But Hargitay would eventually work her way into acting after being crowned Miss Beverly Hills in 1982. She built a diverse professional résumé that included a part in the horror film Ghoulies (1985) and an appearance on the top-rated TV show "In the Heat of the Night." In 1988, she landed a recurring role on "Falcon Crest" before earning a high-profile spot playing a single mother on the hit drama series "ER."
Hargitay's subsequent turn as tough-talking Det. Olivia Benson on the spin-off "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has garnered the actress countless new fans, a Golden Globe award in 2005 and multiple Emmy nominations, with a win in 2006.
Tackling hard-hitting social issues ripped from headlines, this edgy police procedural follows members of the Special Victims Unit as they investigate sexual offenses such as rape, incest, pedophilia, torture and serial murder.