What makes a “nerd”? Is it being picked on as a teenager, having hobbies that are stigmatized, or finding time to excel academically while making a living otherwise? One of the biggest determinants of whether you’re a “nerd” is whether you identify as such; whether you say, out loud, that you are a proud dork, nerd, dweeb, or geek. Bullying is a part of it, but some very cool and non-geeky people allegedly dealt with bullying as kids before they grew into their now chiseled and popular forms; it’s the continuing to do that thing that you took flak for growing up or pursuing esoteric intellectual interests to the highest level of education just because, that makes a true nerd.
The non-identifying nerds, like published psychologist Natalie Portman, are not on this list despite being queens among dweebs. The actors, models, and correspondents listed here are all intelligent too, some with impressive academic credentials, but more importantly, they are all über fans of some pretty unpopular shows, games or hobbies. Whether it’s Power Rangers, Dungeons & Dragons, computer coding, or teaching mathematics, these sexy geeks are all outspokenly passionate about otherwise stigmatized pursuits.
Of course we can’t forget the entertainers who were models first and cosplaying, fanboy-distracting, convention goers second, or the paid dweebs who double as eye candy on any number of nerd-friendly media outlets cropping up through G4tv and the ever-expanding Nerdist Industries. They also found a place on the list. Here are the 12 Sexiest Self-Proclaimed Nerds In Entertainment…and only one natural blonde in the bunch. Coincidence? Probably.
12. Asia Carrera
Asia Carrera, born Jessica Steinhauser to a Japanese mother and German father, is the only entertainer on this list who is either an adult film star (starring in over 400 erotic movies) or a Mensa member (with an IQ of 156) let alone both a porns**r and a genius. Before the age of 15, Steinhauser had performed (on piano) twice at NYC’s Carnegie Hall. Before entering the adult film industry, the actress was enrolled on a full academic scholarship as a dual Japanese and Business major at Rutgers University. She never capitalized on her musical ability or finished college, but it’s actually her outspoken love of LAN parties and the original Unreal 1st person tournament-style shooter that earns Asia Carrera the title of sexy nerd.
11. Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel’s been playing Dungeons & Dragons sine he was a kid! If ever there was a sport, hobby, or game that had to be played in secret for fear of humiliation (unless you are an intimidating mountain of muscle like the two-franchise action star), it’s this board-based RPG. From the beginning, Dungeonmaster’s Guides and 20-sided die have struck fear into the hearts of overprotective parents, coming to a head with the 1982, made-for-TV movie, Mazes and Monsters, starring Tom Hanks as a gamer who has a psychotic break.
The bad press of course actually propelled a new wave of rebellious and outcast teens to buy into the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, but it’s still the diehard dweebs who regularly play. Diesel is an impressive specimen with the looks, the genuine geekiness, and the strength to choke out anybody picking on his quest mates. You can even watch Vin play a quick round of D&D (for Geek & Sundry’s online Tabletop show) as Kaulder, his character in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter.
10. Mila Kunis
Odds are if you’re an actor who has contributed his or her voice acting talent to Cartoon Network’s late-night staple Robot Chicken, you have a goofy and/or morbid sense of humor as well as a borderline obsession with 1980s pop culture franchises or a nostalgia for the action figures, animated series’, and celebrities of childhood as a Gen X-er. She was known first for her role in That ’70s Show but has offered her talents to Cartoon Network’s cult hit, which was co-created by her Family Guy co-star Seth Green. On Family Guy, Mila voices ugly, downtrodden Meg Griffin, while in Black Swan she plays a gorgeous, manipulative diva, and in reality she lives somewhere in between as an incredibly attractive trained dancer and professed World of Warcraft player.
9. Katee Sackhoff
Katee Sackhoff is a darling of the sci-fi panel circuit because she’s played several bada** leading ladies in cult nerd mainstays like the reboot of TV’s Battlestar Galactica or alongside Vin Diesel in 2013’s installment of the Chronicles of Riddick franchise. On top of that, she’s voiced some kicka** females for hit video games like Halo 3 and for extended-universe series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
But, the nerdiest thing of all is not her acting or voice over credits, not even her recurring role on 80s-franchise-obsessed Robot Chicken as B**ch Pudding, but for the viral Power Ranger fan video she made with James Van Der Beek. Not only is Sackhoff the only natural blond on the list, having actually fought to keep her hair natural and longer despite telling Vanity Fair that Hollywood doesn’t like long or blond hair on its tough female leads, she’s also another nerd on the list who no convention-goer would dare pick a fight with.
8. Kari Byron
Kari Byron‘s claim to fame in the entertainment world is her time as part of the MythBusters crew of demolitions and other cool science experts. For about 10 seasons of this Discovery Channel show, she and two other smart cookies formed what was called “The Build Team” and their responsibility was to set up all the demonstrations and actual tests of myths to be busted. Graduating, like many on this list, with degrees in film and sculpture, Byron is still an active visual artist and has, since MythBusters fame, co-hosted her own science-themed spin-offs on the Science Channel and Travel Channel. The story goes that this sexy scientist took a season to get comfortable being on camera, but fanboys and amateur scientists everywhere are grateful she stuck it out.
7. Danica McKellar
Before there was That ’70s Show, there was another show that took place in the 70s and followed the lives of a dysfunctional family including a grouch Dad, horrible older siblings, burnout friends, and an on again-off again romance between two incredibly awkward, geeky teenagers; this other show was called The Wonder Years and the children of baby boomers better know Danica McKellar as Winnie Cooper, the protagonist’s hopelessly nerdy best friend and love interest on this show.
So, what happened to Winnie after The Wonder Years? It turns out she was wise enough to have a Plan “B” should the child acting gig fizzle out and smart enough to graduate from UCLA with a math degree. McKellar not only grew up much hotter than the clumsy, bespectacled girl she played on TV, she is also now a bestselling author of pop-science math books with sexy, accessible titles like Hot X: Algebra Exposed and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.
6. Olivia Munn
Comedians are a different breed of geek entirely as are nerds who stay in good enough shape to be cast as energy blade wielding, bad girl mutants (like Psylocke in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse movie) and land puff pieces in Men’s Health.
After corresponding for The Daily Show under Jon Stewart, Munn put her journalistic experience to use as a G4tv (video game network) correspondent and anchor. There she gained popularity for typically going out on assignment while confidently cosplaying Return of the Jedi/bikini-era Princess Leia, Japanese schoolgirl Sailor Moon, and several other characters that induce seizures in fanboys at conventions worldwide. If that weren’t enough to cement Olivia Munn’s credentials as a sexy nerd, extreme academic talent runs in her family too; her sister graduated law school, and as of 2015, her brother is pursuing a PhD in physics.
5. Megan Fox
Megan Fox‘s looks leave no doubt as to why she would be on a list of sexy anythings, but she’s been just as up front about her sexuality as about her love of a few things nerdy. Being propelled to sex symbol status by two of Michael Bay‘s geeky, 1980s franchise reboots (Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is not what gives Fox her credentials as a queen nerd, but rather her self-professed addiction to the Halo series of sci-fi shooters and her admission that she’s witnessed, and been tempted to hash it out with, quite a few disgruntled trolls on Lord of the Rings message boards.
4. Cindy Crawford
Cindy Crawford is this far up the list because she is an iconic beauty and a long-standing institution in the fashion world, not because she’s particularly known for public outbursts of geekiness. However, the mega-model also has a high functioning brain between those perfectly spaced ears and famous birthmark. At one point in her timeline, Crawford was enrolled at Chicago’s Northwestern University on a chemical engineering scholarship, so she at some point had enough of an outspoken passion for chemistry that she applied for said scholarship, but she dropped out of college during Freshman year to pursue modeling and the rest is history.
3. Adrianne Curry
Adrianne Curry has got the sexy part of being a hot nerd covered in spades. Not only does this former America’s Next Top Model play World of Warcraft, but she is known the convention world over for outdoing herself each year with ever more accurate and elaborate costumes and always of characters who are not afraid to show off a little cleavage. Curry has gussied herself up for various Comic-Cons to play DC villain Poison Ivy, the Baroness of G.I. Joe fame, and a sexy stormtrooper commando, just to name a few; all costumes of scary, bada** ladies and all that show off what the former reality TV star and Playboy covergirl has no shame flaunting.
2. Jessica Chobot
Coming out of what fanboys and fans of Nerdist Industries already knew was her sexy shell in a spread for Maxim magazine, Jessica Chobot is an IGN employee, former host of an X-box (360) Live show, newscaster for the Nerdist, and Dungeons & Dragons player. She can be seen in glorious geeky action playing a round of D&Diesel as The Headmistress alongside the Fast and Furious star for Geek & Sundry’s Tabletop.
Between pictures of Chobot dressed in cosplay for Comic-Con, the fiery photos produced by Maxim, and video of the actress playing an RPG with Riddick himself while sporting a retro video game-themed t-shirt, anime pink highlights, and the title of, “mistress,” it’s no wonder the nerd world has a collective crush.
1. Janina Gavankar
Yet another nerd with a Maxim shoot to her credit, Janina Gavankar is best known to the masses as shapeshifting Luna Garza on True Blood and to tech-savvy entertainment insiders as a css/html coder and designer of a popular Posterous.com template for entertainers who need more of an online presence than IMDb or personal homepages can provide. This silver screen star and social media guru has been cast in a long list of comic book and sci-fi/fantasy-inspired projects besides True Blood including: Stargate: Atlantis, The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, The Gates and Dollhouse.
Personality-wise the stunning actress also seems to have a goofy streak, having acted in comedies like Barbershop and Barbershop 2 and alongside comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates (2014). But the real cherry on this dork sundae is the fact that Gavankar is so cutting-edge, she is allegedly the first actor to ever use Twitter.