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With an intense and exotic beauty that both helped and hindered her career, Jessica Alba was a polarizing figure for fans and critics alike. Graduating from early TV roles on "The Secret World of Alex Mack" (Nickelodeon, 1994-98) and "The New Adventures of Flipper" (syndicated, 1994-2000) to the lead in James Cameron's futuristic sci-fi drama, "Dark Angel" (FOX, 2000-02), Alba enjoyed widespread popularity at first. Once she made the leap to the big screen, however, the actress found herself weathering bad reviews, amped-up attention toward her appearance, and intense negative attention from bloggers, who attacked the multi-ethnic Alba for not embracing the Latina aspect of her heritage as much as they felt she should. Despite the naysayers, Alba continued to work steadily, balancing a series of failures like "Honey" (2003) and "Into the Blue" (2005) with strong work in successes like "Sin City" (2005), the "Fantastic Four" franchise (2005, 2007) and the romantic comedy "Valentine's Day" (2010). Alba's determination to grow and willingness to accept challenging roles like "The Killer Inside Me" (2010) boded well for her future and for fans who hoped to see the actress eventually silence her critics once and for all.
Born in Pomona, CA on April 28, 1981, Jessica Marie Alba was the daughter of a Mexican-American father and a French-Danish mother. Alba's early life was marked by a series of unfortunate physical maladies. In addition to asthma, Alba twice suffered from collapsed lungs, a burst appendix and had to endure pneumonia several times a year. This, on top of her obsessive-compulsive disorder, helped serve to isolate her from other schoolchildren. Luckily, her health eventually took a dramatically positive turn a few years later; an improvement Alba credited to her growing interest in acting. Signed by an agent by the age of 12, Alba made her screen debut with "Camp Nowhere." Alba went on to appear in two national TV commercials for Nintendo and J.C. Penney, which led to her landing a recurring role as the young snob, Jessica, in three episodes of the Nickelodeon comedy series, "The Secret World of Alex Mack." She then performed the role of Maya Graham in the first two seasons of the TV series, "Flipper" (also known as "The New Adventures of Flipper"). Under the tutelage of her lifeguard mother, Alba learned to swim before she could walk and was a PADI-certified scuba diver - skills which were put to use on the show, which was filmed in Australia. As the fresh-faced, enthusiastic and sweet Maya, the part would provide Alba a nice departure from her previous "mean girl" TV efforts.
An ABC After-School Special entitled "Too Soon for Jeff" aired in 1996, starring Alba as a pregnant teenager and Freddie Prinze, Jr. as her overwhelmed boyfriend. Next, the actress could be seen in some memorable guest performances on television series, including playing a girl smitten with the captain's young son on "Love Boat: The Next Wave" (UPN, 1998-99), a confused teen mother on a two-part episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000), and the daughter of a police officer who identifies another officer as having indecently exposed himself to her in the CBS police drama "Brooklyn South" (CBS, 1998-99). Alba also starred in the little seen children's comedy feature "P.U.N.K.S" (1998). The following year she was featured in two higher profile films - first playing a clique leader in "Never Been Kissed," starring Drew Barrymore as a twenty-something reporter returning to high school for an undercover story; followed by "Idle Hands" (1999), a supernatural thriller starring Devon Sawa and Seth Green. In it, Alba was featured as Sawa's love interest.
Alba's career kicked into high gear in 2000 when she was cast as the genetically perfect Max on James Cameron's post-"Titanic" (1998) TV series, "Dark Angel." Her popularity skyrocketed along with the show's success. In the first season, she was nominated for a Golden Globe and she won the TV Guide Award as Breakout Star of the Year - nevertheless, the very expensive series folded in 2002 despite its devoted core following. It would not be for naught, however. Following the conclusion of "Dark Angel," Alba went public with her engagement to her co-star, Michael Weatherly - who played Logan Cale on the show - but, the celebrated twosome would subsequently break up in 2003. Alba's opportunities expanded along with her success, following the cancellation of "Dark Angel" - much of it to do with her smoldering Latina looks and toned body. In 2001, she became a spokeswoman for L'Oreal hair products - the Feria line of coloring -and in 2002, she starred in the low-profile film "The Sleeping Dictionary" as a South American woman who falls in love with a British colonialist who visits her village. Her first major bid toward big screen stardom came in the form of "Honey" (2003), a feast of Alba-fueled eye candy but otherwise undistinguished effort aimed at the MTV demographic. In the urban music-fueled film, she played a tough, sexy music video choreographer.
It was her next project that put her on the fan-boy map. In the visually arresting "Sin City" (2005) - directed by Robert Rodriguez and comic book creator Frank Miller - Alba played Nancy Callahan, a sultry, lasso-spinning pole dancer with an unexpected past in the segment, "That Yellow Bastard." Following that sexy foray, it was announced that she was cast as Sue Storm - better known as the Invisible Woman - in the big-screen, big-budget adaptation of the classic Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Marvel Comic, "The Fantastic Four" (2005). Although Alba gamely tackled the role, her efforts were largely undermined by a lack of chemistry with co-star/love interest Ioan Gruffudd and the film's wildly uneven quality. Alba's third film of 2005, the underwater diving drama "Into the Blue" (2005) opposite Paul Walker, was distinguished primarily by its stunning scenery - primarily the gorgeous backdrop of the Bahamas - and Alba's frequently bikini-clad body, which made her status as Hollywood's breakout sex symbol of 2005 complete.
Next up was "Awake" (2007), a thriller about a surgery patient (Hayden Christensen) who overhears a plot for his murder while under anesthesia. Alba reprised her role as the Invisible Woman in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) and returned to comedy to star opposite Dane Cook as a clumsy penguin trainer in "Good Luck Chuck" (2007). She took star billing in the actioner "The Eye" (2008) a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong thriller about a blind woman who regains her sight, only to discover her visions are actually those of the past. In the spring of 2008, the 27-year-old actress gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Honor, with new husband Cash Warren, and remained in the news for the June release of "The Love Guru" (2008). The Mike Myers comedy about a mystical self-help figure co-starred Alba as his comic straight-woman and level-headed love interest, although audiences stayed away in droves and critics savaged it. Alba found more success with a cameo on a special episode of "The Office" (NBC, 2005-13) that aired after the Super Bowl, where she, Jack Black and Cloris Leachman starred in a fictional movie the show's regulars were watching. Alba, a popular target for negative Internet attention, found herself at the middle of a strange controversy the following year.
While in Oklahoma City to film a movie, photos of Alba were taken showing her pasting posters of sharks around town at night, including partially covering a United Way billboard. Alba apologized for her actions, explaining her intention was to draw attention to the dwindling population of great white sharks, and sealed the mea culpa with a donation to the United Way to pay for the billboard. No criminal charges were filed against her. She next appeared in the romantic comedy smash hit "Valentine's Day" (2010) along with the ultimate ensemble cast, including Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Queen Latifah and Shirley MacLaine. She then starred in Robert Rodriguez's highly buzzed-about "Machete" (2010) as a sexy agent tracking the titular hero (Danny Trejo). For Alba, whose own complicated ethnic heritage made her a target for online race-baiting, the role gave her the opportunity to embrace the Latina aspect of her heritage on screen.
Her next film would be her most controversial, however. "The Killer Inside Me" (2010), based on a pulp novel (and an earlier filmed version from the 1970s), was a dark exploration of a deputy sheriff's (Casey Affleck) capacity for violence and murder. Alba played Joyce Lakeland, a prostitute and sometime-lover of Affleck's, whom he brutally beats to death on screen. The scene - and a similar one later in the film with Kate Hudson - was so graphic that the film inspired numerous walkouts and angry verbal responses at Sundance, and colored almost every one of the film's mixed reviews. Reports hit the Internet that Alba herself walked out of a screening halfway through, although her rep told the press later that the actress stood by her work and the film, and merely had to catch a flight.
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