Despite being only 3 years old when her mother died, Mariska Hargitay often still thinks about the mother, person, and even iconic actress Jayne Mansfield was.
This past April would have been Mansfield’s 90th birthday, and Hargitay took to Instagram to wish her a happy one.
“Happy birthday mama,” she captioned a black-and-white photo of the late actress. “We live to love you more each day.”
Mariska also posted a short clip from one of Jayne’s films to her Instagram Story.
Mansfield was just rising to Hollywood stardom in the late 1950s into the 1960s – with films like Promises! Promises! and The Girl Can’t Help It – before she died in a car accident at the age of 34 in 1967.
Mariska and her two siblings were riding in the backseat of the car and all fortunately survived.
Although the memory of her mother is limited to what she can retain from the first three years of her life, Mariska has carried the baggage of losing a parent so suddenly and having to adjust the rest of her life accordingly.
In a 2021 interview with Glamour – speaking as one of the magazine’s “Women of the Year” – she opened up about what life was like both as a child and how her mother’s death has affected her even into adulthood.
“I think I learned about crisis very young,” she admitted, “and I learned very young that s–t happens and there’s no guarantees, and we keep going. And then we transform it. That’s been kind of my superpower, and the gift of having trauma early in life.”
“I’ve spent the last  years sort of trying to figure out what happened and why,” she added, “and what am I supposed to do with it?”
After Jayne’s death, Mariska was raised by her father and Mansfield’s ex-husband Mickey Hargitay along with her two older brothers, Miklos and Zoltan.
With the trauma of her mother’s death lingering, as a child, Mariska had difficulties in her ability to trust and struggled to effectively “survive”.
“I clearly was in that frozen place for a lot of my childhood—of trying to survive, actually trying to survive,” she admitted. “My life has been a process of unpeeling the layers and trust and trusting again.”
She eventually learned to cope and even decided to carry on her mother’s legacy by becoming an actress herself, mostly known for her role as Detective Olivia Benson in the long-running crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
In the show, her character deals with some of the most cruel and “heinous” crimes regarding r-pe, murder, and s-xual assault. As a result, she started receiving a plethora of letters written by s-xual assault victims, telling her things like “I feel alone” and “I have shame”.
Hargitay started seeing that these damaged people were taking “all these things that didn’t belong with them, that belonged with the perpetrator,” and eventually started the Joyful Heart Foundation which is aimed at both seeking justice and “[transforming] society’s response to s-xual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever,” according to their website’s mission statement.
“I went, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,’” she recalled to the magazine. “Joyful Heart was my response. That’s what the foundation has been about—giving back possibility,” adding that “light doesn’t get in” when people are in a “frozen place” as she was, even though they’re under different traumatic circumstances.
Her hope for Joyful Heart was to show those victims the “light” again, something that took a long time for her to see for herself after losing her mother.
I think it’s fair to say that Jayne would have been extremely proud of her daughter in how she’s chosen to take advantage of her privileges as a public figure and used them to give back good to a part of society that has suffered tremendously.
You’re a strong and inspirational woman, Mariska, and your fans adore you! Happy late birthday to your mother.