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Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered

We love to watch our favorite actors on the big screen, but we never think about how it all started for them. Were they born into an acting family? Or were they struggling actors? Well, you won't know unless you ask. Whether it's Jennifer Lawrence or Natalie Portman, many actors have interesting stories of how they entered the industry. Here are forty celebrity stories on how they were discovered and became Hollywood sensations.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

1. Pamela Anderson

The story behind Pamela Anderson's discovery is truly surprising. The Canadian sex symbol was just your regular girl, attending a football game. At the game, she wore a Labatts beer shirt and was completely normal. The jumbotron projected her face onto the screen, and that was the beginning of her wild life.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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From there, Labatts signed her as a model, and she was quickly asked to pose for adult magazines. Then, she went on to act in Home Improvement, but her big break wasn't until she starred in Baywatch.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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2. Jennifer Lawrence

We've all come to love Jennifer Lawrence and her quirky and socially awkward personality. But it wasn't her personality that initially won over people. While walking the streets of New York at 14-years-old, she was stopped by a talent agent and offered the chance to read for a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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She agreed and read the part. What she didn't know was the talent agent said it was the best cold read they'd ever seen. From there, she continued to get parts and was the lead role in The Hunger Games and Silver Lining's Playbook.

3. Will Smith

We all know Will Smith as an amazing actor who played in some of our favorite tv shows and movies like Men in Black and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But do you have any idea how Smith rose to fame? His shot at stardom was completely by chance, as he met manager and talent developed Benny Medina in the parking lot of Universal Studios.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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No one knew that Smith would then become one of the most well-known faces in Hollywood. From their meeting, Medina recommended him for the lead role of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as the show was based on Medina's life. They could not have chosen a better actor for the part.

4. Rhianna

Singer, actress, and designer wasn't always known for being business skills and musical talent. Instead, she grew up in humble beginnings. But that all changed in the winter of 2013. Producer Evan Rogers and his wife were in Barbados when they accidentally encountered a girl group that included Rhianna.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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Rogers had the feeling that Rhianna was something special and immediately felt she could be a star. He waited for the girl group to perform, and once he heard Rhianna's voice, well, the rest was history.

5. Nick Jonas

Some actors get spotted on the street or at a high school play, but Nick Jonas was spotted in a hair salon. While his mother was getting her hair done, Jonas was entertaining himself by singing out loud.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
DFree / Shutterstock.com

A talent agent was in the salon at the time and was impressed by his singing capabilities. Within a year, Jonas was preforming on broadway in the play A Christmas Carol. After that, he and his brothers created The Jonas Brothers band. Through this time, Nick continues to play music and act as well.

6. Mandy Moore

You may know her for her movies, A Walk to Remember, Tangled, and Chasing Liberty, but how she managed to become an actress is pretty amazing. Before the singer-turned-actress was even in high school, she rented out studio time to sing.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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A FedEx worker overheard her singing, and it turned out he was a friend of a friend who was the president of a recording company. Shockingly, after that encounter, she had a meeting with the recording company, and they decided to sign her. At 14-years-old, she had no idea how this would change her life.

7. Danny Trejo

Though most actors start out struggling, Danny Trejo's story is truly inspiring. Trejo's a former recovering addict and jailbird who worked as a youth drug counselor. At the time, one of his clients was an actor on Runaway Train and invited him onto the set for support.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: Gage Skidmore

Well, the moment the director met Trejo, he cast him as an extra in a prison scene because of his tattoos and rough appearance. From then on, Trejo's tough-guy look landed him endless roles.

8. Harrison Ford

Before Harrison Ford was staring in movies like Star Wars, he was a regular guy who worked as a carpenter. But, he was drawn to acting and did a couple of uncredited voice-overs on the side. But it wasn't the voice-overs that gave him his big break.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Wikicommons. Credit: Gage Skidmore

It all went down when he was helping George Lucas audition other actors for a role. In a split decision, Lucas turned the camera onto Harrison and decided to offer him the role. Do you know which role we're talking about? Well, that's how he landed the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.

9. Sarah Michelle Gellar

We all loved her in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but how did she get her start? Before she was slaying vampires, when she was 4-years-old, she was eating at a Manhattan restaurant with her mother when a talent agent spotted her.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Wikicommons. Credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

One week later, she was filming a television movie, and later on, starred in numerous commercials. Once her name was out there, she became a regular character on All My Children, and that eventually led her to get the role of Buffy.

10. Ashton Kutcher

Most actors have spent their entire lives dreaming about the day they'll appear on the big screen. But Ashton Kutcher actually had no intention to go into acting. Kutcher was going to the University of Iowa to study engineering. But, one night, he was scouted at a bar and was encouraged to enter a modeling competition.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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Kutcher joined the competition and ended up winning it. That competition allowed him to audition for a variety of television and movie roles. He ended up starring in That 70's Show, and his career has been going on ever since.

11. Sofia Vergara

Everyone knows who Sofia Vergara is, but that wasn't always the case. Yes, she's one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but she wasn't born into Hollywood. When she was 17-years-old, she was at the beach with her family.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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While at the beach, a modeling scout approached them and asked to take a polaroid of her. Well, that polaroid was the best decision she ever made because, in the same year, she starred in a Pepsi commercial and continued acting until landing her role in Modern Family.

12. Charlie Hunnam

We've all come to know and love Charlie Hunnam, but do you know how he was discovered? At one point, Hunnam was a regular guy, enjoying an outing looking for shoes. Of course, his need to go shoe shopping happened after a couple of drinks in his hometown, Newcastle, England.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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At a shoe store, he decided to blow a kiss to an unknown woman. She happened to be a production manager of a TV show being filmed in the area. She approached him and asked him if he's ever thought about acting. Since then, he's been in "Sons of Anarchy" and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." Not bad!

13. Adriana Lima

When it comes to models, everyone in the world knows about Adriana Lima. Her beauty leaves people speechless, but no one knew who she was until she was discovered at a mall. At the age of thirteen, Adriana Lima was scouted at a shopping mall. Two years later, she won Ford's Supermodel of Brazil, which pushed her career into stardom.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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After that, she had a steady modeling career, becoming one of the leading faces of Victoria's Secrets. Though she retired from Victoria's Secret runway show in 2018, she continues to model.

14. Justin Bieber

Though Justin Biber is living the dream right now, things weren't always that easy for him. He grew up with a single mother and was teased for being poor. However, things changed when his manager, Scooter Braun, discovered the child sensation on YouTube.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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At the time, Bieber was only 13-years-old and was playing covers of top 40 hits. It wasn't long until the music industry swiped Bieber up, giving him a recording contract. Of course, the rest, as you know, is musical history.

15. Marilyn Monroe

Yes, she's possibly the most memorable and well-known American sex symbol in history, but she was living a humble life before Hollywood snatched her up. Norma Jean Dougherty, aka. Marilyn Monroe was married and working in a munitions factory while her marine husband was in the South Pacific.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: Corpus Christi Caller-Times

A photographer happened to visit the factory and spotted Monroe immediately. When her husband returned from his trip, she was a working model on her way to making it big in Hollywood. But nobody expected her to become that big.

16. Vin Diesel

We all love Vin Diesel, but how did it make it to Hollywood? The New York native was a college dropout who was working as a bouncer. At that time, he wrote and directed a short film about a struggling multiracial actor.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

The short film was called Multi-Facial. Surprisingly, his short film ended up being screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Hollywood director Steven Spielberg was wowed by the short film that he ended up writing a role in Saving Private Ryan just for Diesel.

17. Charlize Theron

Well, how Charlize was discovered sounds like a movie on its own. When Charlize was 18-years-old, she had a very loud and public argument at an LA bank with one of the tellers. Her paycheque was rejected, and if she didn't get it cashed, she wouldn't have a place to sleep that night.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Wikipedia. Credit: Gage Skidmore

Surprisingly, the heated argument is what got her into Hollywood. Talent agent, John Crosby, was standing behind her, watching the entire event. After, he gave her his business card. And from that day, she's never had a cheque bounce since.

18. Kate Upton

Of course, when it comes to the All-American girl, Pamela Anderson was the OG. But then Kate Upton came along and took over the title. But, before she became famous, she was actually a struggling model.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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It wasn't until she was seen in a YouTube video doing the "Dougie" at a basketball game in 2011. Naturally, the video became a viral hit, and overnight, she became a Twitter sensation. Since then, Upton has had smooth sailing. She was featured on the cover of GQ and Sports Illustrated, as well as acting in some movies. Things are looking up for her

19. John Wayne

John Wayne was always in the spotlight, whether it was in or outside of Hollywood. Before going into acting, Wayne was a popular football player known by his former name, Duke Morrison. However, he was always drawn to movies.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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In the beginning, he was working on sets, moving around props until a producer took notice of him. Once he started acting, he quickly changed his name to John Wayne, and to be honest, it was the smartest decision he ever made.

20. Haley Joel Osment

Ikea is where you get lost trying to find furniture and eat $1 hot dogs until you can't walk. Who would have thought you could actually get an acting career from going to Ikea?

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikipedia. Credit: GabboT

Haley Joel Osment, the star of "Sixth Sense," saw a casting booth at the Ikea he was in Burbank, California. They took his polaroid, and within a couple of weeks, he was booked for commercials. And from there, everything snowballed and acted in Forrest Gump, Sixth Sense, and Secondhand Lions.

21. Jennifer Aniston

Aniston thought her luck was about to change when the struggling actress met the president of NBC Entertainment, Warren Littlefield, at a gas station in Los Angeles. The conversation was casual as she polity asked him for career advice, and the two parted ways.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: Angela George

But, a couple of months later, Littlefield ends up casting her in the television show "Friends," which would change her life forever. Some people believe in destiny; others do not. But you have to admit, it's pretty crazy how Aniston made her big break.

22. Natalie Portman

It feels like Natalie Portman has always been acting. She's been in so many movies; it's like she was born on a Hollywood set. But that's not the case. While eating pizza at a restaurant, a modeling scout approached the 10-year-old, offering her to join their modeling agency.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Wikipedia. Credit: Georges Biard

But Portman quickly realized that modeling wasn't for her. She was comfortable with people judging her appearance and asked the agency if she could work with the company's acting agent instead. And from there, her career hasn't slowed down.

23. Peter Mayhew

When we go to a hospital, no one is excepting to end up being spotted by a famous Hollywood producer, but why limit ourselves? Peter Mayhew was discovered while working in a hospital by producer Charles H Schneer that noticed Mayhew standing out from the crowd while working.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: BrokenSphere

Mayhew stands over seven feet tall, and that the time, George Lucas was looking for someone to play the role of Chewbacca. Well, Mayhew fit the role perfectly and was given the role immediately.

24. Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson has quite the resume of successful movies under his belt. But, at one point, he was a struggling actor. One day, Gibson's friend gave him a ride to an audition for Mad Max.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikipedia. Credit: Georges Biard

The director took an interest in him immediately because Gibson's face was bruised from a bar fight. The director was looking for interesting faces for extras and gave Gibson a callback. By the time he came back, the bruises healed, and the director saw that Gibson was a good looking guy. In the end, he offered Gibson the lead role.

25. Rosario Dawson

In movies based in New York, we often see scenes of people hanging out on the small staircases (stoops) in front of their houses. It's a classic NY scene, yet, who would have thought sitting on a stoop would land you an acting gig?

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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Rosario Dawson was hanging out on her stoop when the director of Kids, Larry Clark and writer, Harmony Korine, saw Rosario Dawson. Her role in Kids was her first film and her breakout role. Since then, she's starred Sin City, Men in Black II, Deathproof, Zookeeper and many more.

26. Zac Efron

Every woman in the world knows who Zac Efron is, or at least knows what his abs look like. But those abs didn't appear overnight, and neither did his stardom...or did it? In grade 8, Efron became addicted to acting and started auditioning for tv shows and movies.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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He was drawn to being on stage and getting the applause and positive energy from the audience. All his auditioning paid off as he landed the lifechanging lead role in High School Musical. Of course, he became an instant sensation and has been acting ever since.

27. Evangeline Lilly

Some people have their destiny mapped out for them, and this is the case of Evangeline Lilly. The Canadian was walking when a scout from Ford models approached her. From there, she modeled and acted in some small roles, until one of her friends suggested her auditions for Lost.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: Gage Skidmore

The casting agent gave her the part as Kate Austen, but she struggled to get a work visa to the United States. After twenty attempts, she was granted her work visa and started filming Lost in Hawaii. And she's been acting ever since.

28. The Weekend

We all know The Weekend for his hits and the fact he dated the most beautiful woman in the world, Bella Hadid. But The Weekend wasn't always famous. The Weekend, Abel Tesfaye, was posting videos on YouTube under the name "xoxxxoooxo." No one had any idea of who he was, but it wasn't too long until people started to dig his music.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Eventually, Drake tweeted out the link to The Weekend's mixtape. After The Weekend created a couple of mixtapes, he was offered a record deal, and create hits like "I can't feel my face." This once unknown YouTube artist is now a Grammy-award winner.

29. Johnny Depp

He was the lead role in Cry Baby and made our hearts swell in Chocolat, but he wasn't just given those roles. In the beginning, Depp was pursuing a music career, but his band, unfortunately, broke up. His ex-wife introduced him to Nicolas Cage, was connected Depp with his agent.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikipedia. Credit: nicogenin

Since that meeting, Depp had a never-ending Hollywood career. However, his big break wasn't until he acted in Nightmare on Elm Street, Edward Scissorhands and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. After that, Depp was on a blockbuster roll.

30. Channing Tatum

How can you not know who Channing Tatum is? He's such a hunk; even Miley Cyrus sang a song about him. But before he became a Hollywood heartthrob, how did he catch his ride to fame? Tatum was working a series of random jobs, including being an exotic male dancer (where did you think the Magic Mike moves came from?)

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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While working in Miami, a talent scout spotted him and landed him modeling, music video, and commercial gigs. After a couple of roles in some indie movies, he hit the big screen with his role in 21 Jump Street, and then Magic Mike.

31. Ellen Pompeo

They say working in the service industry can connect you with all types of people, and in this case, it worked out pretty well for Ellen Pompeo. Pompeo was working as a bartender at the SoHo Kitchen and Bar in New York City when a casting director walked in and spotted her.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage


Because of her luscious golden locks, they cast her in a LOreal commercial, which started her acting career. Of course, later on, she was given the main lead in Grey's Anatomy, and she's been acting ever since.

32. Chris Pratt

We've all come to love the attitude, and comedic flare Chris Pratt brings to the screen. Also, we can't help to mention his amazingly ripped body. But Pratt was once a struggling actor living in his van as a working waiter in Maui.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Barry King/WireImage

While waiting tables, director Bubba Gump spotted him and told him that he was cute and if he has any acting experience. Four days later, literally, four days, he was in Los Angeles, receiving an acting job.

33. Madison Beer

You knew lipsyncing could make you famous? Madison Beer may be known for her voice now, but before she was discovered, she was a normal 13-year-old girl. She started posting videos on YouTube and via Music.ly, a lipsyncing app.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Simply Be

Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber's manager, shared a video of her singing "At Last" by Etta James on Twitter. It wasn't long until she was trending online, getting signed by Braun shortly after. Since then, she's worked with stars like Justin Bieber and Presley Gerber.

34. David Boreanaz

Many actors, before their Hollywood success, are struggling performers waiting for their 15-seconds to shine. This was the case for David Boreanaz, who only had one paid acting gig to his name. Then one day, his neighbor noticed him walking his dog.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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That neighbor knew the producers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and contacted them immediately, suggesting David for a role. He ended up being cast for the crucial character of Angel. After Buffy, his career didn't end there. He was then cast as the main character in the television show Bones.

35. Chloë Sevigny

Chloë isn't known as your typical Hollywood actress. She's an edgy New Yorker who doesn't want to fit any molds. But how did she start acting? Back when she was 17-years-old, Chloë was skateboarding through N.Y.C'S East Village neighborhood.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: Flickr user Greg2600

At one moment, she caught the attention of a fashion editor who offered her a modeling gig for Sassy magazine. She accepted the offer, and two years later, she starred in the movie Kids. This was her first role, which put her name on the map. Obviously, since then, it wasn't her last role.

36. Eva Mendes

There are always a couple of celebrities that had a different career path in their mind, yet, ended up in acting. Well, Eva Mendes was one of those actors. Before acting, Mendes was in college, majoring in marketing. Before college, she wanted to be a nun. But, life took her down a different road when a Hollywood talent agent saw her photo at her neighbor's house.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
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Yes, how strange is that? After that, she acted in a series of small movies but made her mark in Hollywood acting next to Denzel Washington in Training Day. Since then, she's gone on to be in many more movies and even marry Ryan Gosling.

37. Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds never saw himself becoming an actor; instead, he went to university on a football scholarship, hoping to make it big. After a knee injury, he switched from football into acting, winning the Florida State Drama Award. Though Burt ended up being drafted by the Baltimore Colts National Football League team, he never ended up playing professional football.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Source: Wikicommons. Credit: Alan Light

So, he went on to move to New York and worked as a stuntman for television shows. Shortly after, he was discovered and signed to a TV acting contact. And he continued to act until the end of his life.

38. Katherine Heigl

When you own a small business, you try to use your friends and family to advertise your company. That's what Katherine Heigl's aunt did. Her aunt had a small hair salon, and when she 9-years-old, her aunt would use her as a hair model.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by J. Merritt/FilmMagic

Naturally, Heigl had no problem modeling for her aunt, not thinking much of it. Shortly after, a talent agent spotted the photos and offered her a role in her first commercial. Ever since then, Heigl starred in tv shows, including Grey's Anatomy and a series of movies.

39. Shawn Mendes

Before Shawn Mendes was making out with Camila Cabello in front of the paparazzi, he was just a Canadian teenager posting Vine clips from his bedroom. It wasn't until he sang a cover of Justin Bieber's "As Long as You Love Me" that the clip went viral.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Wikicommons. Credit: Raph_PH

After that, he became an internet sensation, with a considerable following. Of course, it couldn't just end there. A recording company signed Mendes in 2014, and since then, he's created two No.1 hit albums. Not to mention, he also toured with Taylor Swift. Not too bad, right?

40. Tori Kelly

Most people who audition for American Idol end up being forgotten. There are so many talented artists; you need to really stand out amongst the rest. After auditioning for American Idol, Tori Kelly was one of those forgotten talents.

Our Favorite Celebrities And How They've Been Discovered
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

But she decided to keep pushing her career and started posting YouTube videos of covers in her bedroom. She sang cover after cover until she did a version of Justin Timberlake's "Suit and Tie." That cover gained the attention of Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber's manager, who signed her a record deal. In 2016, she was nominated for her first Grammy.

By Kevin Smith

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