Born July 23, 1970, in Las Vegas, Charisma Carpenter was named after an Avon perfume (a fact that did not sit well with her). She studied classical ballet from age five. Her family moved around often. As a youngster, she entered many local beauty contests. Charisma attended Gorman High School in Las Vegas. At 15, the family moved to Rosarita City, Mexico, and then to Bonita (a suburb of San Diego) where she attended Bonita High.
Charisma finally transferred to Chula Vista School of Creative and Performing Arts, where she graduated in 1988. In high school(s), she was a cheerleader, and did the typical teen things: sneaking out and having boys over when mom wasn't home. Charisma's nature tends to be pensive, which some classmates unfortunately misinterpreted as being snooty. After graduating, she traveled throughout Europe, then went on to college. She also worked as an aerobics instructor and in property management. In 1991, Charisma was a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers. In 1992, she moved to Los Angeles. She audited classes at Playhouse West and was cast in over 20 major commercials, including doing a long stint for Secret.
Charisma was in a number of theater productions, such as "No, No, Nanette" and "Welcome Home, Soldier." This tall (5' 7") beauty with the striking looks, brunette hair with chestnut highlights, and hazel eyes was a natural for TV; she started in an episode of "Baywatch" (1989) in October, 1994. Because of that appearance, Aaron Spelling personally auditioned her for the role of Ashley in "Malibu Shores" (1996), which had a brief run from March to June of 1996. Despite the short run, TV Guide noticed her and said she was beguiling and had the most fleshed-out character on the show. Charisma auditioned for the title role in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997) but wound up being cast as Cordelia, instead.
She had doubts about this and did not want to play a bitchy character again, but her agent reminded her that she couldn't be typecast until people knew her. She is quick to point out she is nothing like her TV persona, noting, "People might think I'm this awful person, but I'm not -- I'm a nice girl". Fans and producers liked the character enough that she was transferred to a bigger role on the spin-off series "Angel" (1999). A long career in TV now seems assured for Charisma. Her hobbies include horseback riding, roller blading, hiking and rock climbing (for her 26th birthday, she had gone skydiving. When the folks at WB heard about this, they made her sign a clause that she would refrain from that for the length of her contract). She has prudently switched to writing poetry instead.
Angel [Cordelia Chase] • Buffy the Vampire Slayer