Ashley Judd

Maybe it was cleaning the tour bus for her country-singing mum that gave Ashley the taste for playing tough women?

Ashley Tyler Ciminella was born on 19 April 1968 in Granada Hills, California and is the daughter of country music singer Naomi Judd. Her father is Michael Ciminella, who is a marketing analyst for the horse-racing industry.

Her mother was unemployed when she was born as she didn't become known as a singer until the 1980s. Her parents divorced in 1972 and in 1973, her mother took her family to Kentucky.

Judd spent most of her early years on the move, attending 12 schools in 13 years. Thanks to the success of her mother and sister's music career as 'The Judds', she was able to study at the University of Kentucky.

Immediately after graduating she moved to Los Angeles in search of a career as an actress. Her first audition led to a role in 'Kuffs' in 1992, although she had already made appearances in television, notably in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'. This was closely followed by a part in 'Ruby in Paradise' for which she received a New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Actress.

Television work in 'Til Death Do Us Part' helped increase her profile and she started to be cast as the 'intellectual pin-up'. Steadily building her star power, the emerging actress teamed up with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer in 1995 crime film 'Heat', followed by 'Smoke' and 'The Passion of Darkly Noon' in the same year. An Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in 'Norma Jean and Marilyn' (1996) also helped boost her career.

Following 'A Time to Kill' and 'A Normal Life', Judd starred in the tense thriller 'Kiss the Girls' (1997) alongside Morgan Freeman. The film did well at the box office and led to a part in the drama 'Simon Birch'. The thriller genre has proved most successful for the young actress, with 'High Crimes' (1999) and 'Double Jeopardy', which led to her being nominated for the 2000 MTV Movie Award for Best Female Performance, achieving success at the box office.

Judd kicked off the new century by appearing in 'Where the Heart Is' followed by 2001 romantic comedy 'Someone Like You' and 2002 biographical film 'Frida', which saw her work with Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina and Antonio Banderas.

Roles in 'The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood' (2002) and the musical biography of Cole Porter 'De-Lovely' (2004) have helped her to avoid the shackles of Hollywood typecasting. Furthermore, the latter led to a nomination for the 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.

In 2004, Judd joined Samuel L Jackson and Andy Garcia in the thriller 'Twisted' and went on to star in 'Come Early Morning' and the horror film 'Bug' in 2006. Subsequent roles in 2008's 'Helen', 2009's 'Crossing Over' and 2010's 'Tooth Fairy' kept her in the limelight.

These roles were followed by 'Flypaper' and 'Dolphin Tale' in 2011. Judd also released her memoirs called 'All That Is Bitter and Sweet' on 5 April 2011 detailing her trials and tribulations from adolescence to adulthood.

She has now returned to the small screen playing the lead character in TV show 'Missing'. She portrays a former CIA agent who is determined to find her son after he disappears under mysterious circumstances.

Judd, who has been married to Scottish racing driver Dario Franchitti since 2001, is also involved in philanthropy and politics and supported Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008. However, following an incident where a stalker posed as a police officer to get into her home, Judd tends to shy away from the celebrity public eye.

Her other philanthropic activities include becoming a global ambassador for YouthAids, which is a prevention programme. She has been a member of its Board of Directors since 2004 and has travelled to Kenya, Cambodia and Rwanda with the charity.

Judd has also donated her time and resources to record three award-winning documentaries on behalf of the project. Since 2011, she has been on the Leadership Council of the International Centre for Research on Women.