Caitríona Mary Balfe was born 4 October 1979 and is an Irish actress, producer and former fashion model.

Balfe was born in Dublin, Ireland, and grew up in the village of Tydavnet, near Monaghan, in a family of seven. Her father is a retired Garda Sergeant.

Balfe started modelling after she was scouted by an agent while she was collecting money for charity at a local shopping centre. At 18, after working as a model in Dublin for a few months, she caught the attention of a visiting Ford Models scout, who offered her the chance to work for them in Paris.

Her career highlights include opening and closing shows for Chanel, Moschino, Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, Alberta Ferretti and Louis Vuitton. Balfe also walked in multiple fashion shows for notable brands, including 14 shows for Dolce & Gabbana; eight for Chanel; seven for Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez and Moschino; five for Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Max Mara, Ann Demeulemeester and Louis Vuitton; four for Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Missoni, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Alberta Ferretti, Alexander McQueen and Emanuel Ungaro; and three for Rochas, Christian Lacroix, Cacharel, Sonia Rykiel and Kenzo.

Advertising campaigns featuring Balfe include those for Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Max Mara, Oscar de la Renta, Bally, Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino, Costume National, Escada, Bottega Veneta, Hush Puppies, Mango, Neiman Marcus, BCBG Max Azria, Blumarine, Dries Van Noten, Wella, Roberto Cavalli, Victoria’s Secret and H&M. She appeared in the 2002 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and on the cover of VogueHarper’s Bazaar and ELLE magazines. In a three-year period Balfe walked in more than 250 runway shows. Often credited professionally as simply Caitriona, at the height of her career she was considered to be among the twenty most in-demand models in the world.

Other brands that she has walked in fashion shows for include Anna Molinari, Balenciaga, Céline, Chloé, Christian Dior, DKNY, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferré, Hugo Boss, Issey Miyake, Jil Sander, Lanvin, Loewe, Michael Kors, Miu Miu, Paco Rabanne, Perry Ellis, Salvatore Ferragamo, Stella McCartney, Valentino, Viktor & Rolf and Yohji Yamamoto.

For her work in Milan in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Balfe earned close to $300,000, but after her Italian agency Paolo Tomei filed for bankruptcy, she and the other models who were represented by it lost all the earnings they had made during that time, with the agency’s financial backers allegedly keeping them. Because models were considered freelancers under Italian law, her lawyer discouraged her from filing a lawsuit. Years later, in 2009, working for the company BCBG, Balfe faced a similar situation, with the company first delaying its payments and then refusing to pay the models altogether alleging financial problems, but still booking them after privately reassuring their agencies that they would be paid. Against her agency’s advice, Balfe decided to stop working for BCBG until she was reimbursed all the money she was owed; the company eventually complied. Incidents like the aforementioned led to the creation of The Model Alliance.

While living in New York, Balfe played the minor role of an employee of the magazine Runway in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. In 2009, after a decade-long modelling career, Balfe returned to her initial career choice and moved from New York to Los Angeles, spending her first year and a half in the city exclusively taking acting classes, first at the Warner Loughlin Studios and then at the Sanford Meisner Center and the Judith Weston Studios. Balfe has appeared in the films Super 8, as the protagonist’s mother, Now You See Me, as Michael Caine’s character’s wife, and Escape Plan, as the CIA lawyer that hires Sylvester Stallone’s character.

She is best known for her starring role as Claire Fraser in the Starz drama series Outlander (2014–present).

Balfe co-starred in the film Money Monster (2016), directed by Jodie Foster and starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. She played the head of PR of a company whose stock bottoms out, causing a man to lose all of his savings and subsequently take hostages on a live TV show.

In 2019, Balfe had a recurring voice role as Tavra in the Netflix fantasy series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The series, which was a prequel to the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal and produced by The Jim Henson Company, was released to critical acclaim. Also in 2019, she had a starring role opposite Matt Damon and Christian Bale in the sports drama film Ford v Ferrari. Balfe portrayed Mollie Miles, the wife of professional race car driver Ken Miles.

In addition to English, she is a fluent speaker of the Irish language and is conversant in French. 

She is a patron of the organization World Child Cancer. In April 2018, Balfe ran the London Marathon raising over $41,000 in support of the organization.