Also Credited As:Minka Dumont Kelly
|Minka Dumont Kelly on June 24, 1980 in Los Angeles, California, USA|
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Born on June 24, 1980 in Los Angeles, Kelly was raised in a show business family, thanks to her father, Rick Dufay, former guitarist for the legendary rockers Aerosmith on their 1982 album Rock in a Hard Place and her mother, Maureen, a former Las Vegas showgirl. Kelly's entertainment lineage stretched back even further; her grandparents were actor Richard Ney and actress Greer Garson, who won the Academy Award for her performance in "Mrs. Miniver"(1942). Kelly said her mother thought up her unique name, though kids teased her by calling her "Minka Smelly." Growing up with a musician father also had its unique perks. Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler put time in as one of Kelly's babysitters. "He used to blow up his cheeks really big for me and I used to get a kick out of it," she told Entertainment Weekly. But that went away soon after her father abandoned the family, leaving Kelly's mother to raise her only child on her own.
When she was 17, Kelly finally reconciled with her estranged father and joined him in Los Angeles two years later. Meanwhile, she went to school to become a surgical technician, but also took an acting class primarily as a hobby. Kelly said she got hooked on performing after just one class and decided to pursue it as a full time career. Stardom did not happen overnight for the hardworking actress, who took on small roles in shows such as "Drake & Josh" (Nickelodeon, 2004-07) and "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05) early in her career. In 2005, Kelly booked a short recurring role in the comedy "What I Like About You" (The WB, 2002-06), acting alongside Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth. The actress also appeared in a couple of independent movies, including "Devil's Highway" (2005) and "State's Evidence" (2006), prior to landing her breakout role.
Kelly's hard work finally paid off when she got cast in "Friday Night Lights," an emotionally gripping television drama based on writer-director Peter Berg's 2004 film of the same name, about a small Texas town that lived for nothing else but its high school football games. Kelly played Lyla Garrity, a cheerleader and fiancée of the school's star quarterback who was paralyzed from the chest down after the opening game of his senior year. To prepare for the role, Kelly trained with the Pflugerville High School cheer squad. Meanwhile, her character raised eyebrows during the show's first season when she slept with the best friend (Taylor Kitsch) of her paralyzed boyfriend. So believable was her performance that Kelly said people on the street would point their fingers at her and cry shame. Ultimately, her character redeemed herself a bit by turning to religion during the show's second season. By the end of the series' third season, Kelly's character had graduated high school and went off to college. While "Friday Night Lights" was favored by critics, low ratings often made the series a candidate for cancellation. But NBC was set to air the show's fourth season in 2009-2010, with the actress returning only as a recurring character.
"Friday Night Lights" creator Peter Berg was so impressed by Kelly's performance that he cast her in his feature film, "The Kingdom," about a counter terrorism unit investigating a bombing at a Western compound in Saudi Arabia. Kelly's first big budget film production saw her acting alongside an impressive ensemble cast that included Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner. "The Kingdom" received mixed critical reviews, however, and managed less than $50 million at the box office. But it did expose her to a wider audience. Meanwhile, her personal life was as much of a hot topic as her onscreen career. Her romantic affairs with fellow entertainers began when she dated actor Donald Faison in 2005, followed by a brief relationship with actor Chris Evans. In September 2007, Kelly began dating musician John Mayer, who himself was known for being a serial dater. US Weekly magazine reported that Mayer broke up with Kelly in January 2008 because he was unprepared to commit. Moving on from actors and rock stars, Kelly was reportedly connected to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whom she started dating in early 2009. A few months later, rumors swirled that the pair was engaged, though both denied any betrothal.
In 2009, Kelly had a minor role in the romantic comedy "500 Days of Summer" opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, a romantic comedy about a hopeless romantic falling in love with a woman who refuses to believe in true love. She next picked up a recurring role on the first season of the dramedy "Parenthood" (NBC, 2010- ) as Gaby, a behavioral aide working with the Braverman's young son, Max (Max Burkholder), a boy recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Kelly returned to the big screen alongside "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007- ) star Leighton Meester in the thriller "The Roommate" (2011), playing a college student terrorized by her obsessive roomie (Meester). Following a small turn in the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy "Just Go With It" (2011), the actress found herself in the headlines after she and Jeter called it quits around the same time she was set to appear as Eve French, one of "Charlie's Angels" (ABC, 2011- ) in the highly-publicized reboot of the iconic 1970s crime show.