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Amber Valletta Biography

Home > Supermodels > V > Valletta, Amber > Biography

Birth Name: Amber Valletta
Born: 02/09/1974
Birth Place: Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Born on Feb. 9, 1974 in Tucson, AZ, Valletta was raised in Tulsa, OK, where she attended Booker T. Washington High School. Initially wanting to be a social worker as a teenager, her mother - who worked at a post office - recognized her striking beauty and enrolled the 15-year-old in modeling school at the Linda Layman Agency instead. Valetta had her earliest experience at a local mall where she did runway work. Not long after she signed a contract with Calvin Klein's Eternity fragrance. In 1993, she became the face of Giorgio Armani, while two years later she became the face of Gucci and Versace. Also at this time, She traveled to Milan, where she landed a job with Vogue, which was quickly followed by a cover shoot for French Elle in 1996, all of which assured her status as a supermodel in the making. Meanwhile, Valletta's film and television career was launched in 1995 when - like Cindy Crawford before her - she and close friend and fellow model Shalom Harlow co-hosted MTV's "House of Style" (1995-2000) during the 1995-96 season.

In her personal life, Valetta took at stab at marriage in 1994 with fellow model Herve Le Bihan, but the couple wound up divorced two years later. In the late 1990s, Valetta famously dated Leonardo DiCaprio, but the union proved fleeting at best. At the same time, Valletta finally attained supermodel status thanks to countless magazine shoots and advertising campaigns for the likes of DKNY, Prada, Chanel and Valentino circa 1999-2002, while frequenting the runways of Europe and America for designers like Chanel, Gaultier, Christian Dior, and Dolce and Gabbana. Wanting to expand her palette, Valetta transitioned to acting with her feature debut in the festival-bound indie comedy "Drop Back Ten" (2000), playing an abused wife cheating on her husband with a muckracking ex-sports reporter (James LeGros). That same year, she had a key role as a young woman whose disappearance leads Michelle Pfeiffer to question the innocence of her renowned scientist husband (Harrison Ford) in Robert Zemeckis' Hitchcockian thriller "What Lies Beneath" (2000). From supernatural thriller to fantasy, Valletta had a small role in "The Family Man" (2000), a Christmas-themed comedy where Nicolas Cage played a successful workaholic bachelor offered the chance to step into the life he left behind. She followed up with a small part as a sympathetic teacher to Alex Linz's new kid in school in "Max Keeble's Big Move" (2001), and basically played herself in "Perfume" (2001), an indie drama centered around the fashion industry.

Despite being a supermodel-turned-actress, Valletta had the chops to be taken seriously by her acting peers, unlike Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, among others. She took on a small supporting role in Danny DeVito's woeful indie comedy "Duplex" (2003) and appeared opposite Kate Hudson and Joan Cusack in Garry Marshall's vanilla romantic comedy "Raising Helen" (2004). Meanwhile, Valletta married long time beau and Olympic volleyball player Christian "Chip" McCaw, whom she met after dating DiCaprio in 1998. The two had a son in 2000 named Auden, but waited another three years to tie the knot. Though her modeling career was on hold, Valletta returned to features with her first prominent role, playing the boss of a meek-and-mild employee (Kevin James) smitten with her in the romantic comedy, "Hitch" (2005), which starred Will Smith as his professional dating coach. She followed that mild success by playing the mother of a kidnapped child in the Jason Stratham action thriller, "Transporter 2" (2005), only to drop out of public view in 2006 to spend time at The Meadows rehabilitation facility in Wickenburg, AZ. According to the actress, her stay was not drug or alcohol related, but instead a result of work stress, image issues and non-substance addiction.

After emerging from treatment later in the year, Valletta returned to features with a small role in the direct-to-DVD dramedy "Man About Town" (2006), starring Ben Affleck, and played the fiancée of a Midwestern businessman (Brendan Fraser) struggling to adapt to the big city while fending off his love-struck boss (Michael Keaton) in "The Last Time" (2006). She impressed audiences and critics with performances as fragile women in danger in the thrillers, "Dead Silence" (2007) and "Premonition" (2007), though neither film did well at the box office. After playing a swimsuit model in the little-seen romantic comedy "My Sexiest Year" (2007), Valletta co-starred opposite Gerard Butler in the over-the-top sci-fi thriller "Gamer" (2009), which depicted a near future where video gamers control the movement and actions of other humans. The film was both a critical and commercial failure. Valletta stumbled again with "The Spy Next Door" (2010), a family-friendly action comedy starring Jackie Chan as an international spy on loan to the CIA who gives up his espionage ways in favor of a normal life. Turning to series television for a possible change in fortune, she landed a recurring role on the breakout hit primetime soap, "Revenge" (ABC, 2011- ), playing the former best friend of the powerful matriarch (Madeleine Stowe) of a well-to-do Hamptons family who becomes the target of a young woman (Emily VanCamp) returned home to avenge her father's wrongful conviction for terrorism.

By Shawn Dwyer