Longoria wins her hometown's Miss Corpus Christi beauty pageant and a chance to compete in a L.A. talent show, which she wins. She stays in L.A., works a job as a corporate headhunter and continues to audition.
After guest spots on Beverly Hills, 90210 and General Hospital, Longoria gets her first recurring role as Isabella on The Young and the Restless. The character, which she plays for two years, is eventually sent to an insane asylum. "It was, like, almost minimum wage," Longoria tells L.A.'s Daily News of the daytime soap's pay scale. "But I had a great time on it, and it obviously led me to better things." In 2003, she leaves Y&R to join the second season of ABC's short-lived series, L.A. Dragnet.
With her role as Gabrielle Solis on the instantly successful Desperate Housewives, Longoria becomes a household name. She tells PEOPLE, "Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I'd come from the set, so I was in full hair and makeup, and I just wanted to go home. Four women stopped me in the poultry aisle, and they were like, 'Aren't you on that show?' Because I'm so interested right now in what everybody thinks about the show, I probably kept them 20 minutes. They were like, 'Oh my God, that happened to me!'"
Attending a San Antonio Spurs game with her father, Longoria, 29, is introduced to the team's 22-year-old star Tony Parker. The Belgian-born Parker invites Longoria's dad to dinner after the game as a way to get her to come along. Parker and Longoria talk on the phone for a month before having their first date.
L'Oréal Paris signs Longoria to an exclusive worldwide contract as a spokeswoman for the company and its brands. Her first commercial, a spot for the brand's Vive hair care, premieres later in the spring.
Desperate Housewives receives 15 Emmy nominations, including Best Comedy Series Actress for Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross. "I'm sad about it," castmate Cross tells the AP of Longoria's snub. "In terms of Eva, my prediction is she's leaving us all in the dust." Huffman takes home the award, and Housewives wins a total of six Emmy awards.
Longoria plays up her vampy show persona at the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami, appearing onstage in a one-piece bathing suit and telling the show's host, Diddy, "You said anything goes." Her skimpy appearance gets mixed reviews. "I was visually vulnerable...My stylist had to literally push me out," Longoria tells WENN. "I did not want to do it and all my girlfriends are here and they were like, 'Do it, do it, do it."
According to a San Antonio Police Department officer, Parker and Longoria "began screaming [at him] in a verbally abusive and demeaning manner," insulting his ethnicity. Longoria denies the claim in a statement: "I never made any sort of racial slurs, let alone comments about the officer being Mexican, as a Mexican myself."
Celebrating its 100th issue, Maxim creates a 75-ft. by 110-ft. display of its Longoria cover and places it in a remote Nevada desert spot so that it can be seen by passing planes and, supposedly, satellites in outer space. Longoria remains a favorite of the magazine's subscribers when she's named No. 1 on its Hot 100 list for the second year in a row.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Splash News; CBS/Reuters/Landov; Moshe Brakha/ABC; Ramey; Chris Polk/Filmmagic; kevin Winter/Getty; Erin Munn/Splash News; ELIOT PRESS/BAUER-GRIFFIN