Famous is a subjective word. While the majority of these celebrities are no longer the big names they once were, they are all still very successful in their endeavors. More importantly, being out of the bright spotlight has given them the opportunity to relax – and we all know how less stress can bring out the beauty in us all.
The main thing is that these celebs probably don’t care if they ever have that kind of fame again. There are those stars like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Phoebe Cates, and Freddie Prinze Jr. who quit the biz to focus on themselves and their families, and while Zeta-Jones and Prinze still work (Cates never returned), they are sexy in their nonchalance. There’s the reality TV stars like Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Jessica Simpson who basically were only famous for being party girls, so growing up to become successful business women — and hot mamas to boot – just made it worthwhile.
There’s also the musical artists like Lauryn Hill, who didn’t want the fame or deal with the music industry’s standards, but continued doing things her own way. Even comedian Dave Chapelle, who, as a skinny dude, famously walked away from his notoriety, only to come back looking beefed up and ready for action.
Whatever the reasoning was behind the wane of their fame, this group of former megastars now look pretty damn amazing, so they must be doing something right. Here are 15 celebrities who got hotter after being famous.
15. ELIZABETH HURLEY
The lovely Elizabeth Hurley first came on the scene as a model as a long-running spokesmodel for Estée Lauder, and then easily transitioned to the big screen in the 1990s. Her breakout role came in the hit 1997 comedy Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and she went on to do a few more films, including Bedazzled and Serving Sara.
Hurley’s biggest claim to fame, however, later became being the longtime girlfriend of Hugh Grant at the height of his career. She even stood by him when he was caught with a prostitute in 1995, but the two finally called it quits in 2000 after 13 years together.
The actress sort of fell off the radar after that, but her beauty has only grown, as she continues to model, and even launched her own line of beachwear. She also returned to TV in 2015 with the drama series The Royals, playing the matriarch of a fictitious British royal family.
14. PHOEBE CATES
Also starting her career as a top-paid model, Phoebe Cates set many hearts aflutter when she starred in the 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High, especially in that fantasy poolside sequence with her infamous “bikini drop.” She went on to star in a series of films in the ’80s and early ’90s, including Gremlins, Drop Dead Fred, and Princess Caraboo.
She met actor Kevin Kline while auditioning for The Big Chill (the role went to Meg Tilly), and despite the age difference, the two began dating and were married in 1989. After Caraboo, Cates retired from acting to raise their two kids, making one last onscreen appearance in 2001’s The Anniversary Party as a favor to her friend Jennifer Jason Leigh, who directed the movie. Still as gorgeous as ever, the 54-year-old now runs a NYC boutique called Blue Tree.
13. RICKI LAKE
Ricki Lake made her feature film debut in 1988 when she starred in John Waters’ campy cult classic Hairspray, immortalizing the plucky heroine Tracy Turnblad for future iterations, including the hugely successful Broadway musical. Although Lake went on to star in films and TV, including the ’90s series China Beach, she never quite found fame as an actress.
Instead, Lake became an immensely popular daytime talk-show host with her self-titled show, which ran for 11 seasons. She still stands as one of the youngest talk show hosts ever; the show debuted in 1993, when Lake was just 24. She also eventually chose a healthier lifestyle and lost weight. After the talk show ended in 2004, the svelte Lake took a step away from fame to raise her family and hasn’t really been back in the spotlight since. She is still acting, like with her cameo in the Hairspray Live! TV event, and she’s looking just fabulous.
12. FREDDIE PRINZE JR.
Freddie Prinze Jr. was most definitely a heartthrob in the ’90s, first making waves in the horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer (and the sequel) and then with teen romcoms like She’s All That and Boys and Girls. He also played Fred in the big-screen adaptation of Scooby-Doo and its sequel.
He married Sarah Michelle Gellar in 2002, whom he met while making I Know What You Did Last Summer, and he later starred alongside her in the Scooby-Doo movies. While he continued to work in the early 2000s, his star status began to fade. His looks, however, sure didn’t. Judging from his Instagram account, the handsome Prinze, with his salt and pepper hair, still has the goods. He is now enjoying a career in voice work on shows like Star Wars: Rebels as he and Gellar raise their two young children.
11. LAURYN HILL
Singer/rapper Lauryn Hill blew onto the music scene in the ’90s, first as a member of the Fugees, and then with her critically acclaimed 1998 solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which won numerous awards and broke several sales records with songs such as “Killing Me Softly” and “Everything is Everything.” She also starred in the film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
Soon after winning a slew of Grammys, Hill dropped out of the public eye, dissatisfied with the music industry and suffering from the pressures of fame. She didn’t necessarily stop producing music, but she kept a very low profile as she raised her five children with former partner Rohan Marley (son of Bob Marley). The beautiful singer has since gone back on the road with new music, and is currently on tour with Nas.
10. ROSIE PEREZ
Breaking out on the scene as a dancer, Rosie Perez made her feature film debut in Spike Lee’s 1989 Do the Right Thing, giving us one of the film’s most memorable moments in the opening credits, when she fiercely dances on the street. She then became the choreographer for the Fly Girls, a dance group (which included Jennifer Lopez) featured on the variety sketch show In Living Color. Perez also starred in films like White Men Can’t Jump and Untamed Heart – and received an Oscar nomination for her supporting turn in Fearless.
Heading into the 2000s, however, Perez’s star started to wane. She appeared in a few TV shows and movies, including Pineapple Express, and now, she does a lot of voice work for shows like Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero. Her short stint in 2015 as one of the hosts of The View, however, reminded us just how white hot Perez still is.
9. MOS DEF
Hip-hop artist and rapper Mos Def (who now goes by Yasiin Bey) hit the charts in the ’90s, both in a group and then as a solo artist, with hits like “Brown Sugar,” “Another World” and “Ms. Fat Booty.” He was also a child actor at one point before graduating to bigger films like Monster’s Ball, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Be Kind Rewind, and The Italian Job. He was nominated for an Emmy for the HBO miniseries Something the Lord Made, playing heart surgery pioneer Vivian Thomas, and he also played Brother Sam in the Showtime series Dexter.
Mos Def has kept a lower profile in recent years, and while he is still acting and making music, he announced in 2016 that he was officially retiring from the industry as a whole after he released his last album. Whatever he ends up doing next, he’ll look damn fine doing it.
8. CHRISTINA MILIAN
At age 19, Christina Milian found herself with a successful singing career when she signed a contract with Def Jam. In 2001, Milian released her self-titled debut album, which featured the singles “AM to PM” and “When You Look at Me,” and in 2004, Milian released her second studio album It’s About Time, which provided her first major U.S. hit, “Dip It Low.” Milian also starred in films such as Love Don’t Cost a Thing, Be Cool, and Man of the House.
Milian’s subsequent albums haven’t fared as well, and she took a brief hiatus in the mid-2000s, but she has continued with her music, along with a brief appearance on The Voice as a Social Media Correspondent. She also starred on the short-lived sitcom Grandfathered. Suffice to say, she’s sexier than ever, and we look forward to seeing what she does in the future.
7. JESSICA SIMPSON
Jessica Simpson also started singing at a young age. At 16, she debuted her first album, which included her hit “I Wanna Love You Forever,” and she followed that up with a successful music career. But while Simpson began as a singer, her true claim to fame came when she and then husband Nick Lachey appeared in the MTV show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica in 2003. It was a huge hit in the burgeoning reality TV world, and one that made Simpson and Lachey insanely famous. Simpson even tried her hand at acting, memorably playing Daisy Dukes in the big-screen adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard.
When Nick and Jessica split in 2005, however, things went a bit downhill for Simpson – but she has since bounced back in other areas besides fame. She married former NFL player Eric Johnson, and started a new career as a fashion mogul with her extremely lucrative clothing and décor line. She also gave birth to two gorgeous kids, and judging from her Instagram, the entrepreneur just keeps getting hotter.
6. KEVIN JONAS
As a member of the oh-so-popular Jonas Brothers, Kevin Jonas definitely seemed content to just be a regular dude once the hoopla was done. When the boys, including bros Joe and Nick, first hit the scene in 2005, they soon became pop sensations with hit albums, a hit Disney TV movie (Camp Rock), and a shortlived TV show. Their combined energy and charisma put them square in the teen heartthrob arena.
But once the brothers got older and decided to do their own thing – with Joe forming the band DNCE and Nick going solo – Kevin ended up becoming a family man, marrying Danielle Deleasa and having two cute kids. He is also co-CEO, with Steven Forkosh, of The Blu Market, a marketing company. The whole settled-down thing definitely looks good on him.
5. NICOLE “SNOOKI” POLIZZI
Not to say that she wasn’t cute when she was Jersey Shore‘s resident loose cannon, but once Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi put her bad girl ways behind her, she became a real hottie. Of course, everyone will always remember Snooki on the hit MTV reality TV show, getting drunk, mouthing off to cops, and having meltdowns left and right. She made an indelible impression on fans, becoming the lasting standout of the show.
Then, Polizzi grew up. Once Jersey Shore went off the air, she got her act together and got into shape. Snooki and BFF Jennifer “JWOWW” Farley have done a few things together, and Polizzi has kept her hand in it, appearing on Dancing With the Stars and New Celebrity Apprentice and even joining the WWE as a wrestler for a spell. Mostly though, Snooki has left fame behind and has settled into domestic bliss with husband Jionni LaValle and their two adorable kids.
4. HILARY DUFF
Hilary Duff was one of the original Disney Channel darlings with her hit series Lizzie McGuire, making her an instant teen sensation and recording star. She also transitioned well into films like A Cinderella Story, Agent Cody Banks, and The Perfect Man, along with a recurring character on Gossip Girl as she continued to record hit albums.
After the huge success from Lizzie McGuire, Duff never truly reached those famed levels again, but it hasn’t stopped her from staying totally gorgeous, especially blossoming as a mom to her 5-year-old son, Luca, with ex-husband Mike Comrie. She is also author of the YA novel trilogy called Exilir and recently landed a starring role in another TV series, Younger, now in its fourth season. She continues to work on her musical career as well, including releasing her album Breathe In. Breather Out in 2016.
3. ELISABETH SHUE
Elisabeth Shue was Hollywood’s perfect girl-next-door type in the ’80s and ’90s at the beginning of her career, turning in memorable work in films like The Karate Kid, Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail – and of course, Back to the Future II and III. Then she really shed that persona with her searing performance in Leaving Las Vegas, which landed her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Although Shue continued working in both film and TV, including her stint on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the actress didn’t really regain that same fame momentum. No matter. Shue has truly gotten more beautiful with age and now picks her projects carefully. She’ll be seen next in the drama Battle of the Sexes, playing Bobby Riggs’ wife in a film about the famed Riggs/Billie Jean King match-up. Shue will also star with Bruce Willis in a remake of Death Wish.
2. DAVE CHAPPELLE
Comedian Dave Chappelle started out doing stand up on the New York circuit, and at 19, he landed a role in Mel Brooks’ comedy Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Some of his other movies include The Nutty Professor, Con Air, and the hilarious Half Baked, which he co-wrote with Neal Brennan.
Chappelle then found his real fame with his sketch Comedy Central series, Chappelle’s Show, which proved to be a massive hit during its two year run. But Chappelle didn’t really like doing sketch comedy, and he felt the show was ruining his stand-up career. The pressures of delivering on the highly anticipated third season reportedly got to him, and in a highly publicized split, he ended up walking away from the lucrative deal with the show. Understandably, his career suffered for it.
1. CATHERINE ZETA-JONES
The stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones got her start in the UK with a few TV and film appearances, but immediately turned heads when she made her US film debut in The Mask of Zorro. She then went on to wow us in films such as Entrapment, Intolerable Cruelty, and Traffic – and really stopped everyone in their tracks with her turn in the 2002 movie musical Chicago, which landed her an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress.
Zeta-Jones continued making films, but decided to lighten the load so that she could raise her family with husband Michael Douglas, whom she married in 2000. She supported Douglas through his battle with tongue cancer, and later unveiled a shocker of her own when she publicly stated that she suffers from bipolar disorder. So yeah, she deserved a break from fame. Through it all, however, the dark-haired actress is still just as beautiful as ever. Just look at her Instagram for proof.
Have we missed a once-famous star who’s hotter than hot right now? Let us know in the comments!
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