Everyone loves a good big break story, about how the rich and famous we’re plucked from obscurity by the show business gods, and chosen to grace the small and silver screens. The only thing that fascinates us more than the life of a celebrity, is how they actually got their start. What took them from ordinary citizen, to larger than life fame. Here are 10 of the most fascinating stories on how a once anonymous Joe Shmoe would become an international superstar.
10. Cameron Diaz
As a teenager, Cameron Diaz began modeling for Elite Model Management, and traveled the world to work on high profile campaigns such as Calvin Klein, Levi’s and Coca-Cola. During a meeting with her modeling agent, she stumbled across the script for The Mask and facetiously stated she was ready for her first movie role. When going in for the audition, Cameron thought she’d be reading for a supporting role, but was asked to read for the lead, a role originally intended for Anna Nicole Smith, who passed it up to film Naked Gun 33 and The 3rd. Director, Chuck Russell had to campaign to movie studio Dark Horse Entertainment, to finally agree to allow an untrained model to play the lead role. After the movie’s summer release, 21 year old Cameron Diaz was instantly catapulted to superstardom.
In an autobiographical interview, Jennifer Lopez explains that while pursuing a career in Law, she once had a dream that she was supposed to be in show business. She decided not to attend her second semester of college because of this dream, and instead, she began pursuing her long time passion, dance. Jennifer attended an open call to dance as a Fly girl for comedy sketch series, In Living Color. The 22 year old didn’t make the final cut, but a year later, director Keenan Ivory Waynes recalled a young lady who stood out during auditions, who he believed should rightfully have gotten the part. Jennifer was asked to take the place of the dancer originally chosen. While filming In Living Color, a fellow Fly Girl invited her to acting class, which eventually led her to land the starring role in the major motion picture, Selena.
In 1985, at the age of 19, Halle Berry’s boyfriend at the time secretly entered her into a beauty pageant in which she won Miss Teen All America. That pageant win lead her to win two more titles in 1986 and 1987. In 1988, Halle placed as runner up in the Miss Teen USA pageant, which sent her to the Miss World competition in Hong Kong. A judge at the Miss World pageant convinced Halle to move to Chicago to pursue a career in modeling. After a few years of mediocre modeling gigs, Halle grew bored with the modeling scene and decided to parlay into acting. Following a stint on an unsuccessful sitcom called The Living Dolls, her agent, Vincent Cirricone snagged her an audition for the Spike Lee movie, Jungle Fever. The role opened the door to a wealth of opportunity, and the rest as they say, is history.
Will Smith had a quick rise to fame and fortune as a teenage platinum selling rap sensation, but the success was short lived after he went bankrupt by the age of 21. In 1989 however, Will’s luck was about to turn back around when he met manager and producer, Benny Medina in a Warner Bros. parking lot, who approached Will with an idea for a sitcom loosely based on his own life. Will played a fictional version of himself on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which lasted a successful 6 seasons. The role lead him on to a flourishing movie career, and he is today recognized as one of the biggest box office draws, having starred in movies which have grossed over $6 billion dollars.
At the age of 15, Rihanna scored a chance audition through a friend with music producer Evan Rodgers, who was on vacation in Barbados with his wife at the time. The following year, Rihanna moved to Connecticut where the music producer put her up temporarily, while she recorded a demo album. They shopped the demo to various record labels and once CEO of Def Jam Records, Jay-Z got a hold of it, the 16-year-old was flown out to New York to audition for him and record executive, L.A. Reid. She was signed to a 6 album deal on the spot, and has since gone on to sell over 30 million albums worldwide.
In 2007, Talent Manager, Scooter Braun accidentally stumbled across a Youtube video of a talented 12 year old boy singing Ne-yo’s ‘So Sick’. After contacting the 12 year old’s mother and convincing them to relocate to the US to record a demo, Scooter managed to get superstars Usher and Justin Timberlake in a bidding war over the pre-teen. Eventually, Usher beat out Justin Timberlake in mentoring the young man and he was signed by record executive, L.A. Reid to Island Def Jam. Now 20 years old, Justin Bieber has achieved tremendous success, including countless awards, immense popularity on social networks and over 15 million albums sold around the globe.
In the summer of 1989, 22-year old Pamela Anderson was attending a BC Lions football game when suddenly, her image flashed across the jumbo-tron. The attractive young lady was brought down to the 50 yard line and introduced to the fans, who cheered on in encouragement. That day, she just so happened to be clad in a Labatt’s Beer T-shirt and it caught the attention of Labatt’s Beer company executives, who immediately signed her as a commercial model. The exposure soon lead to multiple Playboy covers, and many more modeling, as well as acting opportunities followed suit.
In 1994, at age 15, Rosario Dawson was discovered on pure chance by a photographer named Larry Clark and a screen writer named Harmony Korine, while sitting on the stoop of her home in Manhattan’s East Village. The two approached the inexperienced teenager suggesting she would be perfect for the role of Ruby in the crime drama, Kids. Accepting the role launched her acting career and she’s since starred in a long list of notable films, including Sin City, Men in Black II and Josie and The Pussycats.
In 1988, Rosie Perez was preparing to leave LA in order to attend college in NY. During her last week in town, her friend suggested they attend a club called Funky Reggae. There she met a young director by the name of Spike Lee, who was holding a butt contest to determine which African-American woman in the club had the biggest derriere. In an attempt to mock the entire situation, Rosie cheekily jumped on the stage and shouted, “What about a Puerto Rican butt?” Her shenanigans caught Spike’s attention, who Rosie actually didn’t recognize at the time, so when he handed her a card and instructed her to call him the following day, the young lady tossed it in the trash. Her friend immediately retrieved it and called Spike on behalf of Rosie. Spike managed to convince an inexperienced Rosie, who insisted she wasn’t an actress, to act in his upcoming movie, Do The Right Thing. A role that launched her long and fruitful career.
In 2008, 47-year-old Susan Boyle auditioned for the third season of Britain’s Got Talent, after much persuasion from her long time singing coach Fred O’Neil. During her audition, the unpretentious contestant admitted to aspirations of becoming a professional singer comparable to the likes of Elaine Page, to which she was met with doubtful glances from the judges and audience members alike. All doubts quickly vanished however, the moment the singer opened her mouth to croon a spellbinding rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Skepticism was quickly replaced with awe as the judges and audience members roared their approval. Susan became an overnight sensation, and holds the record as the oldest person to release a debut album; having sold over 19 million to date.