The Brazilian ingenue (who pronounces her name A-lee-see) shares both beauty and talent with the other actresses in her family, mom Ana Maria Braga and aunt Sonia Braga. Though she’s made an armful of Portuguese- and Spanish-language films, the 24-year-old just completed five big-budget American movies, including the postapocalyptic I Am Legend costarring Will Smith, which hits theaters December 14.

PROVENANCE: Born in São Paulo, Braga says, “Brazil will always be my home, though right now I live on the road. I’m practically a Canadian citizen because I’ve spent so much time working there.”

BIG BREAK: In search of an unknown face, director Fernando Meirelles cast her in City of God, which went on to the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar. “I wasn’t even in Cannes, but my future agent saw me in the film,” she says. “It took her six more months to find and sign me.”

CHILLING OUT: Braga is currently shooting Repossession Mambo in Toronto opposite Jude Law and Forest Whitaker. The sci-fi thriller follows a man as he struggles to pay off his heart transplant before it is repossessed. “I really love it up there, but I’m a little nervous about the winter,” she says. “I hate the cold, but I love wearing coats and boots.”

STAR STRUCK: Her impressive list of co-stars have been “generous, supportive, kind and gentle,” but her mother is her true inspiration. “She showed me that acting is a beautiful thing and helped me develop my passion.”

FASHION PHILOSOPHY: “I love Alexander McQueen and Brazilian designers Isabella Capeto and Carlos Miele. But usually I am in jeans. My favorites are Citizens of Humanity, Seven For All Mankind and Diesel.”

UP NEXT: A trio of A-list projects: Wayne Kramer’s ensemble film Crossing Over, with Sean Penn, Harrison Ford and Alice Eve, about the lives of immigrants in Los Angeles struggling for U.S. citizenship; David Mamet’s Redbelt, in which Braga plays the wife of a martial arts master embodied by Chiwetel Ejiofor, costarring Tim Allen and Emily Mortimer, and Blindness, Meirelles’ latest project costarring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal, and based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago about a sight-challenged town.

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