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Mariska Hargitay (pronounced /məˈrɪʃkə ˈhɑrɡɨteɪ/ mə-RISH-kə HAR-gi-tay; born Mariska Magdolna Hargitay; January 23, 1964) is an American actress. She is the daughter of the late actor and professional bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay and late actress Jayne Mansfield. After winning the Miss Beverly Hills 1982 beauty pageant, she went on to study theater at UCLA and started acting at the age 20 with her film debut in the 1985 horror-comedy film Ghoulies. She made her first major television debut in the 1986 one-hour adventure drama series, Downtown She had small roles in television shows throughout the late 1980s and 90s.
In 1999 she was cast as Olivia Benson, a New York City detective who investigates sex crimes on the NBC television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a role that has earned her multiple award nominations and an Emmy and Golden Globe since the shows' debut. She met her future husband Peter Hermann, who played Defense Attorney Trevor Langan on SVU. They were married in 2004, the same year she established an organization – the Joyful Heart Foundation – that provides support to women who have been sexually abused.
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