Mariska Hargitay ( /məˈrɪʃkə ˈhɑrɡɨteɪ/ mə-rish-kə har-gi-tay; born Mariska Magdolna Hargitay; January 23, 1964) 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.
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 two half-sisters, Jayne Marie Mansfield and Tina Hargitay; 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.