Also Credited As:Vanessa A Hudgens, Vanessa Anne Hudgens
|Vanessa Anne Hudgens on December 14, 1988 in Salinas, California, USA|
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Vanessa Anne Hudgens, who was born on Dec. 14, 1988 in Salinas, CA, lived all over the West Coast - from Oregon to Southern California with her parents and younger sister Stella. Hudgens came from a very ethnically diverse background, with her father Greg being of Irish and Native American descent, while her mother Gina was a mix of Filipino, Chinese and Spanish. When she was eight, Hudgens started performing in local theater productions of "Carousel," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Cinderella." After a successful commercial audition, the young actress moved to Los Angeles with her family to pursue a full time acting career. She made her feature film debut with a small role in "Thirteen" (2003) - the brutal look at modern-day teenage lives starring Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood - which was enough to get the ambitious teen's foot in the door.
Hudgens' next big screen project was much lighter and family friendly than her previous project. Co-starring with Bill Paxton in "Thunderbirds" (2004), a live-action adventure flick based on the popular 1960's TV series, the film did little to raise her profile since it did little business. She also continued to land minor appearances in sitcoms like "Quintuplets" (FOX, 2004-05) and "Still Standing" (CBS, 2006), before appearing in a couple of episodes during the second season of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" (Disney Channel, 2005- ). What happened next was a life changing moment for Hudgens.
In 2005, Disney Channel executives set out to revive the movie musical genre, with the plan of using young stars who grew up watching stage classics such as "Peter Pan" and "Les Miserables." An audition for a yet untitled project that was to be directed by Kenny Ortega - previously best known as the choreographer of 1987's "Dirty Dancing" - called for fresh new faces that Disney Channel fans could relate to. Hudgens won the coveted role of Gabriella Montez, a newly transferred student and academic decathlete who finds herself drawn to East High's star athlete and resident hunk Troy Bolton (Efron). Together, they try out for the school musical and break free from the cliques they once belonged to.
To say the TV movie was an overnight smash, was an understatement. "HSM" became the Mouse channel's most successful movie, with 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast in the U.S. The movie's soundtrack also went beyond expectations, becoming the best selling album of 2006, thanks to songs like "Breaking Free" and "When There Was Me and You" - on both of which Hudgens sang lead vocals. September 2006 also marked another milestone for the tween set's latest "It" girl. She signed with Hollywood Records and released her debut album V. The album reached gold, while the infectious first single "Come Back to Me" became a radio and MTV staple. Another single, a ballad titled "Say OK" reunited Hudgens and Efron in the music video, fueling rumors among fans that the two were more than just co-stars. With her first album a success, Hudgens announced in 2007 that she was going to record her second album.
The massive success of "HSM" also inspired a hugely-successful U.S. and Latin American tour, starring Hudgens and her co-stars Bleu, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel and Monique Coleman. Efron was the only original cast member who did not go on the road because he was in Toronto filming the movie musical "Hairspray" (2007), leaving singer and songwriter Drew Seeley (who also sang Troy's parts in "HSM") to fill in for him. Hudgens and Efron not only sang and danced during the making of "High School Musical," they also reportedly fell in love. The pair secretly dated for a few months, unofficially revealing their relationship in the pages of tabloid magazines during a Hawaii vacation in the summer of 2007. They were snapped on the beach kissing and instantly became young Hollywood's newest sweethearts, following in the footsteps of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in the eighties, and Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears in the nineties. Teenage fans of Hudgens and Efron even nicknamed the pair "Zanessa" - a combination of their first names.
The media coverage of the young lovebirds only helped bring more attention to "High School Musical 2." Premiering in August 2007 on the Disney Channel, the creators dubbed it the most anticipated sequel of all time. Hudgens joined her co-stars and boyfriend Efron at a world premiere event at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA a few days before. Not surprisingly, a third "High School Musical" was announced - in fact, a feature film this time - but none of the stars had committed to return at the time of the sequel's premiere date. By August 2007, "High School Musical 2" broke TV records as expected. A total 17.2 million viewers made it the highest rated basic cable broadcast of all time. The road to a third "HSM" movie hit a major bump however, when The National Enquirer reported they were going to print controversial nude photos of Hudgens. Many speculated it was a hoax, until a full frontal nude photo of the star surfaced on the Web on Sept. 6. It was confirmed later that day on TMZ.com by Hudgens' representatives, with a statement that claimed the photos were taken privately and it was unfortunate they had been leaked to the public.