Although we all have a propensity for romanticizing years past, few of us would ever choose to revisit high school, even if somehow afforded the opportunity. To be young again would be one thing - but to be a teenager? Most of us remember that particular period of time as being awkward, painful, and often unnecessarily cruel. Few of us have fond memories of our high school years. Can you even fully trust the rare person who speaks with joy of their high school years?
We often view celebrities as being very different from us and honestly, they kind of are. They live seemingly charmed lives and it feels as though they must’ve somehow managed to transcend the painful realities of adolescence. However, stars were once gawky teens as well, and these yearbook photos prove that they too were forced to navigate those treacherous high school waters.
Certain celebrities haven’t really changed much at all, but these stars certainly have. If you weren’t seeing their yearbook photo side by side with a current one, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess their identities – keep in mind, it was a different time.
Here are 15 Celebrity Yearbook Photos You Will Never Recognize.
15 George Clooney
It’s difficult to believe that this kid would one day grow up to be People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” not once, but twice. Between the haircut, the glasses, and that turtleneck, George Timothy Clooney had quite a bit working against him during his teen years – and that’s not even counting the actor’s struggle with Bell’s palsy.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1961, Clooney was afflicted with this temporary condition, which causes partial paralysis of the face, his freshman year. The star has described this as “the worst time of my life”.
George Clooney’s big break came in the form of ER, but these days, he is an award-winning actor and a well-respected producer/director, as well as a humanitarian. He has starred in countless beloved films, from Ocean's Eleven to Fantastic Mr. Fox to The Descendants. His most recent project, Suburbicon, hit theaters last month.
There are few things that truly get better with age, but we can all probably agree that George Clooney is one of them.
14 Katy Perry
Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson has certainly come a long way since her time at Dos Pueblos High School. The singer was born in 1984 in Santa Barbara, California. Although pop music was strictly forbidden in her religious upbringing, she discovered a love of it through sneaking CDs from her friends. Perry left high school her freshman year in order to pursue a career in music.
After heading to Nashville, Tennessee, Perry honed her musical skills and released her first album, a gospel record. Moving away from gospel, her breakthrough came with her second album, One of the Boys. These days, Perry is a household name and has become one of the best selling artists of all time, having sold more than one hundred million records globally.
13 Peter Dinklage
Looks like even the Game of Thrones star wasn’t immune to the popularity of the mullet. Peter Hayden Dinklage was born in Morristown, New Jersey in 1969 and wanted to act from the time he was very young. As children, Dinklage and his brother performed puppet shows for their neighbors and he continued to hone his craft throughout his time at both high school and college.
It was an uphill battle for Dinklage, who adamantly refused to take the roles primarily offered to others of his stature. With no desire to portray a leprechaun or an elf, Dinklage would spend six years at a data processing company before seeing his acting dream fully realized.
In 2011, he was cast as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, and this remains his most acclaimed and well-known role. The actor has several upcoming projects, such as the HBO film, My Dinner with Hervé, about the actor Hervé Villechaize. He will also play an as yet unknown part in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, as well as its sequel.
12 Winona Ryder
Named after a nearby Missouri town, Winona Ryder was born Winona Laura Horowitz in 1971. The goddaughter of Timothy Leary, she was raised on a commune in California, with no electricity. At the age of ten, she was bullied by a cruel group of kids who apparently thought that she was an effeminate boy. Not only did they call her a homophobic slur, but they also beat her so badly that she needed stitches. Adding insult to injury, Ryder was the one to be kicked out of school. Still, she had the last laugh when years later, she refused an autograph to one of her former tormentors.
Although her personal life has sometimes overshadowed her career, Ryder was one of the most ubiquitous and beloved actresses of the ‘80s and ‘90s. She has starred in several cult classics, including Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Heathers, and Reality Bites. Ryder has worked with the industry’s most well respected directors, from Francis Ford Coppola to Martin Scorsese. Most recently, she can be seen playing Joyce Byers on Stranger Things.
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? Marshall Bruce Mathers II was born in 1972 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He was actually an aspiring comic book artist prior to discovering his love of hip-hop. Mathers dropped out of high school at seventeen, after spending three years in the ninth grade. He was already rapping with his pal Mike Ruby, and M&M eventually evolved into Eminem.
Eminem’s undeniable skills have made him one of the most famous rappers of all time. He is also considered one of the best. His ninth studio album, Revival, is scheduled to drop November 17th. It is meant to round out the trilogy that began with Relapse in 2009 and continued with Recovery in 2010. The album’s first single, “Walk on Water” was released on November 10th.
The Material Girl looks a bit less glamorous in her high school yearbook, but not even Madonna could’ve expected that she would come to dominate pop music for over a decade.
Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan in 1958. She would later drop out of college and move to New York City with nothing but $35 in her pocket. It was money well spent, as Madonna became not only one of history’s most famous pop stars, but also a cultural icon.
Madonna has garnered as much controversy as acclaim over the years, but has been undeniably influential on both the pop divas who followed in her footsteps and musicians from many other genres as well. She forever altered not only the musical landscape, but also perceptions of what female performers were capable of.
Madonna is the fourth best-selling recording artist of all time, behind only the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson.
9 James Franco
It turns out that James Edward Franco had more in common with his Freaks and Geeks character, Daniel Desario, than you might think. Born in Palo Alto, California in 1978, Franco wasn’t exactly a model student. He was arrested for several offenses, including underage drinking, graffiti, and even stealing perfume from department stores in order to resell it to his classmates. His “teen angst” – as Franco calls it – led to him briefly becoming a ward of the state. With juvenile hall being a distinct possibility, Franco decided to make a change.
Since his breakout role in the much-beloved, but canceled too soon Freaks and Geeks, Franco has continued to collaborate with his then-costar, Seth Rogen, in films such as Pineapple Express, The Interview, and This is the End. He is known for playing incredibly varied roles from Milk to 127 Hours to Spring Breakers. Franco recently directed and starred in The Disaster Artist, set for release December 1st.
8 Pamela Anderson
The former Baywatch star went through a lot of changes in between this high school yearbook photo and her television debut. Pamela Denise Anderson was born in Ladysmith, British Columbia in 1967. Her modeling career began in 1989, when she was seen on a Jumbotron at a football game wearing a Labatt's Beer T-shirt and the company elected to hire her as a spokesmodel.
Her acting career started with a small role on Home Improvement, but skyrocketed when she won the part of C.J. Parker on Baywatch. This led to her appearances in films such as Raw Justice and Barb Wire.
Since the 2000s, the majority of Anderson’s television appearances have been on reality TV shows. She has graced the cover of Playboy more than any other model in the magazine’s history.
Anderson is also an animal rights activist and in 1999 received the first Linda McCartney Memorial Award for her PETA anti-fur campaign. She has also campaigned against KFC due to their treatment of chickens, as well as seal hunting in her native Canada, among many other animal welfare issues.
7 Jamie Foxx
It’s understandable that this happened, considering it was the time of the Jheri curl, but we can all agree on what a difference a haircut can make. Eric Marlon Bishop was born in Terrell, Texas in 1967 and began playing piano when he was just five years old. His original dream was to play for the Dallas Cowboys. In high school, he was an excellent student, who played both basketball and football, and even sang in a band called Leather and Lace.
Jamie Foxx got his start as a comedian on In Living Color and eventually went on to star in his own sitcom. He proved his dramatic chops with his multi-award winning role as Ray Charles in Ray. Foxx has since starred in movies as diverse as Jarhead, Dreamgirls and Django Unchained. This year, he costarred in Edgar Wright’s musical tour de force, Baby Driver. Foxx is also a Grammy Award-winning musician.
6 Charlie Sheen
Carlos Irwin Estévez was born in New York City in 1965. When his parents moved to California, he attended Santa Monica High School alongside Robert Downey Jr.
Sheen was interested in acting from a young age, making films with his brother Emilio, and friends Rob Lowe and Sean Penn. However, he was expelled mere weeks from graduation due to his grades and attendance. It was shortly after this that he decided to pursue acting and took up the stage name Charlie Sheen.
He became a regular fixture of ‘80s and ‘90s films, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Platoon, Major League, and Hot Shots. His career entered a resurgence period when he landed a starring role on Two and a Half Men. This lasted from 2003-2011, after which he lost the job due to his ongoing battle with drug addiction. He recently appeared in Mad Families and 9/11.
5 Ice Cube
Like Jamie Foxx, Ice Cube looks like a completely different person sans Jheri curl. O'Shea Jackson was born in Los Angeles, California in 1969. The name we all know him by came from his older brother. According to Jackson, “He threatened to slam me into a freezer and pull me out when I was an ice cube.”
Not only was Jackson a founding member of NWA, but he also wrote about half of the lyrics on their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, including verses for Dr. Dre and Eazy-E.
Since the dissolution of NWA, Ice Cube has gone on to have a successful solo career and is still considered one of history's best rappers. He also became an actor, producer, and screenwriter. Ice Cube has appeared in films such as Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning, and Anaconda. He has also written more than one screenplay, beginning with Friday in 1995.
In 2015, Straight Outta Compton, an NWA biopic, hit theaters. His son, O’Shea Jackson Jr, portrayed him in the film.
Aubrey Drake Graham was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1986. He attended a Jewish day school and had a Bar Mitzvah. His affinity for the arts first became apparent in high school. He eventually dropped out to pursue his career, but got his G.E.D. in 2012. Drake’s big break came when he landed the role of Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation and he starred on the show until 2007.
Of course, since his days as an actor, Drake’s music career has exploded. He is a Grammy award-winning artist, whose first four solo studio efforts went platinum. Released in 2016, Views is not only his fourth album, but also his fourth consecutive number one album in the U.S. He has also continued to appear in television and film, usually as himself.
3 Bruce Willis
Well, this list has already shown what a difference a haircut can make. Walter Bruce Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany in 1955. After his father was discharged from the military, the family moved to New Jersey. Willis developed a stutter in high school and discovered that performing helped him to gain confidence and lose his stutter in the process. After working as a security guard and later, a P.I., Willis set his sights on acting.
Although his first notable role was on television in Moonlighting, Willis has obviously become a bona fide star since then. The Die Hard films made him a huge action hero, but he spread his wings far beyond that in movies like Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, and Sin City. He has plenty of upcoming projects, the most exciting being M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, set for release in 2019.
2 Shia LaBeouf
This teen is barely recognizable as Shia Saide LaBeouf, who was born in Los Angeles, California in 1986. The actor began performing standup at the age of ten, and according to him, embarked on an acting career due to his family’s financial troubles, as opposed to a real desire to perform. After initially pretending to be his own manager, LeBeouf found an agent. His big break was playing Louis Stevens in the Disney Channel show, Even Stevens.
Although in recent years, the actor’s legal troubles have overshadowed his career, LaBeouf is an actor, a filmmaker, and a performance artist. He has starred in movies such as Disturbia, the Transformers franchise, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. His most recent outing is Borg/McEnroe, a sports drama about a famous tennis rivalry.
1 Russell Brand
Virtually unrecognizable from his high school days, Russell Edward Brand was born in Grays, Essex in 1975. He was accepted to a prestigious theater training school, but was kicked out within the first year, due to his drug use. This wasn’t the only aspect of Brand’s career that would suffer as a result of his addiction. He was fired from his VJ job at MTV for the same issues.
Since cleaning up his act in 2002, Brand has become famous for reasons beyond his illegal exploits. He continues to do standup, and has had a successful acting career in films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and its spinoff, Get Him to the Greek. He is also an author and a political activist. In recent years, Brand has largely taken a step back from his career as an entertainer in order to focus on campaigning for more serious issues.
Would you have recognized these celebrities just from their yearbook photos? Let us know in the comments!