Vanessa Anne Hudgens was born in Salinas, California, and lived with her parents along the West Coast, from Oregon to Southern California. Her mother, Gina (née Guangco), held a succession of office jobs, and her father, Gregory Hudgens, was a firefighter. She has a younger sister, Stella Hudgens, who is also an actress. She was raised as a Roman Catholic. Her father was of Irish and Native American descent, and her mother, a native of Manila, Philippines, is of Filipino descent. All of her grandparents were musicians.
Starting at the age of eight, Hudgens performed in musical theater as a singer, and appeared in local productions of Carousel, The Wizard of Oz, The King and I, The Music Man, and Cinderella, among others. Two years after her career in stage plays and musicals, she started auditioning for commercials and television shows, and her family moved to Los Angeles after she won a role in a television commercial. Her acting career started at the age of 15, and she briefly attended Orange County High School of the Arts, followed by homeschooling with tutors.
Hudgens had her first acting role in an episode of the sitcom Still Standing, in which she portrayed Tiffany. Following her appearance on the series, she guest starred in an episode of the series Robbery Homicide Division, airing on CBS in 2002. 2003 saw Hudgens making her theatrical debut in the 2003 drama film Thirteen, in which she had the supporting role of Noel. The film, which revolved around teenager Tracy trying to fit in and getting caught up in the wrong crowd, was somewhat of a commercial success, grossing $10 million worldwide. Despite its minor commercial success, the film received positive critical reviews. It has an 82% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and USA Today called Thirteen the most “powerful of all recent wayward-youth sagas”. Hudgens subsequently landed a role in the 2004 science fiction-adventure film Thunderbirds, based on the television series of the same name. Hudgens portrayed the character of Tin-tin. The film was a commercial failure and was strongly criticized for “abandoning the original concepts”.
In 2005, Hudgens was cast as Gabriella Montez, one of the lead roles in the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical. The film saw Hudgens portraying the new girl at high school who falls for the captain of the basketball team. The two later reveal a passion for singing, and audition for the school play together. Hudgens starred alongside Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale in the film, the former of which she was partnered up with during the auditioning process due to their “chemistry”. The film, released on January 20, 2006, was both a critical and commercial success. High School Musical was Disney Channel’s most watched film that year with 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast in the US, until August’s premiere of The Cheetah Girls 2, which achieved 8.1 million viewers. In the UK, it received 789,000 viewers for its premiere (and 1.2 million viewers overall during the first week), making it the second most watched program for the Disney Channel (UK) of 2006. On December 29, 2006, it became the first Disney Channel Original Movie to be broadcast on the BBC. For the film, Hudgens recorded numerous songs which had commercial success. The song “Breaking Free”, a duet with Zac Efron, went on to become Hudgens’ only Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 to date, when it peaked at number 4 on the chart. The song also reached number 9 in the UK, her highest chart entry in the country. Following the success of the film, Hudgens began work on her debut album. The project, later revealed to be titled V, was released on September 26, 2006. The album sold 34,000 copies in its first week of release, and debuted at number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. In February 2007, the album was certified gold by the RIAA. As of August 2009, the album has sold 570,000 copies in the U.S. It was preceded by two singles, “Come Back to Me” and “Say OK”, both of which were slightly successful in numerous countries. Both singles received heavy promotion on Disney Channel, with the music videos for both premiering on the channel.
In 2007, work on the second film in the High School Musical series began, and Hudgens was confirmed to be returning for the sequel. High School Musical 2 was released on August 17, 2007. The premiere was seen by a total of over 17.2 million viewers in the U.S., which is almost 10 million more than its predecessor, making it the highest-rated Disney Channel Movie of all time. Disney Channel aired a weekly program called Road to High School Musical 2, beginning on June 8, 2007, and leading up to the premiere of High School Musical 2 in August. The show offered viewers a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the movie. The world premiere of the opening number “What Time Is It” was on Radio Disney May 25, 2007, and similarly “You Are The Music In Me” premiered on July 13, 2007. The film was generally well received by critics, gaining a score of 77/100 at Metacritic, while it received a generally mixed response of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. USA Today’s Robert Bianco awarded the film three stars out of four, saying High School Musical 2 was “sweet, smart, bursting with talent and energy, and awash in innocence”. While critics enjoyed the film, they noted that the timing of the movie’s premiere seemed odd, premiering just when school was about to start up again, while the movie’s plot involved the gang going on summer vacation. High School Musical 2 won the “So Hot Right Now” award at the Nickelodeon Australian Kids’ Choice Awards 2007 in which High School Musical cast mate, Zac Efron hosted with The Veronicas.
In 2007, Hudgens began work on her second studio album, partly due to the success of the High School Musical franchise. Her second studio album, Identified, was released on July 1, 2008. It sold 22,000 copies in its first week of release, 12,000 less than that of her previous effort. Despite the drop in sales, the album debuted at number 23, one spot higher than V. The album was preceded by one single, “Sneakernight”, which was her lowest performing single in the US to date. It was a success on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart in the US, where it peaked at number 8. Following the commercial failure of the album, it was announced that Hudgens had parted ways with Hollywood Records. Hudgens went on to reprise her role as Gabriella in the 2008 sequel High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the first film from the franchise to be released theatrically. It opened at number one at the North American box office in October 2008, earning $42 million in its first weekend, which broke the record previously held by Mamma Mia! for the biggest opening by a musical. The film finished with $252 million worldwide, which exceeded Disney’s expectations.
Following the completion of the High School Musical series, Hudgens confirmed that she was taking a break from her music career to focus more on acting. She played a supporting role in a musical comedy Bandslam, which was released theatrically on August 14, 2009. Hudgens plays “Sa5m”, a 15-year-old awkward freshman with untapped talents. Although Bandslam was commercially unsuccessful, Hudgens’s performance received praise from critics. David Waddington of the North Wales Pioneer noted that Hudgens “outshines the rest of the cast, failing to fit in with the outcast narrative and making the inevitable climactic ending all the more expected”, and Philip French of The Guardian compared her acting to Thandie Newton and Dorothy Parker. Hudgens made a return to theater productions and starred in the musical Rent as Mimi. The stage production ran from August 6–8, 2010 at the Hollywood Bowl. Her involvement in the production drew negative comments, but director Neil Patrick Harris defended his decision with casting Hudgens by saying, “Vanessa [Hudgens] is awesome. She’s a friend. I asked her to come in and sing to make sure she had the chops for it. And she was very committed and seemed great.”
Hudgens’ involvement in Beastly, a film based on Alex Flinn’s novel of the same name, was announced in early 2009. She played one of the main characters in the film, Linda Taylor. Hudgens described her as, “…the “beauty” of the story but not the stereotypical beauty everyone thinks of.” Along with Beastly co-star, Alex Pettyfer, Hudgens was recognized as ShoWest stars of Tomorrow. Beastly, which also starred Mary-Kate Olsen, was released on March 4, 2011. Beastly received mostly negative reviews, earning a 20% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes from 89 reviews, with an average rating of 3.7/10. It was ranked No. 45 in The Times‘ predicted “50 Biggest Movies of 2010”. The film was screened at ShoWest and it drew enthusiastic reactions from the luncheon crowd of exhibition officials. The film went on to make $28 million worldwide as of 2012. Hudgens was also cast as one of the five female leads in the action film Sucker Punch, directed by Zack Snyder. She played Blondie, an institutionalized girl in an asylum. The film was released in March 2011, and grossed $19 million in its first weekend at the North American box office, opening at number two. By the end of its run, Sucker Punch totaled $89 million worldwide. Though the film’s content was derided, it received some recognition for the visual effects of the fantasy sequences. Sucker Punch received a nomination at the 2011 Scream Awards for Best F/X, and its stunt work was nominated for a Taurus Award.
In October 2010, Hudgens joined the cast of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012), the sequel to the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth, alongside Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson, playing Hutcherson’s love interest. The film earned $325 million worldwide during its theatrical run, which outperformed its predecessor. It received generally mixed to negative reviews from critics. The consensus from Rotten Tomatoes is: “Aggressively unambitious, Journey 2 might thrill teen viewers, but most others will find it too intense for young audiences and too cartoonishly dull for adults”.
In November 2011, Hudgens announced on her official website that she would be starring with Selena Gomez and James Franco in Spring Breakers. The film followed four college-aged girls who decide to rob a fast food restaurant in order to pay for their spring break. It was released theatrically in March 2013, receiving generally positive reviews. The film featured mature themes such as drug use, sexual escapades, and violence. To coincide with the film, Hudgens later released the dubstep influenced song “$$$ex”, with a music video featuring clips from the film. The song features guest vocals from YLA, and was produced by Rock Mafia.
In April 2011, it was reported that she would star in Gimme Shelter with Brendan Fraser, a film written and directed by Ron Krauss. Hudgens also plays Cindy Paulson in The Frozen Ground (2013), a film based on the Robert Hansen case wherein she plays as his only victim who escaped. She co-stars with John Cusack and Nicolas Cage.
In 2015, Hudgens took on the title role in the new production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Gigi, which opened at the Kennedy Center from January 16 to February 12, before transferring to Broadway on April 8. The production closed on June 21.
On January 31, 2016, Hudgens starred in the coveted role of Rizzo in Grease: Live, Fox’s live broadcast based on the original Broadway musical. Hudgens dedicated her performance to her father, Greg, who died from cancer one day before the special aired.
Hudgens was cast in a pilot for a TV comedy series titled Powerless, which is based on DC Comics characters.
Hudgens began a relationship with High School Musical co-star Zac Efron in 2005. The couple became a frequent target for the media, and in turn the BBC predicted that Hudgens would be a “household name” in the US. They ended their relationship after five years in December 2010. Hudgens is very close friends with actress Ashley Tisdale, whom she met when they both starred in the film High School Musical; Hudgens was a bridesmaid at Tisdale’s wedding on September 8, 2014.
Hudgens has been in a relationship with actor Austin Butler since 2011.
In May 2016, Hudgens paid $1,000 in restitution for damage of U.S. Forest Service property by carving the initials of her and Butler’s names within a heart on a rock in the Coconino National Forest and displaying it on her personal Instagram feed. Hudgens was raised Catholic, but did not feel connected to that denomination of Christianity. She is a non-denominational Christian, and often attends Hillsongs Church.
Hudgens was represented by William Morris Agency but signed on to Creative Artists Agency in 2011. In 2006, Hudgens’s earnings were estimated to be $2 million. Hudgens was included in Forbes richest list in early 2007, and the Forbes article noted that she was included in Young Hollywood’s Top Earning-Stars. On December 12, 2008, Hudgens was ranked No. 20 in the list of Forbes “High Earners Under 30”, having reported to have an estimated earnings of $3 million in 2008. She was number 62 at FHM‘s Sexiest Women in the World of 2008 and number 42 in the 2009 list. Hudgens is also featured in Maxim‘s lists. She was included in People‘s annual “100 Most Beautiful People” 2008 and 2009 lists.
Hudgens promotes Neutrogena and was the 2008 featured celebrity for Sears’ back-to school campaign. In 2007, she became a spokesperson for Marc Eckō products but ended the contract after two years. Hudgens regularly volunteers for charitable activities, including those for Best Buddies International, Lollipop Theater Network, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the VH1 Save The Music Foundation. Hudgens is also featured in A Very Special Christmas Vol.7 disc which benefits the Special Olympics. Hudgens is also part of the “Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C): Change The Odds” along with other Hollywood stars including Zac Efron, Dakota Fanning, Kristen Bell, and others.
Brian Schall sued Hudgens in 2007 for an alleged “breach of contract”; according to the suit, Schall claims he advanced costs and expenses on Hudgens’ behalf for her songwriting and recording career. Schall claims Hudgens owed him $150,000 after helping her earn more than $5 million for her music career. Hudgens argued that she was a 16-year-old minor when she signed the contract in October 2005, and therefore too young to do so. She subsequently disaffirmed it on October 9, 2008. Papers filed in court by her lawyer say California’s Family Code “provides that the contract of a minor is voidable and may be disaffirmed before (age 18) or within a reasonable time afterward.” In 2008, Hudgens was sued by Johnny Vieira, who claims he was owed a share of Hudgens’ advances, royalties and merchandising revenue in exchange for his management services. Vieira accuses Hudgens of abandoning her talent team as soon as she became a commercial name. In early May 2009, the case was settled.
Source – Updated: April 12, 2017
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