Born Aug. 30, 1972 in San Diego, CA, Diaz was raised in Long Beach by her Cuban father, Emilio, a foreman for the Union Oil Company of California, and Billie, who worked for an exporter. Though she was an above average student at Los Cerritos Elementary School, she was more interested in roughhousing with the boys. By the time she reached Long Beach Polytechnic High School, Diaz was interested in football games and socking anyone who dared make fun of her thin frame. At 16, she caught the eye of a fashion photographer while partying in Hollywood and soon found herself signing a contract with the Elite Model Management. Both her parents were supportive, though they asked Diaz to promise to finish high school, which she did. After graduating, she spent the next five years modeling all over the world for clients like Coca-Cola and Nivea, making $2,000-a-day in Europe, North Africa, Mexico, Japan and Australia. Then when she was 21, a Hollywood casting director asked Elite for some headshots - one of which was of Diaz. He so liked what he saw in her non-traditional looks, he had her flown from Paris to L.A. to see if this girl could act.
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