The transition from child star to adult actor or actress can be quite difficult. Most leave the entertainment business entirely (or take an extensive break at the very least), but some do manage to achieve longevity in Hollywood.
Leonardo DiCaprio made the leap from child star to teen heartthrob only to later become one of the industry's premiere talents – but DiCaprio should probably be seen as the exception, and not as the rule. For every success story like DiCaprio or Daniel Radcliffe, there are plenty more actors who are never seen or heard from again.
In another category entirely, there are those cute child stars who grow up and appear completely different years later. You might notice one of these actors or actresses guest starring in your favorite television series or appearing in a film you caught on Netflix, or might not even recognize them from their childhood days.
Some of these former child stars have left the industry and since become unrecognizable, while others have transformed in front of our very eyes on screen.
Here are 15 Child Stars You Totally Wouldn’t Recognize Today.
15 Daveigh Chase
Daveigh Chase is virtually unrecognizable today – especially if you remember the young actress from her iconic role as the sinister young girl Samara from The Ring back in 2002. However, even if you are comparing theChase of today to her character in Donnie Darko, the difference is quite staggering still.
As a talented voice actress, this transformed child star does not necessarily have to step in front of the camera in order take a role. As the voice of Lilo from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch as well as Chihiro in the English-language version of one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most celebrated work Spirited Away, Daveigh has managed to stay out of the spotlight, despite taking on some rather iconic roles.
Now tackling more indie projects in her mid-20s, this young actress shares little resemblance when compared to her former horror roles.
14 Miko Hughes
Also known for appearing in films that absolutely terrified us, is Miko Chase. Best remembered for his parts in horror flicks like Pet Sematary and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, as well as mid-to-late ‘90s features such as Apollo 13 and Mercury Rising, Miko has since been much less consumed by the film industry.
Hughes went on to pursue a career as a DJ, going by the moniker “DJ Cubed,” and even blended the two careers together when he appeared as such in an uncredited role in Tropic Thunder.
More recently, Miko has gotten back into the acting game with some starring roles in upcoming indie pictures like The Untold Story which is slated to debut early next year. These days, no matter how you see him, however, it is clear that he doesn’t look anything like the Miko Hughes we remember from the ‘90s.
13 Ivana Baquero
Spanish actress Ivana Baquero got her big break in the form of Guillermo Del Toro’s modern classic Pan’s Labyrinth, in which she portrayed the main character Ofelia – a role that was reportedly intended to be played by an eight-year-old girl, but Ivana (who was just a few years older at the time) ended up with the role due to her excellent audition.
You probably would not recognize this former child star from her starring role as Eretria in MTV’s ongoing sci-fi series The Shannara Chronicles (a series that has since relocated to Spike), as the young actress has since changed quite a bit.
Having worked primarily in foreign films, Baquero has managed to stay out of the spotlight stateside, making this jaw-dropping transformation feel all the more surprising.
12 Tahj Mowry
Best remembered for starring as boy genius T.J. Henderson on The WB’s hit comedy Smart Guy, Tahj Mowry has continued to stay busy in Hollywood over the years. However, the young actor is looking somewhat different than you might recall.
After seeing Mowry co-star in the ABC Family (recently rebranded to Freeform) series Baby Daddy, audiences are well aware that this former child star is all grown up now – if they recognized him, that is.
This former child star may not have undergone quite as drastic a transformation as others on this list have, but given Mowry’s talents in the field of voice acting, he has managed to stay behind the camera enough over the years to truly surprise audiences with his new look.
11 Mackenzie Rosman
Mackenzie Rosman grew up in front of television audiences for 11 seasons as the adorable Ruthie Camden on the hit drama 7th Heaven. Having ended in 2007, Rosman was still a teen the last time we saw her portraying the youngest Camden daughter.
The former child star is still working in Hollywood – mostly pursuing indie movies and short films – and had a recurring role on the hit young adult drama Secret Life of the American Teenager. However, the young actress has been looking quite different than we remember – especially those of us who did not see 7th Heaven all the way through to its finale back in ’07.
Breaking out from the mold of a child star, Rosman even posed for a not-so-Reverend Camden-approved photo shoot with Maxim a couple years back, further illustrating that she’s not little Ruthie anymore.
10 Jonathan Lipnicki
There is arguably no child star more adorable than Jonathan Lipnicki. His memorable roles in films like Jerry Maguire and Stuart Little are still referenced to this day, but you might be surprised to see how much he has changed over the years.
Like many former child stars, Lipnicki took a break from acting after enjoying years of success. That said, the actor did not stay away for long, as he has since returned to guest star in television shows like Family Guy and Monk, and now is heavily pursuing countless indie projects.
No matter the work, however, Lipnicki is almost unrecognizable today. He has certainly come a long way since his roles in films like The Little Vampire and Like Mike, but what has arguably changed the most over the years, is this actor’s appearance.
9 Abigail Breslin
In 2002, Abigail Breslin received her first acting credit as the young Bo Hess in M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi hit Signs, but it was not until after her Academy Award Nominated performance in Little Miss Sunshine that this young star was on the radar as a child actress to look out for.
Breslin continued to star in major motion pictures like Nim’s Island and Zombieland, but it was not until more recently that the former child star began her transformation.
After starring opposite Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis in the first season of the horror-comedy series Scream Queens, it became quite apparent that Breslin has become unrecognizable since her breakout performance as little Olive Hoover in the aforementioned Best Picture Nominee.
8 Jaleel White
For nine years, Jaleel White made audiences laugh as the goofy, suspenders-wearing Steve Urkel on the hit sitcom Family Matters. His wacky sense of style, along with his quotable catchphrase – “did I do that?’ – both became iconic and are still remembered fondly, and referenced today.
More resembling his super smooth alter-ego Stefan Urquelle, White has grown up looking much different than audiences might remember. With guest appearances in countless popular television series, such as NCIS, House, Psych, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Drunk History, and Atlanta, just to name a few, this former child star has had more than a few opportunities to show off his "all grown up" look.
White has been busier than most on this list, but seeing as how much of his work consists of guest starring roles on various popular television programs, you would be forgiven for not knowing that Steve wound up looking much different than you would expect.
7 AnnaSophia Robb
As one of the youngest and most active actresses on our list, AnnaSophia Robb has grown up right in front of moviegoing and television audiences. However, those not paying close attention to the cast lists might not realize that this child star looks quite different today in comparison to some of her earlier roles.
After receiving her big break in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory back in 2005, the young star made the most of the opportunity and went on to star in other major films such as Bridge to Terabithia, Race to Witch Mountain, and most notably Soul Surfer.
More recently, Robb looked much different portraying a young Carrie Bradshaw for two seasons in the Sex and the City prequel series, The Carrie Diaries.
6 Josh Peck
Most fans of the hit Nickelodeon sitcom Drake & Josh are well aware of star Josh Peck's incredible transformation. That said, his altered appearance from his early child star roles to present day is certainly impressive nonetheless – especially in comparison to his former co-star Drake Bell, who looks more or less the same as he always has.
Audiences started to take notice of Peck’s new look in Drake & Josh’s later seasons, and the show even took the opportunity to reference his metamorphosis on more than one occasion.
Peck’s new look was more recently on full display as the former child star worked opposite John Stamos and Paget Brewster in the Fox comedy Grandfathered, which aired for one season.
The newly married former child star has a few more projects coming up in the future, and continues his voice acting efforts in the ongoing Nickelodeon animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
5 Tania Raymonde
Tania Raymonde got her big break as Malcolm’s classmate Cynthia Sanders on the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle back in 2001. If you have not kept up with this actress since then, however, you would probably be absolutely shocked to see what she looks like today.
As Brittany Gold on the Billy Bob Thornton-led legal drama Goliath (as seen on Amazon), Raymonde is virtually unrecognizable. This is not the first time audiences have had the opportunity to see the former child actress all grown up, as she has made guest appearances in countless popular television series: Chicago Fire, Switched at Birth, Hawaii Five-0, 90210, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and The Big Bang Theory among others.
Additionally, Raymonde has appeared on the big screen as well, in features such as Texas Chainsaw 3D and 2016’s Dirty Lies.
4 Anthony Michael Hall
Typecast as the lovable nerd, Anthony Michael Hall starred in some of the mid-‘80s most memorable films: National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science. In addition to his various stints on Saturday Night Live, Hall cemented himself as one of the industry’s best young talents.
Unlike many other former child stars, Anthony Michael Hall has enjoyed longevity in the industry, but is looking vastly different than you might remember him from the ‘80s.
Most recently appearing alongside Brad Pitt in Netflix’s feature-length satire War Machine, Hall almost appeared to be a different person entirely for those who have not been following his career that closely.
Needless to say, this actor no longer resembles the charming yet troubled Brian Johnson we love and remember from The Breakfast Club.
3 Taylor Momsen
If only the residents of Whoville could see her now. Taylor Momsen, who once starred as Cindy Lou Who opposite Jim Carey in the live-action feature-length adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, has been looking mighty different these days.
As the lead woman of the American rock band The Pretty Reckless, Momsen has embraced a much darker style than we have been used to seeing from this former child star.
After the actress’ recurring role as Jenny Humphrey on the long-running CW drama Gossip Girl, the entertainer took a break from acting to work on her music and has yet to return. Her band, The Pretty Reckless, has enjoyed commercial success post the release of their second studio album Going to Hell (2014), on the back of their hit single “Heaven Knows.”
2 Cole Sprouse
Cole Sprouse, largely known for his work alongside his twin brother Dylan, starred in the hit Disney Channel sitcoms The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and its respective follow-up The Suite Life on Deck.
Years before that, however, the two portrayed Julian "Frankenstein" McGrath in the Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy. Ever more years before that, the brothers shared the role of Patrick Kelly on the ABC hit series Grace Under Fire – a role they began from the time they were six months old.
Following the successful run of the Suite Life’s two series, as well as its TV Movie (The Suite Life Movie), both Cole and Dylan decided to take a brief hiatus from acting in order to pursue degrees at NYU. After having graduated with honors, Cole returned to television to portray Jughead in The CW’s addictive drama Riverdale.
1 Alexa Vega
Kids who grew up in the ‘90s might remember Alexa Vega as the fearless Carmen Cortez from the Spy Kids franchise, but you likely would not recognize her on the screen today.
Alexa is probably best remembered for her role in the incredibly successful Spy Kids series, but the actress had actually been hard at work in the industry for nearly a decade before, in various projects, both on the big screen as well as television.
In more recent years, the former child star has been looking like an entirely different person in comparison. Audiences may have recently seen Alexa Vega in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills or as her recurring character Kiley Brenner on the CMT music drama Nashville, and it's likely that you didn't make the Spy Kids connection given the actress’ stunning transformation.
Who are some child stars you think are unrecognizable today? Make sure to let us hear your picks in the comments section.