There are certain industries and careers that can be used by people as a kind of stepping stone onto bigger and better things. I’m not saying the modeling industry isn’t massive – it is – it’s just that Hollywood’s even bigger, and a gig in the movies can propel someone to superstardom overnight.
Ask a lot of models and you’ll find that a lot of them didn’t really have any major aspirations to get into the modeling industry, strut their stuff on the catwalk as a runway model, or pose in sultry attire for photoshoots. A lot of them got into it by sheer chance – they were either spotted or started out competing in beauty pageants, then just progressed and went with the flow. Sure, there have been those for whom modeling’s always been a lifetime ambition, and good on them for achieving their dreams. But plenty stumble into it, start gaining recognition, progress through the ranks, and then utilize the opportunities that come their way. Modeling presents plenty of opportunities for people to get involved in other ventures – it opens plenty of doors, and one such door is the door to the world of movies and television. It’s one industry that’s made for beautiful people, so models, once they get some exposure, can fit right in.
There are a lot of actresses today who started off their careers in the limelight as models. Plenty hit the catwalk before they hit the big screen, and this includes some of the best actresses in the world today, with the likes of Halle Berry and Cameron Diaz, and the 13 other prominent names on this list.
15 Famke Janssen
It doesn’t take a genius to realize why Famke was once a model. She’s drop dead gorgeous, and since she hit modeling on the head in the early 90s, she’s amassed a sizeable filmography, meaning we’ve become used to seeing her on the big screen, which is just perfect.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Famke grew up with aspirations of moving to the U.S. When she turned 20, she did just that, hopped on a plane and went off to the States to begin life as a fashion model. She quickly established herself as the hot new girl on the block, and began getting work with a number of high profile companies; Giorgio Armani, Chanel, and Victoria's Secret, to name a few. She did all of this even though her heart wasn’t really in it, and eventually quit to study at Columbia University. But her modeling days were enough to get her noticed in the acting world and get casting directors interested. Her role in the James Bond film GoldenEye propelled her into the limelight, and from then on it was smooth sailing for Famke as she went on her merry way to establishing herself as one of the hottest and best actresses in the movie industry.
14 Emily Ratajkowski
Emily might not be the most well-known model turned actress on this list, but she’s still young and she’s getting there; give her time and she’ll be all over your screens. She’s only 25, but has already put together quite a splendid career for herself, and it all started with modeling.
Emily actually always wanted to get into acting when she was a child. She would put together and perform in shows for her family, and her family encouraged her pursue this ambition. She got an acting coach, but rather than get her into movies, he got her into modeling, introducing her to a talent agent. Emily was just a teenager when she began modeling, but pretty soon she was doing what she had always wanted to do, and began acting. She really rose to prominence back in 2013 after she appeared (naked) in the music video for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." She still juggles the two; she’s already up there in terms of being one of the best in the modeling industry, and her career as an actress is also gradually gaining momentum. Give her a few years and she’ll be the hot property of the acting biz.
13 Halle Berry
Halle Berry’s arguably one of the best actresses of her generation. A versatile actress with fantastic screen presence who’s also sizzling hot, she’s got it all, and fans lap it up whenever she takes to the movie sets.
Since she’s now in her 50s and is still absolutely stunning, it won’t surprise – and because she’s on this list of course! – people that she was once a model. Sure, she’s done various modeling assignments whilst she’s been an actress too, posed for magazines, and been the subject of a few photoshoots, but modeling’s where it all started for Halle.
She got into modeling when she began studying at college. It was tough for Halle in those days; her family dynamic wasn’t ideal, and she used modeling as a kind of escape route, but when she began winning beauty contests for fun, that’s when she got the whole media bug and decided she wanted to pursue some sort of career in front of the camera. It was certainly a good decision to make and one that paid off big time.
12 Estella Warren
Born in Ontario, Canada, Estella’s days as a youngster were all about swimming. She didn’t just get in the pool for fun though – she became a national champion after moving to Toronto to train in synchronized swimming and was even very close to taking part in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. But when she moved back to Ontario, she began to turn heads – all that swimming must have been having an effect – and one person who liked what she saw was Rhonda Broadbelt Fonte. She owned a modeling agency at the time, and knew people in high places – she herself was a pretty prominent name in the industry. After getting spotted, Estella’s modeling career took off, and rather quickly too. Rhonda put her in touch with her contacts, and before she knew it, she was off to New York, one thing led to another, and she began rising through the ranks of the modeling industry, before transitioning to acting – not fully – in 2001, where she appeared in the films, Driven and Planet of the Apes.
11 Freida Pinto
The star of Slumdog Millionaire always wanted to be an actress. Born and raised in India’s film city of Mumbai, she grew up admiring all those Bollywood actors and actresses, the faces of whom beamed down on her from billboards, and she wanted to be among them one day. With this in mind, from as young as five years old, she went about carving out a career for herself, a career that would take her to the big screen. But education was also very important for Freida – she refrained from doing any sort of acting until she was in college. After she graduated, she actually began modeling first.
She worked for Elite Model Management India for about two and a half years, and was the face of numerous companies, and was at the same time going to acting auditions. But these initial auditions weren’t successful and she began to lose hope that she’d ever accomplish her dream of becoming an actress. Then one day, at the request of the casting director of Slumdog Millionaire, her modeling agency selected her and six others to take part in auditions for the film. After months of gruelling auditions, Freida was finally cast in her first role and her acting career had taken off.
10 Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot seems to be the hot new girl on the block – everyone started raving about the Israeli beauty due to her role in the recent film, Criminal – but she’s been around for quite a bit of time in the acting industry, where she first rose to fame playing a liaison and weapons expert, Gisele Yashar, in the Fast and the Furious movies.
Israeli actresses in Hollywood are pretty much non-existent. So how did Gal get herself noticed? Modeling. And she wasn’t just your average model either, another pretty face. She rose to the top of the modeling world and has consequently become one of the best and highest-paid models around.
Gal began modeling at the age of 18 and tasted instant success. Her face got picked up by some massive brands, including Gucci, Jaguar Cars, Miss Sixty and many others, and consequently, Israeli TV casting directors began taking an interest. After appearing on Israeli TV, one thing led to another, and Hollywood came calling. Her next major project is as the iconic superhero Wonder Woman in the big screen adaption, out later this year.
9 Brooklyn Decker
When Brooklyn appeared in the 2011 movie Just Go With It, she played a teacher, but it appeared as if she’d just walked into class straight from a modeling shoot. That debut movie made people sit up and take notice, and since then her acting career’s just gone from strength to strength.
But her time in the limelight wouldn’t have happened had she not been spotted in a shopping mall as a teenager. It’s the stuff dreams are made of; one moment she was out shopping, the next she was the face of some major brands, some of the stuff she used to buy in that mall. Still a teenager at this point, Brooklyn made the move to New York to further her modeling career, and she did just that, getting an acting career out of it too, playing small roles in a few TV shows, and everything just built up from there.
8 Cara Delevingne
British model and actress Cara Delevingne is still really young in terms of her career and how far she could go, at the age of 24, but she’s already accomplished a hell of a lot in such a short space of time. Modeling, acting, music, design – you name it, Cara’s tried her hand at it, and consequently her rise to global stardom has been rapid.
She may be known today for all these other ventures now, but she will, and one feels always will be, primarily known for being a supermodel and strutting her stuff on the catwalk.
Her sister, Poppy, was already modeling when Cara decided to give it a whirl. She was spotted, signed with an agency, and was pretty soon doing runway shows. It’s amazing to think that all of this only happened six years ago; back then she had just dropped out of drama school and was twiddling her thumbs, wondering what to do, and now she’s leading the jet setting lifestyle, travelling around the world walking at fashion events, and juggling this with a bit of time on the movie sets too. She recently appeared in Suicide Squad.
7 Charlize Theron
This South African beauty has amassed quite a filmography since making her debut back in 1995. She’s been at it for over two decades now and is one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, which is a testimony to her hard work and dedication, especially since this wasn’t really the route she had in mind and wanted to go down.
As a youngster growing up in South Africa, the young Charlize aspired to be a dancer. But at the age of 16, she won a modeling contract, and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. So, she moved to Italy – which much have been quite a culture shock having lived on a farm in South Africa since then – and began making waves in the modeling industry around Europe. This resulted in her moving to the U.S. where she continued modeling but also trained as a dancer, that was until a knee injury forced her to give up on her dream. One door closes and another one opens, and now Charlize has her foot firmly in that door and is one of the best actresses around. She won an Oscar for the movie Monster back in 2003.
6 Jennifer Morrison
No matter what she does now, Jennifer Morrison will always be associated with Dr. Allison Cameron, her role in the hit medical drama TV series House. Today she’s a main cast member of Once Upon a Time, but she also has a ton of other credits to her name, on both TV and in movies. She may have been propelled to stardom in 2004, but she’s actually been an active part of the industry since 1994, from the age of 14, when she transitioned to acting from modeling.
Jennifer was a child model, so she wasn’t walking runways or anything like that. Her modeling career involved making appearances in print advertisements and commercials for a number of different brands. This exposure led to the young Morrison getting a few appearances in films and on TV, but she was keen to make acting her craft and so went off to study acting at theatre school, and that’s when her career started gathering momentum.
5 Angie Harmon
Angie Harmon is one of the most stunning actresses to have graced our screens. She’s seemingly been around forever, but remains perpetually good looking, and has that husky voice that drives people crazy.
It all started for Angie in 1995 when she stumbled into acting by chance after being spotted by none other than the Hoff himself, David Hasselhoff. She went on to star in several roles with him, before branching out and getting other gigs in the movie industry.
But before that chance encounter with the Hoff, she was actually a child model. She won a Seventeen modeling contest, then won another, and was pretty soon earning her way as a runway model – when she’d grown up of course. She then graced the covers of world-renowned magazines ELLE, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire and was signed by a modeling agency in New York, before her meeting with David Hasselhoff changed all that and took her career in a different direction entirely.
4 Tyra Banks
TV personality, producer, businesswoman, actress, author, former model, and occasional singer – what is there that Tyra hasn’t tried her hand at? Not much, and what’s more amazing is that she’s been pretty much successful in everything she’s done.
A lot of her TV appearances have come about because she’s a model. Whether it’s as a judge or a host, the TV loves Tyra, and add her bubbly personality into the mix, and this makes her one hot TV personality.
At 15 years old things took off for Tyra. Unlike a lot of other names on this list, she actively went out and sought a modeling contract. She was rejected by four, but then got the contract she always wanted and was off to strut her stuff on the runways and catwalks of Europe. Pretty soon she had become famous the world over; everyone wanted a piece of Tyra, but she wanted to transition to acting and pursue other ventures, and when she did, she found a new level of stardom.
3 Kate Upton
Kate Upton is a young-ish up-and-coming film star who’s gradually establishing herself as a major player in the movie industry. Give it a few years or so and she’ll be right up there as one of the best in the business.
She’s already regarded to be one of the best in another industry – the modeling industry. Horses and competing in equestrian events were her passion growing up, when one day on a whim, she decided to attend a casting call. It proved to be a very good decision as she was signed up then and there. From then on things began to happen quickly. She was on her way to New York – where it was all happening in the modeling world – was signed by an agency, and very soon she was adorning the covers of magazines and appearing in advertising campaigns. Since embarking on a modeling career, she’s been consistently voted as one of the hottest models around, and is now regarded to be one of the hottest actresses too.
2 Cameron Diaz
A superstar of the screen, Cameron Diaz is a sultry blonde bombshell who’s appeared in a ton of hit movies since making her debut in 1994. She’s got the looks but she’s talented too – a versatile actress who can make any role into a success. That’s a testimony to the kind of hardworking woman she is, because she didn’t have any formal acting training or experience when she began going for auditions in her early 20s. But the fact that she was already considered to be a sex symbol – due to her sexy shoots as a model – worked in her favor, and casting directors just couldn’t say no.
Cameron did the usual fashion modeling, but she also wasn’t afraid to experiment and get a little raunchy. She took part in an S&M leather lingerie photoshoot in which she was topless, and did a number of other similar type photoshoots too. As a result of all of this, she became a sex symbol, and it was a label that worked in her favor and gained her entry into the movie industry.
1 Pamela Anderson
It’s amazing to think that Pamela’s approaching her 50th birthday, and that she’s been on our screens for over two and a half decades. She still looks as hot as ever and is showing no signs of slowing down in either her modeling work or her roles on the big screen.
Of course, modeling’s where Pamela made her name and was propelled into the limelight. Like Cameron Diaz, she wasn’t afraid to get her clothes off for a photoshoot, and this is what ultimately led to her becoming one of the best models around. She can attribute much of her success to Playboy – the world-famous lads’ mag that seems to have had a love affair with Pamela over the years. Her name’s synonymous with Playboy, but she built upon that success and exposure, and her career now extends far beyond that. She’s achieved superstardom as both a model and an actress, and that’s no mean feat.