Surprising Photos Of Celebrities Before They Became Famous

By the time a celebrity becomes a household name, the public is pretty used to their appearance. Ask anyone to pick Ryan Seacrest out of a lineup, for example, and most can do it with no problem. What’s more difficult is trying to imagine what the world’s biggest celebs looked like before they hit the big time. Wonder no more, for here are some amazing vintage photos of your favorite stars early on in their lives.

Time Travel Into Alan Rickman’s Past

Alan Rickman in high school
Pinterest/ghostsiv
Pinterest/ghostsiv

Well before he enchanted audiences as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film franchise, British actor Alan Rickman was treading the boards of the stage at his alma mater, Latymer Upper School in London. The school shared this early photo of Rickman after he passed away in 2016. The picture was taken around 1956.

Rickman’s first roles were dramatic ones, including Shakespeare, and he eventually enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London before going on to become a theater, television, and film star.

Bill Gates Thanks His High School For Helping Him Succeed

Bill Gates at his high school graduation
Pinterest/famousstayhere
Pinterest/famousstayhere

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is one of the world’s best-known (and wealthiest) computer entrepreneurs. A young Gates attended Lakeside Prep School in Seattle, before famously enrolling in and dropping out of Harvard in 1975 to launch Microsoft.

In 2005 he returned to his alma mater to give a speech. “Lakeside was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he said. “One reason I’m so grateful to Lakeside is that I can directly trace the founding of Microsoft back to my earliest days here.” This photo was taken at his 1973 graduation from the school.

Long Before Paisley Park

Prince in high school
Pinterest/donnablate
Pinterest/donnablate

Prince Nelson Rogers was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and began writing songs when he was just seven years old. He went on to have an iconic musical career spanning five decades, before his tragic death in 2016.

Many of us are familiar with Prince’s legendary music, but did you know that he wrote for a bunch of other musicians? The Bangles’ “Manic Monday,” Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back,” Madonna’s “Love Song,” Cyndi Lauper’s “When You Were Mine” and many others were penned by Prince.

Tina Fey And Her Brother In Matching Shirts

Tina Fey poses for a fan photo with Elvis Costello
Pinterest/dharmabum967
Pinterest/dharmabum967

This is a rare photo of the multi-talented comedian, actress, writer, and producer Tina Fey back from 1986. In the snapshot, she and her brother Peter (on the left) pose with musician Elvis Costello. Did you notice the matching fan shirts that the siblings are wearing?

Fun fact: in 1977, Costello was banned from Saturday Night Live, the show that later made Fey a household name. The ban was later lifted. He also made a cameo appearance in the finale of the third season of 30 Rock.

O Captain! My Captain

Yearbook photo of Robin Williams
Pinterest/groovyhistory
Pinterest/groovyhistory

Here we see actor and comedian Robin Williams in a yearbook photo taken during his junior year at Redwood High School in Larkspur, California.

Williams was one of the most talented ad-lib and voice actors to grace the screen — big or small. A four-time Academy Award nominee, his many roles also earned two Screen Actors Guild Awards, six Golden Globes, and four Grammys for his work. Williams passed away in 2014, at the age of 63.

Before He Became A Heartthrob

George Clooney in high school
Pinterest/obviousmagazine
Pinterest/obviousmagazine

He’s now been ranked as the No. 1 celebrity on TV Guide’s “50 Sexiest Stars of All Time” list, but this vintage photo of actor George Clooney shows that like most of us, stars also go through an awkward stage at some point.

Clooney has been nominated for Oscars in six different categories, something only he and Walt Disney can claim. He’s also politically active, serving as one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace since 2008. Today, he’s married to the human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

An American Idol’s Early Days

Ryan Seacrest in a yearbook photo
Twitter/darickr
Twitter/darickr

You might not recognize him here, but this is a young Ryan Seacrest in a yearbook photo. He had show biz ambitions from a young age. “When I was 10, 11, 12 years old, I would pretend to be on the radio,” he once shared.

“I bought a mixer and these big, ugly headphones and I would literally broadcast the cassette tapes in my bedroom.” He’s now one of the most famous people in the industry, so this goes to show what hard work and big ambitions can do.

Jack Nicholson Was Sent To Detention Every Day For An Entire School Year

High school yearbook photo of Jack Nicholson
Twitter/hilalposeidon
Twitter/hilalposeidon

What else do you expect from a kid who was voted “class clown”? Of course there was going to be some punishment for young Jack Nicholson’s antics. The future twelve-time Academy Award nominee attended Manasquan High School in New Jersey. Today, the school has a theatre and a drama award named for its famed alumni.

He’s stayed in touch despite his great fame, even attending his 50-year reunion in 2004. Nicholson brought his aunt Lorraine as his guest.

Jimi Hendrix As A 19-Year-Old Paratrooper

Jimi Hendrix in military uniform
Reddit/Buchaven
Reddit/Buchaven

After some run-ins with the law, Jimi Hendrix decided to enlist in the Army in 1961. He did not enjoy his time in the service, to put it lightly. Less than a year after he joined the Army, his platoon sergeant wrote up a report about Hendrix.

“He has no interest whatsoever in the Army,” it read. “It is my opinion that Private Hendrix will never come up to the standards required of a soldier. I feel that the military service will benefit if he is discharged as soon as possible.” Fortunately, Hendrix had another career option…

Just Relaxing In 1975

The American scriptwriter and movie producer Steven Spielberg sitting on his sofa. 1975
Giorgio Ambrosi/Mondadori via Getty Images
Giorgio Ambrosi/Mondadori via Getty Images

Even the most creative minds need time to relax every now and then. The groundbreaking filmmaker Steven Spielberg reclines on a sofa in this 1975 photo. This was the same year that Jaws was released and catapulted him to international fame.

Other notable films he’s responsible for include E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and many more. Today, he has a net worth that’s estimated near $3 billion, making him the highest-grossing film director in history.

The Longest Career Of Any Entertainer In TV History

 Betty White is shown in this photograph
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Do you recognize this beauty? It’s none other than the beloved actress Betty White, in a photo dating all the way back to her twenties. She’d already been working in the entertainment industry but was not yet the superstar she would soon become.

White’s career has spanned more than eight decades so far. She’s had starring roles on some of the most popular sitcoms in television history: as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, and most recently as Elka Ostrovsky on Hot in Cleveland. She’s also well-known for her love of animals and her work for animal welfare groups.

Simon Cowell Was Once Just A Kid

childhood photo of Simon Cowell
Pinterest/justsimoncowell
Pinterest/justsimoncowell

Who would ever guess that this innocent young face would one day become known for his sarcasm and criticism of others? Talent judge Simon Cowell was raised in the English village of Elstree, where he frequently got into trouble at school.

After Cowell dropped out of college, his music executive father got him a job in the mailroom at EMI Music Publishing. Today, of course, he is wildly successful a television show judge, talent manager, and businessman who was called one of the “100 most powerful people in British culture” by The Daily Telegraph.

Fresh-Faced Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger in the early 1960s
Twitter/stelifyltd
Twitter/stelifyltd

This fresh-faced young lad is now one of the most recognizable rock icons in the world. Taken in 1963, the photograph shows Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones in the band’s early days. The following year, the Stones went on their first tour of Britain followed by an 11-show tour of the U.S as part of what’s known as “the British Invasion of bands.”

Their most recent tour was set for 2019 but was postponed while Jagger recovered from heart valve replacement surgery.

The Future Queen Of All Media

a young Oprah Winfrey
Pinterest/patriciarealini
Pinterest/patriciarealini

Oprah Winfrey grew up in poverty and experienced many hardships in her youth, but is now one of the most powerful people on earth, as well as one of the richest! In high school, she got a job in radio and worked her way up to become the media mogul she is today.

This is one frequently-cited inspirational quote from Oprah: “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” She’s certainly taken her own advice to heart.

Wowza, Susan Sarandon!

Susan Sarandon in a vintage photo
Reddit/piggsy1992
Reddit/piggsy1992

This rarely-seen photo shows Susan Sarandon in 1963 when she was just 17 years old. Born Susan Abigail Tomalin, the celebrated actress attended Edison High School in New Jersey, followed by The Catholic University of America where she earned a BA in drama.

Sarandon has been given a slew of awards for her acting accomplishments as well as for her social and political activism, including nine Golden Globe nominations, an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a British Academy Film Award, and the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award.

Samuel L. Jackson As A High School Senior

High school photo of Samuel L. Jackson
Facebook/zass17
Facebook/zass17

In this photo, we get to see actor Samuel L. Jackson when he was a senior at Riverside High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Although he initially wanted to study marine biology at university, a stint with a local acting group in Atlanta (where he attended Morehouse College) showed him that his real love was acting. He changed his major, and the rest is history.

Jackson’s role as Jules Winnfield in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction set him over the edge into super-stardom, and he’s been there ever since.

Liza Minnelli And Bozo The Clown

American actress and singer Liza Minnelli as a child in the arms of Bozo the Clown (Pinto Colvig) at a children's Easter party in Hollywood.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Liza May Minnelli was born March 12, 1946, to some very famous parents: director Vincente Minnelli and The Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland.

Before she made her own name as an Academy Award-winning actress and talented singer, she was a little girl who enjoyed going to parties just like any child. This 1949 photo of Minnelli being held by Bozo the Clown was taken during an Easter party in Hollywood.

A Lifelong Love Of Science

Bill Nye in science class
Twitter/historyinpix
Twitter/historyinpix

Not everyone gets to enjoy a successful career in the field they’re passionate about, but Bill Nye certainly did. Known to fans as “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” he’s pictured here in a snapshot taken during a science class when he was in ninth grade.

He’s investigating something under a microscope and flashing a ‘peace’ sign… perhaps he’s made an important scientific discovery! Later in life, he’d go on to be nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, winning nineteen of them, for his popular children’s television program about science.

Before There Was Gaga…

early photo of Lady Gaga
Twitter/heitorcharles
Twitter/heitorcharles

Born in 1986, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta went through several metamorphoses to become the international singing/songwriting sensation she is today. Before the outlandish outfits, the bestselling albums, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, Lady Gaga looked just like any other young woman.

Today, her Born This Way Foundation focuses on anti-bullying efforts, a cause near and dear to her heart as she went through some tough times in her younger years. She also works for LGBT rights.

James Gandolfini Was An Athlete In High School

High school yearbook photo of James Gandolfini
Twitter/mansfieldmd
Twitter/mansfieldmd

Long before he became immortalized in the iconic role of crime boss Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini was just a regular high school senior at Park Ridge High School in Park Ridge, New Jersey. He was an active student, involved with everything from acting to basketball. He was even voted “class flirt” by his peers. This yearbook photo is from 1979.

For his role in The Sopranos, Gandolfini won three Emmys for “Best Actor in a Drama,” and was nominated for a slew of other awards. His work on the show is considered one of the greatest performances in television history.

Two Generations Of Actors

Donald Sutherland with son Keifer
Co Rentmeester/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Co Rentmeester/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Although his father, Donald Sutherland, was already becoming a huge star around the time he was born, Kiefer was just a young little kid in this 1970 photo. No one knew yet that he’d also go into show business.

In fact, Kiefer has said that his parents didn’t want him to become an actor. “Both of my parents were quite disappointed that this was what I wanted to do,” he told Hollywood Reporter in 2017.

Before He Became The Real Slim Shady

eminem-as-a-teenager
rob_spaghetti/reddit
rob_spaghetti/reddit

Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born on October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri. He was born into a family of musicians, both his parents in a band called Daddy Warbucks. No one realized that Marshall was going to change the game of rap in later years, far removed from this 1990 picture.

Eminem didn’t have an easy childhood, with an MIA father and a mother who didn’t really give him the time of day. His rise to fame didn’t happen until he attracted the attention of Dr. Dre, mostly due to his “alter ego” Slim Shady.

Peter Dinklage Rocked A Mullet Before Playing The Game Of Thrones

Peter Dinklage Rocked A Mullet Before Playing The Game Of Thrones
betty whalin/Pinterest
betty whalin/Pinterest

Before becoming on of Game of Thrones fan favorites, Tyrion Lannister, Peter Dinklage was just a guy from Mendham Township, New Jersey. Dinklage self-identifies as a dwarf, standing four feet five inches, but he never let his height stand in the way of his dreams of becoming an actor.

Dinklage initially struggled to find work, partially because he refused to take roles that offended people with his condition. his major breakthrough was playing Finbar McBride in the 2003 film The Station Agent, opposite Bobby Cannavale. From there, Dinklage had many appearances, but it wasn’t until 2011 with Game of Thrones where Dinklage made his mark on Hollywood.

Anthony Kiedis Was Just A Guy From Michigan

Anthony Kiedis Was Just A Guy From Michigan
olivia/Pinterest
olivia/Pinterest

He’s now known as an influential musician in the punk rock genre, but before that Anthony Kiedis was just a boy whose parents got divorced and he was stuck in the middle. In 1974, Kiedis moved from Michigan to Los Angeles to live with his father full time. Although he’s not winning any father of the year awards, that move lead to the formation of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

It all started when Kiedis had to switch school districts, meeting Flea in the process. Kiedis recalled, “We were drawn to each other by the forces of mischief, love, and The Grateful Dead.”

Tom Hanks Wasn’t Always The Greatest Actor Of Our Generation

Tom Hanks Wasn't Always The Greatest Actor Of Our Generation
@bgcancun/Twitter
@bgcancun/Twitter

If you can believe it, this picture of Tom Hanks is from his 1974 high school yearbook, the year he was a senior. In school, Hanks was wildly unpopular with both students and teachers.

Later, Hanks told Rolling Stones magazine, “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy. At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble. I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.”

Amy Poehler Decided To Become A Comedian In College

Amy Poehler Decided To Become A Comedian In College
Lindsay Donaldson/Pinterest
Lindsay Donaldson/Pinterest

First off, we would like to thank Amy Poehler’s 1980s high school yearbook picture for this awesome hairstyle. She is the daughter of two school teachers, making entertainment quite the career path. Although, she didn’t have any intention of becoming a comedian until she started studying improv.

From there, Poehler decided to move from Massachusetts to Chicago, taking her first improv class taught by Charna Halpen at ImprovOlympic. It was through this program that Poehler met a friend and frequent collaborator, Tina Fey.

this Picture Was Before She Was The Queen Of Pop

Madonna's Changing Looks
Rawan Zubaid/Pinterest
Rawan Zubaid/Pinterest

Madonna Louise Ciccone was born on August 16, 1958, and has been known as the Queen of Pop since the 80s. You wouldn’t believe it, considering her international fame now, but Madonna was a shy and lonely girl growing up.

She told Vanity Fair, that she was a “lonely girl who was searching for something. I wasn’t rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn’t shave my underarms and I didn’t wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades… I wanted to be somebody.”

Meryl Streep Was A Cheerleader In 1966

Meryl Streep Was A Cheerleader In 1966
Shasti Widhia/Pinterest
Shasti Widhia/Pinterest

Mary Louise “Meryl” Streep is often described as the “best actress of her generation” and is known for her versatility and accents. She was born in Summit, New Jersey to a mother and father who instilled confidence in her from a very young age.

Her mother would say to her, “You can do whatever you put your mind to. If you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Streep was greatly impacted by Robert De Niro’s performance in Taxi Driver, saying that she was going to aspire to be that great of an actor one day.

Drew Carey Was In The United States Marine Corps, 1978

Drew Carey Was In The United States Marine Corps, 1978
Carol Conner/Pinterest
Carol Conner/Pinterest

Before he became a famous comedian, Drew Carey served in the Marine Corps for six years. It’s actually there that he made a name for himself in stand-up comedy. After he left the corps, he found stardom in his own sitcom, The Drew Carey Show.

Before his show, Carey would go to the local library and check out books on how to write jokes. In 1986, after winning an open mic night, he became the Master of Ceremonies at the Cleveland Comedy Club. In 1988, he found himself hosting his own show as well as the hit improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The Rock Looked Like A Grown Man At Age 15

The Rock Looked Like A Grown Man At Age 15
@premiereport/Twitter
@premiereport/Twitter

Dwayne Douglas Johnson, better known as his ring name, The Rock, was a professional wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation for eight years before becoming an international superstar. Initially, The Rock wanted to be a professional football player, after playing for the University of Miami and winning the national championship in 1991. He went undrafted.

he actually signed with a Canadian team but was let go in the middle of his first season. Well, we guess all of the athletic dreams were nothing compared to the stardom he found in Hollywood, where The Rock has become one of the highest-paid and successful actors.

Stephen Colbert Originally Studied To Be A Dramatic Actor

Stephen Colbert Originally Studied To Be A Dramatic Actor
Chelsea Hilder/Pinterest
Chelsea Hilder/Pinterest

Born on May 13, 1964, Stephen Colbert originally studied to become a dramatic actor, becoming interested in improvisational theater while attending Northwestern University. Colbert’s first professional performance was as an understudy for Steve Carell as Second City Chicago.

He says that his earliest experience with improvisation acting was during fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. He developed a love for science fiction and fantasy novels from a young age, especially the works of J.R.R Tolkein, of whom he still remains an avid fan.

Robert Downey Jr. Started Off His Career In His Father’s Films

Robert Downey Jr. Started Off His Career In His Father's Films
Lynne Arnold/Pinterest
Lynne Arnold/Pinterest

Robert Downey Jr. was born in Manhattan, New York, to an actor and a filmmaker, so it’s no surprise that he found himself in the industry later in life. During his childhood RDJ had minor roles in his father’s films, making his acting debut at the age of five as a sick puppy in the absurdist comedy Pound.

Although he was in a bunch of films throughout his career, RDJ was not in a “blockbuster” film until 2008. This is when we were all introduced to Iron Man and what would be the start of the entire Avengers series.

Bob Marley Was Born On A Farm

Bob Marley Was Born On A Farm
Raheemma Perkins/Pinterest
Raheemma Perkins/Pinterest

Considered to be one of the pioneers of reggae, Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, on his grandmother’s farm in Jamaica. Marley’s musical exploits began with his childhood friend, Neville Livingston. The two were inspired by the R&B music coming from the United States radio stations, as well as the new ska music.

During the 1970s, Marley and his band became so popular that they were fired from their tours. The group, The Wailers, were scheduled to open 17 shows in the US for Sly ad the Family Stone but were fired after four shows for being more popular than the headliners.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Was Always A Scientist At Heart

Neil deGrasse Tyson Was Always A Scientist At Heart
echo penner/Pinterest
echo penner/Pinterest

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. But before all of his degrees and notoriety, he was a young man living throughout New York. His interest in astronomy started at a young age, after visiting the sky theater of Hayden Planetarium. He recalled that “so strong was that imprint [of the night sky] that I’m certain that I had no choice in the matter, that in fact, the universe called me.”

Tyson ended up focusing his research on cosmology, stellar evolution, galactic astronomy, bulges, and stellar formation. He is also, unsurprisingly, a huge advocate for NASA.

Zooey Deschanel Seems To Have Always Had Her Signature Bangs

Zooey Deschanel Seems To Have Always Had Her Signature Bangs
Benslevin11/imgur
Benslevin11/imgur

Before she was known as the cute girl with the dead-pan comedy roles, Zooey Deschanel attended a private preparatory school in Santa Monica, California. There, she befriended future co-stars Jake Gyllenhall and Kate Hudson. Deschanel grew up in the industry, and he actually hated it because of all of the traveling.

She’s said that she “hated all the traveling. I’m really happy now that I had the experience, but at the time I was just so miserable to have to leave my friends in Los Angeles and go to places where they didn’t have any food I liked or things I was used to.”

Before He Was A Bull, MJ Was A Goofball

Before He Was A Bull, MJ Was A Goofball
Fred Porter/Pinterest
Fred Porter/Pinterest

Before he played 15 seasons with the NBA, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team his sophomore year because he was “too short.” The following year, he grew several inches and dominated the court, gaining the interest in multiple Division 1 basketball programs.

Ultimately, the native North Carolinian attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he majored in cultural geography. At the time, MJ was one of the most marketable athletes and is considered one of the people the popularized the NBA around the world.

Keaton Wanted To Become An Actor After Her Mother Won A Pageant

Keaton Wanted To Become An Actor After Her Mother Won A Pageant
Miralwriter/Pinterest
Miralwriter/Pinterest

Diane Keaton was born in Los Angeles, California, as Diane Hall. Keaton has said that when her mother won the “Mrs. Los Angeles” pageant for homemakers, she was inspired by the theatricality of it all and it made her want to pursue acting. She has also credited Katharine Hepburn, whom she admires for playing strong independent women, as one of her other inspirations.

Keaton began studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, later finding her way to the Broadway stage in the production of Hair. She has described her acting technique as, “only as good as the person you’re acting with.”

Jimmy Fallon Watched SNL Religiously

Jimmy Fallon Watched SNL Religiously
Rita Hertzberg/Pinterest
Rita Hertzberg/Pinterest

Jimmy Fallon grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and as a teenager, developed an obsession with the late-night comedy program Saturday Night Live. he grew up watching the “clean parts” of the show that his parents would record for him and he and his mother, Gloria, would re-enact some of the skits.

As a young man, he would impress his family with his different impressions, including actor James Cagney and comedian Dana Carvey. By his junior high years, he was labeled the class clown by his teachers. He was in multiple stage productions as a teenager and even won a young comedian’s contest for his impression of Pee-Wee Herman.

Larry David’s Hair Makes So Much Sense In 1981

Larry David's Hair Makes So Much Sense In 1981
Miralwriter/Pinterest
Miralwriter/Pinterest

Larry David was born on July 2, 1947, but it wasn’t until he was in college that he realized he could make people laugh by simply being himself. After college, David enlisted in the United States Army Reserve. After the reserve, he tried his luck at being a stand-up comedian.

As you can imagine, he also worked as a store clerk, limousine driver, and historian while trying to succeed in the dream. It wasn’t until his job as an SNL writer in 1982 that he met his stars for Seinfeld, a show that wouldn’t air until 1989.

Gwen Stefani’s Brother Brought Her Into No Doubt

Gwen Stefani's Brother Brought Her Into No Doubt
Nathan Cranford/Pinterest
Nathan Cranford/Pinterest

Gwen Renee Stefani was born on October 3, 1969, in Fullerton, California. She grew up with three siblings, her oldest brother, Eric, becoming the founder and keyboardist of the band No Doubt. Eric introduced Gwen to 2 Tone music by Madness and The Selecter and, in 1986, invited her to provide vocals for the ska band he was forming, No Doubt.

In 1991, the band signed to Interscope Records, releasing their first album the next year. Unfortunately, the album didn’t do well because of the popularity of grunge music at the time. By 2000, Rolling Stone magazine had named her “The Queen of Confessional Pop.”