Maran was born in Menlo Park, California. She is of Russian Jewish descent on her paternal side. Maran attended Castilleja School, an all-girls school in Palo Alto, California from grades 6 to 12. While she was still in high school, Maran was approached by a woman who asked her for a modeling performance, in San Francisco, and a scouting agent encouraged her to pursue modeling professionally. Her first cover was Glamour in 1998. In 1990, an appendectomy left Maran with a noticeable scar that is typically edited out of photos.
Signed at age 17 with the Elite modeling agency of Los Angeles, Maran appeared on her first cover with Glamour magazine in 1998; she was then the featured Guess? Girl in their summer 1998 and fall 1998 campaigns. After building a résumé of over 25 commercials and advertisements, including playing Howie D's companion in the music video of Backstreet Boys hit Everybody (Backstreet's Back), in which she was bitten on the neck by Count Dracula (played by Howie D), Maran moved cross-country to join with Elite in New York City. In 1999, she landed a multi-year deal with Maybelline. Maran appeared in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for three consecutive years; from 2000 to 2002.
Maran's interest in music led her to play casually in two bands: Darling, with socialite Nicole Richie, and Hollywood 2000, where she sang and played violin. In 2001, Maran appeared in an independent film, as title character Mallory in The Mallory Effect. Maran followed this by appearing as Susan in Swatters in 2002. In 2004, she appeared in three films - as a French model in Little Black Book, as one of Dracula's brides, Marishka, in Van Helsing, and briefly as a cigarette girl in The Aviator. Maran appeared in a short film "The Confession" alongside Wentworth Miller in 2005, and as Kira Hayden in The Gravedancers in 2006.
She was recruited in 2005 by EA Games to appear as a main character in the street-racing computer and video game, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which was released on November 17, 2005. She plays the game's second lead Mia Townsend, who guides the lead character through the game. She also plays as the main character voices in the street-racing Ps3 and Xbox game, Midnight Club: Los Angeles which was released on October 20, 2008. She plays the game third lead as Annie, who guides the lead character about the racers.
In June 2007, Maran launched her own natural cosmetics product line, named Josie Maran Cosmetics. Beyond her business activities she commits herself to the protection and improvement of nature and the environment. Maran competed in the 2007 season of Dancing with the Stars, but she and dance partner Alec Mazo were the first couple eliminated.
A lot of people seem to think that, once an actor or musician or model, or anyone in the entertainment industry for that matter, come to the end of their run in the entertainment world, then tthey just vanish off the scene and have to go back to reality and get a regular job like the rest of us.
Josie Maran started the business in 2007 and now, six years later, it is bigger than ever, with stars all around the world using her products and swearing by them. Proof that there is life beyond the entertainment industry.