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The incredible and curious past of actress Mariska Hargitay as a beauty queen

We know her best as Olivia Benson, one of the dedicated detectives investigating vicious crimes on Law & Order: SVU. But before Mariska Hargitay stopped serial predators in New York City while stirring up sizzling sexual tension with her co-star Christopher Meloni, she was winning crowns and bands as a teen beauty queen in her home state of California.

Beauty pageants, especially in the 1980s when Mariska Hargitay was competing , weren’t exactly known for being at the forefront of the feminist movement. So if you think it sounds a bit out of the question that Hargitay, an outspoken feminist and advocate for women’s empowerment, has been a beauty queen, you’re not alone. Little did we know, though, that there’s actually a logical reason behind Hargitay’s pageant days, and no, it’s not a Sandra Bullock “Miss Congeniality” type situation either.

In 1982, 18-year-old Mariska Hargitay was crowned Miss Beverly Hills. She spoke to Time magazine at the time, saying, “My dad was Mr. Universe. So, it was fun for me to be Miss Universe . ” Most people probably know that Hargitay’s mother was world famous actress and sex symbol Jayne Mansfield, but Hargitay’s father was also an A-Lister from her time. Mickey Hargitay was crowned Mr. Universe in 1955, according to his New York Times obituary.

This is how Mariska Hargitay looks in her incredible facet as Miss Beverly Hills in 1982

Videos of some of Mariska Hargitay ‘s competitions still exist on YouTube and show a whole different side of the beloved actress. In one, the host says, “Miss Beverly Hills, you have one question left and I’ll just read it to you,” causing Hargitay herself to give him a rather hilarious sidelong glance. It’s apparent from the videos why the California native took home the crown.

In another clip, Mariska Hargitay , Miss Beverly Hills, is asked by the host what her biggest “motivating factor” is. Clearly, there was a bit of Detective Benson in Hargitay even then, because she replies, “Other people, and just the happiness I see in other people.” Hargitay went on to say that even when people walk away, she makes her want to get closer to them because she just wants to make them happy. And isn’t that what Olivia Benson does every day?


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