Catalina Sandino Moreno of Maria Full of Grace

Catalina Sandino Moreno was born on April 19, 1981, in Bogota, Colombia. The daughter of a pathologist and a cattle breeder, Catalina grew up comfortably in a middle-class home and spent her childhood harboring dreams of success as an actress. To that end, the young girl signed up for classes at a nearby theater academy in Bogota and spent four years during her teens honing her acting skills.

Following her graduation from high school, Catalina -- mindful of her incredibly slim chance of making it as a performer -- began studying advertising at college. In her off hours, Catalina threw herself into the world of acting -- taking all the classes she could get her hands on and appearing in one local production after another. It was around that time that she discovered that an up-and-coming filmmaker named Joshua Marston was looking to cast an authentic Colombian girl for his latest project. Catalina quickly put together an audition tape and mailed it off to Joshua hoping for the best, but was aware that the filmmaker had already seen 800 hopefuls for the part.

Shortly after, Catalina met with Joshua face to face and quickly landed the central role in Maria Full of Grace. The film, which revolves around the trials and tribulations of a reluctant drug mule (played by Catalina), forced Catalina to confront a seedy side of life that she had been sheltered from, and there is little doubt that her naive point of view contributed heavily to her stellar performance.

In January of 2004, Maria Full of Grace premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to thundering acclaim -- eventually walking away with a distribution deal from HBO Films and Fine Line Features. After playing at a whole host of film festivals around the world -- including Cannes, Moscow and Berlin -- Maria Full of Grace opened in theaters across North America, and Catalina Sandino Moreno soon found herself at the center of a media frenzy.

While still basking in the success of Maria Full of Grace, Catalina was stunned to learn that she had been nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award -- the first Colombian to receive the nod, no less. Although she did not win, Catalina decided to take advantage of her newfound exposure by moving to New York City and signing up for acting courses at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Months later, Catalina Sandino Moreno was able to satisfy her lifelong dream of performing on the New York stage after landing a role in an adaptation of Shakespeares King John.