Celebrities often find themselves beholden to unrealistic beauty standards. Before they pose for an advertisement, photo spread or promotional release, they undergo hours of makeup, wardrobe, and styling. By the time we see the finished product, the blemishes have been airbrushed out, body proportions have been manipulated to match certain perceived ideals and skin textures have been Photoshopped to a radiant, homogenous tone. In the end, the results are often closer to illustrations than photographs.
On the glossy pages of our favorite magazines, everyone is tanned, the sun is always shining and there’s nary an errant freckle in sight. In the real world, however, nobody is perfect.
For example, one of Hollywood’s most iconic starlets, Elizabeth Taylor, had a condition called distichiasis that caused her to grow an additional row of eyelashes. Of course, Taylor — like many stars — used the seemingly innocuous mutation to enhance her star power. Roddy McDowell famously said of her, “who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?”
Not all stars are so lucky, though. For some, it is an uphill battle to overcome the adverse effects of their physical differences. Actor Hrithik Roshan, for example, often takes precautions when filming to hide the fact that he, in fact, has two thumbs on his right hand. Despite such an immediately apparent deformation, Roshan has risen to become one of Bollywood’s most versatile — and highest-paid — actors.
Here, we take a look at those stars who have persevered in the face of their physical abnormalities. Those brave few who — despite the perfection demanded by the execs in Tinseltown — have climbed their way to the top of the industry. From a mafia don shackled with a conjoined twin to a lingerie model whose abdomen caused an uproar, we examine nine celebrities with physical deformities.
9 Milo Ventimiglia
Best known for his role as Peter Petrelli on NBC’s Heroes, Milo Ventimiglia was born with dead nerves on the right side of his mouth, which causes his lower lip to remain limp.
Described by co-star — and one-time girlfriend — Hayden Panetierre as cute, Ventimiglia’s defect became a boon for him in 2006, when Sylvester Stallone cast him as Robert Balboa — Rocky’s son — in Rocky Balboa. According to Stallone, “I thought if Rocky and Adrian had a child, [Milo] would be a perfect offspring. He sort of resembles her and [looks like] he'd be intimidated by Rocky.”
8 George Takei
While being interviewed by Howard Stern in 2010, George Takei revealed that 30 years prior, he had been gifted a pair of running shoes by an adoring fan. Knowing that the shoes were too small, he made the regrettable decision to wear them during a 10K run. That night, he awoke to find his foot locked in a folded position and experienced a muscle cramp so excruciating that it drove him to seek medical attention.
Doctors were eventually able to relax the muscles, though after three years both of his feet returned to the closed positions.
7 Joaquin Phoenix
Reports vary on the cause of the scar on Joaquin Phoenix’s upper lip. According to Phoenix’s vague account, his mother experienced a sharp pain while pregnant and he was consequently born with the mark on his lip. Most sources attribute the scar to a “microform” or “microcleft,” the least severe form of a cleft palate.
Regardless, Phoenix’s unique look has landed him a number of prominent roles and doesn’t appear to have hindered him in any way from being nominated for just about every prestigious film award in existence.
6 Andy García
Star of The Untouchables and Oceans series regular Andy Garcia was born with a conjoined twin attached to his shoulder. About the size of a grapefruit, the twin was surgically removed after birth. While Garcia obviously retains no memory of it, the lingering scars have in no way limited his illustrious career.
Getting his start as a “white tough” in an episode of Murder, She Wrote, Garcia has recently been championing his personal project, Hemingway & Fuentes, based on the friendship of author Ernest Hemingway and boat captain Gregorio Fuentes that inspired the classic story “The Old Man and the Sea.”
5 Rivers Cuomo
Born with his left leg almost two inches shorter than his right leg, Rivers Cuomo — lead singer of the band Weezer — took his handicap in stride. In fact, its because of his condition — which his sister Beverly described as “congenital femur something or other” — that he gave up athletics to pursue a career in music.
Using the money earned from the success of their first album to have corrective surgery, Cuomo pursued a simpler life far removed from the rockstar lifestyle. He grew a scraggly beard and enrolled at Harvard to learn classical composition. From his experiences at Harvard emerged much of the material featured on Weezer’s 1996 album Pinkerton.
According to singer Ke$ha, she “had a tail when [she] was born. It was a tiny tail, about a quarter of an inch, then they chopped it off and stole my tail. That was when [she] was little.” No stranger to being strange, Ke$ha has expressed a certain amount of dismay over the loss of the tail.
It’s hard to envision — considering her often provocative outfits — how she would have managed to work the tail into her act, though it’s fairly easy to imagine her doing so. Recently sprung from rehab, Ke$ha has apparently worked out her woes and has promised scores of new material as well as a third season of her reality show, Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life.
3 Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg — soon to star in the upcoming Transformers: Age of Exctintion — has transformed himself countless times over the years. Originally rising to fame as a teenage heartthrob with his namesake band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Wahlberg utterly rebranded himself as a Hollywood leading man as early as 1997.
With a string of successful films like Boogie Nights, Three Kings, and The Departed, Wahlberg — often typecast as the rough and tumble action hero — is no stranger to being shirtless on screen. His disrobing, however, reveals that he has what is called a supernumerary — or third — nipple.
2 Karolina Kurkova
Former Victoria’s Secret Angel Karolina Kurkova has been described as having an “angelic look with a dark side” and as “a model who could fit almost into any moment.” Models, especially, are often held to unobtainable standards of beauty, so it may come as a surprise that Kurkova’s condition is readily apparent.
Born with what doctors suspect was an umbilical hernia, Kurkova does not have a belly button. In many shoots, a navel is airbrushed or Photoshopped in afterwards, however, Kurkova’s appearance on the runway in 2008 caused a wide array of rumors to circulate throughout the fashion world.
1 Mila Kunis
Hailing from the Soviet Union, Mila Kunis’ fame and fortune is — in some ways — owed to The Price Is Right host Bob Barker. When she was seven years old, Kunis’ parents emigrated to the United States. At the time, Kunis spoke no English and the family was only allowed to bring $250 into the country. It was from Bob Barker that the young Kunis learned English and gained an appreciation for American television.
Kunis has a condition called Heterochromia iridis, meaning her eye’s irises are two separate colors: green and blue. Though hardly noticeable, a number of celebs share the condition including Dan Aykroyd, David Bowie and Simon Pegg.