By People Staff
October 18, 1999 12:00 PM

Like plenty of Hollywood starlets, Mena Suvari, 20, is battling addiction. In her case, it’s platform shoes; she owns at least 30 pairs. “What can I say?” she says, laughing. “I’m bad.”

The 5’4″ Suvari no longer needs big shoes to stand out. As the siren-like teenager in the critically hailed American Beauty, Suvari is the rose-petal-covered object of Kevin Spacey’s obsession. The role follows this summer’s turn as a wholesome singer who falls for a jock in American Pie. “I had no true goal of getting where I am right now,” she says. “So it’s all really weird to me.”

She’ll get used to it. The youngest of four children of Ando, 76, a retired psychiatrist, and Candice, 52, a nurse, the Newport, R.I., native (her first name came from an Egyptian godmother; her last name is Estonian) became a model at 12 and then moved with her family to Los Angeles, where she landed small roles in TV and film. At the Pie audition, “she just blew us away,” says producer warren Zide. But Suvari, who graduated from Providence High School in 1997, was particularly eager to join the Beauty cast. “I tend to be seen as innocent,” she says, “so it was a good opportunity to do something opposite.”

Though her career is taking off, Suvari is taking a break, planning a vacation with her boyfriend, cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, 37, with whom she lives in L.A. And she won’t let her newfound fame go to her head. “I just want to work my hardest.” She could, however, lose some of the high-flying footwear.