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23+ Awkward Child Stars Who Did Some Serious Growing Up

Because people age, you know?


Everyone goes through a stage of their life when growing up just becomes incredibly uncomfortable. Yep, we’ve all been there. Suddenly, you’re sporting an awkward hairstyle (that your mom said made you beautiful), you’re growing into your ears (it’s a real thing y’know), and you’ve got a few spots here and there (okay, all over your face). Unfortunately, it’s a stage we all have to go through – although we can’t say we welcome all of these new additions to our face and body.

What makes this situation even more depressing is the fact that we’re constantly bombarded with pictures of beautiful celebrities when they were younger. We get it, you’re perfect. We get it, you have amazing genes. We get it, you’re just better than us mere mortals. We get it. It’s even worse when you grow up with child stars who go through puberty at the same time as you – because you can almost guarantee they’re not experiencing the same effects as you. While you’re sat there watching their movies with your head guard, your brace and your ankle-grazers (that aren’t supposed to be ankle-grazers) they’re just chilling out with their professional stylists, their on-call orthodontists, and their beauty therapists. And you know what? It totally sucks.

Thankfully this isn’t always the case. Yes, dear readers, even the rich and famous go through this awkward stage too! In some cases, puberty is just too strong to overpower with professional dentists and stylists, and they have to endure the gut-wrenching pain of growth (okay, it’s not really that bad). But as we all do, they soon grow out of this phase and blossom into the beautiful celebs we know and love (and fawn over) today. Take a look at these 23+ (you guys couldn’t get enough so we added in some bonus ones!) awkward child stars who did some serios growing up…

Alyson Stoner

Before her time on Cheaper By The Dozen, Camp Rock and Step Up, Alyson Stoner made her dancing debut on the hip-hop stage in two of Missy Elliot’s music videos; ‘Gossip Folks’ and ‘Work It’ – which is the coolest thing we’ve ever heard. Stoner played your typical tomboy in most of her appearances as a child and teenager, but has since come into her own and is now rocking the Red Carpet. What a beauty.

Tyler Posey

Tyler Posey first came onto the acting scene at the young age of six, and has been utterly adorable throughout his career – just look at that face! His most prominent roles came from his appearances in Maid In Manhattan and Collateral Damage. However, his most recent role came when Posey (and his abs) transformed into a Teen Wolf for the hit MTV show of the same name. And I think we’d all be lying if we say we haven’t tuned in for at least one episode just for this guy…

Lacey Chabert

She’s just so fetch. Chabert first came to the forefront in 1994 with her role in the TV drama, Party of Five. However, she is most known for her role in the iconic movie, Mean Girls, alongside fellow awkward child star, Lindsay Lohan. Not forgetting Rachel McAdams and Tina Fey, of course. Nowadays, Chabert’s face is behind the cameras as she spends most of her time providing voice over for TV shows and movies.

Josh Peck

Okay, what happened to Josh from Drake & Josh? Josh Peck was the definition of the awkward child star (in the best way), and we absolutely loved him on the Nickelodeon show. He was famous for playing the funny (yet slightly larger) brother and is now the definition of a heartthrob. He has since appeared in The Big Bang Theory and has voiced characters in the Ice Age Saga. This is one transformation we would never have anticipated…

Michelle Trachtenberg

Trachtenberg first appeared on our screens in Harriet and the Spy – the Nickelodeon classic we used to obsess over. Later on, Trachtenberg used her child star talent on the hit show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which is super cool) and as Georgina Sparks from Gossip Girl *boo* *hiss.* Nowadays, Trachtenberg is keeping her acting career on the down low (probably to avoid devoted Gossip Girl fans) – and we’re really hoping she doesn’t get even more beautiful because we don’t think we could be any more jealous if we tried…

Madison De La Garza

We always felt kinda sorry for Juanita Solis – she was always getting picked on by the Desperate Housewives lot *sobs* Madison De La Garza made her first proper TV debut on the show when she was just seven years old and is the half-sister of one of the other awkward child stars on this list…can you guess who? (Hint: It’s Demi Lovato!) Luckily, this awkward child star has now grown out of her awkwardness and is now one beautiful lady.

Taylor Momsen

Well, if this isn’t the most epic awkward child star transformation, we really don’t know what is. Momsen started her acting career as the adorable and lovable Cindy Lou Who in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (how did she get her hair like that?). Momsen then continued a pretty successful career as an actress and was then cast in the best show of all time – Gossip Girl (you know it’s true). Nowadays, she’s not sporting rosy cheeks from Whoville, or the sophistication from the Upper East Side. Instead, she’s embraced her inner rocker as the lead singer of The Pretty Reckless.

Emma Watson

Who can forget the first time they saw the scowling (yet adorable) face of Hermione Granger? Emma Watson had to basically do all of her growing up in the public eye, as we watched her grow from first year at Hogwarts all the way through to becoming an adult. Emma Watson is now an ambassador for the UN HeForShe campaign and kicks some serious butt in the modeling/acting/activist world.

Demi Lovato

Awwww, look at little Demi Lovato! Did you know, she first cut her teeth in the showbiz world as a child star on Barney and Friends when she was 10? I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family… Yep, that Barney. Of course, Demi Lovato is now one of the best-selling female artists of all time, with five gold albums and a double platinum single to her name. No more singing the Barney song then Demi!

Alyssa Milano

Alyssa Milano got her first taste of acting aged just 7, thanks to her babysitter sneaking her to an audition! However, she quickly rose to fame (and the babysitter was forgiven) in the ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss? She then dominated the ’90s in Melrose Place and Charmed, before landing roles in Mistresses and My Name is Earl. She’s grown for a super awks child star into a jaw-dropping beaut!

Hayden Panettiere

Long before Hayden was the super-cool Claire Bennet in Heroes, she played someone a little less cool on Malcolm in the Middle. Yep, this is Hayden Panettiere as the kinda geeky, kinda gawky, frizzy-haired, beanie-wearing, Jessica. Of course, now we all know and love Hayden for her work in Heroes, Nashville, and for being Kairi in Kingdom Hearts (fellow nerds rejoice).

Jerry O’Connell

Aw, we all remember Vern from Stand By Me, right?! Who knew that the plump, awkward kid would turn out to be so… Ahem. Well! Jerry O’Connell was just 11-years-old when he starred in his first feature film, the Stephen King coming of age flick. He then played some major roles in ’90s TV shows, including Sliders and My Secret Identity, before becoming the Hollywood hunk he is today. He’s so good looking, he plays Superman! Animated, but still.

Danica McKellar

Fans of The Wonder Years will definitely remember the super adorable (but a little bit dorky) Winnie Cooper. Danica admits it was difficult for her to move on from being child actress to adult actress and found herself landing roles in a lot of TV movies. However, she has since gone on to write five non-fiction books about math (yep, she is super smart) and was in the Netflix original TV show, Project Mc2

Leonardo DiCaprio

Awwww, lickle Leo! Leonardo Dicaprio started off his child star career in commercials when he was in his early teens and soon went on to star in the likes of Growing Pains and Critters 3. Of course, Leonardo really came into his own as he got older – he really is like a fine wine – but we had to get these photographs in because he was just so darn cute. We’re so glad he finally got his Oscar.

Ariel Winter

If you’re a fan of Modern Family, you’ll recognize Ariel Winter as the super-nerd, Alex Dunphy – and it’s totally okay that we call her a super-nerd because Alex would definitely see that as a compliment. Before her time on the show, Ariel had already made a name for herself as an awesome child star and had appeared in the likes of Phineas and Ferb. Nowadays, Ariel continues to play Alex on the show but ditches the nerd stereotype as soon as she’s finished filming, and returns to her sassy, fashionable self.

Christian Bale

When he was just 12-years-old, Christian Bale got his first big break in Empire of The Sun, a Steven Spielberg movie. At the time, no one knew quite how big this awkward looking actor would become – I mean, he’s Batman! Or how much of a diva he would become (we all remember THAT rant on the Terminator Salvation set), but you know, that kind of comes with being one of the biggest stars on the planet.

Amber Scott

Who remembers this little cutie from one of the best kids movies OF ALL TIME – Hook? She may not have been as awkward and goofy as some of the others on our list (especially some of the ones coming up) but she still deserves a mention because she got so darn beautiful! Unfortunately, Amber Scott hasn’t had any acting roles since Hook but at least she can say she was a main part in an absolutely epic film!

Ryan Gosling

Okay, we’ll admit, Ryan Gosling has always been absolutely adorable. However, he also had curtains and wore gold chains when he was a kid, so, y’know. Young Ryan Gosling was part of the same Mickey Mouse Club crew that saw people like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake make it big. Now, he has transformed from a little geeky gosling into…uhhh a beautiful goose?

Tatyana Ali

It’s Will Smith’s little cousin in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air , Ashley Banks! Just look at that monobrow and the ’90s clothes. Eeeeeesh! Luckily, Tatyana quickly grew out of her awkward stage and has become the head-turner that she is today. While she may not have had any big acting roles since Fresh Prince, she still looks so very Hollywood.

Mila Kunis

Did you know that one of Mila Kunis’ first big TV roles was in Baywatch, when she was 11-years-old? Obviously she wasn’t clad in a red swimming costume and running down the beach, especially not looking how she did, but she could definitely rival Pamela Anderson in the looks department now. She’s often voted one of the best looking women on the planet and we are not jealous. Nope. Maybe a little bit.

Taylor Swift

T-Swizzle has always been awesome…but you have to admit there have been a few awkward moments (ahem, like those corn rows she sported back in the ‘90s). However, just like her transition from country music star to pop icon and epic posse member (think Gigi Hadid and Selena Gomez), Swift has also transitioned into the elegant pop queen she is today. There’s a reason the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now…

Matthew Lewis

What happened to Neville Longbottom? Matthew Lewis rose to fame for his role in the Harry Potter saga, as the dweeby goodie-two-shoes Hogwarts student. But growing up seems to have done Lewis a world of good, and has us all thinking – Harry Potter, who? And how did he get those abs? Since his time on Harry Potter, he’s become even more popular and has appeared on TV shows like Ripper Street, Bluestone 42 and The Syndicate. Wanna know what the other Harry Potter stars look like all grown up? You might wanna read this!

Nicholas Hoult

You probably remember the British-born Hoult as the unconventional cutie who starred alongside Hugh Grant in the 2002 hit movie, About A Boy (cue everyone saying ‘awww’ as they remember that movie). Hoult’s big blue eyes set him apart from every other child star in the industry and landed his biggest teen part in the British TV show, Skins. Now he’s all grown up, Nicholas has landed huge roles in Mad Max: Fury Road and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Lindsay Lohan

We all remember Lindsay Lohan (x2) in everyone’s favorite double trouble movie, The Parent Trap, but she actually started her professional career much earlier than this. In fact, Lohan started modeling and acting at the age of 3-years-old. A few years on and Lindsay Lohan has skipped her awkward stage (although she did have some…err…drama…in between) and has now come out the other side; as beautiful as ever. Nowadays, Lohan is lying low and working on herself and her religion, but she has a new TV show coming out soon, so keep your eyes peeled…

Zac Efron

Oh, Zac. Well you’ve certainly grown up, haven’t you? Before his High School Musical days (oh, the nostalgia), Zac was cast in small roles on TV shows like ER and Firefly. Nowadays, Efron is a definite force to be reckoned with! He has recently starred in hit movies such as Bad Neighbors 1 and 2, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and the (kinda rubbish) Baywatch remake…which is where the (ahem) dashing image on the right is from…

Alexa Vega

Alexa Vega first started her acting career at the young age of five. However, it wasn’t until a few years later that she became a huge name in the industry for her role in the tween spy movie, Spy Kids (we miss Spy Kids). Nowadays, Vega has become a country belle in the hit TV series, Nashville, and has also starred as Killjoy, the femme fatale in Machete Kills.

Thomas Sangster

Scottish-born Thomas Sangster was born into the world of acting, as both of his parents were previously actors – so it’s no surprise he chose the same career path. He landed his first professional gig when he was just eleven-years-old, and then went on to star in movies such as Feather Boy, Nanny McPhee, and Love Actually (and his character just makes our heart melt). Nowadays, Thomas Sangster is still taking the world by storm and has appeared in Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Not bad, ey?

Robert Ri’Chard

Who remembers the Nickelodeon show, Cousin Skeeter? We loved that puppet – and Bobby Walker of course. And it seems Robert Ri’chard has now ditched his puppet pal and embraced what puberty has given him. Since his time on Cousin Skeeter, he has starred alongside Paris Hilton in House of Wax and has appeared in Meet The Browns and The Vampire Diaries. He’s even starring in a new movie, which is coming soon…

Dylan & Cole Sprouse

Aagh, Dylan and Cole Sprouse just make our hearts melt. When they were younger, they rose to fame as the adorable identical twins from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and the twins also appeared on Big Daddy and Just for Kicks – and they pretty much rocked the Disney Channel. After taking a break from acting and going off the college (smart and attractive? They do spoil us) Cole is now acting again in Riverdale, and Dylan is now a brewmaster. Because apparently, that’s a thing child stars do.

Miley Cyrus

As the daughter of the country king, Billy Ray Cyrus, it was kind of inevitable that Miley Cyrus would enter the world of stardom at some point. Turns out, it was when she was just nine-years-old! She first started out in the movie Big Fish, and then landed herself a starring role in Hannah Montana (where she shoved on a wig and fooled the whole world). Nowadays, Miley is still the southern belle we all know and love – after a short blip that we won’t talk about.

Christina Ricci

We still can’t believe that the woman on the right is the same person who played the dark and slightly quirky Wednesday Addams in the hit movie, The Addams Family. But Christina Ricci has definitely grown out of her dark days and is still acting today, as well as being a mother, and a human rights activist. Is there anything bad about her?!

Taylor Lautner

We’re incredibly glad that hair has gone. Taylor Lautner began his acting career at the age of nine, but only really came into his own when he was cast as the lovable werewolf in Twilight. Since his time on the big screen, Lautner took a few smaller roles in the UK before taking over the US again in the hit TV series, Scream Queens as Doctor Cassidy Cascade. Taylor as a doctor? Could it get any better?

Justin Timberlake

We hate to say it, but JT hasn’t always been bringing sexy back. We know, we could barely believe it too. But during his child star and NSYNC days, Timberlake was rocking the ramen-hair-noodles look – and we didn’t really like it. Luckily, Timberlake is like a good wine…and he just seems to get better with age. Nowadays, Justin Timberlake is still taking the world by storm by just being him.

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart has definitely grown out of her awkward stage, and she’s most certainly changed since her Panic Room days. She’s since ditched the awkward tomboy look and is now sporting the tom-boy-chic look with a newly shaved head – which could only work on Kristen Stewart.

Abigail Breslin

Remember Little Miss Sunshine? We loved that movie, and this goofy girl was just downright adorable. After Breslin’s time on Little Miss Sunshine, she took a bit of a break from acting and only appeared in small roles, but has since come back with a bang and appears on the hit TV horror show, Scream Queens. She’s also debuted her singing skills on the live-action remake of Dirty Dancing, because apparently one talent isn’t enough. So selfish.

Alisan Porter

Alisan Porter graced our lives in 1991 as John Hughes’ sassy Curly Sue. With her curly hair and her cheeky smile, Curly Sue was one of our favorite characters of the ‘90s. But did you know Curly Sue has an AWESOME voice? Yep, although she’s now left the world of acting, Alisan Porter has not left behind her dreams of fame – as the brunette beauty appeared on the 2016 season of NBC’s The Voice…and she only went and won the whole bloomin’ show!

Adrian Grenier

You probably recognize Adrian Grenier’s face from the TV show, Entourage and of course, the Devil Wears Prada. Grenier, however, has actually been acting for over 20 years – but hasn’t really changed a huge amount. We’re incredibly glad he got rid of that hair, although we prefer the tuxedo on the left.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Awww, even though he’s grown up a lot, we still really love Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s adorable baby face. Gordon-Levitt first appeared as a quirky human-alien-hybrid from the series, 3rd Rock From The Sun, and has since cut his hair and become a huge star in the acting and directing world. We still want to pinch his squidgy face, though.

Anna Chlumsky

Anna Chlumsky still looks just the same as her adorable character of Veta, from My Girl. How good was that movie?! But she’s now ditched the quirky child-star look and is now sporting the glamorous red carpet look…which is fitting considering she’s now a glamorous actress, who walks many a red carpet. She’s still Veta to us…

Candace Cameron Bure

Remember DJ from Full House? The adorable Donna Jo Tanner appeared in one of the best ‘90s sitcoms of that era, Full House. Bure first started acting at the age of 4-years-old and sported THAT awkward hairstyle during her time on the show (I mean, look at those bangs). Nowadays, Candace has righted her wrongs and has re-appeared on the Full House Netflix spin-off, Fuller House as the seriously grown up DJ – with a much better haircut.

Shailene Woodley

Before she made us all break down in tears as we watched The Fault in Our Stars and made us want to scale a few buildings after watching Divergent, Shailene Woodley was a pretty successful (and pretty cute) child star. In fact, she landed her first professional acting gig when she was just eight years old. When she was 12-years-old, she even got to star in The O.C! Nowadays, of course, she’s taking over the world one step at a time. We love you, Shailene.

Selena Gomez

Let’s be honest, we all loved (and still love) the Disney Channel, and Wizards of Waverly Place was our favorite program. Before she landed her gig as Alex Russo, though, Selena Gomez had joined the likes of Demi Lovato as one of the adorable little kids on Barney & Friends. After smashing the world of child acting, Selena then decided that she just wasn’t famous enough, and needed to top the music charts and date one of the hunkiest men in the world. No biggie.

Melissa Joan Hart

Melissa Joan Hart was the ultimate ‘90s child star – just look at that plaid and hair bobble combo! She is most known for her roles in the likes of Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Salem was our spirit animal). As she’s got older, Melissa has just seemed to have got even more beautiful. She is still acting today, and even owns her own candy shop…which is pretty much the dream.

Drew Barrymore

Oh…my…goodness, did anyone else totally forget that Drew Barrymore was in E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial?! Barrymore was just seven-years-old when she made her debut alongside Elliott and E.T and then went on to star in some pretty epic ‘90s movies before she took an awkward tumble and ended up in rehab at just 14-years-old. Nevertheless, Drew has pushed past her demons and is now one of the most beautiful and most highly sought-after actresses in Hollywood.

Haley Joel Osment

The adorable Haley Joel Osment rose to fame in 1999 when he appeared in M.Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense – and we kinda didn’t know what to think of him. On the one hand, he was super cute. On the other hand, he sees dead people, so it was kind of a deal breaker. Since his time as an unwilling medium, Haley Joel Osment has continued his acting career and recently starred in movies such as The Spoils of Babylon, Yoga Hosers, and Sassy Pants. We’re hoping he no longer sees dead people.

Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen

Yep, it’s another load of twins – this time, the Olsen Twins. Mary-Kate and Ashley absolutely dominated the world of acting from an early age, and had landed their first professional gig at the age of just SIX MONTHS OLD! After their success on Full House, they were then given a chance to have their own show and feature films (which they obviously accepted). They’ve now adopted their own individual style, which they incorporate into their clothing fashion line. Fancy.

Blake McIver Ewing

He’s not a Little Rascal anymore… Blake Mciver Ewing first appeared as the snooty character of Waldo in the hit 1994 movie, The Little Rascals. He also appeared on Full House, Hey, Arnold! Tarzan and Recess. But it seems like Ewing is turning his hand to a new hobby. He is pursuing a musical career and is not only an amazing singer, but is also a songwriter and producer. Well, we’d certainly buy his albums!

Jonathan Lipnicki

We’re not quite sure which picture we like better – the super cute and adorable youngster on the left or the beast of a man on the right. You probably recognize Lipnicki from the 1996 movie, Jerry McGuire, and the Stuart Little series. Lipnicki is still acting today, but in more independent films, so may not have seen him on your screens for a while – unless you’re an indie movie fan, of course. He’s also spending a lot of his time training in Martial Arts – well, we guess that solves the question as to where the muscles have come from…

Mara Wilson

We’ll always know Mara Wilson as Matilda, but it seems this glass-tipper (Matilda fans will know) actually had a pretty successful career as a child star and also appeared in Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street. She was always super cute and actually doesn’t look hugely different today – just a little taller! Mara has now left the world of acting behind her and is now a prolific writer. Matilda would be proud.

Jeff Cohen

Yep, thanks to this guy, we MASTERED the Truffle Shuffle. Jeff Cohen made a name for himself (and his stomach) after he appeared in Steven Spielberg’s The Goonies when he was just nine-years-old. It’s fair to say he lost his puppy weight as he grew older, and Jeff Cohen is now pretty hunky. Want to be even more impressed with his transformation? Chunk is now a qualified lawyer, AND he writes for Huffington Post. Chunk did good.

Aileen Quinn

You know what Annie taught us? That there was always something better going on tomorrow – why could it not happen today?! Nevertheless, Annie provided us with the adorable freckles, red dress and red hair of Aileen Quinn. You can still see a little hint of the orphan Daddy Warbucks adopted in this former child star, but Aileen has now left the world of acting and spends most of her time teaching drama and Spanish.

Angus T Jones

You probably remember these chubby little cheeks from such films as See Spot Run, George of the Jungle 2 and Bringing the House Down. Although Angus T Jones started acting when he was just five-years-old, the actor is most famous for his role in the TV sitcom, Two and a Half Men. Nowadays, Angus still has his chubby little cheeks, but they’re now covered by a new and improved beard – because businessmen have beards, you know.

Bradley Pierce

Bradley Pierce was just 13-years-old when he was able to play the coolest game in existence. Of course, we’re talking about Jumanji. Most teenagers slam doors shut and listen to emo music, but Bradley Pierce was nudging shoulders with Robin Williams (AKA the best person in the world) fighting off lions, and dealing with nuisance monkeys – which is way cooler. The adorable youngster is now all grown up and working as a voice actor and has now got a family of his own. Wonder if he plays Jumanji with his kids?

Corey Feldman

Let’s be honest, Corey Feldman was super cute – and how did he get his hair to be so fluffy?! The child star made a name for himself in films such as The Goonies, Stand By Me, The ‘Burbs, and he even provided the voice for Young Copper in The Fox and the Hound (aww). Although that tell-tale smile is still there, Corey has DEFINITELY changed since his child star days and is now rocking a new style as the lead singer of Truth Movement.