After pumping out Sports Illustrated covers, walking Victoria’s Secret runways, running successful campaigns for all manner of fashion companies, many models still want to move their careers toward a new goal: becoming an actor or actress. But while directors and audiences know they can shine in magazines or on the catwalk, only some models-turned-actors show they have the acting chops to back up their camera-ready glamour.
The ones who transition well make it huge – former models have starred in biopics, superhero flicks, romantic comedies and everything in between, launching huge careers and earning huge amounts of money. The ones who fail can really make a fool of themselves, with clunky lines and stiff performances that overshadow their previous successes. For some, the dialogue seems to trip them up, for others it’s the task of taking on a new character. The following stunning celebrities show that despite perfect bodies and sizzling expressions, only some can make the jump to the big screen.
15. Cara Delevingne (Shone)
Instantly recognizable with her striking eyebrows and stunning bone structure, Cara Delevingne burst onto the modeling scene when she was 10 years old! Her career exploded in the years since her first shoots, as she’s landed tons of catwalk shows since 2011, including two Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, and has been featured in campaigns for such prestigious names as Chanel, Burberry and Marc Jacobs.
2012 saw Delevingne in her first film, Anna Karenina, and since then she’s for the most part spurned her modeling career (naming it a toxic industry for girls), landing bigger and bigger film roles, the most famous of which came in 2016’s Suicide Squad, where she brushed shoulders with some of the biggest stars in the industry. Delevingne’s most on-screen presence came in 2015’s Paper Towns, for which she won numerous awards and became a household name. It could be argued that Delevingne’s acting hasn’t been tested too much, but her roles so far have shown that she’s got the potential to go far in the industry. And after all, who could argue with those eyebrows?
14. Travis Fimmel (Shone)
Travis Fimmel was scouted for his first modeling gig while working out at a gym in Melbourne, and was picked up by LA Models after visiting the office barefoot and penniless. 2002 saw his meteoric rise to fame as a Calvin Klein model, during which he secured a six-figure deal with the company and even allegedly caused traffic jams with his simmering billboards. One report said a billboard in London had to be taken down for causing too much traffic buildup.
Fimmel dabbled in acting since the early 2000s with roles in Southern Comfort and Surfer, Dude, among others, but he didn’t rise to stardom as an actor until he won a starring role in the television series Vikings. Not just a pretty face, Travis Fimmel gave realism and grit to his character Ragnar Lothbrok. His role’s fame helped win him the lead in Warcraft: The Beginning. While the film itself wasn’t much of a blockbuster, it’s helped Travis fill his plate with roles for the coming years, including a remake of 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front. We’re not sure if Fimmel can ever match in his acting the infamy of his Calvin Klein billboard, but he’s sure on his way.
13. Cameron Diaz (Shone)
Cameron Diaz began her modeling career at seventeen years of age, seemingly appropriate for one of her most well-known magazine covers. With her beaming smile, natural blonde, and stunning blue eyes, Diaz has a classic girl-next-door beauty – it actually would be more surprising if she had never modeled.
Her transition to acting was a surprise. She auditioned for a big role in The Mask (1994), and with no previous experience, won the part! The Mask landed her visibility in the acting world, although she didn’t land another huge part until 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, where she shared the big screen with Julia Roberts. The rest of her career is barely news. She played numerous romantic leads opposite all of the biggest actors of the early 2000s, and her acting career has continued to present day. The effervescent beauty that made her a modeling star has given her a warmth and a charisma on screen that many have tried to emulate.
12. Jason Momoa (Shone)
Jason Momoa’s resume has spanned all manner of acting jobs, from the fearless warrior Khal Drogo on the HBO hit Game of Thrones to the upcoming surefire hit Aquaman to lesser-known roles like a sizzling heartthrob on Baywatch. You probably didn’t know that he was one of Hawaii’s top models before landing these roles, but the picture above is sure to convince you he had the goods.
Currently known for his massive physique, broad shoulders and shaggy, long hair, the younger photos of Momoa show a similar power but in a sleeker, slimmer package. As far as transformations go, Momoa’s is the most extreme between his modeling days and his current look of all the actors and actresses on this list. What’s amazing is that no matter how much hair or muscle, this guy still stays hot. His killer looks and captivating performances promise successes for his future.
11. Tyrese Gibson (Shone)
Tyrese Gibson seems to be a man of many talents. Well known for his wise-cracking role in The Fast and the Furious franchise, Gibson also enjoyed high accolades for his musical endeavors, with multiple albums and some Grammy nods. Gibson’s rise to fame started before that even, when, at seventeen, he modeled for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Guess. His strong jaw and steely gaze pop out of every frame, not to mention his toned body.
Gibson’s acting career hardly ends with The Fast and the Furious. With roles in the Transformers franchise, Death Race and Four Brothers, Gibson has joined some high-grossing and well-received action dramas, again and again proving that he’s not just a one-trick pony (or even a two-trick pony), and can roll with the best in multiple professions. Heck, if he can sing, model and act, maybe he should just pick up another side job, too?
10. Sharon Stone (Shone)
Sharon Stone signed with New York Modeling Agency after quitting school to pursue modeling. While successful, she soon left this career path to follow her real dream of becoming an actress.
Stone is one of the most notable on the list because of her tenacity when finding work. She endured several years of bit parts and small roles – some even going without a mention in the credits – until she hit big with Total Recall in 1990, starring with the infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Total Recall didn’t secure her place in all-time stardom, Basic Instinct did for sure. While Stone stirred up a controversy after claiming that one of the most well-known shots of the entire movie, which included a revealing view up Stone’s skirt, was done without her full knowledge, a statement immediately contradicted by the director. Whether or not her claims are true, it’s certain that Basic Instinct launched her celebrity status. While some might argue that Basic Instinct was the height of Stone’s career, it’s indisputable that she’s become a legendary superstar. But who knows where she would be if she had never booked that first modeling gig after school?
9. Mark Wahlberg (Shone)
Known for some of the most iconic Calvin Klein shoots of all time, Mark Wahlberg, or Marky Mark, as he was better known back then, boasts many years spent in the spotlight. While he began as a rapper and musician, Wahlberg soon booked a huge CK campaign, including photoshoots with model Kate Moss and some television advertisements. Though his modeling career was short-lived, it was legendary. Wahlberg’s bad-boy attitude and incredible physique were on full display in his shoots.
His ability to perform on camera influenced his coming opportunities. His first film appearance was a made-for-television movie called The Substitute, in 1993. His following films Fear (1996) and Boogie Nights (1997) elevated him beyond a dabbling model into a career as an actor, which he has pursued to the present day. He’s performed in comedies, dramas, dark action thrillers, and romantic flicks. While not all have hit critical gold, the breadth of his performances ensure his place on this list.
8. Angelina Jolie (Shone)
Angelina Jolie is one of the most prolific and well-known actors of our time. Her work extends beyond acting, as she’s taken on more humanitarian roles, as well as working on movies in other capacities, such as directing. While hits like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Salt, the Tomb Raider franchise and Girl, Interrupted, launched Jolie into international stardom, her start in the public eye came from modeling.
Jolie tried to start modeling at 14, but claims it wasn’t successful. While she has some shots from her early teen years, she started getting small acting gigs by the time she was 16. Even in her young photos, Jolie has the look of a star. Perhaps most recognizable by her full lips, her gorgeous figure and emotive eyes, Jolie carries a maturity beyond her years. This maturity and expressiveness would help Jolie through her career for the rest of her life.
7. Kellan Lutz (Tanked)
Kellan Lutz has followed a similar track as some of the great male models in the preceding list. With a banging bod and an easy charisma exuding from his photographs, he’s had successful campaigns with the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein. Since his lucrative modeling ventures, Lutz has enjoyed a lot of commercial success in his films, most notably in the Twilight franchise.
But while it seems Lutz could be on the same track as someone like Mark Wahlberg, the critical reception of his films has been lackluster at best. Of 22 rated films he appeared in listed on Rotten Tomatoes, only two of Lutz’s films have received “fresh” ratings (scores of 60% or higher). His wooden roles in Hercules and the aforementioned Twilight series gave him what seemed to be simply another platform for modeling, rather than the launch of an acting career. When compared to the early work of Wahlberg, it seems Lutz has a long way to go.
6. Tyra Banks (Tanked)
Tyra Banks is many things – supermodel, talk show host, reality show host, celebrity personality… the list goes on. Her career started at 15, and at 17 she signed with Elite. It wasn’t long before she had become one of the most recognizable supermodels of all time, with more than 20 magazine covers (including the sultry Sports Illustrated cover pictured above). Tyra’s amazing body, fierce eyes and ability to work the camera boosted her to celebrity status. Her incredible career opened the opportunity for America’s Next Top Model, a massive international success with global spin-off cycles.
While her successes are numerous and her popularity indisputable, it remains certain that Tyra Banks is not an actress. She’s dabbled a few times, but with minimal critical success. Her clunky performance as a living doll in Life Size, where she’s outshone by a young Lindsay Lohan, is one of her largest roles, and one of her least inspired performances. It seems that Tyra is best when she’s being, well, Tyra. Maybe she should stick to that.
5. Kate Upton (Tanked)
Kate Upton took the modeling world by storm in 2010, since becoming a household name. Since childhood, she dreamed of becoming a model, and made it happen in a quick fashion. Landing the coveted Sports Illustrated cover model spot for the Swimsuit Edition in 2011, her stunning curves and sexy glances became the subject of many magazines and blogs early on in her career. Since the infamous SI cover, Upton has worked for Guess, Gillette, Skullcandy, Liverpool and Dylan George, along with many other big names.
Early on in her modeling career, Upton tried to make the jump to the big screen while still working hard as a model. Her first appearance was as a mistress in the action-comedy Tower Heist (2011). Though a small part, the film did sufficiently at the box office and received relatively good ratings. Since that endeavor, however, Upton’s films haven’t done nearly as well, at the box office or from critics. She played an uninspired mistress in the comedy The Other Woman in 2014, ending up looking like she doesn’t know what she’s doing on set. We don’t know either, Kate.
4. Jamie Dornan (Tanked)
Jamie Dornan rose from relative film obscurity to the center of the spotlight when he starred in 2015’s 50 Shades of Grey. While the film was a monetary success, earning more than 500 million over its budget, Dornan and co-star Dakota Johnson, were critically slammed for their roles in the film. Dornan played the brooding Christian Grey. While he looked the part of the sexually charged millionaire, the role earned him two Golden Raspberry Awards in 2016, one for worst actor and one for worst acting duo. The money seems to speak louder than his critics, however, as he’s signed on for the next two installments.
Dornan was a model before he started acting, and ran successful campaigns for Calvin Klein, Dior Homme and Abercrombie & Fitch. Dornan has the looks and charm to be a top grade movie star, and to be clear, we don’t think Dornan is necessarily the worst actor ever. He earned a good reputation while acting for The Fall in 2013, but since has consistently under-performed. Maybe he’s on the cusp of something good, but he’s not going to break his typecast if he keeps signing up for movies like Fifty Shades.
3. Emily Ratajkowski (Tanked)
Emily Ratajkowski began modeling at the age of 14 and quickly rose the ranks of top models, getting work the exact day she signed with Ford agency. While her first campaigns were with Kohl’s and Nordstrom’s print catalogs, she went on to work for Forever 21, Amore & Sorvete and Sports Illustrated, in much more mature shoots.
Ratajkowski found acting work at a young age too, just a few years after her first modeling gigs, but it wasn’t until her sex-laden role in Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines” music video that she became an icon for her generation. Soon after, she won a role in the hit 2014 thriller Gone Girl, but didn’t measure up to the acting chops of the rest of the cast. Since then, her roles on flops like Entourage and We Are Your Friends were one-note and flat (though not flat-chested), earning her a reputation of being hired for her look rather than her talent. Maybe soon she’ll find a role that suits her better, or grow into her own as an actress, but so far she has yet to prove herself a quality actress.
2. Heidi Klum (Tanked)
Heidi Klum is an international celebrity, fashion icon and effervescent host of shows such as America’s Got Talent, Project Runway and Germany’s Next Top Model. Most know that she began as a model in Germany. She then traveled around Europe until eventually going to the USA, where she achieved wide success, especially after becoming a Sports Illustrated cover model. Becoming a spokeswoman for Victoria’s Secret opened her career up to more roles in films and TV shows. Too bad none of them worked.
Klum fulfilled her role in the stiffest and least natural way possible, starting with stints in Sex and the City and 200o’s Cursed. While many of her roles were actually as herself, perhaps her lowest moment was in her awkward stint in Parks and Recreation in 2013, where she seemed to have never been in front of a camera before. We love Heidi, and without a doubt she’s a gifted and charismatic role model and host, but none of her natural spark translates when taking on a different character.
1. Brooklyn Decker (Tanked)
Brooklyn Decker won Model of the Year in 2003 at a convention, and has not stopped in racking up the accolades for her work in magazines and advertising campaigns since. She has opened up about tough times in her past, including battles with eating disorders, but has maintained a high profile, adored for her girl-next-door appearance and glowing smile. She is best known for her multiple Sports Illustrated appearances and other high profile modeling gigs such as campaigns for Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Victoria’s Secret.
Thank goodness she’s not known for her movie appearances, which are forgettable at best. Appearances in trainwrecks like Battleship (2012) and other critical duds outweigh the successes, in which she played minimal roles. A pair of Golden Raspberry noms for two different films helped win Decker a place at the top of our list. It’s indubitable that Decker has done some phenomenal work, it just hasn’t been in movies.