Blonsky was born in Great Neck, NY, the daughter of a school aide and a government worker. While growing up, she became interested in song and dance, singing for the first time at age three and taking voice lessons by age eight. At Great Neck High School, Blonsky did not let her full figure stop her from being active in musicals and drama. Meanwhile, for her 15th birthday, her mother took her to the Broadway production of "Hairspray," which told the story of Tracy Turnblad, a heavyset teenager growing up in 1962 Baltimore who dreams of being on the fictional teen dance program, "The Corny Collins Show." When Tracy wins the chance to appear on an episode, she manages to upend expectations that she is not pretty enough and racially integrate the show. While in the audience, Blonsky turned to her mother and whispered, "That's me. I can do that." With her mother's encouragement, Blonsky later auditioned for the part, but was rejected because she was too young.Blonsky remained undeterred and continued to perform in high school productions, appearing in "Les Miserables," "Sweeney Todd" and "Kiss Me, Kate." She also went back to fishing with her father, watching television with her dog Rocky, and working her after-school job serving ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. Two years later, however, while preparing for her star turn as Carmen for her school's year-end musical, Blonsky checked the "Hairspray" website and discovered that casting for a movie version was open. She immediately put together an audition tape and mailed it to New Line Cinema. Despite a mountain of submissions, a curious staffer plucked the tape from the pile. After seeing Blonsky's performance, the staffer posted the routine onto a MySpace page dedicated to auditions and notified the casting department to take a look.The film's director, Adam Shankman - a trained dancer and choreographer who previously helmed "The Wedding Planner" (2001) and "Bringing Down the House" (2003) - was hoping to find an authentic newcomer to play Tracy Turnblad against the list of stars he had assembled. The choices were narrowed from 1,000 hopefuls to several actresses who had played the part professionally. Included in the mix was Blonsky, who managed to capture the essence of the role in her homemade tape. To generate publicity, the studio informed Blonsky that she was in the running for the role and for her to prepare to be a part of a behind-the-scenes feature about the film, even though it was possible she wouldn't make the final cut. But when a camera crew arrived at the Cold Stone Creamery where she worked, Blonsky was none the wiser upon seeing a laptop computer opened before her and Shankman appearing onscreen to tell her she had won the part. The rolling cameras captured her screams of exhilaration. Blonsky's reaction was broadcast on "Entertainment Tonight" and later became a popular download on YouTube.Shankman later said that it was her raw talent - not polish - that won Blonsky the role, not to mention the fact that her life paralleled Tracy Turnblad's. Despite her enthusiasm and natural abilities, Blonsky had to be brought up to speed, going through five months of rehearsals with a personal choreographer and receiving extensive singing lessons to augment her operatic voice. Blonsky's hard work proved to be an inspiration for her castmates, who were impressed with the novice's quick transformation into a professional. Despite the film's inspiration deriving from cult film director John Waters' 1988 original, the 2007 version was a direct descendant of the 2002 Broadway musical. Starring Travolta in the unlikely role of Edna, the new "Hairspray" included notables Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes and Allison Janney. But it was Blonsky who received the bulk of the spotlight, establishing the previous unknown as a bona fide star in the making.
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