In 2001 Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly was struggling to pay her way through college with the odd modelling and waitressing job. Just four years later she'd won an army of fans and an $80,000-per-episode salary playing vest-sporting island heroine Kate on hit TV series Lost.
Evangeline was born in Alberta on August 3, 1979, to a makeup artist mum and economics teacher dad. She was the second of three daughters in the middle class Christian family.
Amazingly for a performer, who went on to star in an Emmy-winning drama, screen success almost passed her by. When a Ford Models scout spotted her on the streets of Kelowna, British Columbia, the young beauty took his card but didn't pay much attention. Her dream was to become a missionary and building a career around her looks didn't enter into her plans. Only when she was low on funds to finance her international relations degree at the University of British Columbia did the student make the call that set her on the road to fame.
Before hitting the big time the lithe brunette had only one real acting job to her credit - an appearance on Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital
, which aired in 2003. "In one scene I'm sleeping in a bed and then I get shot," she recalled laughing. "I might as well have been an extra."
With this limited experience under her belt, Evangeline was understandably a little overawed when she landed her first big break on Lost
in March 2004. "It totally floored me - the idea of being so green and having to carry a show," she confessed later.
Much like her TV character on Lost
a plane crash survivor stranded in the South Pacific - Evangeline is no stranger to getting her hands dirty. Her stint on a charity project living in a grass hut in the Philippine jungle was great preparation for her all-action role in the programme. "No one went near the water, which was infested with crocodiles, but I was desperate for a shower," she said. "And I have this lack of fear. I would bathe with a tribal person watching out for crocs from the shore".
Though stardom has altered her life dramatically, living and working in Hawaii, where she shoots the award-winning show, has helped the outdoorsy girl stay true to her roots.
Keeping active on- and off-set, the slender star continues to pursue her outdoor hobbies, including kayaking and rock climbing. But embracing nature does not mean the down-to-earth stunner would go au naturel
for the cameras. She stuck to her guns and refused to do a partial nude scene in an early episode of the show.
Though Evangeline's marriage to college sweetheart Murray Hone ended when she moved to the Pacific island for her new role, she found a soul-mate in co-star Dominic Monaghan, Lost
's washed-up English rocker Charlie. "With him I feel at peace and fulfilled," she confesses. "I couldn't be happier. He's my favourite person in the whole world."