Winona Horowitz was born 29th October 1971 in Winona, a Midwestern town on the banks of the Mississippi River. Her parents, Michael Horowitz and Cindy Palmer, named her after her birthplace. The family eventually settled on a commune on the Californian coast, where Winona's mother entertained them by showing old films.
When Winona was 10 the family moved to Petaluma, a town near San Francisco. Living with her were her younger brother Yuri, her older half-brother Jubal and half-sister Sunyata. Winona found it very difficult to fit in to public school, so her parents home schooled her.
Noting her interest in film, they enrolled her in acting classes at the prestigious American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. There she was spotted by a talent scout and eventually landed her first role in the 1986 film Lucas.She selected Ryder as her stage name because she was listening to a Mitch Ryder song when someone called to ask how she wanted to appear in the credits. Not an instant celebrity, it was her third film, Tim Burton's 1998 hit Beetlejuice that made her a star. After that the roles and critical acclaim came thick and fast.
She was nominated for a best supporting Oscar for 1993's Age of Innocence and for best actress in 1994's Little Women. In 1996 she starred in the film version of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." By this time however, good roles seemed to be getting harder for her to find. The exception, Girl Interrupted, was a role she created for herself by producing the film. Winona's performance was overlooked, while rising star Angelina Jolie won a best supporting Oscar for her role. She started dating Oscar winning Harvard dropout Matt Damon. Unfortunately, things didn't work out. In 2001 she was acting alongside Adam Sandler in Mr Deeds.
In December 2001 her fans were shocked by the news that Winona had been arrested for shoplifting from Saks 5th Avenue. She recieved community service and three years probation. The evidence presented during the trial made it clear that she had been seriously abusing prescription drugs since her time on Mr Deeds.
A small role in 2002's Simone gave her a chance to remind people of her acting talents, and in 2004 her career appeared to re-ignite. She landed roles in "A Scanner Darkly" and "The Darwin Awards." A Scanner Darkly was released in summer 2006 and was a modest sucess.
Summer 2007 saw Winona in another new film, "The Ten." She appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine, and in the article talked for the first time about her arrest, which she blamed on excessive use of painkillers.
2010 saw Winona acting in the critically acclaimed film Black Swan with Natalie Portman. In 2012 she renewed her association with Beetlejuice director Tim Burton when she provided a voice for the animated film Frankenweenie. She has also costarred with Jim Franco in several films.
In recent years she has started to take roles in TV series. This paid off for her in a big way in 2016 when Stranger Things became a major hit for Netflix. The series won the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards. Winona was also nominated for best actress at the Golden Globes.
It has been over 20 years since Winona was nominated for a major award. The success of Stranger Things has given Winona a much needed career boost, and it should keep her active for many years to come.