Brooklyn, NY, native Vanessa Ferlito grew up amid somewhat challenging circumstances as an only child (the daughter of two Italian-American hair salon owners) whose father died before she reached the age of three. She developed acting aspirations early in life and broke into the entertainment business via television, with guest spots and recurring roles on crime-themed series programs including CSI: New York and The Sopranos -- where her unmistakably ethnic, weathered but voluptuous look lent her time and again to effective portrayals of molls, mistresses, and other gritty urban female types. She landed her most prominent early feature roles in Spider-Man 2 (as a co-star in Mary Jane's play) and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof segment of the 2007 two-episode omnibus Grindhouse (as one of the low-down women stalked and murdered by Kurt Russell's psychopath Stuntman Mike). After the Tarantino project, Ferlito joined co-stars Debra Messing and Alfred Molina for the gentle comedy Nothing Like the Holidays and worked with Tyler Perry on the farce Madea Goes to Jail (2009).
Biography by Nathan Southern
- Debuted in the independent film, On_Line (2002), which followed the creation of an adult website.
- Was inspired to become a vegetarian by Shaun Monson's documentary Earthlings (2003), which investigated the daily activities of animal-dependent industries.
- Was nominated for an Image Award for her role in the made-for-TV movie Undefeated (2003).
- A 2004 New York Daily News article called her one of the next big things.
- Gave birth to her first child, a boy, in September 2007.