By age 9, Biel is already a regular on the Boulder, Colo. musical theatre circuit and a seasoned model. After appearing in ad campaigns for the apparel firm Limited Too, she makes her television debut appearance in a Pringles commercial. In 1994, she enters the International Modeling and Talent Association competition in L.A. and wins a scholarship to an acting school, Young Actors Space, where she is discovered by her first manager Jeff Morrone.
After three years of spring trips to L.A. for what is known as "pilot season," the time of year when potential new shows are hiring actors, 14-year-old Biel earns a spot on the Aaron Spelling-produced drama 7th Heaven. She plays Mary Camden, the oldest daughter of a suburban minister's five children.
Biel's first feature film Ulee's Gold puts her toe-to-toe with screen legend Peter Fonda. The film centers on a widowed, reclusive beekeeper (Fonda) taking care of his two young granddaughters, played by Biel and Vanessa Zima. Despite the strong start, Biel auditions, but is not called back, for the role of Jane in American Beauty (a role that went to Thora Birch). Biel later blames the slight on her squeaky-clean image as a preacher's daughter on 7th Heaven.