January 8, 2001
Photo Editor: Kathryn McCarver

Flex and the city: Parker en pointe, photographed in New York

With a hard‑knock childhood behind her, she has earned her fame and fortune.

You have to root for Sarah Jessica Parker and her smashing suc­cess in HBO's Sex and the City. The Cincinnati‑born Parker, 35, grew up with seven siblings in bohemian poverty. Her mother loved the arts, her stepfather drove a truck, and Parker remembers living on food stamps. "That is why I have such a weird relationship with money," she said earlier this year, citing her bipolar urges to be "profligate and superfrugal… I have been working so hard for 25 years ‑ why can't I have another pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes?"

Well, why can't she? She had her first paying gig, in a TV movie, at age 8. She was Annie on Broadway for two years, then appeared in several television series. "Every TV show I do gets great ratings, wins Emmys and is canceled," she has said. Finally, in 1991, she got her breakthrough part, as a dippy, adorable Rollerblader in Steve Martin's L.A. Story. Not until debuting two years ago as needy, endearing columnist Carrie Bradshaw, however, did Parker become a true celebrity. Now there's the Golden Globe (best actress in a comedy series). The ratings (10 million viewers every week). The salary (more than $100,000 per episode). And she's making movies again: In the just-released State and Main, a David Mamet comedy, she plays an actor who won't (like Parker) do nude scenes.

After a brief dalliance with John F. Kennedy Jr., Parker married actor Matthew Broderick three years ago. Like her husband, Parker keeps one foot in the theater. "A woman's movie career is much shorter than a man's," Parker has said, and she takes on stage roles "out of love but not without a certain degree of calculation." Smart girl.