Puberty is a rough time for everyone. Thankfully, most people emerge on the other side pretty much unscathed and more or less intact. But for some, puberty is a major transformative process that turns ugly ducklings into swans. This is certainly the case for nerdy child actors who grew up to be hot adults.
There's a temptation to pass these transformations off as merely the byproducts of being a celebrity. After all, these onetime child actors had lucrative careers, and they could likely afford all the personal trainers, nutritionists, chefs, stylists, and makeup artists money could buy. But that explanation is too dismissive. With changes as major as the ones on display here, there had to be some amount of work and dedication involved – and at least a little bit of personal reflection and awakening.
Though the public is used to hearing stories about great child stars struggling or falling on hard times, these stories prove that the opposite can also be true. These are instances when puberty helped child actors instead of hurting them, and buoyed them instead of sinking their prospects for a happy, successful life. Look at these nerdy child actors then and now, and judge their transformations for yourself.
As Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films, Matthew Lewis was a plump, chubby-cheeked kid whose signature role was far from glamorous. Neville was awkward and ungainly and more than a little disorganized. But as the series evolved, the character did too, and Neville ended up being a fan favorite.
Lewis became a fan favorite in real life as well, thanks in part to his jaw-dropping emergence into hotness. In 2015, Lewis did a spread in Attitude magazine, revealing a surprisingly ripped body. Even Neville's creator, J. K. Rowling, gave her approval. "I will always support you whatever you want to do, Matthew," she tweeted. "Now go put some clothes on."
Birthplace: England, Horsforth
Credits: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, + moresee more on Matthew Lewis
A whole generation grew up with Josh Peck on Nickelodeon staples Drake & Josh and The Amanda Show. Somewhere along the way, the rotund little cherub emerged from puberty as a handsome man. The transformation, or at least part of it, was purposeful; Peck has discussed his weight loss and his desire to take control of his health.
Peck continues to act, and has been discovered by a new generation via his YouTube, Snapchat, and Vine videos.
Birthplace: USA, Kansas, Manhattan
Credits: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Drake & Josh, Spun, + moresee more on Josh Peck
Looking at him today, it's hard to believe Jerry O'Connell ever had an awkward phase. But there was a time when O'Connell wouldn't have seemed destined for sexiest men lists. His big-screen debut was as Vern Tessio, the pudgy, shy member of the group. After a few years and a lot of trips to the gym, he emerged victorious over puberty... and hot.
O'Connell, who is married to the equally hot Rebecca Romijn, also has the distinction of making eyebrows sexy. Just look at them!
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
Credits: Stand by Me, Sliders, Jerry Maguire, My Secret Identity
#75 on The Greatest '80s Teen Starssee more on Jerry O'Connell
Once, it looked like Jonathan Lipnicki would forever be known as "the kid from Jerry Maguire." And while that's nothing to sniff at, the now-adult Lipnicki reemerged into the public consciousness in a surprising way. Gone was the loveably dorky little kid with the too-big glasses. In his place was a seriously studly young man with a body for days.
Lipnicki continues to act and challenge the stereotypes that surround many child stars. "I've never done drugs," he says. "I've never punched out a tourist. I went to public school! I played little league baseball!"
Birthplace: Westlake Village, California, United States of America
Credits: Jerry Maguire^! Stuart Little^! Stuart Little 2^! The Little Vampiresee more on Jonathan Lipnicki