13 '90s 'It Girls' Who De-Glamorized For A Role

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Vote up the 'it girls' who de-glammed and made it work.

The very idea of an "It Girl" may have gone by the wayside as print media died out in favor of all things internet, but if you're going to reflect on 1990s pop culture, there's no escaping the many stars who were labeled as the new "It Girl" at one point or another. And, looking back all these years later, most It Girls have ended up de-glamorizing for a role at least once.

It makes sense: Take a beautiful person and schlub them up just a little (or a lot) to keep people on their toes! It doesn't always work out in terms of overall film quality, but each of the following '90s stars certainly swung for the fences. So, break out your Walkmans and your snap bracelets... we're running through the '90s It Girls who de-glammed for a role and nailed it.

  • Charlize Theron arrived in a big way throughout the late 1990s and did so seemingly overnight. One minute, she was starring in disastrous direct-to-video fodder Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. The next she was booking important roles in big-budget hits like The Devil's AdvocateMighty Joe Young, and The Cider House Rules. She went from absolute nobody to A-list star about as quickly as is humanly possible. She didn't rest on her laurels, either.

    2003's Monster could've been a disaster. Telling the real-life story of a serial killer in a prestige can usually only go one of two ways: Oscar-worthy triumph or headshaking embarrassment. Alas, Theron seriously de-glammed to transform into Aileen Wuornos and completely disappeared into the role. Her reward? The Academy Award for best actress. That award is very much deserved, by the way. Theron is nigh-unrecognizable as the prostitute turned murderer and gives a performance that matches the work put in by the makeup and hairstyling specialists on the film.

  • Simply put, Demi Moore was one of the big stars of the early-to-mid 1990s. GhostA Few Good MenIndecent ProposalStripteaseThe Hunchback of Notre Dame. Moore's undeniably successful acting career and marriage to fellow A-lister, Bruce Willis, kept her in the public eye at all times. At one point, she was the highest-paid actress of all time. So, it was kind of a big deal when she shaved her head and took on a serious workout regimen to star in G.I. Jane. In the film, Moore plays a Navy lieutenant who is trying to become the first woman accepted in the SEAL-like Combined Reconnaissance Team.

    Some audiences weren't quite sure how to react to the transformation. As Moore put it:

    Striptease seemed to represent a betrayal to women and G.I. Jane was a betrayal to men. With Striptease, I stepped into a role that was women’s fear, and G.I. Jane was as if it was a challenge to men. They let me know it, too.

    It wasn't every day that war drama featured a woman famous for her covers on Vanity Fair and Vogue, after all. G.I. Jane may not have been a critical or commercial hit, but that doesn't really rest at the feet of Moore. If anything, G.I. Jane proved Moore could kick butt with the best of them, and that includes her then-husband. 

  • Nicole Kidman began her ascent to '90s stardom on the back of her part in 1990's Days of Thunder. That movie opened the door for more Hollywood gigs, and it just so happened to be where Kidman met her first husband, Tom Cruise. Kidman and Cruise would go on to star in two more '90s films together (Far and Away and Eyes Wide Shut) as they continued to be tabloid fodder. Being two of the most famous people on the planet and married at the same time tends to do that to a couple. Starring roles in films like Batman ForeverTo Die For, and The Peacemaker solidified Kidman as one of the preeminent actors of her generation.

    While Kidman's most recent big career moves tend to have her starring and executive producing premier television like Big Little Lies and The Undoing, she has also found plenty of time to show up in movies, as well. One of Kidman's deepest character dives came in 2018's dark, depressing drama Destroyer. Kidman's iconic visage was transformed to match the battered interior of her character, detective Erin Bell, as she takes on a seedy gang in Los Angeles. Destroyer seriously houses Kidman as you've never seen her before, navigating the seedy underbelly in the City of Angels. And you just might not recognize her in the process.

  • Drew Barrymore's career revival is up there with Robert Downey Jr.'s as one of the most impressive in Hollywood history, not to mention the most unlikely. After becoming a household name before the age of 7 thanks to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial's incredible box-office take, Barrymore fell victim to Tinseltown's drug culture in a big way. The young actor managed to turn things around and become a legit late-'90s star as The Wedding SingerEver After, and Never Been Kissed all proved she had staying power as a leading lady. 

    In 2020's The Stand In, Barrymore played the dual role of famous actor Candy Black and her weirdly identical standin Paula. After an opening sequence that ruins Black's career, she spends years becoming a recluse who lets herself become a disheveled mess of drugs and alcohol. As The Stand In is a rom-com featuring Barrymore in two roles, the unglamorous state of Black's life is played more for laughs and less for drama. Still, becoming an unkempt mess for a romantic comedy counts nonetheless. 

  • Natalie Portman came out of nowhere and hit the floor running in the mid-1990s. She became one of the most sought-after young actors thanks to her debut appearance in Léon: The Professional as Mathilda Lando. Immediately following that success, Portman showed up in all kinds of movies. HeatBeautiful Girls, and Mars Attacks! all showcased her range. Oh, then she got an essential role in a little movie called Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, and the sky was the limit from there on out.

    In the years that followed, Portman split her time between Star Wars sequels and more adventurous fare like Closer, Garden State, and Cold Mountain. It wouldn't be until 2005's V for Vendetta that the big-budget popcorn thrills of projects like Star Wars would meet Portman's penchant for more ambitious fare. The comic book adaptation found that sweet middle ground where a film gets to have exciting bombast and have something to say, as well. Evie's traumatic journey through the film gave Portman a lot to chew on, and they even shaved off her real hair during the production, as well. 

  • It is hard to envisage a television actor in the future ever being able to reach the ubiquitous popularity that Jennifer Aniston found in the 1990s. The Friends star became one of the most popular people to ever grace a television screen, and tabloid journalists still haven't given her a moment of peace decades later. In today's media landscape where there are a billion things pulling attention all over the place, it just isn't possible to become pervasively popular anymore. Like, Jennifer Aniston's haircut became a cultural mainstay, you guys. That's insane.

    2014's Cake saw Aniston give one of the best performances of her career as a woman struggling to move on with her life after a car accident. The crash took the life of her son, scarred her face, and left her with chronic pain that is hard to manage. Both the physical and emotional scars Aniston's character deals with in Cake give the seasoned actor a lot to work with in what absolutely has to be the most unglamorous role in her filmography.