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Ventimiglia was born in Anaheim, California, the son of Carol (née Wilson) and Peter Ventimiglia.His father is of Sicilian descent and his mother has English, Irish, Scottish, French, and Cherokee Native American ancestry.His last name,Ventimiglia, meaning “twenty miles”, is the name of the town of Ventimiglia in Liguria, Italy, which later gave its name to another city, Ventimiglia di Sicilia, and is derived from the fact that the members of his family claim descent from a branch of the medieval Italian nobility. The youngest of three children, he has two older sisters, Leslie and Laurel. He explained in an interview with USA Today that his “crooked mouth” is a result of dead nerves on the left side, which cause that side to remain immobile, much like, incidentally, actor Sylvester Stallone, with whom he worked in Rocky Balboa.

Ventimiglia attended El Modena High School in Orange, California, where he wrestled, acted in drama productions and held the office of president in student government. He graduated in 1995. At eighteen years of age, Ventimiglia studied at theAmerican Conservatory Theater for their summer program. He attended UCLA as a theatre major before getting a scholarship to a music school in San Francisco.

Ventimiglia is a lifelong lacto-vegetarian and was named People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Sexiest Vegetarian in 2009. He also does not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.He is a fan of seminal British punk band The Clash, and is an avid skateboard fan. He has three known tattoos: “S.L.R.S.” on his left shoulder, a star on the inside of his right upper arm, and a dragon on his left calf.

Before being cast on Heroes, Ventimiglia had been living with close friends Steve Berra and Patrick Fugit.He dated his Gilmore Girls co-star Alexis Bledel from December 2002 to July 2006. He also dated his Heroes co-star Hayden Panettiere from December 2007 to February 2009.

Ventimiglia took a United Service Organization tour from July 6 to 12, 2008 in support of American troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also active on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) helping in April 2009 to launch a national public service advertisement campaign, www.SupportYourVet.org, which gives friends and family of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans tools to support their transition home from war.