Minka Kelly Biography

As Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights, Minka Kelly was a picture of perfection: head cheerleader, dating the high school quarterback, born again Christian, and eventual college student. It was hard to believe that Kelly’s own upbringing didn’t somehow mirror her coming of age on the show. Well, not quite.

Kelly was born out of wedlock; her mother was an exotic dancer in Vegas and her father a sometime guitarist for Aerosmith. Kelly was raised by her mother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and her childhood was, in her own words, “pretty rough” (Stinka Smelly rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?). But with the support of her mother -- with whom she was close -- Kelly graduated high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business.

minka kelly says no to a career in modeling

During a model casting, Minka Kelly was approached by a former Playmate, who offered to manage the young ingenue. The plan was to have Kelly work as a receptionist at a plastic surgeon’s office until she earned herself a pair of fake breasts, making her a shoo-in for Playboy’s Playmate of the Year honors. The only problem was that Kelly liked the way she looked, and canceled the surgery days before it was scheduled. Instead, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, and save for a few small roles on some bargain-bin television shows, Kelly seemed destined for a life of changing diapers and bedsheets.

minka kelly stars on friday night lights

In an industry that fetishizes youth, a 26-year-old Minka Kelly was already over-the-hill when she was cast as head cheerleader Lyla Garrity in NBC’s football drama Friday Night Lights, especially since she was charged with the task of playing a high school student. But play her she did, with as much conviction, poise and heart as some of Hollywood’s most seasoned actresses. Even The New York Times called the young actress’ performance “heartbreaking.”

When Kelly left the show after four seasons, she had all the momentum of most young actresses coming off hit shows, except that she was already pushing 30, and the offers weren’t coming in. Bit parts opposite Jamie Foxx in The Kingdom and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer proved that Kelly was equipped with the tools to command the big screen, but the offers just weren’t coming.

minka kelly is named esquire’s sexiest woman alive

Past winners of Esquire’s “Sexiest Woman Alive” have starred in films like Match Point, Monster’s Ball and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They’ve worked with directors like Woody Allen, Oliver Stone and Paul Haggis. They’ve been nominated for and won Oscars. This year’s winner has appeared in episodes of American Dreams, What I Like About You and Parenthood. Her current claim to fame is her relationship with one of the winningest baseball players of all time, Derek Jeter. OK, so maybe we’re being a little hard on Minka Kelly. Her figure is near perfect and her face is liable to start wars, but isn’t she just a more syrupy version of another brunette whose name rhymes with Fegan Mox?

Perhaps her selection was Esquire’s way of “thinking outside the box” or maybe no A-list actress was willing to appear on the cover, for fear that it might forever relegate them to that dreaded “sexpot” category, vanquishing all aspirations of a serious acting career (even Angelina Jolie has trouble playing anything other than a seductress). Whatever the case may be, we’re sure Minka Kelly isn’t complaining. With her thriller The Roommate (costarring Leighton Meester) on the way, the sexy cover and inside photo spread has been burning a hole through the interweb, and drumming up just enough publicity for her upcoming film to make it a hit. Isn’t 30 the new 20 anyways?