Shortly after Christina Hendricks' birth, her family moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, a small, quiet town where one of the few activities available for children was community theater. "My mom got my brother and I involved in a community theater group, so we could create our own fun," Hendricks recalls. "And that's where it all started for me. I spent my whole childhood with this theater called J.U.M.P. Company: Junior Musical Playhouse. It was amazing how many talented kids there were in the group, and also how many people in the community jumped in to volunteer, to direct, to build sets, whatever needed to be done. We'd put on these shows at the community college, and half the town would show up! So it was great. It was the happiest time of my life."
When Hendricks was 14 years old, her family moved to Fairfax, Virginia, where she attended Fairfax High School. An artsy kid in a school dominated by jocks and preps, Hendricks struggled to fit in. "I had the worst high school experience ever," she remembers. "People literally spit on me. I was a Goth girl, and in preppy Fairfax County, that did not go over very well. My friends and I were all weird theater people. Some of us were gay. And everyone just hated us." Hendricks dyed her hair purple and wore thick black lipstick. "My mother was mortified and kept telling me how horrible and ugly I looked, and strangers would walk by with a look of shock on their face," she says. "So I never felt pretty, you know. I just always felt awkward." Nevertheless, no amount of hair dye or dark makeup could obscure Hendricks' increasingly apparent beauty, and toward the end of high school a friend persuaded her to enter a modeling competition to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine. "When I got the pictures back my mum and I started crying because I had no idea I could be pretty," she recalls. "It just sort of changed my perspective of myself."
Hendricks did not win the contest but at the age of 19, after graduating high school, she moved to New York and began modeling professionally. Hendricks thoroughly enjoyed her time as a model. "I loved it a lot," she says. "I know a lot of girls who are like, 'Ugh, I hated it,' and I'm like, 'Really' You hated being paid to travel all around the world and have your picture taken' That must have been horrible for you.'" Hendricks refers to her time modeling as "boot camp," saying that it provided ample training for the cutthroat world of show business.
"I don't think I'd have as thick a skin as an actress if I hadn't done the modeling," she said. "Because you get rejected seven times a day as a model and you're not even doing anything. That can either kill you in a month or, you know, build up a tolerance in you, and I think it helped me." After two years modeling in New York, Hendricks moved to London, where she also spent a year modeling. "I was there for the perfect time -- 1996. It was huge for fashion and music and there was so much energy. It was Britpop-crazy and I'm the biggest Britpop fan."
Hendricks left London at the end of the year and moved with her mother to Los Angeles to attempt to make the transition from model to actress. Two years later, in 1999, she landed her first acting roles: a small part in a TV movie called "Sorority" and a recurring role in the TV series "Undressed." Still, it took Hendricks an entire decade in Hollywood to land anything more than small bit parts on television shows. Her most prominent acting credits during this period were recurring stints on "Beggars and Choosers," "ER," "Kevin Hill" and "Life."
Hendricks' big break came in 2009, when she was cast in "Mad Men," an AMC series created by "Sopranos" writer Matthew Weiner. Set in New York City in the early 1960s, "Mad Men" revolves around the employees of Sterling Cooper, a fictional advertising agency on Madison ("Mad") Avenue. Hendricks portrays Joan Holloway, the agency's sexy, sassy office manager, who simultaneously stands up to and mesmerizes the show's dominant male characters. Initially imagined as only a temporary role, Joan quickly evolved into one of the show's most iconic characters, propelling Hendricks virtually overnight into the national spotlight. "Joan's this wonderful combination that people have responded to," Hendricks says. "I think that in this world of men, in this boys' club, she gives a sense of levity to the workplace, and sexuality, and she's a little brassy. She's just so much fun to play. I love her." "Mad Men," which recently completed its fourth season on AMC, has won numerous Golden Globe and Emmy Awards, and Hendricks received a 2010 Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
The show even had an effect on her romantic life: Co-star Vincent Kartheiser (who plays Pete Campbell) introduced her to actor Geoffrey Arend, whom she married in 2009.
Hendricks has gained celebrity not only for her stirring performance on "Mad Men," but also for her voluptuous body -- at once a timeless vision of feminine beauty and a rarity in a modern Hollywood overpopulated with stick-thin actresses. She says, "I've had people come up to me and say, 'You've made me feel proud about my curves,' or, 'It's so refreshing to see body types [like yours].'" In 2010, Esquire magazine named Hendricks the sexiest woman alive. Asked about her own perceptions of her body, Hendricks responded, "I feel sexy and I feel like a woman and I feel happy, and I don't feel like I'm constantly depriving myself or beating myself up and I still feel beautiful But at the same time," she added. "I'm a woman and do I want to lose 10 pounds' Absolutely, like everyone does. So I can't say: I've mastered that, I've gotten beyond that."
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