A child performer who went on to become an adult actor in one of the more radical transformations in the history of the American entertainment industry, Sarah Jessica Parker has captained both a career and a public image that could be accurately classified under the heading Revenge of the Nerd. As a pubescent actor most famous for her roles in the acclaimed high school-set TV series Square Pegs and in the big screen's Footloose and Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Parker played the skinny girl with frizzy hair who was either the sidekick or underdog; when she wasn't cleaning up after Lori Singer in Footloose, she was battling snotty rich girls for the right to dance on local television in Girls Just Want to Have Fun. However, thanks to perseverance, talent, a fabulous stylist, and an HBO series called Sex and the City, Parker had emerged, by the end of the 1990s, as one of the most glamorous and employable actors around, known as much for the designer frocks she wore to awards ceremonies as for her work on the screen.
Born in Nelsonville, OH, on March 25, 1965, as the fourth of eight siblings, Parker grew up in relative poverty following the divorce of her mother, an elementary school teacher, and her father, an aspiring writer. Raised by her mother and often out-of-work stepfather, she trained as a dancer and singer, bringing home paychecks from a young age. As a fledgling actor, Parker landed her first TV show at the age of eight; in 1976, after winning her first Broadway role in The Innocents, her family moved to New Jersey to encourage her career. Parker worked on the stage for the next few years, touring -- with four of her siblings -- in the national company of The Sound of Music and getting her first major break when she was chosen to take over the title role of Annie on Broadway, from 1979 to 1980.
Continuing her training at the American Ballet Theater and the New York Professional Children's School, Parker made her film debut in the 1979 Rich Kids, which co-starred John Lithgow, Trini Alvarado, and Olympia Dukakis. In 1982, she won her first starring role in the aforementioned Square Pegs, and then received additional attention thanks to her role as Lori Singer's best friend and Chris Penn's girlfriend in the 1984 hit Footloose. The following year, Parker kept on dancing -- this time alongside a very young Helen Hunt -- in the similarly winning Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The actor's success in both films paved the way for steady work through the rest of the decade; in addition to her work on the big screen, Parker also starred in a number of TV shows, including the 1986 miniseries A Year in the Life and the drama series Equal Justice.
The early '90s saw Parker segue into more adult roles, playing the Southern Californian creation SanDeE* alongside Steve Martin in L.A. Story (1991), then earning both critical and cult credibility as Nicholas Cage's fiancée in Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) and as the wife of consummate schlockmeister Ed Wood in Tim Burton's celebrated 1994 film about Wood's life and times. Offscreen, as well, she was garnering notice for her attachment to actor Matthew Broderick; Parker -- who had been in high-profile relationships with Robert Downey Jr. and John F. Kennedy Jr. -- married Broderick in 1997.
Following a turn as Mia Farrow's daughter in the widely panned Miami Rhapsody (1995), supporting work in The First Wives Club and Burton's Mars Attacks! (both 1996), and a number of New York productions (including Sylvia, for which she earned a Drama Desk Award nomination), Parker landed the starring role of New York sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw on the new HBO series Sex and the City. Touted by some observers as the luckiest break in the actor's career to date, the show, which focused on the sex lives of four close friends (played by Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis) became a huge hit among both critics and viewers, ensuring Parker -- who won the Golden Globe for her work in 2000, 2001and 2002 -- both steady employment and an unimpeachably chic image that was eons removed from the bony elbows and frizzy bangs of her days as a square peg.
Parker continued to appear in film roles during and after the Carrie Bradshaw years; among them include a starring role in The Family Stone (2005), and a supporting role in the 2008 comedy drama Smart People. In 2010 she starred in Sex and the City 2, and played a devoted mother attempting to balance her family with her career in 2011’s comedy drama I Don’t Know How She Does It. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi