Actors Who Started Out as Models

August 2, 2015


With the increasingly competitive nature of the acting business, actors are finding that honing multiple talents is highly encouraged to get noticed. Some actors add singing and dancing to their repertoire; others delve into behind-the-scenes skill sets such as writing, producing, or directing; and some enter the industry doors through seizing their exceptionally good looks through modeling. After all, acting is a highly visual form of art, so getting your image out there is a great way to gain attention within the industry–and hopefully open even more doors!

Some actor-models start small–that is to say, at a very young age. For instance, Brooke Shields’ modeling career started when she was just eleven months old promoting Ivory soap, but she didn’t take the media by storm until playing a child prostitute at the age of twelve in Pretty Baby, and two years later appearing in controversial ads for Calvin Klein jeans which catapulted her career. Hayden Panettiere likewise started her modeling career at eleven months promoting Playskool toys. Raven-Symone Pearman modeled for Ford Models at the whopping age of two and appeared in ads for Ritz crackers and Jell-O brands before being cast in The Cosby Show at the age of three. Corbin Bleu started out in TV commercials when he was just two, and then at the ripe old age of four he became a Ford Model as well, appearing in print ads for several stores like Target and Toys R Us. And of course Lindsay Lohan worked as a fashion model with Ford Models as early as three years old.

And then there are the enviable actor-models who actually experience what so many aspiring performers dream about: they are approached on the street by talent agents. Channing Tatum was discovered by a talent scout in Miami which lead to print modeling; he gradually worked his way to traveling the globe to promote brands such as Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. Ashton Kutcher was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when he was discovered by a talent scout. He was so well received as a model that he competed for the title of Male Model of the Year in 1997 only to come in second place to Josh Duhamel. Similarly, Evangeline Lilly was spotted by a Ford Modeling agent when she was walking the streets of British Columbia. Although the agent gave her his business card, Lilly was hesitant to call, so waited six months before she reached out which lead to several commercials and non-speaking roles in television shows. And 16-year-old Cameron Diaz was approached by a fashion photographer while at a Hollywood party which lead to a contract with Elite and her working around the world for companies like Levi’s and Coca-Cola.

Then there are the actor-models who wait till they’ve come of age before they find modeling. Robert Pattinson’s mother worked for a modeling agency, and he ended up with a  four-year modeling career between the ages of twelve and 16. It’s been said his modeling days faded as he started to appear more masculine. And before Brad Pitt became an A-list actor, he worked odd jobs and modeled Levi blue jeans to pay the bills. James Marsden was a top model for Versace before his action role in the X-Men movies and co-starring in The Notebook. The list of actors who started in modeling is long: Djimon Hounsou, Kirsten Dunst, Leighton Meester, Jason Lewis, Katherine Heigl, Charlize Theron, Ian Somerhalder, Chad Michael Murray….Do you see your name being added to this list?

Keep in mind, sometimes modeling aspirations don’t always turn out so well. For instance, Jennifer Lawrence dabbled in modeling before she became an Oscar-winning actress. She once explained to Conan O’ Brien why her modeling days were unsuccessful. “I did stuff for Abercrombie & Fitch, but you’d never know because non of my pictures ever got released,” she admitted. When the group of models involved in the shoot were instructed to play football, Lawrence took it as an athletic challenge. “I realized that they were model footballing and I was really playing football,” she candidly shared. Fortunately, she used her competitive instincts to push forward with her acting abilities. Similarly, Angelina Jolie’s early modeling experiences never took root although her mother encouraged high-school-aged Jolie to get out there and try. Certainly this disappointment didn’t stop Jolie either. The moral of the story is: Take risks and get yourself out there!

Do people tell you that you should be a model? It very well might be worth a try!