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!'"