Born in Caldwell, New Jersey on March 8, 1961, Manheim was raised in Peoria, Illinois and Long Beach California, the daughter of a math professor father and school teacher mother. She developed an interest in acting after attending a Renaissance fair at the age of sixteen, and she went on to get a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University in 1987. After graduating, Manheim made her screen debut with a miniscule role in Bonfire of the Vanities in 1990. A long series of similarly minor roles in films ranging from Jeffrey (1995) to Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) followed before she was cast in The Practice in 1997. After winning fame and an Emmy for her work on the show, Manheim gained additional exposure and respect with her role as a denizen of Todd Solondz's dysfunctional New Jersey suburbia in the acclaimed Happiness (1998). The following year, in addition to winning a Golden Globe and another Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Ellenor Frutt, Manheim continued to act in films, appearing in Fools Gold and Joe the King, both of which were shown at the 1999 Sundance Festival.
In addition to acting, Manheim also authored Wake Up, I'm Fat, a memoir that began life as a one-woman show at New York's Public Theatre. By turns funny and excruciating, it details the actress's transformation from wholesome middle American to tattooed, dozen-earringed California biker, her struggles with those who told her she'd have to lose weight to fit in, and the trials and tribulations of making it in the entertainment industry.
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