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Mariska Hargitay says death of mom Jayne Mansfield when she was 3 left her in the 'frozen place'

The actor is one of Glamour's 2021 Women of the Year.
/ Source: TODAY

Mariska Hargitay may have experienced tragedy early on in her life, but she's learned to channel it in a positive way.

In a revealing new interview with Glamour, the actor explains how losing her mother during childhood taught her valuable life lessons that she still carries with her to this day.

The "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" star was only 3 when her mom, Hollywood actor Jayne Mansfield, died in a car accident, and her father, Mickey Hargitay, raised her. Dealing with loss at such a young age taught the actor that life is fragile.

Jayne Mansfield and family, including Mariska Hargitay
Actor Jayne Mansfield and family are pictured here as she leaves the hospital with the newest addition to the family, baby Anthony. Left to right are Jayne Marie Mansfield, 15, Zoltan Hargitay, 5, Mickey Hargitay Jr., 6, unidentified hospital attendant, Jayne holding baby Anthony, and husband Matt Cimber with Mariska Hargitay, 1. Anthony is the first child by Cimber.Getty Images

“I think I learned about crisis very young, and I learned very young that s--- happens and there’s no guarantees, and we keep going. And then we transform it,” she told the magazine. “That’s been kind of my superpower, and the gift of having trauma early in life. I’ve spent the last 50—how old am I?—57, so 54 years sort of trying to figure out what happened and why, and what am I supposed to do with it?”

The actor is one of Glamour's Women of the Year, and she posed for a series of gorgeous photos for the magazine's latest issue, including this stunning cover shot.

The actor is one of Glamour's Women of the Year.
The actor is one of Glamour's Women of the Year.Victoria Will / Glamour

During her chat with the publication, Hargitay said she was in a "frozen place," which the magazine explained to be "the tightening that happens as a result of trauma, whether it’s sexual assault, domestic violence, or losing a parent," for a lot of her youth as a result of that trauma.

“I clearly was in that frozen place for a lot of my childhood—of trying to survive, actually trying to survive," she said. "My life has been a process of unpeeling the layers and trust and trusting again.”

While Olivia Benson is quite serious, Hargitay is a bit more lighthearted in real life.
While Olivia Benson is quite serious, Hargitay is a bit more lighthearted in real life.Victoria Will / Glamour

These days, Hargitay is most known for her role in "SVU," and she's filmed over 500 episodes of the popular show. After all that work, you'd think that she may have picked up a few of Olivia Benson's personality traits, but the opposite is true.

“My personality is very different from Olivia Benson,” she said of her serious "SVU" character. “I like to laugh…. I like to make my kids laugh. And comedy has a real currency in our household.”

The "SVU" star has filmed over 500 episodes of the show.
The "SVU" star has filmed over 500 episodes of the show.Victoria Will / Glamour

Hargitay has worked with many co-stars over the years, but she has a particular soft spot for Christopher Meloni, who left the show in 2011 after 12 seasons but recently returned for his own spinoff, "Law & Order: Organized Crime," which often crosses over with "SVU." The actor had nothing but kind words for her former co-star and real-life friend.

“He’s a bull. He’s intellectual. He’s clear. He’s focused. He’s funny. He’s a ballbuster. And to see him back stronger, faster—he’s like the bionic man,” she said. “He’s like this 60-year-old superhero who is even more dedicated, more badass, more pure, stronger, more focused. He’s just more of everything that he was.”

Hargitay looks gorgeous in the photo spread.
Hargitay looks gorgeous in the photo spread.Victoria Will / Glamour

Hargitay is in good company and joins several other Glamour Women of the Year including rapper Megan Thee Stallion, poet Amanda Gorman, biochemist and mRNA vaccine pioneer Dr. Katalin Karikó, Heart of Dinner co-founders Yin Chang and Moonlynn Tsai and Georgia voting rights activists Helen Butler, Nsé Ufot and LaTosha Brown.