Singer/dancer/actress Marissa Jaret Winokur achieved celebrity on the basis of her stage work, by originating the role of Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway production of the musical Hairspray (based, in turn, on the 1988 John Waters film of the same title). The daughter of an architect, raised with three siblings in Bedford Village, NY, Winokur first revealed a passion for entertaining when she caught a Connecticut regional production of Meet Me in St. Louis at age eight, subsequently memorized the entire show, and later declared Ethel Merman as one of her chief role models. After attending Bedford Village's Fox Lane High School, Winokur attended Manhattan's prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy, then joined the touring company of Grease (performing as Pink Lady Jan). Scattered bit parts in movies followed, including Never Been Kissed (1999), American Beauty (1999), and Scary Movie (2000); Hairspray, however, represented Winokur's big breakthrough when it premiered in the late summer of 2002. She starred in that production opposite Harvey Fierstein, Laura Bell Bundy, and others, and it paved the way for an eminent acting career.
Winokur followed this with an upsurge in television activity -- first with a part as a coffee-counter employee on the short-lived Pamela Anderson sitcom Stacked (2005-2006), then as a contestant on season six of the reality series Dancing With the Stars (where Winokur danced with partner Tony Dovolani). She became the host of Dance Your Ass Off, and a member of The Talk, a daytime series modeled on The View.