Actress Mariska Hargitay

Celebrity Q&A, People
on November 23, 2011

I’m a fan of Mariska Hargitay. Please share a profile and tell me who her parents are.

—Dianne DeBeer, Volga, S.D.

Hargitay, 47, is the daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield and former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay. After her mother died in a car crash in Louisiana in 1967, Mariska, who was 3½, was raised by her father. She attended the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television but left before graduation to launch her acting career.

In 1982, she was crowned Miss Beverly Hills and competed in the Miss California pageant. Her acting career was launched with a Ronnie Milsap music video, which was followed by a role in the film Ghoulies and the TV series Falcon Crest. Her other TV credits include Tequila & Bonetti, Seinfeld, Can’t Hurry Love, Prince Street and ER.

Landing the role as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit changed her life and earned her an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

It’s gratifying to play such a complex character. Olivia is not only an accomplished, street-smart cop, she’s also an empathetic woman who can respond emotionally to victims of terrible crimes without compromising her professionalism,” says Hargitay.

Dealing with the topic of sexual abuse on the series led Hargitay to create the Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. Hargitay is married and the mother of a son and an adopted daughter.