Who Is Mariska Hargitay’s Mom? The Tragic Truth About the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star’s Past

To many TV viewers, Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay probably feels like family. For the past 20 years, we’ve been watching as Detective Olivia Benson has solved heartbreaking crimes and fought for justice for victims. In fact, the enduring NBC show is now tied with the original Law & Order and Gunsmoke for the honor of being the longest-running live-action TV drama.

But what some viewers might not know is that Hargitay comes from a famous Hollywood family with a tragic history.

Jayne Mansfield is Mariska Hargitay’s mom

jayne mansfield mariska hargitay

Jayne Mansfield | Hulton Archive/Getty Images | Mariska Hargitay | Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

The 54-year-old Law & Order star is the daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield and actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay.

Along with stars like Marilyn Monroe and Mamie Van Doren, Mansfield was one of the most famous blonde Hollywood bombshells of the 1950s and 1960s. She was known for her roles in movies like The Girl Can’t Help It, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, The Wayward Bus, and Kiss Them for Me, as well as her work on stage and in television.

Mansfield also posed for Playboy and had a serious knack for self-promotion. Known as the “working man’s Monroe,” she would stage strategic wardrobe malfunctions and rarely turned down an opportunity for an interview or public appearance. Ninety percent of the people at her 1957 wedding to Hargitay were reporters, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“If it weren’t for Mansfield then, there would likely be no Kardashians today,” the magazine noted.

A tragic end

While Mansfield was a big star, her popularity had started to wane by the 1960s. In 1967, she was traveling from Biloxi, Mississippi, where she’d recently performed, to New Orleans when the car she was riding in slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer. Mansfield was killed instantly,along with the two other passengers in the front seat of the vehicle. She was 34 years old.

Three of Mansfield’s five children were also in the car – 8-year-old Mickey Jr., 6-year-old Zoltan, and 3-year-old Mariska. All three survived the crash with minor injuries. (Their father, who divorced from Mansfield, wasn’t in the car at the time of the accident.)

How Hargitay coped with her mother’s loss

Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield in Venice with film producer Enrico Bomba in 1962. | Keystone Features/Getty Images

Hargitay has said in interviews that she has no recollection of the deadly accident, but has called losing her mother at a young age “the scar of my soul.” Though she was only three when her mother passed away, the actress says she feels Manfield’s presence in her life.

“Someone once said about [remembering] my mother: ‘All you have to do is look in the mirror,” Hargitay told People magazine earlier this year. “She’s with me still.”

“The way I’ve lived with loss is to lean into it,” she added. “As the saying goes, the only way out is through. In my life, certainly I’ve tried to avoid pain, loss, feeling things. But I’ve learned instead to real­ly lean into it, because sooner or later you have to pay the piper.”

How she wants her mother to be remembered

While Mansfield is best remembered for her curvy figure and drop-dead gorgeous looks, Hargitay wants people to know that her mother was more than just a sex symbol.

“My mother was this amazing, beautiful, glamor­ous sex symbol — but people didn’t know that she played the violin and had a 160 IQ and had five kids and loved dogs,” she said in the interview with People. “She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life, and I think I share that with her.”

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