Millennials are a nostalgic generation, and one of our favorite pastimes is looking back on the entertainment of our childhoods. (Just look at how many reboots of both TV shows and movies have been hitting screens lately.) The nineties and early 2000s were especially great times for kids’ television. If you were a kid with cable during those years, chances are you that watched a lot of Nickelodeon.
While some of our favorite stars from that time have faded into obscurity, others have grown up and glowed up. Nickelodeon was responsible for launching the careers of a lot of successful starlets who are still in the public eye today. You’ll probably recognize some of the names on our list, but you may not have realized how much better with age they got.
Lucky for us, some of our Nick TV childhood crushes are still incredibly stunning today. In no particular order, here are 15 Nickelodeon Kid Stars Who Grew Up And Became Hot AF.
15. Victoria Justice — Tori Vega From Victorious
Victoria Justice is best known for playing the lead role on the show Victorious, which ran from 2010-2013 and helped to launch the careers of a few other child stars on this list. Before her starring turn, though, she got her start on a different Nickelodeon show, first rising to teen fame as Lola Martinez on Zoey 101 from 2005-2008.
Since leaving Nickelodeon, she’s popped up in various roles. She played Lindy Sampson on MTV’s Eye Candy and starred in the film adaptation of YA novel Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. You also might have caught her in last year’s Rocky Horror Picture Show on Fox as Janet Weiss. She’s also dedicated a lot of her time and resources to various charities, like Girl Up and the United Nations Foundation, and serving looks everywhere she goes.
14. Elizabeth Gillies — Jade From Victorious
Unlike many child stars who got started in the acting business at a pre-pubescent age, Elizabeth Gillies’ first major role didn’t come until she was seventeen years old. Although she appeared on Broadway at fifteen and racked up a few minor acting roles, playing Jade West on Victorious was her first big break.
Since Victorious ended, Gillies has been the voice of Daphne on the Italian cartoon Winx Club and had a main role on the FX series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll for its two season run. If you’re a truly eagle-eyed fan, you noticed her make a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in the music video for co-star Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time.” Next up, she’ll be playing Fallon Carrington on The CW series Dynasty starting this October.
13. Meagan Good — Nina from Cousin Skeeter
If you grew up watching Nickelodeon in the late nineties and early 2000s, chances are you first encountered Meagan Good as Nina Jones on Cousin Skeeter. (Or, if your parents let you watch R-rated movies, you saw 13-year-old Good as a kid in Friday.)
Since Good has been so successful since then, it’s easy to forget that she once had a main role on a Nickelodeon show. She’s been all over TV, appearing on episodes of Moesha, House, My Wife And Kids, Cold Case, and Law & Order: SVU, just to name a few. She’s also had roles on the big screen in Deliver Us From Eva, You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, Saw V, and Think Like A Man. And at 36, she’s as drop-dead gorgeous as ever.
12. Michelle Trachtenberg — Nona From The Adventures of Pete & Pete
Michelle Trachtenberg was unavoidable in the nineties and early 2000s. After appearing in over one hundred commercials, she landed a role on the nineties Nick show The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which ran from 1994-1996. She followed that up with a couple high profile film roles: starring alongside Rosie O’Donnell as the lead in Harriet the Spy and opposite Matthew Broderick as Penny in Inspector Gadget.
If those types of projects weren’t your thing, you may have seen her on Buffy The Vampire Slayer as Dawn Summers (yep, she was there, too) or as Georgina Sparks on the massively popular Gossip Girl. That’s not even counting the shows where she guest starred, which include Weeds, Criminal Minds, and Sleepy Hollow. She’s definitely stayed busy since her days of playing Little Pete’s best friend!
11. Christopher Massey — Michael from Zoey 101
Christopher Massey gained a following as Chase’s best friend Michael on Zoey 101, and it remains his biggest acting role to date. Huge fans of Zoey 101 probably saw him in the short “What Did Zoey Say?” that Dan Schneider released back in 2015. (We’re still waiting on Part 2.) Since the show ended, though, he’s mainly been focusing on other areas of show biz. Massey has been working as a music producer and writes scripts with his brother, Kyle Massey, when neither of them is working on other projects.
Being a successful child actor must run in the family, by the way. Although Christopher Massey was a Nickelodeon kid, his younger brother Kyle became a well-known Disney star, starring as Cory on That’s So Raven before landing his own spinoff, Cory in the House.
10. Raja Fenske — Jake from Unfabulous
There’s a pretty good chance that if you were a kid in the early 2000s, you watched at least one episode of Unfabulous — it was a super popular show for kids and tweens. The better half of that audience was crushing on Jake Behari right along with main character Addie Singer.
For anyone who thought Jake was cute as a kid, you’ll be happy to find out that actor Raja Fenske is one of those people who just gets better with age. It’s disappointing that he hasn’t acted in anything since 2013’s Pendejo, because we’re sure he’d attract a dedicated fanbase as an adult.
It’s hard to find much information about him online, but his Twitter account says he’s a professional napper. Honestly, we can’t even get mad at that.
9. Keke Palmer — True from True Jackson, VP
KeKe Palmer was already an established child actress before landing at Nickelodeon. She scored her first role in 2004 as Queen Latifah’s niece in Barbershop 2, and her breakout role came in 2006 when she played the lead in Akeelah and the Bee. She’s also one of the rare people who’s both a Disney kid and a Nickelodeon kid. Before moving to Nickelodeon, Palmer starred in the DCOM Jump In! with Corbin Bleu.
Her biggest recurring role was as the lead on True Jackson, VP, which ran from 2008 to 2011. The show was so popular that Palmer earned $20,000 per episode. Since then, she’s been killing the game with recurring roles on Scream Queens and Masters of Sex, becoming the first black woman to play Cinderella on Broadway, a starring role on Grease! Live, and staying humble and gorgeous through it all.
8. Emma Roberts — Addie from Unfabulous
Given who her family members are, it seems obvious that Emma Roberts would become a successful actress. Her dad is Golden Globe and Academy Award-nominated actor Eric Roberts, while her aunt is none other than Julia Roberts herself. Now a rising star in her own right, Emma got her big break as Addie Singer on Nickelodeon’s Unfabulous back in the early 2000s.
Since then, she’s taken a few turns on the big screen in Aquamarine, Nancy Drew, and Valentine’s Day, but she’s most well-known for her acting roles on television. She played the lead character on Scream Queens along with fellow Nick alum Keke Palmer, and she’s enjoyed a recurring role on a few seasons of American Horror Story.
7. Leon Thomas III — Andre from Victorious
Leon Thomas III actually got his start on Broadway playing Young Simba in The Lion King and appearing in The Color Purple. Like several other stars on this list, his big break came from the show Victorious, where he played the character Andre Harris.
Similar to Victoria Justice, Harris also wrote some of the music that appeared on the show, and that was a hint to what he would focus on after the show wrapped. Immediately after Victorious, he focused on his music career and co-wrote four songs on Ariana Grande’s debut album Yours Truly, along with dropping a mixtape of his own. He’s returned to acting now, though — you can find him on Issa Rae’s Insecure and in the recently released Kathryn Bigelow crime drama, Detroit.
6. Daniel Curtis Lee — Cookie from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Matthew Lewis may have been the inspiration for the joke “Longbottoming,” or someone who has an ultimate glow-up from puberty to adulthood. Daniel Curtis Lee’s transformation from Cookie on Ned’s Declassified to dapper adult might be coming to take the crown, though.
Lee is best known for playing the nerdy and awkward Cookie, and he’s only had a few roles since Declassified wrapped. He was a main character on the show Zeke & Luther and appeared in a few episodes of Good Luck Charlie. Most recently, he had a four episode run on Glee in 2012. He hasn’t had any acting roles since then, and has instead transitioned to running his own visual marketing company.
5. Jamie Lynn Spears — Zoey from Zoey 101
Jamie Lynn Spears was originally introduced to teen America as Britney’s younger sister on Nick’s sketch comedy show All That. After her 2002-2005 All That run, she became the title star of Zoey 101. Since her controversial pregnancy at age sixteen caused her exit from the show, that’s still the role for which she’s best known.
Spears’ daughter was born in 2008, and she’s been doing well since then. She hasn’t been actively pursuing an acting career, having gone to her roots to pursue a career in country music instead. She released her debut single back in 2013, and her 2014 EP The Journey peaked at #24 on the U.S. Country charts. We’re happy for her, but we’re sure there are still some fans out there grumbling over Zoey 101‘s early cancellation.
4. Avan Jogia — Beck from Victorious
Canadian actor Avan Jogia played the love interest of another star on this list, Elizabeth Gillies, when both of them starred on Victorious. He got teen hearts racing back then, and that face of his is still charming adults today.
You might have seen his face all over Twitter earlier this summer when he was a fan favorite to play Aladdin in the live action remake. Although Jogia isn’t involved in Aladdin, he’s picked up a lot of other work. He co-founded the nonprofit Straight But Not Narrow in 2011 to educate young people about the LGBT community, played Danny Desai on ABC’s Twisted, starred in the movie Tut, took a turn as a runway model, and plays Puck in the 2017 adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
3. Jessica Alba — Jessica from The Secret World of Alex Mack
Yep, Jessica Alba was a Nickelodeon kid! She had a recurring role as Jessica on the show The Secret World of Alex Mack, which ran from 1994-1998. Playing Jessica was one of her first major roles, and it set her up for the major success she saw in the early 2000s.
These days, of course, she’s best known for starring in the James Cameron series Dark Angel, the movie Sin City, and the 2005 Fantastic Four. Oh, and for being incredibly beautiful. She was ranked #1 on Maxim’s Hot 100 List in 2001 and #5 in 2005, along with topping several other lists over the years.
2. Josh Peck — Josh from Drake and Josh
Growing up, most of us saw Drake Bell as the ‘hot one’ in the buddy duo that was Drake and Josh, while the latter was viewed as the go-to funny man. Time proved all of us wrong, though, because Josh Peck turns heads every time he posts a new picture.
While Peck is best known for providing endless laughs on the show Drake and Josh, he got his start on Nickelodeon at age thirteen with a role on The Amanda Show, along with the movie Snow Day. Since Drake and Josh, he’s done his share of voice acting — he provided vocal work for Eddie in Ice Age: Collision Course and is the voice of Casey Jones on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s also become a big presence on Vine (RIP) and YouTube, and he even co-led his own Fox series (Grandfathered) alongside John Stamos for a while there.
1. Ariana Grande — Cat from Victorious
By far the biggest superstar on our list, Ariana Grande got her start playing the cutesy Cat on Victorious. Her character was so popular that she got her own spinoff show, Sam & Cat, with Jennette McCurdy. The latter series was short-lived, though, because…well, she became Ariana Grande.
Grande has come a long way since her Nickelodeon days. Her debut album hit #1 on the Billboard albums chart in 2013, and in 2014, she had the most top ten singles of any artist. Her career has been nonstop since then, releasing hit after hit while managing to fit in a recurring role on Scream Queens and a starring role as Penny Pingleton in Hairspray Live. Oh, and organizing massive benefit concerts, becoming an honorary Mancunian, and looking flawless. No big.
Who are your favorite Nick child stars who became stunning adults? Let us know in the comments!
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