Modeling and acting go hand in hand, especially if you’re pretty. Well, really only if you’re pretty. The reality of the film and television world is this: if you’re good looking enough, you might not even need to talk to make money. Those who are attractive and are able speak in front of camera, often do quite well in the acting profession. For many of the gorgeous people that dreamed of Hollywood, modeling was a logical first step. Stand here and look hot while we take your photo. This isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds, either. Anyone who struggles to smile normally for a camera will understand this. But modeling wasn’t enough for the ladies on this list. They needed to use their big personalities, their voices and their flair for the dramatic. Still shots couldn’t contain them. Modeling was simply a way to get noticed and noticed they got… they were. They were noticed from their modeling.
Modeling sounds glamorous, but let’s be clear, some of the early gigs for the actresses on this list were anything but. Not all of them landed in the spotlight in Victoria’s Secret or Calvin Klein. Are those still relevant examples? The point is. Some of the initial modeling jobs on this list are awful. Not like the modeling shots your parents got from you at Sears when you were a kid awful, but close enough. For most, they were little kids, so they were modeling weird kid stuff, like sticky hands and juice stains on their upper lips, or whatever else kids are known for. No, they weren’t actually modeling juice stains on their upper lips, we just didn’t want to ruin the surprise and also don’t know kids very well. Today, these actresses are famous. Seeing them before they were big stars is like peering into their souls. This is when they were just normal people like us, just trying to make a name for themselves. Here are 15 modeling shots of actresses before they were famous.
15. Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly started acting young. She was in Once Upon a Time in America when she was about 14 years old, rising to fame at 16 in Labyrinth, but before that she was a model and she honestly thought that was where she would remain forever. She had no plans to act and her modeling career was doing quite well, so why change anything? Her early modeling work allowed her to get into major catalogs like Vogue and McCalls (where the picture of her as Leia from Star Wars is from). But even though she kept up with modeling for a few years after her acting career launched, appearing in and on the cover of Seventeen several times, no one could keep this stunner off of the big screen. Connelly would need to work her way through the ranks until, in 2000, she hit it big with Requiem for a Dream and the rest is history.
14. Victoria Justice
Before Victoria Justice made a name for herself in acting, she was a child model, landing a few big gigs before she was a teenager with campaigns like Ralph Lauren, Gap and Guess—as seen in the image above (age 11). Though Justice got a walk-on part on Gilmore Girls in 2003, her career in acting wasn’t steady until 2005 when she got a few more guest spots and her big role on Zoey 101. Today, the 23-year old enjoys quite a bit of everything, acting, music and modeling and has become another success story of child stars finding ways of staying relevant as they grow up in front of the camera. If you couldn’t tell already, Justice is the one on the right.
13. Leighton Meester
Long before Leighton Meester landed a role on Gossip Girl, she started modeling, working with Ralph Lauren and Limited Too. From there she moved up the ladder to booking some small parts in shows like Law & Order and Boston Public, as well as some commercials for Tamagotchi (remember those things?) and Clearasil, which are completely hilarious to watch. In these commercials, Meester got to show off her acting talents, even speaking some lines in them. It really wouldn’t be until 2007, when Meester was about 20- to 21-years old that she would really take off with acting. By that point she had certainly paid her dues and worked her way up through the industry. Looking back at her early shots, you just know she’s going to be great, don’t you?
12. Alexis Bledel
Alexis Bledel got her start in acting in 2000 on the same show that everyone knows her for, Gilmore Girls. Prior to that, Bledel was a model after she was discovered one day while shopping, which sounds like a creepy way to be discovered, but it probably wasn’t so bad. You can find a few of her early modeling shots for things like lip gloss and headbands, you know, high quality campaigns. It’s not at all hard to notice Bledel because apparently the 35-year old hasn’t aged a day since she was 12, which is a little weird. After showing some promise in a few fashion shoots, Bledel decided to attend Page Parkes Center for Modeling and Acting, which is like a modeling and acting boot camp in the South. It wouldn’t be long before she was a mainstay in the industry, playing every fast-talking intelligent young female character she could get her hands on.
11. Sofia Vergara
It’s probably not a huge surprise that the beautiful and talented Sofia Vergara was once a model, but shush up and don’t ruin it for everyone else. Well she was a model. She was discovered on a beach one day and, next thing she knew, she was doing a Pepsi commercial. She was 17 when she started modeling and she became quite a hit in Colombia, for good reason. Chances are, she would be a hit any place that showed her picture. After some early modeling, Vergara became a host on Colombian TV and not long after she was working in English films. Modeling agencies found a weird phenomenon that whatever magazine Vergara was in, the pages that featured her would vanish, ripped clean out. That’s actually just a guess, a hypothesis you might say. Nowadays, Vergara is stealing hearts from the episodes of Modern Family.
10. Milla Jovovich
At 12-years old, one year before she landed her first acting jobs and three years before she gained notoriety on Return to the Blue Lagoon, Milla Jovovich was discovered and brought in to model for Herb Ritts, a famous photographer. The resulting shots found themselves on the cover of Lei, a renowned Italian magazine. After that, Jovovich became part of a Revlon campaign called the “Most Unforgettable Women in the World,” she was still 11 years old at the time. Even though Jovovich might be known more as an actress to most people these days, she has also had a significant modeling career as well. She’s appeared on more than 100 magazine covers and has modeled for some of the largest and most prestigious companies in the world. Basically, she’s just great at whatever she does.
9. Katherine Heigl
When Katherine was 9-years old, she began modeling with Wilhelmina Models and was part of several successful campaigns. She found herself in quite a few magazines for Sears and Lord & Taylor, and she even worked her way up to the big time, a Cheerios commercial. After that, Heigl started acting, making her film debut in 1992 with That Night. She would continue modeling as well, appearing in several Seventeen magazines throughout the 90s. In the late 90s, Heigl’s acting career would blossom on the TV show Roswell, and, thanks to her looks, her modeling career and her acting career sort of blended from that point on. It seems that Heigl is a better model than she is an actress because we don’t have to hear her snooty attitude when she models. High and mighty doesn’t come through as strong in still photos as it does in film.
8. Cameron Diaz
When Cameron Diaz was first seen on the film screen in 1994’s The Mask, anyone with a brain could probably guess that she was a model before that. While the film may have instantly shot up her fame, Diaz had, in fact, been modeling for about five years by that point. At 16, Diaz was part modeling for Elite Model Management which landed her several high profile campaigns, such as Calvin Klein and Levi’s. By 17, she was a cover girl for Seventeen and shooting commercials for Coca-Cola. Now 44, the blonde bombshell is still considered one of Hollywood’s premiere sex symbols, a tag that has accompanied her throughout her entire career.
7. Mila Kunis
Before she was cast as Jackie in That ’70s Show in 1998, Mila Kunis appeared in a few bit parts on TV, like Days of Our Lives, Baywatch, 7th Heaven and even in a few films like Gia. However, her first brush with fame came earlier as a child model. She appeared in a Barbie commercial, which was actually her first ever audition. After that, she appeared in a commercial and a few ads later on, in the Lisa Frank product line campaign. These all took place when Kunis was only 9-years old. Today, Kunis is incredibly well known and basically models everywhere she goes, whether she likes it or not. Well, she might as well be modeling. She’s so damned attractive, and everyone knows it.
6. Uma Thurman
In 1985, when Uma Thurman was just 15-years old, she began a successful modeling career that led her to the covers of Vogue Magazine in December of 1985 and May of 1986. She also was in Glamour and several other photoshoots around that same time. This all happened in spite of Thurman’s low self-confidence levels as a child. Her acting debut came in 1988, three years after she started modeling, with her first two roles in Johnny Be Good and Kiss Daddy Goodnight. Over the years, Thurman has done a great many modeling shoots, a field that embraces her long and skinny frame, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that her most famous shots came from when she was young.
5. Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst has been acting forever, so it seems wild to suggest that she started out in modeling, but it’s true. It’s most definitely true. When Dunst was three years old, she began fashion modeling and appearing in commercials. She held contracts with both Ford Models and Elite Model Management as well, quite the resume for a three-year old. Most of us are still learning what’s attached to our bodies at this age, while Dunst had already started saving for retirement. She started acting in film at the age of six. By seven she was in a Tom Hanks movie and, by 11 years old, she was starring in Interview with a Vampire. Even after she had found her footing in acting, Dunst was still modeling, but her path to fame would be by way of the big screen, so she put away childish things like the Crayola commercial she’s pictured in above and moved on to bigger and better things.
4. Angelina Jolie
Even though Angelina Jolie technically started acting in 1982 in her father’s film Lookin’ To Get Out, she didn’t start landing actual roles on her own until 1993. Prior to that, she started modeling, which was something that didn’t quite pan out. The 16-year old looked the part, but she was considered “too dark,” which is an 80s way of saying you’re too emo, or whatever the kids call it today. Soon after her foray in modeling, however, she got a few parts in music videos, such as in Lenny Kravitz‘s “Stand By My Woman” and Lemonhead’s “It’s About Time.” Her first big movie role then came in Hackers in 1994 with that dreadful haircut and those see-through shirts. Ahh, the good ol’ days.
3. Amanda Seyfried
Amanda Seyfried may be an A-list actress today, but it wasn’t always an easy ride for her. She had to slug her way to the top. Seyfried first got into modeling in 1996, when she was about 11 years old. Like Leighton Meester, Seyfried joined Limited Too and got several gigs with them (alongside Meester). Seyfried was also featured on the cover of teenager novels, including Sweet Valley High, which is like the Vanity Fair of young women fiction. From 1999 until 2003, Seyfried would land recurring roles on a few different soap operas, like Guiding Light, As the World Turns and All My Children, which for some reason is hilarious to picture. Then, in 2003, Seyfried was cast in the smash hit Mean Girls, and her low-key modeling days were over.
2. Charlize Theron
It’s obvious that Charlize Theron was a model. By the beard of Zeus, she has got to be the most beautiful woman who’s ever walked this earth. Well, Theron technically started off as a dancer, but after her mother and friends secretly submitted her into a modeling contest, surprise surprise, Theron won. There’s no contest on this earth that Theron wouldn’t win. For her troubles, she won a one-year modeling contract, which had her travel to Europe for all kinds of photoshoots. From there, she traveled to New York for modeling and began to get back into dancing when she injured herself. It was at this point that Theron decided to give acting a go. She struggled along until an agent actually looked at her. He saw what we all see and cast her in Children of the Corn III, and, a few years later, she was landing roles in some major films.
1. Jennifer Lawrence
Prior to appearing in a few small roles in television and film in 2006 and 2007, Jennifer Lawrence tried her hand at modeling. Originally, in about 2004, Lawrence was discovered by an agent who gave her his card. After that, Lawrence would go in for some readings for very small parts, but nothing came of it right away, except for some small modeling gigs, like one for Abercrombie & Fitch, which isn’t really small when you think about it. Either way, these shots were never released, except for the one pictured above, apparently because JLaw was sweaty, red and gross in all the others. So maybe Lawrence wasn’t a model necessarily, but she did model once, which is kind of the same thing. Right?