Though she has an Ivy League degree, Leslie Stefanson decided to parlay her all-American beauty into a modeling and acting career in the 1990s. Raised in Moorhead, MN, Stefanson left behind her small-town roots to attend Columbia University's Barnard College in New York City. First stepping in front of the cameras as a model, Stefanson added acting to her resume a couple of years after graduation with a bit part in the comedy The Cowboy Way (1994). Stefanson bolstered her new career with small roles in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) and Flubber (1997), as well as playing Helen Hunt's fellow waitress in the Oscar-winning hit As Good As It Gets (1997). Stefanson landed her first starring role in the comic thriller Delivered (1998), but it was the flashy John Travolta vehicle The General's Daughter (1999) that finally earned her more than passing notice. As the mysteriously murdered title character, Stefanson's wholesome blondeness became an innocent, fragile surface for the military woman's seamy after-hours exploits and dark past. Though the critics deemed the onscreen treatment of the general's daughter grossly exploitative, complete with an overly stylized gang rape, The General's Daughter became a summer hit. Stefanson further raised her profile the following year by playing Joan Kennedy in the TV miniseries Jackie, Ethel, Joan: the Women of Camelot (2000) and by taking a small role in Hollywood wunderkind M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable (2000). But her lead performance in Sally Field's critically lambasted beauty pageant satire Beautiful (2000), was little-seen.