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Though most pundits referred to Eva Longoria's rise to stardom on the hit series "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-12) as a textbook case of overnight success, the actress-producer had actually been working in the industry for a decade prior to her award-winning turn as the sultry Gabrielle Solis. A former beauty pageant winner, Longoria toiled in bit parts before landing a meaty turn as a crazed seductress on "The Young and the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ). But it would take a few more years before the runaway popularity of the soap-styled "Desperate Housewives" turned the spotlight squarely on her. When it did, Longoria's knack for light comedy and on-screen sensuality made her a favorite among television viewers, though she struggled to bring that same appeal to her feature work. While her career had its share of ups and downs - including a high-profile marriage to and divorce from NBA star Tony Parker - Longoria succeeded both behind and in front of the television camera after "Desperate Housewives" folded, producing the comedy-drama "Devious Maids" (Lifetime 2013-16) and starring in the comedy "Telenovela" (NBC 2015-16).
Born March 15, 1975 in Corpus Christi, TX, Longoria was the youngest of four daughters born to Enrique Longoria, Jr., and Ella Eva Mireles. Her early years were difficult ones - work on her parents' farm yielded little income, and she suffered through an awkward phase in her childhood, made worse by the relentless taunts of her older siblings. But she soon blossomed to such a degree that by the time she was a student at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 1998, Longoria had won the title of Miss Corpus Christi. Her success in the pageant yielded more than just a title - she was soon discovered and signed by a theatrical agent, leading to an unexpectedly fruitful acting career.
While fashion modeling was Longoria's original interest, acting soon took hold as her primary goal. A role in a stage production of "What the Rabbit Saw" preceded her first screen appearances on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000) and the daytime soap opera "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963- ). In 2001, Longoria made the jump to regular player when she joined the cast of the ever-popular soap, "The Young and the Restless." As the psychotic former call girl Isabella Brana Williams, who made life miserable for Doug Davidson's long-running character Paul Williams, Longoria proved adroit with sudsy, over-the-top plotlines, which she delivered with the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humor. Her performance was praised by fans and critics alike, earning Longoria an ALMA Award in 2002.
Longoria's success on "The Young and the Restless" naturally led to opportunities in primetime television and in feature films. For a while it seemed as though her career might meet the same unfortunate fate endured by many soap opera stars who attempted to move beyond the daytime world. Her first post-"Y&R" series - a revival of the venerable crime series "Dragnet" (NBC, 2003) by producer Dick Wolf - was axed after only five episodes, while her efforts in features, including "Snitch'd" (2003) and "Senorita Justice" (2004), were consigned to the straight-to-DVD shelf. Longoria also attempted to branch out into producing with the Latina comedy special "Hot Tamales Live: Spicy, Hot and Hilarious" (2003) and the crime drama "Carlita's Secret" (2004), but both were received by limited audiences.
After several years of struggle, Longoria was finally catapulted into a star when she was cast as former fashion model Gabrielle Solis on "Desperate Housewives." The show's mix of drama, comedy, mystery and campy soap opera excess was an overnight sensation, with Longoria receiving much of the critical praise for her saucy performance. A simultaneous parody and dead-on depiction of the classic television vixen, Gabrielle raised eyebrows in the show's first season for seducing her teenage gardener (Jesse Metcalfe), and soon added attempted murder and shenanigans involving a surrogate mother to her resume of bad behavior. Added to the mix was a deep rooted core of shallowness, vanity and occasional boorish actions, which led Gabrielle to become one of the show's most adored guilty pleasures. More than just the sum of her faults, Gabrielle might have been easily dismissed as a cartoon cutout made from the cloth of Aaron Spelling. But Longoria and the writers worked hard to imbue her with a heart wounded from a terrible childhood and a streak of loyalty to her fellow "Housewives" - Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Nicollette Sheridan - that largely excused her questionable behavior.
For her performance, Longoria was a winner at The People's Choice and ALMA Awards, a nominee at the 2004 Golden Globe Awards and shared a Screen Actors Guild Award with her fellow castmates. She also became one of the most widely-publicized performers in recent history, with her face gracing the cover of everything from women's magazines to racy men's magazines like Maxim, which named her to the top spot of its Hottest Female Stars in 2005 and 2006. On a more restrained note, she was the face of several advertising campaigns, including Bebe Sport, L'Oreal and Hanes. Longoria gained further exposure with her 2006 engagement and lavish 2007 wedding in Paris, France to San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, as well as the subsequent rumor of his alleged dalliance with model Alexandra Passent.
Though "Desperate Housewives" remained a ratings hit throughout its run, Longoria had a harder time translating her television popularity to the big screen. She was Kiefer Sutherland's rookie Secret Service partner in "The Sentinel" (2006), an action-drama starring Michael Douglas as a suspected presidential assassin, and Freddy Rodriguez's attorney girlfriend in the urban drama "Harsh Times" (2006). Both underperformed at the box office. Meanwhile, her brief cameo as Ben Stiller's latest marital mistake in the unpleasant remake of "The Heartbreak Kid" (2007) did little to boost her profile. Subsequent feature efforts like "Over Her Dead Body" (2008), which cast her as a bride-to-be who returns from the grave after being killed prior to her wedding, and "Lower Learning" (2008), barely earned theatrical releases. In addition to her television and film acting, Longoria was involved in numerous charities, including Eva's Heroes, which she founded to aid developmentally disabled children. She also served as producer of "Harvest" (2010), a documentary about the plight of migrant children working as produce farmers. Her happiness was cut short in November 2010 when it was announced she had filed from divorce from Parker, with tabloids insinuating possible cheating on his part via texts exchanged with a teammate's wife.
As "Desperate Housewives" came to a close in 2012, Longoria partnered with Marc Cherry again as executive producer of the comedy-drama "Devious Maids" (Lifetime 2013-16). During this period, she also appeared as herself in movie industry comedy "In A World..." (2013) and played a driven public defender in a story arc on the police comedy "Brooklyn 9-9" (Fox 2013- ). Longoria returned to series television as executive producer and star of "Telenovela" (NBC 2015-16), a workplace comedy set behind the scenes of a Miami-based Spanish-language soap opera. Following the series' end, Longoria appeared in the films "Lowriders" (2016) and "Overboard" (2018).
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