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Debi's big break came in 1990, landing a supporting role in Martin Scorsese's mobster classic Goodfellas. She went on to act under the direction of some of the greatest in American cinema like Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Barry Levinson and Woody Allen.
"Acting was almost like therapy. I would play these characters - whether they were junkies, mothers, criminals or whatever - and get all of my emotions out. It kind of saved my life."
A born and bred New Yorker, Debi is first generation Latvian, a small country on the Baltic Sea nestled between Lithuania and Estonia.
She spent her earliest years in Queens, New York, eventually moving upstate with her mother. "I ended up being a city kid stuck in the country. It was just me and the trees."
For a kid nicknamed 'Debi Chatterbox', this was foreign territory. She recalls spending much of her time outdoors, unsupervised, exploring waterfalls and skating alone in the forest. She credits being upstate with teaching her "what it was like to be quiet."
"There were total redneck hunters in the woods and dirty old men spitting tobacco out of their trucks. Other than that, it was beautiful!"
It wasn't long, however, before she returned to the city. Debi set out on her own at 15-years-old.
If you were club-hopping in late 1970's TriBeCa, you may have caught a glimpse of a young Mazar; she was the doorperson of the VIP section at The Mud Club, a defunct venue remembered for its elite guest list.
"I guess the owner thought it was cool to have a child decide whether or not you were important enough to go upstairs," Debi reflects.
"My mom had me at 15, so it didn't seem like an unusual thing to do."
New York City was a much different place than it is today. AIDS was not yet a public concern and hip hop, new wave and punk were in their infancy.
"It was a super, super amazing time, and I was suddenly being surrounded by all this incredible talent."
A friend urged her to take acting classes. Without money, it didn't seem possible. But Debi found a way to make it happen.
"I ended up scrubbing floors and cleaning their studio in exchange for them allowing me to take classes."
Another early gig was as the elevator operator at the iconic nightclub Danceteria. One patron was a spunky, hopeful Midwestern girl named Madonna, not yet known to the masses.
"One night she asked me to dance with her when I finished my shift, so I did. We were just these two white girls tearing it up on the dance floor. We had so much fun dancing together that we became friends."
Without any formal training, Debi did Madonna's makeup for her very first music video, Everybody, released in 1982.
This exposure led Debi down an unexpected path, putting her self-taught makeup skills to work on megastars like Diana Ross and Raquel Welch.
While working on a 1988 Broadway production of Speed the Plow, however, Debi realised it was time for a change.
"I knew everybody's lines. When the theatre lights dimmed and everybody had gone home, I would pack up my little makeup bag, go out on stage and pretend that I was all the different characters."
Without any professional acting experience, she booked an interview with an agency and performed a monologue from a John Patrick Stanley play. They signed her on the spot.
"Back in the day, there was no IMDb or people knowing all your business. I was able to create this fake resume. He probably knew some of the stuff was fake, but they liked me and thought I was a character."
The agency helped her land the smash hit Goodfellas (1990). The scripts then began to pile up with lead roles on two network TV series, Civil Wars (1991) and LA Law (1993).
In 1997, she was cast as the central character on a short-lived CBS sitcom titled Temporarily Yours.
"It was about a girl who works as a temp, so every week she's in a new situation doing ridiculous work."
The series, created by Michael Patrick King, was canceled after one season. Abrupt changes to the cast, writer's room, and even the set sealed the program's fate.
"I went to Les Moonves [former head of CBS] and said, '...you've changed everything about my show … I am putting my foot down!'
His response: 'If you don't show up on set tomorrow, your career in TV will be over.'
"I was just like, 'Huh?' It was like a mafioso moment," she recalls.
This was one of many road bumps Debi has experienced throughout her career, none of which have slowed her down in the slightest. She's been working consistently for over three decades, a rarity in Hollywood, including eight seasons on HBO's hit series Entourage and its 2015 film adaptation.
"When I get a part, I put my heart and soul into it. Then I go home, and I'm back to being vulnerable. I've always been a very positive, sensitive person. But like anybody else, I get sidetracked by fear and self-doubt."
On a trip to Italy seventeen years ago, Debi met a conga player named Gabriele Corcos.
"We fell in love and got married. My life changed."
Together they have two daughters.
Unsurprisingly, Debi found herself spending a lot of time in the kitchen upon returning to America with her Italian beau.
Gabriele and Debi started Vlogging when YouTube was just getting its legs, a way to share culture and their love of Tuscan cuisine. It resonated, and the phones started to ring. "We didn't hire a publicist or anything. The concept was just that good and relevant that people picked up on it."
This led to five seasons of their own show on the Cooking Chanel and together publishing a New York Times-bestselling cookbook in 2014.
"I'm not a chef! I'm just a chick who likes to cook." Debi makes very clear.
Today Debi is working just as hard as she always has, currently starring on Netflix's The Pentaverate (2022).
To young people, unsure of their purpose, Debi shares what has guided her over the the course of a successful career and loving family life:
"I've always made sure to remember who I am, and stay true to my roots and to my heart."
Interview Recorded: 2012. | Updated: 2022
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