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Spanish actress Penélope Cruz was born in Alcobendas, Madrid, on April 28th 1974. Penelope’s mother was a hairdresser and her father was a car mechanic. She has a younger brother, Eduardo, who is a singer, and a younger sister, Mónica, who is also a Spanish actress. Penélope Cruz initially wanted to be a dancer and studied classical ballet for nine years from a young age. During her teens she turned her focus towards acting and went for a number of auditions. She was quickly snapped up by an agent at the age of 15 and made her acting debut at 16 on Spanish television. Between 1990 and 1997, she hosted Spanish TV channel Telecinco’s teenage talk show “La Quinta Marcha” and also featured in an episode of erotic French TV series “Série rose” in 1991, where she appeared totally naked.

Penélope Cruz’s first feature film appearance was in the 1992 Spanish film Jamón, Jamón alongside a young Javier Bardem who was to become her future husband in 2010. She appeared topless in this film and became an instant Spanish sex symbol. She played a character called Silvia who is pregnant by a man whose mother disapproves of their relationship and tries to sabotage things by paying Javier Bardem´s character to seduce her. Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem also worked together on screen in the 1997 film “Carne trémula” (“Live Flesh”) and the 2008 film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. On 14th September 2010, it was announced that Penélope Cruz was four and a half months pregnant with their first child. Leo Encinas Bardem was born on 22nd January 2011 at the Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

2001 was the big breakthrough year for Penélope Cruz when she starred in two big Hollywood blockbuster films “Vanilla Sky” and “Blow”, alongside Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp respectively. Vanilla Sky was American film director Cameron Crowe’s interpretation of the 1997 Spanish film “Abre los ojos” (“Open Your Eyes”) and Penélope Cruz played Sofia Serrano, the love interest of Tom Cruise’s character David Aames. Penélope Cruz had played exactly the same role in “Abre los ojos” speaking Spanish alongside Eduardo Noriega, Fele Martínez and Najwa Nimri and under the direction of Spanish film director Alejandro Amenábar. Vanilla Sky received mixed reviews, but made an impressive $200 million worldwide. The performance of Penélope Cruz in this film was generally very well received by critics and from this point on she was a big star in Hollywood.

Penélope Cruz is a close friend of Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar with whom she has worked on various films such as Carne trémula (1997), Todo sobre mi madre (1999), Volver (2006) and Los abrazos rotos (2009). Penélope Cruz was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actress, making her only the second Spanish actress ever to be nominated in that category. Volver won two awards: Best Actress and Best Screenplay at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Penélope Cruz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 2008 Woody Allen film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” in which she played Maria Elena. More recently Penélope Cruz has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters “Sex and the City 2” (2010) and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (2011).

Penélope Cruz had a three-year relationship until 2004 with Tom Cruise after they appeared together in Vanilla Sky. She then dated actor Matthew McConaughey from February 2005 to June 2006. Penélope Cruz owns her own clothing store in Madrid and has also designed jewelry and handbags with her younger sister Mónica. She is a keen philanthropist and has donated a lot of her money and time to charity over the years. In addition to work in Nepal, she has volunteered in Uganda and India, where she spent a week working for Mother Teresa that included assisting in a leprosy clinic. She later helped start a foundation to support homeless girls in India, where she sponsors two young women. She donated her salary from her first Hollywood movie, “The Hi-Lo Country”, to Mother Teresa’s mission.

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