People tend to think of celebrities as people who live charmed lives. After all, they all make a lot of money and live in fabulous houses. They get to travel the world seeing sights some only ever dream of witnessing first hand.

While celebrities sure do get the chance to savor the sweet life, that doesn’t mean they never know pain. They are still human beings, after all. No matter how famous you are, there is no escaping life’s tragedies.

Actress Mariska Hargitay’s life has been full of tragedy and misfortune. However, this TV legend refuses to let her upsetting past keep her down.

1. Her mother was the famous film star Jayne Mansfield, so drama runs in her blood. However, when her mother died tragically in a car wreck it would have an impact on the rest of Mariska’s life. 

2. Because losing a parent isn’t hard enough, Mariska was forced to actually buy back all of her mother’s fine jewelry after her death when people sought to take advantage of the star’s premature death. Needless to say, this was an unsavory experience.

3. After her mother died, Mariska struggled to overcome the tragic loss, something that became increasingly difficult to when people began spreading terrible rumors about the way her mother died. They were gruesome.

4. Though Mariska lost her mother when she was just an infant, it took her decades to actually process the fact that she had lost her mother and to deal with the wounds never knowing her left behind. 

5. Just after losing her mother, Mariska also nearly lost the beloved step-mother who had become like a second mother to her and the rest of her siblings. It was a traumatic event that upset the entire family, and understandably so. 

6. While you might look at Mariska and associate her with being on the right side of the law, that’s just TV. The truth is she once found herself behind bars! When you find out what put her there, you’ll totally relate. 

7. Although she is considered a woman of wealth and fame today, it wasn’t always that way. In her early life, Mariska wracked up six-figures worth of total debt. There was time when she thought she would never be free. 

8. The hits just kept coming. During what should have been the happiest days of her life, tragedy struck.  Mariska was forced to endure losing her father to a very aggressive form of cancer in 2006.

9. Just like her father, Mariska has had health scares all her own. She was hospitalized in 2009 to receive treatment for a serious collapsed lung that had gone undiagnosed for quite some time. 

10. After having her first child, Mariska and her husband Peter decided to try and adopt another so their son could have a sibling. The mother of the baby they were going to adopt changed her mind at the last possible minute.

11. The most important thing about Mariska is that, even though she has faced incredible odds, she remains positive in every single thing that she does and that message shines through in her actions. 

12. Mariska is more than just a pretty face. While working hard at college and struggling to make it as an actress, she also taught herself to speak three languages all on her own. In addition to English she speaks fluent French, Hungarian, and Italian.

13. Mariska is the founder and the president of Joyful Heart Foundation, which helps rape and sexual-assault victims. She was inspired to start it because of her work on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

[extraWhen asked why it is so important to give back to survivors and to help women in need, she had this to say: “It’s simple physics: the greater the number of people willing to lift, the lighter the load that each individual must carry.” Could she be any more inspirational?[/extra]

14. While Mariska’s life has been one of countless hardships, she has also had moments of great triumph. One of those came as early as 1982 when she was crowned Miss Beverly Hills. She’s got brains and beauty!

15. Fame didn’t come easily. Even after shooting a starring role in the 1995 Powers Rangers movie, Mariska learned that she was being cut out and replaced with the work of another actress. Tough stuff!

Who knew that Mariska’s life has been so full of challenges. She’s a true survivor!