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Mariska Hargitay turns 60: look back at her Hollywood upbringing, 20-year love story, and life as Olivia Benson

The Law & Order: SVU star is celebrating the milestone birthday on January 23

Mariska Hargitay attends the 74th Primetime Emmys at Microsoft Theater
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
23 January 2024
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Happy birthday Mariska Hargitay! The actress, best known for her long running role as the legendary Olivia Benson, is celebrating her milestone 60th birthday on January 23.

The Law & Order: SVU star today holds the honor of playing the longest-running character in a primetime drama in television history, and this month is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Dick Wolf show that made her a household name.

Below, take a look back at her life and career, and her thoughts on turning 60.

Jayne Mansfield with kids Mickey, Zoltan, and Mariska Hargitay in April 1967.© Getty
Jayne with kids Mickey, Zoltan, and Mariska in April 1967

Tragic Hollywood Beginnings

Mariska was born out of old-Hollywood star Jayne Manfield's marriage to Mickey Hargitay, a Hungarian-American actor and the 1955 Mr. Universe. Before her untimely death aged 34, she was married three times and welcomed five children. 

She first married Paul Mansfield in 1950, and they had one daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield, 73, that year. She next wed Mickey in 1958, and they had three children together: Mickey Hargitay Jr., 64, then Zoltan, 62, and Mariska. After divorcing Mickey in 1964, Jayne wed Matt Climber, and welcomed her fifth child, Tony Climber, 57.

Jayne died in a 1967 car crash in Biloxi, Mississippi. Her car, a 1966 Buick Electra 225, crashed head-on at high speed to the back of a tractor trailer, instantly killing her along with her attorney Sam Brody and their driver Ronnie Harrison, who was 20 at the time. Mariska, Mickey Jr. and Zoltan were in the back of the car, and faced minor injuries.

Mariska Hargitay is seen on the film set of the "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" TV Series on September 21, 2022 in New York City© Getty
Mariska was cast as Olivia in 1999

Following Her Hollywood Roots

Mariska first got her start in acting by way of a music video role, appearing on Ronnie Milsap's music video for "She Loves My Car" in 1984, before nabbing a small role in horror film Ghoulies the following year.

MORE: Mariska Hargitay reveals youngest son's baffled reaction to mom's fame and fan encounters

She subsequently had several appearances in different television series for the coming years, before her big break in 1999, when she was cast as Olivia Benson opposite Christopher Meloni as Elliott Stabler in the first spin-off of the Law & Order universe.

Reflecting on the show's 25th anniversary, she recently told People of the two ways she sees the milestone: "One is I can't believe it’s been 25 years, a quarter of a century! And the other is, I can't see it any other way. I can't imagine the show ending, and can't imagine not going on this journey with my cast, my crew. I have so much to look forward to. And I'm still growing. I like that you can be so many things at one time."

mariska hargitay red dress sitting next to husband peter hermann© Getty
Mariska and Peter have been married for almost 20 years

Her Fairytale Marriage

This year, Mariska is turning 60, SVU is turning 25, and her marriage to Peter Hermann is turning 20! The longtime couple, who tied the knot on August 28, 2004, first met on the set of SVU, when Peter guest starred as defense attorney Trevor Langan.

Their first date was at church, per Peter's request, and of the special moment, Mariska once told People: "We went to church together, and it was like getting hit with a lightning bolt," adding: "I just started sobbing. Peter thought I was crying because I was so moved by the service. No, it was because I was just overwhelmed, realizing he was the one."

MORE: Mariska Hargitay's teenage son's appearance has fans saying the same thing in rare photo with famous mom

The two have since welcomed son August Miklos Friedrich, 16, and they adopted his siblings Amaya Josephine, 12, in 2011, and Andrew Nicholas, also 12, four months later.

Peter Hermann and Mariska Hargitay pose with their children, August Miklos Friedrich Hermann, Andrew Nicolas Hargitay Hermann and Amaya Josephine Hermann at the 2023 Stuttering Association For The Young (SAY) Benefit Gala at The Edison Ballroom on May 22,© Getty
The couple have three kids together and are based in NYC

On Turning 60

Reflecting on the milestone, Mariska declared to People: "I'm proud of it. I'm stronger than I've ever been," adding: "The age thing was never something I was scared of."

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