They’re called stars for a reason. To us mere mortals, they seem like untouchable, otherworldly creatures that fell from the sky in their flawless forms. But we’ll let you in on a secret. Even the most ethereal of celebrities were once regular humans hailing from perfectly average places like Bay City and Yonkers. Fortunately for the fans, they also went to high school with other people who didn’t hesitate to plaster their yearbook photos all over the Internet post-fame.
The celebrities on this list had to undergo drastic Hollywood makeovers in order to become the golden gods we know today. It’s not that they weren’t gorgeous to begin with. It’s tough to make it in Hollywood without first scoring high on the beauty standard scale. And, of course, talent goes a long way. But the people on this list had to do something drastic with their looks in order to stand out from the sea of hotties trying to hit the big time.
Though some of them might wish otherwise, these famous faces can’t deny the photographic evidence of their former looks. In some cases, you can still see their origins reflected in their glamorous new appearances. For others, you might not even suspect they were related, let alone the same person.
Prepare yourselves for the astonishing transformations of these 22 Stars Who Looked Drastically Different Before Fame.
22 Jason Momoa
Before he was the hirsute tattooed Dothraki Khal on Game of Thrones, Momoa was a struggling actor, working part time in a Hawaiian surf shop. In 1998, an international designer named Takeo Kobayashi discovered the future Aquaman and encouraged his modeling career. As a result, the 19-year-old Momoa won Hawaii's Model of the Year 1999 and hosted the Miss Teen Hawaii contest.
It was probably his “dream surf instructor” look that landed Momoa the role of Jason Iaone in the action drama series Baywatch Hawaii. He didn’t begin to resemble the man we know and lust after today until 2004, when he was cast in the short-lived Fox drama, North Shore. As nightclub manager, Frankie Seau, Momoa found his forever look of long locks, and cheeky whiskers.
21 Halle Berry
Who could have known that the all-American angel on the left would eventually be considered one of the sexiest women on the planet? The sweet-faced 18-year-old Halle Berry in the above yearbook photo would eventually whip those soft curls into the pixie cut that would become her trademark for years to come. In her Bedford High School senior photo, the Ohio native sports a crew-neck blouse featuring a pencil print.
Despite this dubious garment, the Oscar winner and former head cheerleader was considered fashionable enough to land a modeling contract and win several beauty contests before landmark director Spike Lee gave her a breakout role in his 1991 film, Jungle Fever. Despite a few career missteps (ahem, Catwoman), the X-Men actress has remained a mega-star since 2001’s award-winning drama Monster’s Ball.
20 The Rock
The career of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has undergone numerous makeovers over the years, as he transitioned from pro wrestler to full-time actor. But the most drastic change came before he became a household name and revolutionized the single eyebrow raise.
Though professional wrestling runs in the family, (his father, maternal grandparents, and several cousins and uncles entered the ring) Johnson initially had designs on a gig with the NFL. He had a full scholarship to the University of Miami plating defensive tackle, until an injury tied him to the bench.
Without the distraction of football, Johnson buckled down and completed his studies, earning a degree in criminology and physiology in 1995. Before he lost the baby fat, the Rock was cooking a tasty '90s look with gold chains, a high-top hairdo, tucked-in turtleneck, and a fanny pack.
19 Sarah Jessica Parker
As the fourth of 8 children in a family from Nelsonville, OH, Sarah Jessica Parker grew up in what she calls “relative poverty.” As a young girl, she began performing around the local community to help earn money for her family. but it wasn’t until the Parkers moved to Cincinnati that Sarah’s career began in earnest.
Parker took singing, dancing, and acting classes and was cast in stage shows like The Innocents, The Sound of Music, and Annie. She still rocked the '80s poodle hair when she landed her first film role as Rusty 1984’s Footloose. It’s hard to spot the fashion-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw in her early work. The Sex and the City star wouldn’t go A-list till she bought a some mousse and ditched the Cosby sweaters.
18 Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie was always exceedingly gorgeous but in her youth, she was more Glamour Shots than Vanity Fair. At 15, Jolie got the ball rolling with a Harry Langdon photo shoot. The photographer claims not to have known her true age until much later.
Despite her striking beauty, her fellow students at Beverly Hills High School teased her for being too skinny (a strange taunt for a Hollywood high school) and for sporting functional aids like glasses and braces. Jolie also had trouble getting modeling work because of her height, and - again quite puzzlingly - her low weight.
During the Langdon photoshoot, the future Oscar winner was a high school dropout. A year later, she ditched her live-in boyfriend, and used her father’s connections to kick-start her career.
17 Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman’s look has continued to evolve, even after she became a household name, but the Academy Award winner never went back to the Frieda-from-Peanuts look she rocked in the early stages of her career.
When the Australian actress landed her breakthrough role in the 1989 thriller, Dead Calm, her naturally red hair was a gorgeous nest of fiery curls, which complimented her sun-kissed freckles. But when Hollywood took notice, she immediately ditched the ginger and softened her kinky tresses. By the time she starred in 1991’s Billy Bathgate, she was covering up her freckles on a regular basis. The film led to a string of hits and propelled the Moulin Rouge! actress to super stardom, which she maintains today.
16 Amber Rose
Model Amber Rose is famous for her severe platinum cue ball 'do. But before she got tatted up and took the clippers and peroxide to her head, the woman who once dated Kanye looked very different.
In 2015, the “Fame” singer posted a throwback photo on her Instagram that suggests she was once quite the MySpace cutie. Rose captioned the photo "Young Ambs” with no further comment about her flower belt, crop top, or graduated bob.
Wiz Khalifa’s ex was 19 when she first cut her hair, though she reports having contemplated the move for quite some time. By the time Rose appeared in the Ludacris and Chris Brown video for “What Them Girls Like”, she was already nailing her signature look. When she first took to the streets with her new ‘do, she says she was “causing car accidents… It was that ill.”
15 Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron was born with it. Long before she kicked off her acting career, people wanted to take pictures of the South African beauty. One such photographer was Phillip Wong, who in 1994 took a series of headshots of the 18-year-old future Oscar-winner. At the time, she rocked long dark roots, and experimented with full eyebrows and a drawn-on mole, a la Cindy Crawford.
A talent manager named John Crosby soon discovered the Atomic Blonde star. Though the camera has always loved her, Theron hated modeling because it “wasn't artistically satisfying…I like to say what's on my mind. And in that business, you stand there while they put what they want on you, like it or not.” She left modeling to pursue an acting career so she could let her voice be heard and became the fierce Hollywood star we know today.
14 Katy Perry
The mermaid-haired “I Kissed A Girl” singer hasn’t always donned lash extensions and bespoke dairy-dispensing bras. When Katy Perry first moved to L.A. to pursue a singing career at age 17, the “Firework” performer struggled to get discovered as she shopped her songs around under her real name: Katy Hudson.
The subject of the 2012 documentary Part of Me, Perry once sported a bleach-blonde razor bob. Perry's fashion choices more closely recalled Ross Dress For Less than the designer Halloween costumes that would eventually make up her wardrobe repertoire. Her only recognizable feature on the cover of her eponymous 2001 debut album is her big green doe eyes.
Back then, she was indistinguishable from the next singer/songwriter at open mic night. It took a full overhaul to turn her into the international pop sensation we know today.
13 Gwen Stefani
When she pouted her way through the 1995 video for No Doubt’s first hit “Just a Girl”, Gwen Stefani inspired a million girls to buy ab rollers and red lipstick. But before she brought bindis and hair clips to the shelves of Hot Topic, the platinum blonde singer was just a brunette from Anaheim, CA. Stefani began bleaching her hair shortly after graduating from Loara High School (class of 1987), where she was on the swim team.
When she joined her brother Eric’s band, she cultivated the look that would make her a style icon, including the patriotic halter tracksuit, spiral bangs, and eyebrows tweezed to oblivion. Though her wardrobe has continued to evolve through the decades, Stefani has remained remarkably diligent about keeping her hair blonde, with nary a trace of her dark roots.
12 Bruce Willis
Die Hard star Bruce Willis wasn’t always a gruff chrome dome. For one hot minute at the start of his career, he had almost a full head of hair and the confident smirk to match, but even then, his dark wavy locks were on their way out the door.
Willis’ career took flight when he played detective David Addison on the 1980s TV hit Moonlighting. It wasn’t long before he cemented himself as an action star with 1988’s Die Hard. The Pulp Fiction actor eventually embraced the bald and we can all agree it works for him. The dashing star has somehow he managed to rock every stage of baldness, including the pronounced follicular peninsula he sported in the first Die Hard film.
11 Bruno Mars
Peter Gene Hernandez was a style icon long before he was a household name. Given the nickname of Bruno as a baby, the Honolulu native must have won the title of Best Dressed in his Roosevelt High School yearbook with this epic 12th grade portrait. When it wasn’t picture day, he donned the island uniform of printed button-down shirts and shell necklaces.
After high school, Mars adopted his stage name and struggled in L.A. as a cover singer before trying his hand at songwriting. During this time, he started wearing colorful blazers and tamed his gravity-defying locks with stylish hats. Though he sold his compositions to record labels for their existing stars, it was awhile before someone decided to let this cutie in a Fedora perform his own work.
10 Lady Gaga
Having learned the piano by age 4, Stefani Germanotta was always destined for greatness. But when she was on the verge of stardom, she was just a cute brunette from Yonkers who wore cotton and poly blends, rather than meat and bubbles.
When 19-year-old Germanotta waitressed in a West Village bar, she worked with an aspiring photographer named Malgorzata Saniewska and agreed to model for the 24-year-old up-and-coming Polish artist. The above left image is one of several that capture the future superstar as she was in the summer of 2005, poised to become Lady Gaga.
Saniewska recalls Gaga as, “the nicest girl ever… She gave me a CD of her first single, and I listened to it and I was really impressed.” They took the photos at Germanotta’s parents’ home on New York's Upper East Side.
9 Amy Winehouse
Before she revolutionized the beehive and cat-eye liner, Amy Winehouse was just an apple-cheeked aspiring jazz singer from north London. She was already rocking her Madonna lip stud when she brought her smoky contralto register to the local clubs.
With black eyeliner peeking out from the sides of her eyes, you can see but a glimpse of the retro fashion that would later emerge. Those clean arms are just begging for ink and her long hair screams to be teased up to the heavens. The “Rehab” singer would later exchange that pink doily sweater tee for fitted tanks, short-shorts, and ballet flats.
A stylist called Naomi Parry helped Winehouse cultivate and maintain her eventual signature look. Though she left us at the tender age of 27, her style and immense talent made an indelible mark on the music world.
8 Snoop Dogg
Once upon a time, rapper, producer, and personality Snoop Dogg was just Calvin Broadus, a skinny teenager from Long Beach, CA. Actress Cameron Diaz, who went to Long Beach Polytechnic High School with Broadus, claims that though he sported a clean cut image, he was also selling “white girl weed” to her and her friends. His parents gave him the nickname Snoopy, which he later embellished for his stage moniker. But that wasn’t all he changed.
By the time Dr. Dre discovered the “What’s My Name” rapper in 1992, Snoop had grown his short-cropped hair into long braids and sported facial scruff. It’s amazing how much simple alterations can change a person’s whole look. Would Dre’s album, The Chronic, been as much of a breakthrough if it featured the guy in the suit?
7 Howard Stern
The quintessential image of shock radio DJ Howard Stern is that of long curly locks, Himmler sunglasses, and a dirty smirk. But when he first started out, Stern was blowing out his curls and rocking a lip caterpillar. The above left photo was taken during the Private Parts actor’s senior year at Boston University, where he earned a degree in Communications and worked at the campus radio station WTBU.
Stern was already causing controversy right out of the gate with his weekly comedy show, The King Schmaltz Bagel Hour. It was promptly cancelled after airing a racially charged sketch called "Godzilla Goes to Harlem". The award-winning host of the self-titled syndicated radio show decided to grow out his hair and bought flashier clothes that better suited his outrageous personality.
6 Marilyn Manson
Born Brian Warner, controversial metal frontman and fashion pioneer Marilyn Manson had a difficult time in adolescence. Kids at his Ohio Christian school picked on him daily. To make matters worse, he was forced to adhere to a strict dress code, that didn’t allow him to experiment with makeup and clothes until after high school, when he moved with his family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, he studied journalism and theater at a local community college.
Warner became interested in the music business after taking a job as an entertainment journalist for a local magazine, giving him the opportunity to network with famous musicians, including Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and inspiring him to form his own band called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. It was then that he created the creepy character that would bring him fame and fortune.
Detroit native Madonna Ciccone always knew she wanted to be famous, but when photographer Michael McDonnell shot the future mega-star in 1979, she had designs on a career as a dancer. It wasn’t until people started complimenting her singing voice that she contemplated switching gears.
Madonna was always gorgeous, but if she were going to make it as a pop star, she had to come up with a look that stood out. Her simple brunette cut and black movement clothes weren’t going to cut it. Enter the lace gloves, bodices, bangle bracelets, and sloppy-chic bleached hair. Madonna’s new duds revolutionized the fashion industry and sold a lot of belts that said “Boy Toy.”
The “Like A Prayer” singer has remained a style icon throughout her 30-year career, and has come a long way from her humble origins.
4 Russell Brand
Glam comedian Russell Brand good-naturedly shared his pre-fame look when he shared with twitter followers a peek at his second acting gig, as a one-off baddie on the long-running BBC crime drama, The Bill. The CSI of Britain, The Bill has been used by many young actors as a jumping off point early in their careers. But Brand’s role, at the tender age of 18, was particularly notable because it immortalized his middle-parted floppy '90s hair and unlined eyes.
By the next time he appeared on television, in the 2002 mini series, White Teeth, Brand’s rock n’ roll transformation was well under way. He had grown his hair out and introduced the trademark teased black tresses by the time America took notice of him as the cocky rocker Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
3 Pamela Anderson
Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson was once a wide-eyed 14-year-old with a brunette flip from the microscopic Canadian fishing town of Ladysmith. She tragically suffered a tremendous amount of abuse from men in her life throughout childhood. But when she turned 18, she broke free, went blonde, moved to Vancouver, and never looked back.
The model and actress later got breast implants and sculpted eyebrows to round out the bombshell look that would land her the 1989 cover of Playboy Magazine and turn her into an international superstar. Throughout her acting career, she continued to appear in Playboy. She was on the cover a total of 14 times, including February 2016, which was to be their final issue featuring naked women. The animal activist was 48-years-old at the time. Anderson clearly found a style that worked for her and stuck with it.
2 Kylie Jenner
Kylie Jenner was only 10 years old when the world met her and her family on the E! reality series, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It stands to reason that her appearance would change as she grew up before our eyes. But the public didn’t start talking about the youngest Kardashian sibling until after she began to cosmetically alter her appearance.
In 2012, at the age of 15, Kylie began popping up on magazine covers, including Seventeen and Teen Vogue. By the time she appeared on a 2015 Cosmopolitan cover, the lips were in full effect. Being under age for much of her transformation, Kylie repeatedly denied the use of medical enhancements, including collagen lip injections. But fans weren’t buying her explanations of “contouring” and natural development. She later admitted to the use of fillers.
1 Grace Jones
Despite appearances, international legend Grace Jones did not fall from the sky. The singer/actress originally hails from Syracuse, NY by way of Jamaica. At 17, Jones attempted to break into the NYC modeling scene, but she became frustrated with creative limitations they placed on her.
She dropped out of college and moved to Paris, where she cultivated an exotic appearance and caught the attention of industry heavies like Yves Saint Laurent and Helmut Newton. Best known in North America for her tough girl roles in the films Conan the Destroyer and A View to a Kill as well as her 1980s dance records "Warm Leatherette", "Nightclubbing", and "Slave to the Rhythm", Jones owes much of her success to her striking appearance, particularly her severe makeup and signature crew cut.
Did we forget any stars who looked way different before becoming famous? Let us know in the comments!
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