FOR THE PAST 11 YEARS, Mariska Hargitay has played the tough yet vulnerable detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. If you're one of the millions of viewers who tune in each week to this hugely successful series (and who doesn't?), then you're familiar with her typical workday outfit: a fitted T-shirt tucked into blue or black jeans, and black boots. Good for busting criminals on Law & Order, but not exactly traffic-stopping. So when, at our cover shoot, the 46-year-old actress stepped out of the dressing room rocking dresses that clung to her voluptuous figure-each one hotter than the last-the entire SHAPE team was awestruck.

How exactly did she get so comfortable in her own skin? Here, Mariska Hargitay shares her secrets to feeling sexy-inside and out.

Plus a dose of her classic humor

Plus: The book that changed her life

How does yours compare?

The star's diet and fitness advice.

She helps turn victims into survivors