She is most known for playing the bespectacled tech kitten, Penelope Garcia on the long running CBS crime drama Criminal Minds, for which she co-wrote 5 episodes, including the series finale.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Kirsten launched her YouTube series KIRSTEN’S AGENDA as a way to promote mental health, wellness and civic duty. Her first season featured such guests as Aisha Tyler, Pauley Perrette and Karen David. She enjoyed the interviews so much she decided to spin them off into the KIRSTEN’S AGENDA Podcast, available wherever podcasts live.
Kirsten has long been deeply involved in the L.A. theatre scene, scoring two Ovation Best Actress nominations (for “FAT PIG” at the Geffen and “Everything You Touch” at Boston Court), LA Weekly Best Playwright of the Year nomination (For her Theatre of NOTE production of “Potential Space”) and winning the Los Angeles Drama Circle Best Comedic Actress. She is a long-time member of Hollywood’s Theatre of NOTE where she serves on the Art Board.
In the summer of 2019, Vangsness took her one-woman show “Mess” (which Neil Gaiman has called his “favorite one person show”) and her space romp, time travel, women in history, musical “Cleo, Theo and Wu” to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was greeted with 5 star reviews and sold out shows. She is the star and executive producer of the film noir spoof “Kill Me, Deadly” which can be found on many streaming platforms, she can currently be heard on season two of the comedy podcast “Voyage to the Stars” as well as a sometimes host of PRI’s “Selected Shorts”.
In 2020, her animated short “Curtains” based on a short story she penned, was accepted in film festivals around the globe and she created a “Cleo, Theo and Wu” graphic novel with illustrator Kaitlin Bruder. She is the recipient of the HRC Visibility Award, the Open Fist Excellence in Arts Award and has been honored for her work with many charities including The Wildlife Learning Center, The Jacaranda Foundation, and The Unusual Suspects. In her spare time Kirsten can be found washing dishes at the Blinking Owl Distillery, which she co-owns in Santa Ana, California.