Rene Russo was born in Burbank, California, to Shirley (Balocca), a barmaid and factory laborer, and Nino Russo. Her father, a sculptor and mechanic, left the family when Rene was just two, and thus her mother raised Rene and her sister, Toni, as a single mom. Her father was of Italian descent, and her mother was of Italian and German-English-Irish ancestry.
In junior high school, Rene was plagued with scoliosis and had to wear a full-torso brace. She was already a tall girl, which earned her the nickname “Jolly Green Giant” from her classmates. She entered Burroughs High School, along with classmate Ron Howard, and even though her brace had been removed, she was still somewhat of a loner. Unable to deal with academics and the school social scene, Rene dropped out of school in the tenth grade. Since money was tight, she began to take a variety of part-time jobs over the next 18 months, many for the free benefits. She sold refreshments at a movie theater, where she could see free movies; worked as a restaurant hostess, where her meals were free; and worked as a store cashier at Disneyland, where she had free admission. She often had two jobs at one time. Her last job, which was solely for the paycheck, was a full-time job at an eyeglass factory, inspecting contact lenses.
In 1972, the 17-year-old was attending a Rolling Stones concert when she was approached by John Crosby, a scout and manager from International Creative Management. He told her she should be a model and had test photos made of her. Within a few months, Rene signed a contract with Ford Modeling Agency and within a year had become a successful print and photographers model. Soon, her modeling breakthrough came when she graced the cover of Vogue. By 1975, she had appeared on numerous magazine covers, was one of the most successful models in America, and was also starting to be seen in several TV commercials through the 1980s. She would define what a top fashion model was for years to come… read more >