There’s no doubt that most celebrities are incredibly photogenic. After all, they make their money by looking fantastic on camera, whether that be for serious films or in photo shoots and commercials. It’s not uncommon for an aspiring actor or actress to get his or her start in Hollywood by modelling. From Ashton Kutcher to Channing Tatum, the list of celebrities who went from models to A-List stars is staggering.
However, there are some celebrities who got an even earlier start than most thanks to their supportive show biz parents. They weren’t driving themselves to modelling casting calls in their beat up old car at 20 – they were getting driven, as they didn’t yet have their licenses. We’re talking about child models.
It makes sense that future celebrities would get their start as child models. After all, they’re usually photogenic from birth, and future celebs often have a desire to get in front of the cameras and bright lights. However, it’s still surprising to see some of the big A-List stars and red carpet staples in their childhood years, posing for cheesy photo shoots – but they did. Here are 10 celebs you’d never expect were child models.
10 Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl’s big break came when she landed the role of Dr. Izzie Stevens on the popular television series Grey’s Anatomy. She actually got her start in Hollywood in her late teenage years, snagging supporting roles in several films as well as a leading role in a Disney film. However, she was a seasoned pro at that point, having been a child model since she was nine. Heigl entered the modeling world almost accidentally – either her mother or her aunt sent photographs of a young Katherine to several agencies, and Wilhelmina Models signed her shortly after. She posed for catalogs for stores including Sears and Lord & Taylor. Heigl spoke about her childhood modeling career in 1994, saying “It was fun when I was little but after a while it started to get not as interesting. There’s long hours and all you do is stand around a lot.”
9 Mischa Barton
While Mischa Barton has taken a bit of a step back from Hollywood lately, in the early 2000s when she was starring in The O.C. as troubled rich girl Marissa Cooper, absolutely everyone was obsessed with the young starlet. She seemed to have come out of nowhere despite several small roles in strong films such as The Sixth Sense. However, Mischa was already comfortable in front of the camera thanks to her childhood modeling career – although she wasn’t the energetic ham that many child models were. Photographer Jade Albert, who worked with Mischa as a child, has stated that the future starlet “was a little reserved. She was a little bit, at the time, more introverted. But she took direction extremely well.”
8 Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester had a bit of an unconventional childhood. She was born when her mother was serving time in prison, and was initially raised by her grandmother. However, she managed to thrive, and her incredible presence in front of the camera couldn’t be hidden – when her mother was released, she moved with her to New York City and began working with Wilhelmina. She was featured in campaigns by Ralph Lauren and Limited Too, as well as in commercials for Clearasil and Tamagotchi toys (so 90s!). She eventually made the move to Los Angeles when the Hollywood lights beckoned, and after snagging the coveted role of Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, she’s transformed into an A-List star.
7 Robert Pattinson
While his role as Edward in the mega hit Twilight film franchise catapulted him to superstardom, Robert Pattinson remains a little bit awkward in interviews and during press engagements. However, you may be surprised to find out that in his childhood in Britain, he actually worked as a model. Pattinson modelled from the ages of 12 to 16, after which, as he has said, he began to look increasingly masculine and lose the androgynous look popular at the time. Well, while he would have undoubtedly been a successful model, we’re pretty sure he’s doing just fine in his acting career.
6 Natasha Lyonne
Natasha Lyonne has had a turbulent time in Hollywood. After achieving success at a young age with roles in films like the hit American Pie series and Everyone Says I Love You, she disappeared for a while to deal with health and addiction issues. After snagging the role of Nicky Nichols in smash hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, it’s safe to say that Lyonne is back – and better than ever. What you might not know is that she got started in front of the camera at a very young age – she was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency when she was only six years old.
5 Emma Roberts
Thanks to her famous aunt Julia Roberts (you may have heard of her), Emma Roberts was exposed to Hollywood at a young age, as she’d get to visit her aunt’s film sets from time to time. However, like many young, aspiring actresses, Roberts modelled at the beginning of her career before becoming a leading actress. In 2005, a then 14-year-old Roberts was pictured in an advertisement for Abercrombie and Fitch, modeling a casual cami and jeans. While she’s definitely not the poised and polished starlet she is today, that face is distinctive – if she hadn’t gone into acting, we bet she could have had a solid catalogue modeling career.
4 Hayden Panettiere
Everyone knows that Hayden Panettiere got started in acting at a young age, snagging roles in soap operas One Life to Live and Guiding Light, and making her feature film debut as the coach’s daughter in Remember The Titans. However, this busy star was cultivating her modelling career at the same time that she was making strides in the acting world. She appeared in various commercials and campaigns, and according to photographer Jade Albert, she was a total natural. “She nailed it every time,” says Albert. In fact, the young Panettiere was so popular that she was sometimes so busy with her acting and commercial work that she didn’t have time for photo shoots!
3 Michelle Trachtenberg
Actress Michelle Trachtenberg became a household name when she played Dawn in the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but before all that, she was an extremely successful child star. She appeared in her first commercial at only three years old, and booked job after job after that. However, unlike some of her characters, Trachtenberg was pretty much as far from a bad girl as you could get in her childhood. Photographer Jade Albert says that Trachtenberg “was always more conservative, [a] good-goody.” Hey, whatever she did worked for her – she’s been booking both film and television jobs steadily ever since she made her commercial debut.
2 Corbin Bleu
While Corbin Bleu is still known best for his role in the High School Musical series, he’s been booking guest starring roles steadily for years now, and is on the cusp of becoming one of the next big stars. However, did you know that he got his start as a child model? He was appearing in commercials at the age of 2, and by the age of four, was signed to the Ford Modeling Agency. The adorable young Corbin was in print ads for Macy’s, Gap, Target, and Toys R Us, to name a few, as well as in fashion spreads in Child, Parents, and American Baby magazines.
1 Kirsten Dunst
Most people know that Kirsten Dunst got a young start in the entertainment industry – after all, she was nominated for a Golden Globe at just 12 years old after starring alongside A-Listers Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview With A Vampire. However, before she began appearing in films including Little Women, Jumanji, The Virgin Suicides, Bring It On, Spider-Man and many, many more, she was a child model. She appeared in advertisements for companies including Kids R Us, Target, Spiegel, and Sears, booking steady gigs until she broke into the acting world. Photographer Jade Albert remembers the blonde cutie well, saying that “she had incredible stamina, she took great direction, she always went the extra step and just lit up the room with her eyes, she was so animated.”