Raise a Glass to the 20th Anniversary of Coyote Ugly: See the Cast Then and Now

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Lil, the badass boss at Coyote Ugly based on real-life owner Liliana Lovell, doesn’t take any crap from customers and she’s not one for second chances—but she sees an underlying current of toughness in Violet and gives her another shot at proving herself worthy of the tailored crop-top. (Similar to how Baywatch actresses wore specially tailored swimsuits, every Coyote Ugly actress’ midriff was bared in its own way.)

In an all-too-common disappointing twist, however, Bello recently revealed to Variety that, at 32, she was deemed “too old” to be one of the dancing bartenders.

“I had argued for it because I worked at Hogs and Heifers, I said, ‘Why can’t I dance?'” she recalled. “And I was told that I was too old. The truth is the movie was run by men, right? All male producers, a male director, so I don’t know where that information came from, but that information came to me. It was different back then. I remember arguing about it, but I wasn’t gonna win.”

Bello’s film resume has since been packed with complex, robust roles in The CoolerA History of ViolenceThank You for Smoking and Prisoners, as well as a bit of fun in the likes of Grown Ups. She has continued to mix TV in with her movies, starring with Kiefer Sutherland in Touch, going toe to toe with Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath and for awhile test-driving the detective role Helen Mirren made famous in an Americanized version of Prime Suspect.

She joined the cast of NCIS in 2017 and has been going back and forth between L.A. and the San Francisco Bay Area, where her fiancée, chef Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America who holds three Michelin stars, is based.

And redemption came one night when Bello was in Johannesburg, South Africa, and visited a gallery that had an upstairs bar that hosted Coyote Ugly nights. “So I went to it and surprised the crowd and did a little speech and song and danced on the bar,” she told Variety.

We bet the patrons loved it.