As 2014 comes to a close, we have a chance to look back and remember all the huge stars that got their big breaks this year. Some of them may have been around for awhile, but it wasn’t until this past year that they truly became household names, and began taking the world by storm.
What does it mean to be a breakout star? For musicians it could mean having that one song that no one can stop listening to (Just ask Carly Rae Jepsen with her hit “Call Me Maybe”, or Lorde with the infectious “Royals”). For actors, getting a part in the film adaptation of a huge YA book franchise can’t hurt. But well-received indie films, and popular new TV shows can also catapult a formerly unknown actor into superstar status.
2015 is sure to bring us a slew of new, young stars, but with any luck the big successes of this year will be able to carry their career into next year, and the next. No one wants to be a one hit wonder, or end up on a list of “one trick pony” celebrities. They may be huge right now, but that doesn’t mean they will stick around. But for now, here are the 12 biggest breakout stars of the last year.
21-year-old Ariana Grande started out on the Nickelodeon shows Victorious and Sam & Cat, but her real passion was always music. This year, her second studio album My Everything blew up the charts with hits like “Break Free”, “Problem”, and “Bang Bang” which kept her on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for 26 weeks straight. Her high profile relationship with rapper, Big Sean, and rumours of her extreme diva attitude have also kept her name in the headlines for the better part of 2014. Her vocal range has been compared to Mariah Carey, and she has won an MTV Music award, an American Music Award, and a People’s Choice Award, among others.
While 23-year-old Dylan O’Brien has been one of the stars of MTV’s Teen Wolf for the last 3 years, it wasn’t until he landed the lead role of Thomas in the film adaptation of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, that he really began to get noticed. The film was a critical and commercial success, and the second installment, The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials is set to be released in September of 2015. O’Brien has been praised for his performance and has appeared on numerous “breakout stars to watch” lists.
Singer-songwriter, Meghan Trainor, has had a huge year. Her debut single “All About That Bass” is one of the best-selling singles of all time, topping the charts in 58 different countries, and her first album isn’t even due out until January 9, 2015. She is nominated for two Grammys at the upcoming 57th Annual Grammy Awards in February, and she has been praised by stars like Beyonce, and Miranda Lambert for her quirky personality and representation of a what a “real woman” looks like. Rolling Stone called her 2014’s “Most Unlikely Popstar” and she is poised for more success in 2015.
If you are a Parks & Recreation fan then you know Chris Pratt as the lovable Andy Dwyer. But this year, he made his mark as a leading man in the highest grossing film in North America, Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt was #2 on People magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive list, and he has gone viral on social media with videos of his french braiding skills, and ability to remember every word of Eminem and Dr. Dre‘s “Forgot About Dre”. He doesn’t plan on slowing down for 2015 either, as he will also be starring in Jurassic World, due out in June.
If you haven’t heard Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea‘s hit song “Fancy” at least once in the last year, you must be living in a cave. Her debut studio album, The New Classic was released in April and has earned her four Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist and Record of the Year. She has collaborated with artists like T.I, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, and Rita Ora, and been at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the better part of 2014. She has also been in the spotlight over feuds with Nicki Minaj (about whether Iggy writes her own lyrics) and Azealia Banks (over whether Iggy is appropriating black culture).
Although she has been around for awhile as the lead in The Secret Life of The American Teenager, 2014 brought Shailene Woodley true leading lady status. She starred as Tris in the film adaption of YA series Divergent, and also starred as Hazel in the extremely popular The Fault in Our Stars. She has been on the cover of numerous magazines, such as Teen Vogue, Women’s Health, and Vanity Fair, and has made headlines for her eccentric views. In one interview, she even said she avoids yeast infections by “giving her vagina some vitamin D”.
You may remember Alfred Enoch from his small role in the Harry Potter franchise, but this year he has made a bigger splash as part of the ensemble cast of Shonda Rhimes‘ new show How to Get Away With Murder. The show has been getting rave reviews, thanks in part to Enoch’s performance as Wes Gibbons, and we all know Rhimes’ shows have a track record of airing for a long time (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal), so it seems like Enoch will have a long career ahead of him.
The CW’s far-fetched, yet intriguing new show about a girl who gets accidentally artificially inseminated and is forced to have a baby, while claiming her status as an actual virgin, has really put Gina Rodriguez on the map. Jane the Virgin has earned The CW (and Rodriguez) its first ever Golden Globe nomination, and the critics are raving about the show, and its star. Her big acting break came with a recurring role on The Bold and the Beautiful, but her current gig on Jane the Virgin has her poised for bigger and better things in 2015, including the release of her first album.
20-year-old Ansel Elgort made his on-screen debut in 2013’s remake of Carrie, but he has really made a name for himself in the last year. He co-starred as Gus, opposite Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars, and also joined her in the big screen version of Divergent as Caleb, a role he reprises in the next installment due out in 2015. He has also had moderate success as a DJ, and was on GQ‘s Men of the Year list. Not bad for a 20-year-old who just hit the spotlight a year ago.
It would be impossible not to notice the childishly creepy character of Dandy on the fourth season of American Horror Story: Freak Show. Finn Wittrock was only supposed to portray the character for a 6-episode arc, but his character ended up being extended for the entire season, and for good reason. Wittrock graduated from Julliard, and acted on stage, and on the soap opera All My Children until landing a part in HBO’s Normal Heart, and his star-making turn in American Horror Story. He also has a role in the Angelina Jolie-directed, Unbroken.
You may remember Jenny Slate as the Saturday Night Live cast member who accidentally dropped an F-bomb during a live sketch. Her contract wasn’t renewed for a second season, but she has gone on to make a name for herself without the help of SNL. She starred in the indie film Obvious Child earlier this year, which was praised by critics, and earned her numerous award nominations. She now stars opposite Judy Greer in the FX series Married
English singer-songwriter, Sam Smith got his big break with his guest performance on the Disclosure track, “Latch”, in 2012. But 2014 is the year things have really started to blow up for him. His debut studio album, In the Lonely Hour was released in May, and it has earned him six Grammy nominations. He has reached number one on the UK singles charts, and his popularity is rising here in North America with every week that passes. He was also a part of the latest recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, which was meant to help raise money to help with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. All that, and he’s only 22!