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Brigitte Nielsen Biography

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Birth Name: Brigitte Nielsen
Born: 07/15/1963
Birth Place: Denmark

She was born Gitte (pronounced "Ghee-Te") Nielsen on July 15, 1963 in Rødovre, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen. The daughter of Svend Nielsen, an engineer, and Hanne, a librarian, she left home and dropped out of school at 16 to pursue a modeling career in Paris. Her statuesque frame and European features helped Nielsen land modeling work with top designers, including Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, and Gianfranco Ferre. While she was often found walking the runways of fashion capitals Paris, Milan, and New York City, Nielsen also modeled for acclaimed photographers Helmut Newton and Greg Gorman in the early 1980s. After a short-lived marriage to musician Kasper Winding, with whom she had a son named Julian, Nielsen launched her acting career with a role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Red Sonja" (1985). The film's producer, Dino De Laurentiis, reportedly picked the Danish beauty to play the title character, a sword-wielding warrior from Marvel Comics' "Conan the Barbarian" series, after spotting her on the cover of a fashion magazine. "Red Sonja" also marked Schwarzenegger's third outing as the famed barbarian, preceded by "Conan the Barbarian" (1982) and "Conan the Destroyer" (1984). Despite the hefty production value and Schwarzenegger's name attached, "Red Sonja" disappointed both commercially and critically. Film critics panned Nielsen's acting, while Schwarzenegger claimed years later that it was the worst film he ever made.

That same year also marked Nielsen meeting another Hollywood action icon, Sylvester Stallone, with whom she fell madly in love. The couple embarked on a whirlwind romance that peaked with their wedding in December 1985, just six months after they met. Nielsen and Stallone acted together in two of his biggest films of the decade, "Rocky IV" and "Cobra." Relentlessly chronicled by the tabloid press who relished their passionate relationship, it did not take long for their marriage to crash and burn. Nineteen months after taking their vows, Nielsen and Stallone divorced in July 1987. That same year, Nielsen was cast as a villain in the sequel "Beverly Hills Cop II" that starred Eddie Murphy in his most famous role, the wisecracking police detective Axel Foley. She later claimed to have had an affair during filming with the director, Tony Scott before beginning a relationship almost as high-profile as the one with Stallone with professional football star Mark Gastineau. The couple dated from 1988 to 1990, breaking up after becoming engaged but not before having a son, Killian, in 1989. Marvel Comics shopped around a possible feature film starring Nielsen as the comic book character She-Hulk, going as far as taking promotional shots of the 6' ft. actress in costume, but the project was scrapped before going into production. With her popularity waning in Hollywood, which regarded her as a bit of a one-note Neanderthal, Nielsen launched her music career, releasing her debut album, the dance-oriented Every Body Tells a Story in 1987. It failed to chart stateside, but landed in the Top 30 in Italy.

Nielsen continued working in Europe, acting in low-budget films and appearing on various television shows. She occasionally appeared in low-brow American projects as a femme fatale or a buxom blonde, from the CBS TV movie "Murder by Moonlight" (1989), to the direct-to-video comedy "Snowboard Academy" with Jim Varney and Corey Haim. After a few years away from the spotlight, Nielsen reemerged on mainstream U.S. television when she co-starred on the third season of "The Surreal Life." The VH1 reality franchise brought together a group of faded stars and notorious newsmakers who must all live together under one roof as the cameras roll. Nielsen's roommates that season included actress-musician Charo, former teen heartthrob Jordan Knight, comedian Dave Coulier, singer Ryan Starr, and hip-hop star Flavor Flav. In one of the oddest pairings ever witnessed on reality television, Nielsen and Flavor Flav developed a romantic relationship during the course of their time on "The Surreal Life." VH1 capitalized on the duo's oddball chemistry with the spin-off show "Strange Love," which focused on their attempt at becoming a couple. Further adding to their complicated relationship was the fact that Nielsen had a boyfriend in Italy, whom she chose to be with at the end of the season. The couple married in July 2006.

With "The Surreal Life" resurrecting Nielsen's career, she remained a staple player on the reality show circuit, appearing on the U.K. version of "Celebrity Big Brother" (BBC, 2001- ) in 2005, where she competed alongside former mother-in-law Jackie Stallone, and competed on VH1's "The Surreal Life: Fame Games" (2007- ) the following year. With cameras seemingly following her every move more than ever, Nielsen opened up about some of her personal struggles, from her failed relationships, to her ongoing battle with alcoholism. In 2007, the actress checked herself into a Southern California rehabilitation facility, reportedly following a family intervention. The following year, she appeared on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" where she attempted to beat her alcohol addiction as, yet again, the cameras rolled on a cast of has-been celebrities bearing their souls on camera. Despite viewers' assumptions she would prove herself an on-camera trainwreck yet again, Nielsen came off surprisingly well and a bit of a mother figure to others in the cast. She also appeared to be taking her newfound sobriety and Dr. Drew's words to heart, celebrated two years of sobriety in 2010. Quietly living a more centered life, she returned to the spotlight in 2011 during Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's very public split after years of marriage following news that he had fathered a child with his Mexican maid. Nielsen claimed she had an affair with her "Red Sonja" co-star while he was in a relationship with Maria Shriver, which was initially denied but later confirmed by Schwarzenegger himself when he wrote his autobiography the following year.

By Candy Cuenco