5/9/1979 (40 years old) New York, New York, United States
This native New Yorker was discovered by director Larry Clark while hanging out near her Lower East Side home. The adolescent acting novice made her debut in Kids, Clark's controversial 1995 film about teenagers and HIV, but she didn't hit the mainstream until the '00s, when she landed a string of supporting roles in high-profile films (Spike Lee's 25th Hour, Men in Black II, the big-screen adaptation of Josie and the Pussycats) while managing to remain an indie darling with parts in more alternative fare (Chelsea Walls, Love in the Time of Money). She found even more success in 2005 with a sexually charged, leather-clad turn in the neo-noir Sin City and a lead role in the film adaptation of the musical Rent, which allowed her to show off her surprisingly strong vocal chops. After branching out with a musical, Dawson covered more new territory in 2008 when she began starring in the online sci-fi series Gemini Division. The sci-fi genre was by no means foreign to her, though, as she's a self-admitted huge Star Trek fan. Dawson is also a fan of taking action and speaking out for causes she believes in: In 2004 she cofounded Voto Latino, which encourages people to vote; and in 2009 she was a keynote speaker at a Washington, D.C., conference about preventing violence against women.