Penélope Cruz (born 28 April 1974), is a Spanish actress and model. Signed by an agent at age 15, she made her acting debut at 16 on television and her feature film debut the following year in Jamón, jamón (1992) to critical acclaim. Her subsequent roles in the 1990s and 2000s included Open Your Eyes (1997), The Hi-Lo Country (1999), The Girl of Your Dreams (2000) and Woman on Top (2000). Cruz achieved recognition for her lead roles in the 2001 films Vanilla Sky, All the Pretty Horses, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Blow.
She has since appeared in films in a range of genres, including the comedy Waking Up in Reno (2002), the thriller Gothika (2003), the Christmas film Noel (2004), and the action adventure Sahara (2005). She was critically acclaimed for her roles in Volver (2006) and Nine (2009), receiving Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for each. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for playing María Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She was the first Spanish actress in history to receive an Academy Award and the first Spanish actress to receive a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Cruz has modelled for Mango, Ralph Lauren and L’Oréal. Penélope and her younger sister Mónica Cruz have designed clothing for Mango. Cruz has volunteered in Uganda and India, where she spent one week working with Mother Teresa; she donated her salary from The Hi-Lo Country to help fund the late nun’s mission.
She was born in the working-class town of Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain, to Encarna, a hairdresser and personal manager, and Eduardo Cruz, a retailer and car mechanic. She has two siblings, Monica, an actress, and Eduardo, Jr. She also has a paternal half-sister, Salma. She was raised as a Roman Catholic. Cruz grew up in Alcobendas, and spent long hours at her grandmother’s apartment. She says she had a happy childhood. Cruz remembers “playing with some friends and being aware that I was acting as I was playing with them. I would think of a character and pretend to be someone else.”
Initially, Cruz focused on dance, having studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory.She took three years of Spanish ballet training and four years of theatre at Cristina Rota’s New York school. She says that ballet instilled in her discipline that would be important in her future acting career. When she became a cinephile at 10 or 11, her father bought a Betamax machine, which was then a very rare thing to own in her neighborhood.