
Childhood and Family:
The youngest daughter of legendary actress and sexual icon of the '50s
and '60s Jayne Mansfield (a.k.a. Vera Jane Palmer; born on April 19,
1933; died in 1967 because of road accident) and Hungarian-born former
Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay (was also a body builder and actor; born
on January 6, 1926), Mariska Hargitay was born on January 23, 1964 in
Los Angeles, California. Italian-American cabaret performer Nelson
Sardelli, who was dating her mother at the time of her conception, has
claimed to be her biological father, which Mariska has never
acknowledged. Mariska has two older brothers: Zoltan Hargitay (born on
August 1, 1960) and Mickey Hargitay (born on December 21, 1958). Her
parents married on January 13, 1958 but divorced on August 26, 1964.
Her mother then married director Matt Cimber (born in 1936) on
September 24, 1964, and Mariska then have a half younger brother,
Antonio Raphael Ottaviano Cimber (born on October 18, 1965). She also
has a half older sister, Jayne Marie Mansfield (actress; born on
November 8, 1950), from her mother's first marriage.
On June 29, 1967, 3-year-old Mariska and her two brothers, Zoltan and
Mickey Jr., were asleep in the back seat of a car when it crashed into
the back of a trailer truck instantly killing her mother, the driver
and her mother’s boyfriend, attorney Sam Brody. Miraculously,
Mariska and her brothers escaped with minor injuries. The accident left
Mariska with a zigzag scar down the side of her head.
During her high school years, Mariska was involved in cheerleading,
student government, athletics and theater. She then went off to study
theater at UCLA School of Theater Film and Television and graduated in
1987. Mariska, who speaks English, Hungarian, French and Italian, is
also an alumna of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
“It's my first marriage. I wanted to find out where I was going
before I found out who was going with me.” Mariska Hargitay (on
her marriage to Peter Hermann).
In April 2004, Mariska announced her engagement to “Special
Victims Unit” actor Peter Hermann (born on August 15, 1967). They
were married on August 28, 2004, at California's Unitarian Historical
Chapel. The couple's wedding was in Santa Barbara in front of 200
guests. On June 28, 2006, Mariska and Peter welcomed their first child
together, a son named August. In April 2011, the couple adopted Amaya
Josephine and attended her birth. In October 2011, they adopted a baby
boy, Andrew Nicolas Hargitay Hermann, who had been born in mid-2011.
Mariska, a certified rape crisis counselor, is the founder of the
Joyful Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization which aids the
victims of rape to swim with wild dolphins in Hawaiian waters as
therapy. She also has worked with the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and
Violence Intervention program, NBC's “The More You Know”
campaign, the Safe Horizons advocacy project, Santa Monica Rape Crisis
Treatment Center, Project ALS, Girl Scouts of the USA, and the James
Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness.
In The Show
“As an actress, there were so many months, years even, when I
didn't get work, when I wanted to quit.” Mariska Hargitay (about
starting out as an actress).
Inheriting the beauty of her screen icon mother, Mariska Hargitay won
the title of Miss Beverly Hills in 1982 and made her screen debut in
the next year with a small part in director Bob Fosse's biopic
“Star 80” (starring Mariel Hemingway), based on the
Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voice article "Death of a Playmate" by
Teresa Carpenter. After appearing in Luca Bercovici's Gremlins-like
horror-comedy film “Ghoulies” (1985), Hargitay had a solid
role as one of a trio of young women working for a wacky dude ranch for
the summer, in Terry Carr's sex comedy “Welcome to 18”
(1986; alongside Courtney Thorne-Smith).
In 1986, Hargitay landed on her first regular role in TV series on
CBS’ cop drama “Downtown.” She then played a role in
Steve Carver's tennis comedy “Jocks” (1987) and joined her
father in the Hungarian-made “Mr. Universe” (1988). She
also played a recurring role, as Carly Fixx, on the CBS primetime soap
“Falcon Crest.” Meanwhile, Hargitay was spotted as guest in
shows like the syndicated late-night anthology series “Freddy's
Nightmares,” the popular lifeguard show “Baywatch,”
the crime drama “Wiseguy,” the ground-breaking and
award-winning drama “thirtysomething,” a spin-off of 21
Jump Street “Booker” and ABC's short-lived show
On the wide screen, Hargitay could be seen in writer-director John Lee
Hancock's romantic comedy “Hard Time Romance” (with Leon
Rippy and Tom Everett), Mark DiSalle's kenpo vengeance saga “The
Perfect Weapon” (starring Jeff Speakman) and the Japanese-made
“Sutoroberi rodo” (a.k.a. Strawberry Road; all three in
1991). She also returned to TV series playing a police officer in the
short-lived CBS’ 1992 series “Tequila and Bonetti,”
and guest starred on an episode of “Grapevine,”
“Hotel Room,” “Key West,” NBC’s popular
sitcom “Seinfeld,” playing one of the actors auditioning
for Jerry, and ABC’s sitcom “All American Girl.”
After appearing in writer-director Nick Mead's comedy “Bank
Robber” (1993; with Patrick Dempsey and Lisa Bonet), Hargitay
could be seen playing a hooker at a bar who tangles with Nicolas Cage
in Mike Figgis' adaptation of a semiautobiographical novel by John
O'Brien, “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995; also starring Elisabeth
Shue). That same year, Hargitay displayed her considerable comedic
chops as Nancy McKeon's sexy next-door neighbor Didi Edelstein in the
CBS short-lived sitcom “Can't Hurry Love.”
Hargitay continued to make guest star appearances in shows like
“Ellen,” “The Single Guy,” was a regular on the
short-lived NBC drama “Prince Street” and appeared in the
pilot for the ABC series “Cracker.” She later gained wide
recognition when she joined the cast members of the NBC popular medical
drama “ER,” playing the recurring role of Cynthia Hooper
(1997-1998), an erratic single mother and desk clerk who falls for
Anthony Edwards' Dr Mark Greene. She also shared the screen with Bill
Pullman and Bridget Fonda in Steve Miner's 1999 comedy/horror film
“As a woman, it's gratifying to play a part that's a
multi-layered challenge. Olivia is not only a competent, street-smart
cop, she's an empathetic woman who can respond emotionally to victims
of terrible crimes without compromising her professionalism." Mariska
Hargitay (on her role as Detective Olivia Benson in “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit”).
In 1999, Hargitay landed on her most prominent role to date, as the
special victims unit’s veteran Detective Olivia Benson, a
policewoman specializing in sex crimes, on the NBC drama spin-off "Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit" (a.k.a. “SVU”).
Hargitay’s brilliant turn in the long-running series won her a
Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television
Series - Drama in 2005 and an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama
Series in 2006, becoming the first woman ever from the “Law &
Order” franchise to receive award nominations and wins. She also
won a Gracie Allen for Individual Achievement for Best Female Lead -
Drama – Series in 2004 and for Outstanding Female Lead - Drama
Series in 2009 for her work, not to mention a number of award
In a part of her 2005 Golden Globe acceptance speech, Hargitay said:
“50 years ago, my mother stood on this stage accepting this
award. She was fortunate enough to have my Dad with her. 50 years
later, I'm fortunate enough to have my Dad with me. I love you
“Everything has combined to make my life in New York an amazing
experience. I told my manager a few years ago that I wanted to move
here and try acting in the Theatre. Then this show came up. Now I'm in
this show that means something to me and a lot of other people.”
Hargitay went on to appear in such films as “Perfume”
(2001, playing Darcy), “The Love Guru” (2008) and
“F--K” (2010, short) as well as on the TV film “Plain
Truth” (2004, playing Ellie Harrison). She also provided the
English version of Tenar in the Japanese animated film “Tales
from Earthsea” (2006) and reprised her role of Detective Olivia
Benson on an episode of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury”
called “Day” (2005) and in three episodes of “Law
& Order” called “Entitled: Part 2” (2000),
“Fools for Love” (2000) and “Flaw” (2005).
In 2012, Hargitay received the Muse Award from the New York Women in Film & Television.
On April 26, 2013, “SVU” has been renewed for a 15th season, which is slated to have 22 episode.
On November 8, 2013, Hargitay was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her outstanding TV work.
New York Women in Film & Television: Muse Award, 2012
Gracie Allen: Outstanding Female Lead - Drama Series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 2009
Prism: Performance in a Drama Series Episode, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 2007
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 2006
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series -
Drama, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 2005
Gracie Allen: Individual Achievement for Best Female Lead - Drama
– Series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,”