In 1977, Nickelodeon became the first-ever cable television network for kids, steadily producing family friendly sitcoms for several decades. Though not as popular now as the Disney Channel, or as iconic as animated fare on Cartoon Network, it has nevertheless become a staple for a generation of millennials, and shows like Drake and Josh have undeniably remained in the lexicon of teenage humor more than a decade after their release.
Most of their shows were never on air long enough to have experienced a Harry Potter effect, in which their pre-teen cast members grew up on our screens before our very eyes. We only got to see a little bit of their career, showing off their cute little faces before growing up took its toll.
Some may have lost some weight, or gained a couple of inches of height, but they were still very much children during their time on Nickelodeon, so it’s a bit of a shock checking out what some of them look like ten years after their biggest acting gigs came to a close. Whether studs or duds, we're all a little curious to see what our childhood crush looks like today.
Here are 20 Nickelodeon Stars Who Look Completely Unrecognizable From The 2000s.
20 Romeo Miller
Nickelodeon’s answer to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Romeo! starred Romeo Miller playing a fictional version of himself. After releasing a Platinum single, "My Baby", and his follow-up album, Lil’ Romeo, his career was on the decline when his next releases didn’t quite crack the US Billboard 200. Luckily, his acting gig made for a reliable backup for, at least, three seasons.
Nowadays he’s still dabbling with acting and music, as well as pursuing modelling, fashion design, and basketball careers. You can find him in a brief appearance in the hit show Empire, and he's also set to appear in this year’s season of Famous in Love. Today, he’s ditched the bandana and cornrows in favor of a clean cut and washboard abs, but still retained his boyish smile.
19 Lindsey Shaw
Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide was the perfect after school sitcom for kids. Featuring valuable tips and tricks for middle school students, the three-season show followed Ned Bigby and his unfortunately named best friends, Cookie and Moze. Every week, the geeky trio would provide life lessons about popularity, grades, and fashion.
Each of the main cast has grown up looking completely unrecognizable. Think Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but without the magic or British wit. Lindsey Shaw still looks a little like her middle school counterpart, but you could have mistaken her for Coconut Head during her earlier appearances on Pretty Little Liars, whereas her edgier fashion decisions in the re-imagined 10 Things I Hate About You will make you double take.
18 Jamie Lynn Spears
The star of Zoey 101, Jamie Lynn is the youngest sister of pop sensation Britney Spears and led her own TV show from 2005-2008, after which it was promptly canceled due to one of the biggest controversies in kids’ TV. In 2007, Jamie Lynn revealed that she was pregnant at the age of 16, effectively putting a stop to her whole career.
Though Spears has attempted a small comeback, releasing singles in 2013 and 2016, and appearing as herself on documentaries, she’s more likely to be found at home with her family and new husband Jamie Watson. In December of last year, she announced that she was pregnant with her second child, so don’t expect her glorious return to the silver screen any time soon.
17 Nat Wolff
Though they were famous for their middle school sitcoms, Nickelodeon also created the most adorable band ever conceived. Founded by the two Wolff brothers, Alex and Nat, the ensemble rock band, The Naked Brothers Band, rocked long hairstyles and 2000s fashion that felt like an unfortunate combination of Green Day and The Jonas Brothers. The show ran for three seasons between 2007-2009 and produced a number of hit singles.
Filmed in a documentary style, the show follows the tour of a famous rock band comprised of the stars of the show Alex and Nat, accompanied by their band members: their accordion-playing dad and, hilariously, their babysitter. Not quite as adorable anymore, Nat Wolff is still finding success as an actor, appearing in both films based on John Green’s teen novels, as well as the much maligned American adaptation of Death Note.
16 Jonathan Goldstein
Not to be confused with the second half of the writing duo for Spider-Man: Homecoming, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, this Goldstein is an actor most known for portraying Drake and Josh’s weatherman dad. Sporting a made-for-TV haircut and a cuddly smile, Goldstein is practically the spitting image of his television son, Josh.
After a few run-ins and guest spots on shows like Parks and Recreation and Grey’s Anatomy, Goldstein has grown out his hair and left his face unshaved for a more low-key lifestyle. He has been the lead singer in not one, but three small bands, and seems to prefer working on stage rather than in front of the camera nowadays. He’ll frequently travel to Kentucky to direct some local theater.
15 Jordan Calloway
A lesser-known supporting star of the hugely popular pre-teen show Unfabulous, Jordan Calloway’s breakthrough part was largely overshadowed by the launch of Emma Roberts' career. Following Roberts’ character Addie Singer, the Nick sitcom followed a group of average, or “unfabulous” middle school kids, and their various teen crushes and romances.
Once known as a child basketball star and environmental advocate for Rocky Road Middle School, Calloway has still not been able to shake free from compulsory education, upgrading from Rocky Road to Riverdale High for Netflix’s current edgy re-imagining of Archie Comics. At 27 years old, his physique, tall stature, and chiseled features perhaps make him one of the least convincing high school students ever to be seen.
14 Reed Alexander
Batman and the Joker. Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. Carly Shay and Neville Papperman. Surely amongst Nickelodeon’s most iconic rivalries, Alexander played Neville, a teenage vlogger on the verge of supervillainy in iCarly. A snobbish web critic with an unhealthy obsession with Carly, Neville would construct schemes to sabotage Carly and Sam’s webshow, all the while attempting to steal a kiss from Carly.
Nowadays, Reed doesn’t look nearly as insufferable as his iCarly counterpart, though we haven’t seen an appearance from him in some time. Ditching his online villainy to make a difference in activism, Alexander has been a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and the anti-obesity program, Alliance for a Healthy Generation. Definitely a more worthwhile career pursuit than stalking teenage web hosts.
13 Yvette Nicole Brown
No, we’re not talking about the time Drake and Josh swapped Helen for another actress one episode and thought we wouldn’t notice. After appearing in 15 episodes as the short-tempered manager of the Premiere Movie Theater, Helen became one of the series’ most popular recurring characters, and it’s no surprise that Brown is probably the most successful of the show’s cast.
After small guest roles in sitcoms like The Office, Entourage, and Rules of Engagement, Brown found a home with Community, playing Christian mother Shirley Bennett, who was secretly cool. After her departure from the show, she briefly appeared in a post-credits scene and fans were surprised by her impressive weight loss. Her hair is also looking far better than her early-2000s tight bun.
12 Alex Wolff
The second half of the duo who made up the titular frontmen of The Naked Brothers Band, Alex Wolff earns a higher spot on this list for his lower profile roles that flew right past your head. After finding worldwide success as an erratic drummer and keyboardist, Alex laid low for a while, but has since attempted to revitalize his acting career. He’s now grown about three feet in the last few years, so he’s also not nearly as cute as he was fronting an all-kids rock band.
Somehow growing into the spitting image of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Wolff was cast in the Mark Wahlberg historical action film Patriots Day which covered the 2013 tragedy. Since then he has secured roles in everything from dark biopics like My Friend Dahmer, to more light-hearted fare such as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
11 Paul Butcher
Butcher’s career wasn’t tarnished with the same levels of controversy as his co-star, Jamie Lynn Spears, but he experienced a bit of a tailspin following the cancellation of tween drama, Zoey 101. Playing Zoey’s brother, Butcher only appeared in 25 of the show’s 65 episodes, despite being credited as a main cast member.
It’s undeniable that Butcher’s haircut is far better than it was in the early 2000s, but sadly the same can’t be said about his acting career. Last seen briefly in an episode of Comedy Bang Bang back in 2015, Butcher has been slowly trying to make it big as a solo artist. Now studying at the University of California, perhaps he’s waiting to graduate before making his big comeback.
10 Keke Palmer
After making her big screen debut in Barbershop 2, Keke Palmer became best known as Vice Principal for Mad Style’s Youth Fashion Department in Nickelodeon sitcom, True Jackson VP. As one of the highest paid child actresses on TV, her character was an empowering fashion icon for tween girls everywhere.
Now a grown and established actress, Palmer has enjoyed a reasonable level of silver screen success since the show reached its finale in 2011. Most notably, Palmer’s fashion choices have remained on point, helping her transition into a more adult role in Scream Queens. She seems to have developed a taste for horror, as you can expect to see her in the upcoming season of Scream.
9 Jennette McCurdy
Carly’s hit web show wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the help of her best friend Sam. A hot-tempered girl with a wicked sense of humor, Sam’s perfect comedic timing and expert use of the show’s sound effects remote launched their video project into viral success.
After briefly appearing in the spin-off, crossover series Sam & Cat, McCurdy went straight into more adult territory following her departure from Nickelodeon. Lending her voice to Robot Chicken and her comedic stylings to Comedy Bang Bang, it’s now easy to forget that she got her start as a spunky teenage actress on a Nickelodeon sitcom. She was the star of the underwhelming Netflix series Between, which rans for two seasons before being canceled.
8 Allison Scagliotti
Drake and Josh was best known for its sibling rivalry and brotherly love, but it also played host to one of the most unpredictable will-they-won’t-they relationships on TV, outside of Ross and Rachel. While Drake was known as a lady’s man with a lot of love to share, his step-brother Josh only had eyes for one girl.
Beginning as Science Fair rivals, Mindy Crenshaw would try her hardest to make Josh’s life miserable, before she revealed her feelings for him. Though her fox-like face was unmistakable, Allison Scagliotti was practically unrecognizable during her stint on Vampire Diaries after a hairstyle change. She’s also known for her main role in Warehouse 13, and was a regular on the short-lived comedy Mary + Jane.
7 Allie Dimeco
The 2000s were a strange time for kids’ TV. A recurring theme of teenage romance was present in most of the aforementioned Nickelodeon sitcoms, and none were stranger than Nat Wolff’s love for The Naked Brothers Band’s bassist, Rosalina. The two year age gap isn’t a problem now, but back in 2007, their romance on the show meant that a thirteen year old boy eventually got together with a fifteen year old girl!
Sadly, Dimeco’s career was marred by a brief controversy involving a leak of some racy photographs, leading her not to appear on screen since. She announced her retirement from acting in 2009, but you can still follow her on Instagram, living a happy life as a graduate of Florida International University.
6 Miranda Cosgrove
What’s even stranger than her role as teenage web queen Carly Shay, is seeing Miranda Cosgrove grow up from the adorable child star of School of Rock and Drake and Josh into an adult woman. Contributing to some of the show’s best moments, she became a kid sensation playing the pair’s younger, evil sister Megan.
She’s now perhaps best known as a voice actress, though she’ll pop up in the occasional live action show. Her most recent success has been voicing Margo, the eldest of the three adorable sisters in the Despicable Me series. Starting out as the least talented member of Jack Black’s school band, she’s now putting her voice to good use in the highest grossing animated film series of all time.
5 Daniel Curtis Lee
Surely someone who became best known for playing a character who goes by the name "Cookie" couldn't grow up to become a low-key heartthrob, could he? Actually, that’s precisely what Daniel Curtis Lee did. The Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide co-star has been unforgivably absent from our screens since his appearance in the 2012 series of Glee.
A cyber nerd known for his braces, digital glasses, and a strange penchant for disguising himself as a girl, Cookie was one of Nickelodeon’s most popular comedy sidekicks. His foolishness contributed to many of Ned’s tips on what not to do in class to survive middle school. Lee has since discarded his nerdy classes to produce his own music on Soundcloud, as well as playing for the Hollywood Knights celebrity basketball team.
4 Devon Werkheiser
The lead of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned’s tips and tricks for the average student became gospel for many Nickelodeon watching pre-teens. Thankfully, Devon Werkheiser allowed us to avoid all the wedgies and swirlies from the school bully by keeping it cool and following Ned’s middle school Bible. Whether he gave us school advice, or simply allowed us to be cool, his influence was noticeable.
A man of many talents, Werkheiser shifted between acting and music careers, and surprised everyone with his appearance on 2 Broke Girls. His role in the small film Where’s the Money, is his latest acting gig, but was unfortunately tainted by the controversy surrounding fellow cast member, Logan Paul.
3 Nathan Kress
As iCarly’s expert camera operator, many pre-teen viewers were able to watch Nathan Kress’s Freddie grow into a heartthrob in front of their very eyes. The long-running show alluded to his unavoidable puberty, deepening his voice and shooting his height up by several inches. He became the subject of many a teenage crush when he daringly saved Carly from a speeding truck, breaking his leg in the process.
It’s hard to imagine that Nickelodeon’s favorite pudgy cameraman is now married with a child, but Kress and his wife London Elise Moore, whom he met on the set of disaster film Into the Storm, announced the birth of their first child in December of last year. He’s still an active performer however, having the privilege to voice fan favorite Wedge on Star Wars Rebels.
2 Ariana Grande
Although her change in appearance only amounted to ditching the bright red hair dye, what’s really unrecognizable about Ariana Grande is the success of her career. Until her breakthrough, it was practically unthinkable that an actress making her start on a Nick TV show could reach this level of fame. Some of you have even probably forgotten that she started out as the air-headed sidekick to Victoria Justice’s Tori Vega.
Now an internationally renowned pop sensation, her music videos on YouTube have gained over nine billion views. She's had the most top ten singles in the US Billboard 200 of any artist in 2014 and her benefit concert, One Love Manchester, was named the best concert of last year.
1 Josh Peck
In the early 2000s, making fun of the overweight was still considered largely appropriate. Much of the comedy of earlier seasons of Drake and Josh was derived from the apparent hilarity of the slimmer Drake being forced to share a room with an unwanted, chubbier step-brother.
Beginning the series about as round as a Game Sphere (but with a heart as large as his appetite), Josh Peck has since undergone the biggest transformation ever experienced by a Nickelodeon star. Comparable to Neville Longbottom’s instantaneous shift from dork to hunk in the last Harry Potter, Peck has retained his success as an actor, and was also known as one of the best looking Vine stars before its discontinuation.
Which Nickelodeon star do you think had the biggest transformation? Let us know in the comments!
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