She was born to Patricia Mae and Herbert Daniel Hewitt, who divorced while she was just 6 months old. She started her career by singing at a livestock fair at the age of 3. Her mother noticed that she possess some serious talent and to nurture that she sent her to jazz, tap and ballet dance classes. While she was learning the dance form in classes she was presented with an offer to perform on the prized Texas show team, with a group of dancers who toured the former Soviet Union and Europe.
On the recommendation of a talent scout, her mother took her to Los Angeles. Their move yielded them dividends immediately as she was roped in to appear in commercials like LA Gear and Mattel Toys.
Soon she got her first acting assignment and thus she made her acting debut as a child actor on the famous Disney show Kids Incorporated in 1989. She remained with the show till 1991. After which she was a part of some unsuccessful shows until Party of Five happened to her in 1995. Her performance in this Fox television drama earned her wide acclaim and also made her a household name. She won several award nominations for her performance and also helped the show to grab a Golden Globe Award in 1996. She took the acting world by storm with her performance in the film
I Know What You Did Last Summer. This film made the makers millionaire and for herself, she earned Hollywood stardom. After which she has been a part of several hit films.
In addition to acting, she is a well-known singer. She has released 5 albums till date. She has accumulated positive reviews for her singing from some skeptical critics.
Off-Screen she has made headlines for her romance with famous celebs like Enrique Iglesias, John Mayer, Jamie Kennedy, Kip Pardue and Rich Cronin, among others.