Some people have such strong public personas, that it’s sometimes difficult to imagine them as anything but the poised and polished images they cultivate as megastars, politicians or athletes they are today.
But everyone was a kid at some point, and back when they were children, they didn’t know they’d one day millions of people would look up to them and follow them online and in the media. Back then, they were just kids being kids, and when their parents took candid, unpolished pictures of them, they gave us a chance to experience them in as truthful and authentic a way as possible.
So, let’s take a look at some of our favorite celebrities – and see them like we’ve never seen them before.
Having broken box office records – and the internet – with her now-iconic performance as Wonder Woman as part of the DC Extended Universe film franchise, Gal Gadot is one of Hollywood’s hottest stars today.
But this stunning actress couldn’t have grown up farther away from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Growing up in faraway Israel, Gadot was a self-professed tomboy. Excelling at basketball, thanks to her height – nearly 6 feet tall! – Gadot’s first jobs included babysitting around her neighborhood and working at the local Burger King.
After winning the Miss Israel Beauty Pageant, Gadot’s career truly took off, and she landed her first film role in The Fast and the Furious shortly thereafter… but not before she completed her military service.
Unlike some of the people on this list, Kate Hudson was a sort of celebrity from the moment she was born. The daughter of Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn – and the step-daughter of Kurt Russel – it seems Hudson was destined to be Hollywood royalty.
But despite her family ties, as she grew up, she was determined to make it on her own merit – and she turned into a talented and sought after actress all on her own.
Looking at this photo, it’s not difficult to see how this little girl, named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, grew up to be the Mother Monster, Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga was always interested in fashion, music and art, and started writing and performing at a very young age. She later went on to write several hit songs for pop artists like Britney Spears, before she decided to strike out on her own, becoming the pop legend we all know and love today.
Kimberly Noel Kardashian, better known as Kim, was born in Los Angeles to high society parents. She started gaining media attention after her escapades with one of her best friends, Paris Hilton, as well as for her very public dating life.
Today, the reality show focusing on her family, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, is arguably one of the most popular, watched and debated reality shows in the nation – as is Kim’s makeup lines and her relationship with husband Kanye West.
If there are any real Disney princesses in the world, Taylor Alison Swift is one of them. Growing up at her parents’ Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania – how magical is that!? – the young Swift was always interested in music. At the age of 10 she was already writing her own songs and playing the guitar, and shortly thereafter, she persuaded her family to move to Tennessee, where she felt she could better pursue her love of Country music.
Swift is one of pop’s biggest stars today, but she’s not the first in her family to have a career in music; her grandmother worked as a professional opera singer.
When most of us want to look at ourselves as kids, we open an old family photo album, or plug in a dusty old VCR player. When Miley Cyrus wants to see what she looked like as a kid, all she has to do is switch on the Disney Channel.
Born Destiny Hope Cyrus, when Miley was just eleven years old, she had her first major career breakthrough, landing the lead role in Disney’s Hannah Montana.
From that point forward, Miley’s reinvented herself several times over, and has topped music charts all over the world.
Reflecting upon her success as Bella Swan after her breakthrough with the Twilight film saga, Kristen Stewart reminisced about her childhood.
“I never wanted to be the center of attention — It wasn’t that ‘I want to be famous, I want to be an actor’ kid. I never sought out acting.”
Stewart was born in Los Angeles to parents who worked in the entertainment industry – but not as actors. Therefore, thinking of working in front of the camera wasn’t necessarily the first thing that came to her mind when she considered her career choices – but nevertheless, she found herself as one of Hollywood’s A-list stars.
Blake Lively’s parents were actors themselves. Her dad, Ernie Lively, was in The Dukes of Hazzard in the early ’70s and ’80s, and her mom, Elaine, also appeared in numerous films and productions. When Blake was a child, rather than leave her with a babysitter, Ernie and Elaine would take her with them to acting classes – which is where she got a taste for the thespian arts.
Blake’s first big break was in the film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,where her father also had a role. After that, she landed a part in the CW’s Gossip Girl – and became one of the most highly regarded actresses in the industry.
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, born Robert Anthony De Nir Jr., had a passion for cinema from a very young age. He would go to the movies with his father often, and began taking acting classes very early on – with free classes available to him thanks to his mother’s workplace.
Despite his passion for acting, school life wasn’t the easiest for him, and he even found himself joining an Italian street gang as a teen – where he was dubbed “Bobby Milk” due to his fair skin. His experience with the gang must have informed his performance, because he would later become known for playing criminals and gangsters – among other iconic roles.
This photo of a young Norma Jeane Mortenson shows a beautiful young girl – but doesn’t hold any clues as to her future as one of the most iconic, beloved and prolific actresses in Hollywood history.
Discovered by a photographer while working at a factory, the young Norma Jeane would later be transformed into the star of classics like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch, not to mention perform in front of U.S. Presidents and millions of admiring fans. You might know her better by the name she adopted later in her career: Marilyn Monroe.
This sandy-haired boy’s name is George Timothy Clooney. Born in Kentucky, Clooney wanted to be a professional baseball player as he was growing up. When he was 16, he tried out for the Cincinnati Reds – but after not making it into the team, he went on to study at college.
Following a summer in which he worked cutting tobacco, Clooney decided to try his luck in L.A., and managed to obtain acting gigs in various venues – but his real break came after he landed a role in the hit series ER playing Dr. Doug Ross.
While the fact that Ivanka Trump was born into one of the richest families in America may have immediately given her a place in the celebrity circuit, she has since leveraged her position and made headway in the world thanks to her own tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit.
As a teen, young Ivanka began to model and found great success in the field. She later joined the family business as Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions in The Trump Organization, and, after converting to Judaism in order to marry Jared Kushner, became the first Jewish Member of a First Family.
Rashida Jones grew up in Los Angeles. Many may not know this, but her father is actually the famous record producer and musician Quincy Jones.
When asked about what Rashida was like in school, Quincy said that “she was a straight up nerd!”
Rashida was a voracious bookworm, and liked to tinker with computers long before they became widely popular.
Rashida’s bookishness payed off, and after high school she was accepted into Harvard, where she joined the theater and drama clubs – and set out on her way to become an actress.
Today, she is most recognized for her roles in the television shows Parks and Recreation, The Office and Boston Public.
Born and raised in Queens, New York City, Donald John Trump attended school there until the age of 13, after which he enrolled in the New York Military Academy. He later graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and entered the business world. Interested on real estate from a very young age, Trump wanted to make everything “bigger and better.”
In 2017, Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States.
Michael Gerard Tyson, better known as Mike Tyson, had a difficult childhood. He was arrested numerous times as a child, before he turned to boxing as an outlet. Raised in the legal custody of boxing manager Cus D’Amato, Tyson was trained from a very young age to be the best boxer he could possibly be – and was only 20 years old when he became the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
Eminem – or Marshall Bruce Mathers III (Marshall Mathers – M and M – Eminem) didn’t have an easy childhood growing up.
Often bullied in his hometown of Detroit, Mathers worked several jobs as a teen in an attempt to help his mother keep their family afloat. He later managed to break through into the rap industry, becoming one of the first white rappers, and is widely recognized as a lyrical genius, even being named one of the greatest artists of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. was born and raised in Manhattan – and started acting at a very young age. His first role was at the age of five, and consisted of playing a sick puppy in his father’s surreal 1970 film, Pound.
In the ’80s, Downey became a member of the Brat Pack, appearing in classic coming of age films like Weird Science and The Pick-up Artist.
His life wasn’t exactly easy, and he experienced various difficulties throughout his career, but today he is one of the most successful and highest paid actors in the world, largely thanks to his leading role as Tony Stark in Marvel’s Iron Man and Avengers movies.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter was born in Houston, Texas, in 1981. Her mother, Celestine “Tina” Knowles was a hairdresser and salon owner, while her father, Mathew Knowles, worked as a sales manager at Xerox.
Beyoncé took dance classes at her high school, and her singing talent was discovered when her dance instructor hummed a song and Beyoncé was able to finish it, hitting all the difficult high notes with ease.
While still in school, Beyoncé joined an all-girls singing and dancing group – who auditioned all over the country. After her father left his job to become the group’s full time manager, and they were eventually offered a contract with Columbia Records, paving Beyoncé’s way to becoming one of the biggest R&B stars ever.
The little girl in this photo would one day grow up to be known as the “Queen of All Media”, to become the richest African American of the 20th century, North America’s first black multi-billionaire, and to be ranked as the greatest black philanthropist in American history.
Her name? Oprah Winfrey.
But Oprah wasn’t born into privilege and affluence. In fact, quite the opposite. She was born in rural Mississippi to a teenaged single mother, and was raised in poverty in inner-city Milwaukee. That started to change when Winfrey landed a job at the local radio station, while she was still in high school – and by the time she was 19, served as co-anchor for the local evening news.
The determined-looking girl in this photo is none other than ’90s pop goddess, Britney Spears.
Born in McComb, Mississippi, at the heart of the “Bible Belt,” Spears sang in a Baptist church choir as a child – and at the age of three would start taking dance lessons.
When Britney was eight years old, she travelled with her mother, Lynne, to Atlanta, Georgia, where she auditioned for the 1990s The Mickey Mouse Clubrevival. She was rejected due to her young age, but the show’s casting director was so impressed with Spears’ singing and dancing abilities, she suggested enrolling her at the Professional Performing Arts School in New York.
In December 1992, Spears was cast in a later season of The Mickey Mouse Club, alongside Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Keri Russell.
Today, Hilary Swank is a celebrated actress – and the recipient of two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Critics Choice Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
But where did she start out? Her story truly is a rags to riches one.
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1974, Swank moved with her family to a trailer park near Lake Samish in Washington when she was six. When she was 15, her parents separated, and Hilary’s mother, who supported her desire to become an actress, decided to move with her to Los Angeles, where the two lived out of their car until her mom saved up enough money to move into an apartment.
When Swank was just 17, she landed her first film role in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie – and from there, slowly made her way to the top.
Jennifer Garner was born in 1972, in Houston, Texas – but moved to Charleston, West Virginia at the age of three. The second of three daughters, Garner’s father, William, worked as a chemical engineer, and her mother, Patricia Ann, was an English teacher at a local college.
She attended George Washington High School in Charleston, and played saxophone in the marching band – but was really obsessed with participating in “any kind of production” she could, taking part in the local community theater and the Charleston Light Opera Guild. She would later enroll in Denison University, Ohio, where she would major in theater.
Madonna Louise Ciccone needs no introduction. The Queen of Pop was born in 1958 in Bay City, Michigan to her mother, Madonna Louise, and father, Silbio Anthony “Tony” Ciccone.
A talented dancer from a young age, she attended Rochester Adams High School, where she became a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad, and received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan after graduating. Despite the opportunity the scholarship afforded, Madonna chose to drop out of college, and instead, travelled to New York, where she worked with modern dance troupes and took classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, before her demo tapes were discovered and launched her into stardom.
Selena Gomez is still very young – she was born in late 1992 – but she has nevertheless managed to make an impact on American pop culture.
Raised in a Latin-Catholic household, Gomez stated that “My family does have Quinceañeras, and we go to the communion church. We do everything that’s Catholic, but we don’t really have anything traditional except going to the park and have barbecues on Sundays after church.”
In 2002, when Gomez was just ten years old, she started appearing in the popular Barney & Friends TV show.
Christopher Michael Pratt was born in Virginia, Minnesota in 1979. When he was three, his family moved to Lake Stevens, Washington, where Pratt grew up. In high school, he excelled at wrestling, and even placed fifth in a state wrestling tournament.
When he was asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, he remembers saying “I don’t know, but I know I’ll be famous and I know I’ll make a ton of money.” He would later comment and say “I had no idea how. I’d done nothing proactive.”