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Mariska Hargitay Opens Up About Her Late Mother, Jayne Mansfield, In An Emotional New Interview

NBC / 20th Century Fox

The two things I love most are old movies and detective shows, so I was stunned when I learned that Mariska Hargitay is the daughter of actress and model Jayne Mansfield.

It's a connection the star of Law and Order: SVU used to shy away from, because of her painful childhood memories.

After more than 50 years, Hargitay is finally ready to reflect on her famous mother, and her untimely death.

Famous Parents

Hargitay's mother wasn't her only famous family member.

Her father was the Hungarian bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, who also starred in movies alongside Mansfield.

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay.
Mansfield and Hargitay.RockyAndNelson / Flickr

They lit up the screen in crowd-pleasing hits like The Loves of Hercules and Promises, Promises, before going there separate ways.

They divorced just three years before Mansfield's tragic death in a car accident at age 34.

But what the late movie star's fans often forget is Mariska Hargitay was in the car during her mother's fatal crash.

"Losing my mother at such a young age is the scar of my soul"

Hargitay and her brothers were sleeping in the backseat of her mother's car while Mansfield, her boyfriend, and their driver sat up front.

The three adults were killed instantly during the crash, while the children miraculously survived.

Jayne Mansfield death car.
The car Mansfield was riding in after the accident.Roadtrippers

Hargitay doesn't remember the crash - she was only three at the time - but still has a scar on the side of her face from that fateful day.

But losing her mother still hurts more than the accident ever did.

"Losing my mother at such a young age is the scar of my soul," Hargitay confessed to Closer Weekly.

Decades later, the actress is sharing details about her late mother's death that even her biggest fans don't know.

"In some ways, being the daughter of a Hollywood icon has been a burden,"

Years ago, Hargitay admitted she had trouble growing up in her mother's shadow.

"I used to hate constant references to my mom because I wanted to be known for myself," she told Closer.

Mariska Hargitay
SM Photography / Wikimedia

"In some ways, being the daughter of a Hollywood icon has been a burden."

But as she got older, Hargitay is learning to embrace her mother's legacy.

"The way I've lived with loss is to lean into it," she told People in a new interview.

"I'm not saying it's easy, and it certainly hasn't been for me. There's been a lot of darkness. But on the other side, things can be so bright."

And re-discovering her mother has reminded Hargitay of everything her fans never knew about the late star.

"She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration"

Mansfield is remembered mainly as a "blonde bombshell," like her fellow Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.

Jayne Mansfield.
Diario.mx

But Hargitay says there was more to the actress than meets the eye.

"People didn't know that she played the violin and had a 160 IQ and had five kids and loved dogs," she said.

"She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life, and I think I share that with her."

Hargitay has even found a way to share her success with her mother, by sneaking her onto episodes of Law and Order: SVU.

"She's with me still."

Part of the way Hargitay stayed connected to her mother was sneaking her onto the set of Law and Order: SVU.

If you look closely on Detective Olivia Benson's desk, you'll find a framed photo of Benson's "mother," which is actually a picture of Mansfield.

Jayne Mansfield and Mariska Hargitay.
Mariska Hargitay / Instagram

Hargitay's father, Mickey, also had a cameo on the series before his death in 2006.

But Hargitay's strongest connection to her late mother goes even deeper.

"Someone once said about (remembering) my mother: 'All you have to do is look in the mirror,'" she said. "She's with me still."

"I understand [my mother] in a new way"

Another connection Hargitay shared with Mansfield is they are both mothers, as Hargitay has three children of her own.

Mariska Hargitay family.
Mariska Hargitay with her husband and children.Patrick McMullan / Children's Museum of the Arts

And the actress says she has grown closer to Mansfield since becoming a mother herself.

"I understand [my mother] in a new way that gives me peace," she explained.

"Now I understand the love she had in her, and it makes me feel closer to her."

It's tragic she never got to know her mother... but sweet that she still feels so deeply connected to her.

[H/T: People]

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