Prom is a delightful time for all. By the time it comes around, you’re pretty much fully blossomed, what with your skin being clear and your braces having been removed. Hell, in fact a lot of people probably use the pictures of their prom night as an icon of their former youthful vigor. So when we say “awkward”, we don’t mean the following ten celebrities look only half developed, like an frozen pizza at midway between the freezer and the plate. It more refers to the contrast between their pedestrian past lives and the current spectacular lives they lead, as told to us by the glossy, high-resolution pictures of them splashed all over the internet.
It’s also funny because it draws attention to certain things that haven’t changed. While Angelina Jolie looks like she could easily have been the biggest nerd in her whole grade, Taylor Swift is, true to form, pretty, thin, and blonde. While John Cena is buff with his hair buzzed short, Ellen, in a dress and snuggled up to a guy, is miles away from the embrace of Portia de Rossi. Although prom pictures do remind you of a past life, to a certain extent, they also remind you that each day builds on the next, always ensuring that a little bit of the past gets carried in on tomorrow’s soles.
Without further delay, witness the following ten celebrities at prom, many of them only a few years, sometimes months, from their final iteration as world renown superstars.
10. Britney Spears
Look at Britney Spears here: so young, so thin, so much like Jamie Lynn! She looked so damn much like her sister at prom that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. The only distinguishing factor is Britney Spears’ ineffable it-factor, which turned her into one of the bestselling female artists of all time while Jamie Lynn couldn’t even make a successful country record. Her inner-monologue while this picture was being taken? “Yes, go on and photograph me. I have to get used to it, cuz one day I’ll have a tenured show in Las Vegas that pays $310,000/ show.”
9. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is now renown as one of the world’s most exquisitely beautiful women. Do you, looking at this picture, think that anyone in her high school would have seen that coming? In this picture she looks scrawny and unfinished. She also kind of looks like she mistook prom for her wedding, but rather than wearing a gaudy, multicoloured gown, Jolie is wearing bridal off-white. That, paired with her chunky choker necklace, really brings the awkward, sartorial cluelessness of this photo to light. Since high school, Jolie has absolutely blossomed, becoming an icon of silver screen grace and beauty. But the one thing that’s been a constant all along: her signature pout. Guess it is real, after all.
8. Renee Zellweger
Before she revealed her new face a few months ago, Renee Zellweger was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Even though her chubby cheeks and nibble-y mouth were not conventionally sexy, she had an unusual and charming beauty about her. This, added to the effortlessness of youth, makes for a surprisingly radiant prom-night photo. Renee Zellweger and her handsome, unnamed date look very much two movie stars in their inexplicably black-and-white photograph (she’s only 46… colour photography existed in the 1980s.) Of course, as she aged, she would grow out of certain unfortunate grooming habits (teased bangs, lower-lash mascara), but she looks beautiful indulging in them, nonetheless.
7. John Cena
As we mentioned earlier, John Cena is someone who didn’t change much since the night of his prom. Think of Cena now: he’s still burly, surprisingly friendly (think about what a good sport he was to play such a clueless guy in Trainwreck) and with short, fat-free hair. The one thing that’s different is his partner. It seems that he has traded in his rubenesque blonde prom date for Nikki Bella, one of the reputedly sexy Bella twins. He also, let’s face it, looks a lot younger and more innocent. The affected toughness in his hair and musculature is involuntarily undercut by the way he sticks his tongue out when he smiles.
6. LeBron James
LeBron James is someone else who didn’t change much since high school. Here is a picture of him winning prom king, and pretty much every picture since then has been of him accepting some accolade or another. The interesting thing is how the two athletes on this list have both more or less remained the same since graduation. While the artsier types have tended to change a lot, the athletes figured that whatever they were doing worked for them and didn’t consciously go about changing it. And good for them, because these are two men whose personal styles really brought them great success.
5. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift and this guy were still dating for a short time before she made it big. It wasn’t long before the siren song of celebrity pulled Taylor away from her provincial Pennsylvanian boyfriend. But here they are at prom, him looking like a halfway-there version of Joe Jonas, her looking like a combination between her miraculously transformed dork character in “You Belong With Me” and her Juliet character from “Love Story”. Just as a side note, if you ever want to find out just how famous Taylor Swift was at any given point, just look at how curly her hair is. As her celebrity grew, her hair got straighter and straighter (and shorter and shorter).
4. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon didn’t really look very pretty at prom. From the white-under-black action in the bust area to the dark lipstick, she doesn’t resemble the woman that Vogue would eventually invite to do one of its wonderful rapid-fire, 72-question interviews. There are some questions that jump out at viewers from this picture: 1) why are her lips so dark? 2) who are all of these random women she is with? 3) why is she not smiling, but everyone else is? 4) Why is she not wearing some sort of attention-grabbing necklace? This picture has more stories to tell.
3. Barack Obama
Barack Obama recently quipped that Justin Trudeau, Canada’s newly-elected Prime Minister, should soon start dyeing his hair because, pointing at his own, very soon it’d all go grey. Already, after only eight years, it’s hard to remember the jet-black haired Obama who entered the oval office the first time and was photographed shirtless and smiling on the beach. We now have a much more sober man with salt-and-pepper hair. Now peek at his prom picture, which makes the Obama of 2008 looks like the Obama from today. With a fuzzy fro on his head and a lei around his neck, Obama makes his Hawaiian ancestors proud.
2. Will Ferrell
Looking at this picture, it’s clear one thing has never changed: Will Ferrell has always been a goon. He was never interested in doing the sexy, snarky comedy of Seth Meyers or Bill Maher. Since he was a high schooler, he’s been into outlandish and slapstick. Or, probably more accurately, he’s never outgrown his high-school taste for outlandish slapstick. From Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to Old School to Kicking and Screaming, Will Ferrell has made his reputation (and his considerable fortune) by playing the goof. That’s why it’s no surprise to anyone that Ferrell would try to break convention and get a laugh by wearing a fashionable tiara on his head to prom.
1. Ellen DeGeneres
Ever since her “Yep, I’m Gay” Time cover, Ellen DeGeneres has been one of Hollywood’s most successful gay icons. This is even more interesting considering the relative scarcity of successful lesbians and the enormous success of Ellen (you’d never think, based on the humility of her clothes and person that she’s actually worth $345 million.) So taking a look at her prom picture, two things jump out. 1) How quaint! 2) She’s with a dude! Obviously, it probably wasn’t easy to even be a funny girl, let alone come out of the closet in Atlanta, Texas in 1976, so we don’t hold anything against her. Just imagine how eager she must have been to get to Hollywood.