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Inside the Incredible Career of Jayne Mansfield, Mariska Hargitay's Mother

As we take a look back at Mansfield's amazing career, it's evident talent runs in the family.

Bensler Get Steamy and Almost Kiss | NBC’s Law & Order: SVU

With 24 seasons on the air, it's no secret that Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's leading lady, Mariska Hargitay, has charmed audiences far and wide as Captain Olivia Benson.

While Hargitay's talent is a no-brainer for SVU audiences, fans may be surprised to learn that showbiz genes run in her family. Hargitay's mother, the late Jayne Mansfield, was an accomplished actress and performer, just like her daughter would be decades later. Mansfield boasts an amazing career, which is why we're looking back at the powerhouse woman she was. Read on. 

Who is Mariska Hargitay's mom, Jayne Mansfield?

Mansfield was a force to be reckoned with in 1950s and '60s Hollywood. In fact, she was one of the first "bombshells" of the time. Mansfield began as a stage actress but moved to L.A. from Texas to pursue her dream of becoming a movie star. She got her big break in 1955, when she landed small parts in three notable projects: Pete Kelly's Blues, Hell on Frisco Bay, and Illegal. 

In an era when blonde bombshells were rolling up to Hollywood left and right, Mansfield took steps to stand out from the crowd and develop a personal brand. Like the OG Elle Woods, Mansfield embraced all things pink. She donned a pink wardrobe, chose a pink vehicle, and lived in the "pink palace," a home decorated with Mansfield's trademarked shade (complete with a heart-shaped swimming pool). 

Mansfield eventually came to embrace her sex symbol status. Throughout the '50s, Mansfield also posed for Playboy, a new magazine at the time. Landing a role in the Broadway show Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? cemented this branding further. Mansfield played Rita Marlowe, "Hollywood's reigning sex goddess" and would later reprise the role for the 1957 film version, igniting her movie career. 

Mansfield hit the late '50s running, starring in several big films, such as Kiss Them For Me, The Wayward BusThe Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, and It Takes a Thief. One of Mansfield's most important co-stars was Mickey Hargitay, the 1955 Mr. Universe and an accomplished actor in Hollywood. Mansfield and Hargitay first met in 1956 while Hargitay performed in The Mae West Show as one of West's musclemen. 

The two were quickly smitten. Mansfield even helped Hargitay land a role in the film version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? In 1958, the pair married and later had three children, Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska. In 1963, a few years after Mariska's birth, the couple divorced. 

After appearing in a handful of films in the 1960s, such as Panic Button, The Fat Spy, and Single Room Furnished, Mansfield returned to her stage roots. She even became a Vegas headliner, dominating nightclubs with her variety Act. 

Mansfield alluded to the secret to her success when she said, "I don't really think I am the most beautiful woman in the world at all. If I can create some illusion to that effect, and it seems I have, then that is what spells success to me."

In 1967, Mansfield's life was cut short after she was in a tragic car accident on the way to an interview. Mariska and her siblings were riding in the back of the car but survived the crash. Mansfield was only 34 years old. 

That said, her legacy lives on. Jayne Mansfield will always be known for her endless ability to entertain while pushing the envelope. It's no wonder her daughter has also become a widely cherished actress and television icon. 

Watch Law & Order: SVU on NBC Thursdays at 9/8c and the next day on Peacock. 

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