Vanessa Anne Hudgens (born December 14, 1988) is an American actress and singer, who is best known for her portrayal of the character Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical series. She also earned critical acclaim for her role in the 2009 film Bandslam. As an actress, Hudgens has appeared in several television programs including Quintuplets, Still Standing, The Brothers García, Drake & Josh, and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. She made her screen debut in the 2003 drama Thirteen as Noel. She got her first starring role in the 2004 science-fiction-adventure Thunderbirds as Tintin. Hudgens' debut album V was released on September 26, 2006. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number twenty four, and was later certified Gold. Hudgens released her second album, Identified, on July 1, 2008 in the U.S. Hudgens' fame has also been marked by scandal caused by the release of private, self-taken nude photographs of herself on the Internet without her permission on several occasions. Since a third and anonymous release of these images, the FBI is now investigating these leaked photos in an attempt to find the source in connection with similar investigations regarding such hackings around altogether about 50 Hollywood celebrities.
Hudgens was born in Salinas, California, and lived all over the West Coast — from Oregon to Southern California — with her parents, Gina (née Guangco), who held a succession of office jobs, and Gregory Hudgens, a firefighter. She was raised as a Roman Catholic and has a younger sister, Stella Hudgens, who is also an actress. Hudgens is of mixed cultural background, as her father is of Irish and Native American descent, and her mother, a native of Manila, is of Chinese-Filipino-Spanish descent. Two of her grandparents were musicians.
Starting at the age of eight, Hudgens performed in musical theater as a singer, and appeared in local productions of Carousel, The Wizard of Oz, The King and I, The Music Man, and Cinderella, among others. Two years after her career in stage plays and musicals, she started auditioning for commercials and television shows, and her family moved to Los Angeles after she won a role in a television commercial. Her acting career started at the age of 15, and she briefly attended Orange County High School of the Arts, followed by homeschooling with tutors.
In 2003, Hudgens played a minor role in the independent drama film Thirteen, where she plays Noel, a friend of a lead character (Tracy, played by Evan Rachel Wood). The film was critically successful, receiving generally favorable reviews, and its receipts surpassed its $4 million budget. Hudgens subsequently landed a role in the 2004 science fiction-adventure film Thunderbirds as Tintin. Unfortunately, the film was commercially and critically unsuccessful, and received heavy criticism through the Internet prior to its release. In late 2005 Hudgens appeared in television shows such as Quintuplets, Still Standing, The Brothers García, Drake & Josh, and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
In late 2005 she landed her breakout role of shy and meek Gabriella Montez in High School Musical, opposite to Zac Efron. Her performance received numerous nominations and awards. With the success of the film, the BBC predicted that Hudgens would be a "household name" in the US.
In 2007, Hudgens reprised her role as Gabriella Montez in the sequel of High School Musical, High School Musical 2. Virginia Heffernan of TV Review described Hudgens in her performance in the movie as "matte" as she "glows like a proper ingénue".Hudgens reprised her role as Gabriella Montez in High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Her performance in the film made her win favorite movie actress in the 2009 Kids Choice Awards.
Post-High School Musical, Hudgens remarked that she will focus in her acting and films, while "taking a break" from her music career as a solo artist. She played a supporting role in a musical comedy Bandslam, which was released theatrically on August 14, 2009. Hudgens plays "Sa5m", a 15-year-old awkward freshman with untapped talents. Although Bandslam was commercially unsuccessful, Hudgens's performance received praise from critics.David Waddington of the North Wales Pioneer noted that Hudgens "outshines the rest of the cast, failing to fit in with the outcast narrative and making the inevitable climactic ending all the more expected," and Philip French of The Guardian compared her acting to Thandie Newton and Dorothy Parker.
Hudgens performed a musical number with other artists during the 81st Academy Awards. Hudgens later provided voice roles in an episode of Robot Chicken. Hudgens' involvement in Beastly, a film based on Alex Flinn's novel of the same name, was announced in early 2009. She played one of the main characters in the film as Linda Taylor, described by Hudgens as the "beauty" of the story but not the stereotypical beauty everyone thinks of. Along with Beastly co-star, Alex Pettyfer, Hudgens was recognized as ShoWest stars of Tomorrow. Hudgens was later cast in an action film directed by Zack Snyder, Sucker Punch, playing Blondie, an institutionalized girl in an asylum, which was released in March 2011.
After so many years, Hudgens returned to theater productions wherein she starred in the musical Rent as Mimi. The stage production ran from August 6–8, 2010 at the Hollywood Bowl. Her involvement in the production drew negative comments, but director Neil Patrick Harris defended his decision with casting Hudgens by saying, "Vanessa [Hudgens] is awesome. She's a friend. I asked her to come in and sing to make sure she had the chops for it. And she was very committed and seemed great."
In October 2010, it was announced that Hudgens will be joining the sequel to the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth alongside Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson, playing Hutcherson's love interest. In April 2011, it was reported that she would star in an indie film, Gimme Shelter with Brendan Fraser, written and directed by Ron Krauss.