Whatever Happened To Nostalgic 'It Girls'?

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The nostalgic "It Girls" of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s rocketed to fame just as quickly as they fell from fame - but where are they now? While some are still busy working actors, others have stepped away from the hustle and bustle of show business to raise families, write novels, work for charities, pursue educations, and more.

From Lacey Chabert to Fairuza Balk to Hilary Duff, they all share one common theme - being It Girls that fill us with nostalgia for the film and television of yesteryear.

  • Danica McKellar Traded Acting For Mathematics 
    Photo: ABC / Instagram

    Danica McKellar began her acting career while studying at the Young Actors Space, founded in 1979 by Diane Hill Hardin and Nora Eckstein. By age 9, McKellar had already acted in a number of commercial gigs. However, it wasn't until she landed the role of Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years that her career took off.

    McKellar later took on numerous roles in TV shows and films before she became a Hallmark Channel staple, with her first Hallmark film, Perfect Match, airing in 2015. Although her acting career seems to be the highlight of her life, McKellar has many other accomplishments of which to be proud.

    Following her career as Winnie Cooper, McKellar took a break from acting to go to college, attending UCLA and earning a degree in mathematics. While in undergraduate school, she had the opportunity to create a model of magnetism. After working on the problem for months, she and her research partners completed the proof, achieving a new mathematical theorem now known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem. 

    McKellar's dedication to the field of mathematics continued after she graduated. She authored a line of math books, called Math Doesn't Suck, that inspire girls to get involved with STEM.

  • Jodie Sweetin Bounced Back From Addiction To Start Acting Again
    Photo: ABC / Netflix

    At age 5, Jodie Sweetin landed her first big role as Full House's Stephanie Tanner. In the same year, she was cast in Jim Henson Presents: Mother Goose Stories, and from there, her career took off.

    Full House finished airing when Sweetin was 13, and it was at this age that she first tried alcohol. She endured years of alcohol and drug abuse, with her addiction struggle happening in the public eye. In 2008, at the age of 26, she decided to become sober, and later became certified as a drug and alcohol counselor.

    Sweetin joined the cast of Fuller House in 2016, continuing to star in movies and TV shows such as Just Swipe, Merry & Bright, and Just Under the Rainbow. She is a mother of two children, and got engaged to Mescal Wasilewski in January 2022.

  • Born in 1977, Sarah Michelle Gellar began her acting career starring in TV commercials before landing a role on All My Children. Her career really took off when she was cast in 1997 as Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; she later starred in movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2.

    As Buffy, Gellar earned a legion of fans, as well as respect from critics, for bringing to life a character capable of dealing with teenage emotion at the same time she's destroying vampires. The role was a forerunner for female superheroes, and years after going off the air, Buffy remains a beloved character, and Gellar a beloved actor.

    As the years went on, she took on a variety of roles, with her most permanent one being motherhood. Gellar married her I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scooby-Doo co-star Freddie Prinze, Jr. in 2002. After the birth of daughter Charlotte in 2009, Gellar decided to take a break from acting to focus on her family, and has stayed in that role ever since. (The couple had son Rocky in 2012).

  • Fairuza Balk, best known for her portrayals of distinctive "goth girl" characters in films like The Craft, American History X, and Almost Famous, started her acting career at age 9 on the ABC special The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. 

    Two years later, Balk moved to the UK, where she attended the Royal Academy of Ballet, the Ramona Beauchamp Agency, and the Bush Davies Performing Arts School. At age 11, she was chosen from 1,200 girls to star as Dorothy in Return to Oz. It wasn't until 10 years later that she landed her breakout role as a teenage coven leader in The Craft.

    After starring in numerous roles and spending years in Hollywood, Balk became disenchanted, criticizing the industry for having "no morals... no integrity at all." Deeming her time in Hollywood stagnant, she began pursuing other artistic endeavors. She released music under the name Armed Love Militia, exhibited her own mixed-media art in New York and Los Angeles, and even sells her work on her own website.

  • Northern California native Larisa Oleynik began her acting career in a stage production of Les Miserables. She was only 8 years old at the time, and served as a replacement for both Young Cosette and Young Eponine. Just four years later, Oleynik got the lead role in The Secret World of Alex Mack, which kick-started her Hollywood career.

    After the debut of The Secret World of Alex Mack, she became a tween sensation, including as a symbol for alternative fashion. Oleynik went on to star in 10 Things I Hate About You, then left acting directly after to pursue a college degree at New York's Sarah Lawrence University. Afterward, she returned to acting, landing parts in Mad Men, Hawaii Five-0, and Pretty Little Liars.

  • Melissa Joan Hart Continued Acting And Directing
    Photo: ABC / Instagram

    Melissa Joan Hart's acting career took off at age 4, when she did a commercial for a bathtub toy. She acted in commercials and TV shows as well as in plays for years before landing the part of Sabrina Spellman in Sabrina the Teenage Witch and as Clarissa Darling in Clarissa Explains It All. 

    Along with acting, Hart has also directed films, including 2017's The Watcher in the Woods for Lifetime, which starred Angelica Huston in a remake of a 1980 horror classic of the same name. 

    Outside of acting and directing, Hart partnered with Jif Peanut Butter for the contest "Imagine If," which centered around helping children bring their entrepreneurial ideas to fruition, while also fostering creativity, kindness, and bravery. Hart made an appearance on Season 9 of Dancing with the Stars, making it to week six before getting eliminated.

    She married musician Mark Wilkerson in 2003, and the couple have three children together.