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1983

Reese Witherspoon

A Budding Career

Witherspoon breaks into modeling and lands an acting gig at age 7, shooting a TV commercial for a florist. She continues doing local commercials and takes first place in a Ten-State Talent Fair at age 11.

1990

Reese Witherspoon

September

Girl Empowerment

The Nashville debutante develops her confidence while attending an all-girls high school. "I really believe in single-sex education," she tells PEOPLE in 2002. "There are no inhibitions. You can walk to school with your zit cream on and your hair in rollers and nobody cares."

1991

Reese Witherspoon

October 04

A Tender Debut

At 14, Witherspoon debuts in the coming-of-age drama The Man in the Moon, giving her first onscreen kiss to costar Jason London. She makes her television premiere the same year in the Diane Keaton-directed drama Wildflower.

1993

Reese Witherspoon

February

Arm Candy

A newbie to red carpet functions, Witherspoon attends a tribute to Al Pacino on the arm of actor Chris O'Donnell, Pacino's Scent of a Woman costar. Attempting to nip rumors in the bud, O'Donnell's rep tells PEOPLE, "Chris really likes her," adding, "They're just friends."

March 12

Little Leading Lady

Before graduating high school, Witherspoon appears in three more films this year, winning her first lead role in A Far Off Place. "She has charisma and that 'thing,'" Marshall Herskovitz, her director in 1993's Jack the Bear, tells PEOPLE. "The camera loves her; she is down to earth and sexy."

1997

Reese Witherspoon

March 22

Best Birthday Present Ever

In a fortuitous first meeting, Witherspoon takes note when a mutual friend brings actor Ryan Phillippe to her 21st birthday party. "I think you're my present," the actress tells Phillippe, reports PEOPLE. Both acknowledge an intense initial emotional connection; after five weeks of phone calls, letters, and e-mails, the two go out on their first date, moving in together soon after.

1999

Reese Witherspoon

March 05

On-Set Tensions

Costarring with then-boyfriend Phillippe in Cruel Intentions was a trial. Witherspoon tells Entertainment Weekly, "I had to see him make out with a lot of really cute chicks. That was definitely difficult."

Reese Witherspoon

April 23

A Vote for Reese

Critics gush about Witherspoon's sharp comedic turn in Election (opposite Matthew Broderick) as go-getter Tracy Flick, gunning to become student council president. Says New York Times critic Janet Maslin: "Ms. Witherspoon, narrowing her eyes into slits whenever Tracy is thwarted, charges through the film with all due comic monstrousness and turns her character into somebody everyone knows."

Reese Witherspoon

June

First Comes Marriage

A summer wedding follows their December engagement, and a six-months-pregnant Witherspoon, 23, and Phillippe, 24, marry on a plantation near Charleston, S.C. That September, Witherspoon gives birth to daughter Ava. "There's nothing better to me than being at home on a Friday night and eating pizza, watching movies or hanging out with Ava," she tells PEOPLE.

2001

Reese Witherspoon

July 13

Blond Ambition

Grossing a surprise $140 million, the film Legally Blonde catapults Witherspoon to leading-lady status. "Part of what I love about Elle [her character] is she's fun," Witherspoon tells PEOPLE. "She's laughing and she's girly and she likes to have her nails done. But she's also successful and ambitious." The 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, earns the star a $15 million paycheck.

Photo Credits

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): RUSS HARRINGTON; Splash News; Samuel Goldwyn/Everett; Ron Galella/Wireimage; Steve Granitz/WireImage; Bob Frame; Bob Akester; David Rohmer/X 17; Sam Emerson/MGM

Name
Reese Witherspoon
Real Name
Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
Date of Birth
March 22, 1976
Birth Place
New Orleans, La.
Relationships
Jim Toth, husband (2010 to present)
Jake Gyllenhaal, ex-boyfriend (2007 to 2009)
Ryan Phillippe, ex-husband (1997 to 2006; divorced finalized in 2008)
Mark Wahlberg (briefly dated in 1996)
Chris O'Donnell (linked in 1993)
Children
Ava Elizabeth Phillippe, daughter (9/9/1999)
Deacon Phillippe, son (10/23/2003)
Tennessee James Toth, son (9/27/2012)
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Edited by Julia Wang

Reese Witherspoon

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