Though loyal fans of the critically acclaimed, woefully underappreciated series “Friday Night Lights” know exactly who Minka Kelly is, the majority of the general public might wonder why Kelly was tapped to follow in the famous footsteps of former Sexiest Women Alive – who include Kate Beckinsale, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, and Angelina Jolie.
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With an appearance on NBC’s “Parenthood” this fall, a starring role in the February horror movie “The Roommate,” and an upcoming comedy “Searching for Sonny,” in the cards, Kelly’s going to get a whole lot more recognition in the coming year. As an introduction to Esquire’s newly crowned Sexiest Woman Alive, we present you with “Ten Things You Need to Know About Minka Kelly.” Enjoy!
Minka’s boyfriend is Yankees star shortstop, Derek Jeter, but she doesn’t like to advertise it. Unlike some stars who date athletes, you’ll never see Minka down behind home plate. She likes to sit away from the photographers in Jeter’s private box, and is reticent to talk about him in the Esquire interview. We do find out, however, that the Yankees slugger loves that she’s extremely polite. “My boyfriend noticed that about me, too,” Kelly told the magazine after a series of unprovoked “thank yous.” “He’s the same way, and he said it was a good way to judge someone’s character. It’s actually unfortunate, in a way, that you would notice that. It blows my mind that anyone could be unkind to anyone.”
Minka’s dad is former Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay, and he’s good at keeping her grounded. “That’s what my dad is for me. ‘Dad, am I getting’ a little out of order?’ ‘Yes, Mink, you’re out of order.’ He never judges me for any mistake I make, he just tells me when I’m making it. And I trust him. I thank him on a daily basis. I know how lucky I am. I see too many people that don’t have that and my heart breaks for them.”
Before she scored her breakout role on “Friday Night Lights,” Minka was a surgeon’s assistant in L.A. Four years ago, Kelly was a scrub nurse, prepping things like breast implants, with the goal that she would work enough hours to get free implants of her own. The procedure was already on the calendar when Kelly decided she liked herself the way she was and called it off. Soon after NBC came calling. “I didn’t go to theater school. I didn’t go to Julliard. But I’ve lived a lot. I’ve seen a lot. I feel like that makes up for a little bit. I’ve lived a lot at my young age.”
Minka’s mom was a dancer, and the two survived on next to nothing when she was growing up. “My mom lived a fast life,” says Kelly, adding, “It was all about what we could do to have fun with nothing. She would come home at like three, four o’clock in the morning, and sometimes she would have a really great night, and so she would wake me up and we’d go to Ralphs and go grocery shopping. And that was so much fun. We’d have the whole grocery store to ourselves, and we would have a blast and buy a hundred dollars in groceries. And it was just the best day ever. The best day.”
Having turned 30, she’s more than happy to leave her 20s behind her. “The twenties were a pain in the ass — figuring it all out. What am I doing? Where do I go? I’m confident — confident in my skin, and I’m cool with my flaws and all that stuff. It just feels nice to be at peace with yourself. I think my 30th birthday gave me permission to have all that.”
She understands the pitfall of success in Hollywood. “Anyone can struggle. Anyone can want to make it and try to make it and scrape the door down and hustle. But once you become a little bit successful, that’s more challenging to handle than struggle.”
Minka used to hate the sound of her own voice. “In the first season of ‘Friday Night Lights’ my voice was very high-pitched. I came out talking like a little girl. And I watched it and thought, ‘Oh, dear.’ I worked on it, all by myself. I went to a couple of vocal coaches, but really I just was mindful of it, and I would listen, and speak from my diaphragm as opposed to my throat. Because it would drive me crazy.”
She loves to go out and hear live bands. “I love, love live music. I love the Hollywood Bowl, I love tiny little clubs — I just love live music. ‘Friday Night Lights’ was filmed entirely in Austin, and there were some bands that I discovered in Austin at live shows, and then I got their CDs and they weren’t as good. And I’d tell my friends, ‘But you gotta see them live!’”
And she also likes to stay home.
“My ideal night is dinner at home and a movie, glass of wine. Every time I’m in my sweats and I get my blanket and my pillows and I’m on the couch about to watch a movie, I find myself saying, ‘This is the life.’”
When she was a kid, Minka liked to dance. “When I was little and I was alone, I would listen to music and make up dance routines. I’d have a whole performance in my room, by myself, to music. Fully choreographed. I entertained myself that way. Copying music videos, memorizing songs. Salt N Peppa — all their songs I know verbatim. Still. I would have a tape player and I would pause it, write the words down, play, listen to a few words, pause it, write it down. Until I had the whole song written down. And then I would listen to it and look at what I wrote until I had it memorized. Obsessive little girl. I used to record the radio and make my own mix tapes. You put the tape player on record and then hit pause, and then when you hear a song you like, you let go of the pause button. Remember that?”