Born in Elizabeth, N.J., actress and model Marisa Petroro, who is of Italian and Argentinian descent, has a gift for developing different on-screen personalities. It's no wonder that this Jersey girl has made a spot for herself in Hollywood.
At the tender age of four, Petroro started participating in East Coast beauty pageants. By eight, this young starlet was taking trips to New York City to study acting at the highly acclaimed HB Studio. After making the pageant circuit as a teenager, Petroro won the title of Miss Italia USA and then retired from pageants after she went on to place in the top five in Miss Italia World in 1996.
Petroro then crafted a five-year road map, packed her bags and convinced a good friend to join her on a 3,000-mile cross-country drive that ended in Los Angeles. Within the first few years, she was landing principal roles in hit films such as MGM's "Pumpkin" and Columbia Pictures' "Tomcats." Also during this breakout period, she built notable television credits on NBC's "The Pretender" and CBS's "The Young and the Restless," appeared in a national commercial directed by David Lynch, and starred opposite Rick Schroder in the award-winning country music video "Whiskey Lullaby," sung by Allison Krause and Brad Paisley.
2008 is shaping up to be another banner year as Petroro stars in the upcoming feature film "Everybody Wants to Be Italian," the story of the struggle of two Italians and their quest to win each other's hearts in Boston's famed North End. "Italian" follows Petroro's memorable performance last year in which she played the edgy and sexy girlfriend of Paul Rudd in Comedy Central's "Reno 911!: Miami." She also returns for season four as one of the most recognized Case Models (#18) on NBC's uber-popular game show "Deal or No Deal." In fact, in 2006, she was named one of People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People, and the recognition does not stop there. Earlier this year, Petroro landed the role of Crystal the IT computer girl on "Rules of Engagement," alongside David Spade. Other recent television credits include NBC's "Scrubs" and "Las Vegas," "According to Jim," and "Reno 911!" just to name a few.
Outside of acting, she holds philanthropy close to her heart. This past January, Petroro achieved one of her lifetime goals when she was selected as the 2008 spokesperson for The Sarcoma Foundation of America, an organization dedicated to finding new therapies to treat the deadly cancer. Not only will she participate in a variety of speaking engagements at events and talk to the press, she will also continue to volunteer her time helping individuals who have been diagnosed and are undergoing chemotherapy. Petroro is a survivor of Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare childhood cancer that affects the muscles, and her public profile along with her personal experiences battling cancer, make her the perfect voice for this wonderful organization.
Currently, she is involved with multiple non-profit and charity organizations including the Tomorrow's Children Fund at the Hackensack University Medical Center, The Young Storytellers Foundation, Tag the World, Operation Shoebox New Jersey, The Embrace Kids Foundation, Team Sarcoma Los Angeles, Crime Survivors and The Sarcoma Foundation of America.
Over the past two years, Petroro has been the commencement speaker at her alma mater, Kean University in New Jersey, and was honored as Woman of the Year by The Center for Italian and Italian-American Culture in her home state of New Jersey.