Almost everyone who has spent time with Kate Hudson -including directors, family members, co-stars and interviewers - is quick to comment on her ability to light up a room. Through some combination of a winning smile, solid work ethic, and good old-fashioned talent, the young actress has gone from indie beginner to Vanity Fair cover girl in just three years. What's more, she's done it all without capitalizing on the success of legendary mom, Goldie Hawn. By all accounts, Hudson was a born performer - as a child she danced and sang at every opportunity. Her family hoped that she would attend New York University after graduating from high school, but she opted to get her feet wet in the professional acting world first. She made her big-screen debut as an ambitious young starlet stranded in a tiny California town in Desert Blue (1998). Her next two films, while critically panned, made it into wider release: 200 Cigarettes (1999) (in which she played an earnest but accident-prone ditz) and Gossip (2000) (which cast her as a rich, virginal college student). Perhaps Hudson's biggest break was landing the role of rock groupie (or "Band Aide") Penny Lane in Almost Famous (2000). The part was originally intended for Sarah Polley; when Polley backed out to pursue another project, director Cameron Crowe considered scrapping the film altogether. Hudson, who had been cast in a smaller role (as William's stewardess sister), begged for a chance to read for Penny. Crowe was impressed, Hudson got the part, and the show went on. As much as Tinseltown gossipmongers would like to put them at odds, mother and daughter agree that Hawn is one of Hudson's biggest supporters. Kate has never been particularly close to her birth father, musician Bill Hudson; she considers her true "Pa" to be Hawn's longtime partner, Kurt Russell, who has lived with the family since she was three. Her brother, Oliver Hudson, is an actor and aspiring writer-director.