Actress Vanessa Marcil


Vanessa Marcil is known for her many unique qualities. Talent, beauty, and generosity are three of the top traits that come to mind when one thinks of Vanessa Marcil. Over the years, Marcil has constructed a public persona that is quite close to her personality in real life. She is an actress of stage, the small screen and film who has worked hard to get to where she is today, starring as one of the most popular characters on one of the highest-rated daytime soap operas. Ms. Marcil has portrayed many strong women characters throughout her acting career. Although Ms. Marcil has experienced many ups and downs in her personal life, she has finally found happiness with her eight-year-old son and new husband.

Biography/Personal Life

The actress who started life as Sally Vanessa Ortiz on October 15, 1968 in Indio, California is now better known as Vanessa Marcil. The daughter of Mexican contractor and self-made millionaire Peter Ortiz and American herbalist Patricia Marcil, Marcil is the youngest of four children. She has two sisters, Tina and Sherry, and one brother, Sam. It has been reported that Marcil was named in honor of her grandmother, Sally, and actress Vanessa Redgrave. Marcil’s family still lives in Indio, although her parents have separated. On the Today show in 2004, Marcil noted that she is the great-granddaughter of French mime Marcel Marceau.

Vanessa Marcil showed an early interest in performing while growing up in the Palm Desert area of California. At the tender age of eight, Vanessa began acting in plays. By sixth grade, she won at a talent show performing a song that she wrote herself. Vanessa decided to pursue acting as a career soon after that, and starred in many theatre productions, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Fool. She became part of Indio’s Circle Theatre Acting Company. Marcil attended Indio High School and later, the College of the Desert, a small college in Palm Springs, California, where she studied law. She dropped out prior to graduation in order to pursue acting.

Vanessa Marcil’s breakout role was on television, when she debuted in 1992 as the character Brenda Barrett on the popular, long-running daytime television soap opera General Hospital. After wild success on the series, Marcil went on to appear and star in feature films and other television productions.

While concentrating on her acting career, Marcil did not neglect her personal life. She married the now late actor Corey Feldman in 1989, but sadly, the couple divorced in 1993. Then Marcil became engaged to fellow General Hospital actor Tyler Christopher, but the relationship later ended and the engagement was broken. Fellow daytime star Nathan Fillion was Ms. Marcil’s next beau, until the relationship ended in 1996. In keeping with her pattern of falling in love with co-stars, Vanessa next dated her Beverly Hills, 90210 co-star Brian Austin Green starting in 1999. The pair had a son, Kassius Lijah Marcil-Green (named after Muhammad Ali), who was born in 2002 just before the couple split in 2003. Marcil broke the pattern with her next boyfriend, screenwriter Ben Younger, in 2005, but the relationship ultimately ended. Finally, Marcil found happiness with CSI: New York actor Carmine Giovinazzo, whom she had dated from 1998 to 1999 and later married in 2010. Now Vanessa prefers to be credited with her full married name, Vanessa Marcil-Giovinnazzo.

Diminutive at 5 feet 4 inches tall, Marcil is proud of a tattoo she has on her lower back, featuring a tribal symbol that represents universal peace and love. She also sports a tattoo on her right ankle.

Although she has been praised for her beauty and was featured as one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1996, she turned down an offer to pose nude for Playboy. She has also suffered from agoraphobia, or a fear of public places.

Susan Hayward

Marcil has eaten a vegetarian diet for most of her life, and claims that she never has to diet in order to maintain her weight. As for exercise, Ms. Marcil says she gets plenty while walking outside with her two dogs, Woof and Joey. She also weight trains, goes snowboarding, and does yoga. In her free time, Vanessa loves to ride motorcycles.

Television Credits

It is said that Marcil was discovered while performing in the theatre in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Her television career began on the daytime television soap opera General Hospital. She debuted on this show in 1992 as the character Brenda Barrett, and played this character for six years. The character of Brenda Barrett began as a privileged rich girl but evolved into a perceptive, well-informed businessperson. Recently, Marcil returned to General Hospital to reprise her role as Brenda Barrett, in a move that delighted her many fans.

In 1995, Marcil hosted ABC’s weekly, late night concert music series entitled In Concert, and got the opportunity to meet up-and-coming rock and pop stars such as Green Day and Hole. Marcil also starred in the popular ABC 1996 television movie To Love, Honor and Deceive, in which she played a woman who discovers her husband’s secret life. ABC loved Marcil’s work so much that in 1997, they offered her a role in a pilot, called L.A. Med, fashioned as an E.R. type of drama. Unfortunately, however, the pilot was never sold and her work thus went unseen.

ABC subsequently offered Marcil the role of the character Nell Porter in their hit drama Ally Mc Beal in 1997. However, Vanessa turned this role down, as she has already accepted the role of Gina Kinkaid on Fox TV’s Beverly Hills, 90210. She portrayed Kincaid from 1998 until the series ended in 2000.

Next up for Vanessa was a recurring guest-starring role on the popular ABC television series NYPD Blue in 2001 and 2003 as detective Carmen Olivera. In 2003, Marcil nabbed the coveted role of Samantha Jane Marquez in NBC’s nighttime drama Las Vegas. She played this part until the show ended in 2008, even crossing over to another NBC nighttime drama, Crossing Jordan, playing Marquez. She played the character Josie Scotto in NBC’s 2008 drama/comedy Lipstick Jungle, starred as Kate Hewitt in the Hallmark channel movie The Nanny Express in 2009, played the character Kim Marcus on CBS’s drama Without a Trace in 2009, and starred as Margarita Silva Santos in the Lifetime television movie One Hot Summer in 2009. 2010 marked Marcil’s triumphant and long-awaited return to General Hospital in the role of Brenda Barrett.

Movie Credits

Although Marcil’s acting talents have been seen more often on the small screen, she also has a great deal of experience with feature films. In 1996, she appeared as Nicolas Cage’s fiancée in the blockbuster action film The Rock, marking her first feature film role. Next up for Marcil was a short fantasy film in 1997, entitled 976-WISH. In 1998, she auditioned for the character, Nancy in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. She was not given the part, however, reportedly because the director thought that her beauty would take away from the other actors and actresses in the film.

Vanessa went on to co-star in two independent feature films. The first was 1998’s Nice Guys Sleep Alone co-starring Sean O’Bryan. Next came 1999’s This Space Between Us, co-starring Jeremy Sisto. She also nabbed a leading role in the science fiction action film, Storm Watch, in 2002. A complete list of Marcil’s movie and television credits can be found here.

Theatre Credits

Not only is Marcil an accomplished television and movie actress, but she also has an affinity for the theatre, where she got her start in acting. In 1994, Marcil received critical acclaim for her performance in Southern Rapture. This play, which was held at Los Angeles’ Met Theatre, was directed by Peter Fonda and co-starred Dwight Yoakum and Sally Kirkland. Most of Ms. Marcil’s early theatre credits came from productions she was in as part of the Circle Theatre Acting Company of Indio, California.

Awards and Achievements

Marcil’s acting prowess on daytime television has been noted time and time again. The majority of the awards she has won have reflected her work on General Hospital. She won the title Hottest Female Star at the 1997 Soap Opera Digest Awards. The Soap Opera Digest Awards also nominated Marcil as Outstanding Female Newcomer in 1994 for her role as Brenda Barrett on General Hospital, and as part of the Hottest Soap Couple (with Marice Benard) in 1995. She was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for her role as Brenda Barrett in 1997 and 1998. In 2003, Vanessa won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, as well as Favorite Return at the Soap Opera Digest Awards that same year, both for her role as Brenda Barrett. 

Among Marcil’s other interests is clothing design. She designed a line of children’s clothing called “Kass” (named after her son, Kassius). The proceeds from sales of this clothing will go to building schools and centers for mothers and children in Africa.

Vanessa is also an advocate for women and children. She opened a home for them called “Patricia House” in Los Angeles. The intent of this home is to help women who are no longer able to take care of their children. Marcil also created a phone line for these women to use to have their babies placed into good homes.

She was also the commercial spokesperson for Head & Shoulders shampoo in the late 1990s. Indeed, Marcil’s looks have garnered her much attention, and she has often been awarded for her beauty by various publications. In 1996, she was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. She placed 19th on the Hot 100 of 2005 list in the men’s magazine Maxim. Another men’s publication, FHM magazine, named her number 92 among the 100 Sexiest Women in the World 2006. Once again, in 2008, she was named in People’s 100 Most Beautiful People list. It was at this time that it was widely reported that musician Prince had written his 1994 song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” as a tribute to Marcil. (Coincidentally, Marcil also starred in the video for that song).

Present Day

Marcil-Giovinazzo, as she prefers to be known after her 2010 wedding to Carmine Giovinazzo, lives in Los Angeles where she is busy in her role as Brenda Barrett on General Hospital. She is fortunate to count Jillian Michaels, host of the NBC television reality program The Biggest Loser, among her best friends. In fact, Michaels is the godmother to Vanessa’s son, Kassius.

Marcil-Giovinazzo has been working with Sojourn Services for Battered Women and Their Children in Los Angeles, continuing her dedication to helping women and children in peril. In addition, she has been supporting programs helping those whose lives are affected by drug and alcohol abuse.

One of Marcil-Giovinazzo’s recent interests is the development of a children’s television program. Entitled GaGoo & the Land of Choices, she has enlisted help from her sister, Sherry, her son, Kass, and her new husband, Carmine, in this venture. The story revolves around GaGoo, an inhabitant of the Island of Choices.

Notable Quotes from Vanessa Marcil

I’m not ready to be a woman yet. I’d like it if my body were more boyish. Maybe I’ll like my curves when I’m older but right now they kind of make me squirm.”

“Because of my crazy work schedule, I have become something of a master at changing my clothes while driving. The men driving next to me love it.”

“I balance things better and don't kill myself so much, but conflict makes me a more interesting actress to watch. The places I go to pull emotions from, I think if you have a perfect, happy life, you just don't have those places. And I want those places. I'm proud of those places.”


What does the future hold for Vanessa Marcil-Giovinazzo? Her character Brenda Barrett on General Hospital remains one of the most popular on daytime television, and writers of the show say that they have no plans to write her out of the story. In August 2010, Marcil-Giovinazzo signed a contract with the show for one year, and says that as long as she can keep her family a priority and schedule other things in her life, she will stay on the show even after the year is up. She is happily married and settled in her new life with her love of 11 years, husband Carmine Giovinazzo and her son, Kass, and intends to do everything in her power to make sure her life remains that way.