A strong mother, an unflappable work ethic and a stint with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders all prepared actress Sarah Shahi for on-screen success in Hollywood.
Actress Sarah Shahi doesn’t pull any punches—literally or figuratively. From her role as badass assassin on CBS’ Person of Interest to her current gig as crime investigator on Showtime’s City on a Hill, the 39-year-old TX native is the quintessential tough girl.
“I was born with a rib in one hand and a rifle in the other,” she says of her Texas heritage. Named Aahoo Jahansouz at birth, Shahi is open about the challenges of growing up with Persian ancestry. In second grade, she adopted the easier, more common name Sarah, after a song she’d heard. She credits her mother, a single working parent, for inspiring resiliency and a strong work ethic. At as early as 10, Shahi began competing in local pageants. Scholarship money was a bonus. “The experience gave me stage presence and the ability to think on my feet,” she says. The culmination of her efforts? Being crowned Miss Fort Worth in 1997.
While enrolled at SMU, a fellow castmate in a musical production of Chicago suggested she audition for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Shahi not only made the 1999-2000 squad, she also appeared on the cover of the bicentennial calendar. It led to her big break: a small role in the film Dr. T & the Women, where she met director Robert Altman. “When he told me I had a shot, I left for Los Angeles. There wasn’t a Plan B.”
It’s been nonstop ever since for the Texas stunner, who is married to actor Steve Howey. The pair are parents to 10-year-old William Wolf and 4-year-old twins, Violet Moon and Knox Blue. Ties to Texas remain strong. Shahi’s mom lives in Rockwall and the family owns a small property in Comanche.
On the horizon: appearing in “Cracker Jack,” one of eight episodes in the Dolly Parton Netflix anthology Heartstrings. Focusing on the unconditional love between a girl and her dog, the story questions what life means and who you can really count on when faced with your greatest fears. “I look at the roles I play from a spiritual level. I want everything I to do have meaning, to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Photography by: MAARTEN DE BOER