Almost everyone who has spent time with Kate Hudson -including directors, family members, co-stars and interviewers – is quick to comment on her ability to light up a room. Through some combination of a winning smile, solid work ethic, and good old-fashioned talent, the young actress has gone from indie beginner to Vanity Fair cover girl in just three years. What’s more, she’s done it all without capitalizing on the success of legendary actress mom, Goldie Hawn. Kate Hudson was born in Los Angeles, California, to Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, a comedian, actor and musician. She was raised by her mother and her mother’s partner, actor Kurt Russell, whom she considers to be her father. Kate is the sister of actor Oliver Hudson, the half-sister of actor and hockey player Wyatt Russell, and the granddaughter of band musician Rut Hawn. Kate is of Hungarian Jewish (from her maternal grandmother), Italian (from her paternal grandmother), English, and German ancestry. By all accounts, Hudson was a born performer – as a child she danced and sang at every opportunity. Her family hoped that she would attend New York University after graduating from high school, but she opted to get her feet wet in the professional acting world first. She made her big-screen debut as an ambitious young starlet stranded in a tiny California town in Desert Blue (1998). Her next two films, while critically panned, made it into wider release: 200 Cigarettes (1999) (in which she played an earnest but accident-prone ditz) and Gossip (2000) (which cast her as a rich, virginal college student). Perhaps Hudson’s biggest break was landing the role of rock groupie (or “Band Aide”) Penny Lane in Almost Famous (2000). The part was originally intended for Sarah Polley; when Polley backed out to pursue another project, director Cameron Crowe considered scrapping the film altogether. Hudson, who had been cast in a smaller role (as William’s stewardess sister), begged for a chance to read for Penny. Crowe was impressed, Hudson got the part, and the show went on. As much as Tinseltown gossipmongers would like to put them at odds, mother and daughter agree that Hawn is one of Hudson’s biggest supporters.