April 28, 2014
Happy Birthday Penélope Cruz, A Look At Her Rise To Fame

Spanish actress Penélope Cruz is celebrating her 40th birthday and it's a good time as ever to take a look at how the brunette beauty came to become one of the most sought after stars of our times.

Penélope is an actress and model, who made her acting debut in a music video at the tender age of 16, after signing with an agent at 15. Even more shocking was that she appeared in a French TV series called Série rose, for which she appeared totally naked.

Her film debut was in 1992 -- when she was 18-years-old -- in the film Jamón, jamón where she played a a young woman who is pregnant with her first child by a man whose mother does not approve of the relationship and tries to break things off by paying Javier Bardem's character to seduce her.

For this film Cruz appeared topless and became an instant sex symbol in her native Spain, not only because of her nude scenes, but her obvious talent as an actress.

In a 1999 interview with Los Angeles Daily News Penélope said:

"It was a great part, but...I wasn't really ready for the nudity...But I have no regrets because I wanted to start working and it changed my life."

The film went on to receive rave reviews and Penélope decided to move the New York to continue pursuing her acting career in the US and studied ballet and English in between movies.

In 2001 Penélope Cruz had a turning point in her career when she was cast to star in Vanilla Sky -- which made $200 million -- and Blow.

Critics took notice of the Spanish actress calling her an "enchanting screen presence" and "multi-talented."

In 2009, Penélope Cruz starred in the screen version of the musical Nine for which she trained for months to do the dance routine in the film. Her performance earned her a Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG.

But Penélope is not only a beautiful and talented actress, she has also spent some time volunteering for causes she is passionate about. She has done work in Nepal and Uganda and even helped Mother Teresa of Calcutta for a week taking care of those afflicted from leprosy.

This experience inspired Cruz to start a foundation to help homeless girls in India and she donated the entire pay check from her movie The Hi-Lo Country to Mother Teresa's cause.

Penélope Cruz married co-star Javier Bardem in 2010 and together they have two children, Leonardo and Luna.

[Image via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com]