20 Photos Of Iconic Celebrities Who Looked Like Totally Different People In Their Twenties

Some stars are so cemented in the public consciousness that it’s almost impossible to imagine them before they made the big time. Others have been in the fame game for so long that only their oldest fans remember them in their youth. Well, have you ever seen Betty White before she hit middle age? But, of course, even iconic celebrities were young once. And you may be shocked to see how completely unrecognizable some of these screen legends were in their twenties.

20. Lucille Ball

By Hollywood standards, Lucille Ball was a pretty late starter. It wasn’t until she was in her forties, in fact, that she became a household name with I Love Lucy. But once Ball had her foot in the door, she made the most of it. The star blazed a trail for women in TV when she and her first husband, Desi Arnaz, formed the studio Desilu Productions – known for giving the world Star Trek.

But long before Ball made it big, she spent a torturous period in drama school. Apparently, the twentysomething’s tutors thought that she would fail in her chosen career – a setback that drove her to do otherwise. And while the legendary comedian spent the rest of the decade working as a model and recovering from rheumatic fever, she ultimately bounced back to change the face of television.

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19. Maggie Smith

If you’re still a fresh-faced kid, you’ll probably know Maggie Smith best as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series or Downton Abbey’s acerbic Dowager Countess. If you’re a little more, well, long in the tooth, though, you’ll remember that the British star was very much an established and prolific actress before the wizarding world came calling. She even had two Oscar wins under her belt by the end of the ’70s.

But Smith actually started acting well before that awards success. She began performing on stage while still just a teenager, in fact, and obviously marked herself out as one to watch. Then, slowly, Smith rose up the ladder. And after she scooped the first of those Oscars for her star turn as the title character in 1969’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, only the sky was the limit.

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18. Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews cemented her legend status in super-quick style back in the ’60s. Believe it or not, but The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins were first released in the U.S. less than seven months apart! And Andrews hasn’t exactly gone begging for acclaim in the decades since. She’s picked up an Oscar, a trio of Grammys and an AFI Life Achievement Award, to name but just three of her many gongs. The screen icon was even given a damehood in 2000.

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But it’s particularly astonishing to hear just how accomplished Andrews was even in her teenage years. She made her debut on Broadway at only 18, for example. And throughout her twenties she built on that success, appearing in a variety of famous TV shows and popular musicals that brought her further into the public eye. It all culminated in the plum role of Mary Poppins, which Andrews landed before she blew out the candles on her 30th birthday cake.

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17. Meryl Streep

If anyone deserves to be called a modern-day Hollywood icon, it’s Meryl Streep. Don’t agree? Well, if proof is still needed, then you just need to know that the actress has earned an incredible nine Oscar nominations in the 21st century alone. And that’s still only scratching the surface of Streep’s long and storied career.

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But you may be shocked to hear that Streep struggled to climb the ladder to fame and fortune. At the age of 27, she auditioned for a King Kong remake – only to hear the film’s director calling her “ugly” in Italian. Yikes! It’s safe to say that Streep had the last laugh there.

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16. Helen Mirren

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren has forged a path not only for British actresses, but also for glamorous women of a certain age. She’s much admired even in her seventies, and part of that’s down to how she’s managed to weather the years with grace. But Mirren seems to have mixed feelings about being judged by her looks. In 2015, for instance, she told the Daily Mail that she had “a resistance to the word ‘beautiful.’”

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That seems reasonable when you consider how Mirren was described in her twenties. In 2017 the star told Allure, “I could see why they called me sexy in those days. I fell into the cliché of sexiness: blonde hair, waist, which I hated at the time because it was not fashionable… I just never fit into that look.” Now, though, she has a distinct look of her own.

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15. Michael Caine

Today, Michael Caine excels at playing British gentlemen of a certain vintage. And while that’s perhaps not too much of a stretch for the London-born star, you still have to give him credit. After all, he’s managed to parlay his Cockney charm into a nearly 60-year career on the big screen. Most recently, you may have seen him in big hits such as Inception and as Alfred in the Dark Knight movies.

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Way before Caine rose to fame in Zulu and The Italian Job, however, he was fighting in the Korean War. Yes, you read that correctly! His national service began in 1952, when he was 19, and lasted for two years. And even though Caine naturally went on to achieve great wealth and success after that, his memories of the conflict would stay with him for a very long time.

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14. Oprah Winfrey

Now, Oprah Winfrey commands a vast entertainment empire that has seen her bank balance grow to the tune of billions of dollars. Her power and influence even saw her earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. But this overwhelming success is all a far cry from Oprah’s early life, which the TV icon has claimed was filled with poverty and alleged abuse.

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Still, despite having experienced some awful things in her past, Oprah quickly rose in the entertainment business. At the age of just 19, she became the youngest ever news anchor in WTVF-TV’s history – not to mention the first African-American female to hold such a position at the station. And at the time she turned 30, she was already well on her way to becoming an inimitable chat show host.

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13. Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone’s star rose after his career-making turn in boxing drama Rocky – a movie that the up-and-coming actor actually penned himself. Now he’s a household name with three Oscar nominations on his résumé and appearances in high-profile movie series from The Expendables to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

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When Stallone was in his twenties, however, he probably never dared to imagine that such success would come his way. For years, he struggled to make it and slept rough when he simply didn’t have enough money for rent. The future star even appeared in an X-rated film for much-needed cash. It’s safe to say that the tables have turned!

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12. Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore can practically do it all – lighting up the screen in everything from gritty drama Still Alice to the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise. In 2015 she was even listed among the planet’s most influential people by Time magazine. Not bad for a former soap star, eh?

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But it wasn’t easy getting to that point. Like so many aspiring actors before her, Moore was a waitress following her time in college. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-twenties, in fact, that she began working in low-budget theater shows. Then she landed her big break with As the World Turns, and the rest is Hollywood history.

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11. Nicole Kidman

Australian-born actress Nicole Kidman has been a massive star for decades now. And in the years since she made her silver-screen debut – in the obscure Aussie flick Bush Christmas, no less – she’s risen to become one of the biggest-earning and most influential performers in Western cinema. Way back when, though, Kidman was of course the wife of Tom Cruise. She was only 23 when she tied the knot with the A-lister, in fact.

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The 23-year-old Kidman looked quite a bit different from the star we know today – and her life was more chaotic, too. Nonetheless, the actress has said in interviews that she doesn’t believe she made a mistake in marrying young. It certainly didn’t hinder her career, in any case.

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10. Hugh Jackman

While Hugh Jackman is now inextricably tied to his Marvel character Wolverine – a part he played for a whopping 17 years – he also hit it out of the park as The Greatest Showman’s P.T. Barnum. But things could have been very different. You see, when Jackman was a child growing up in Australia, he wanted most of all to be a traveling chef.

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During a 2006 interview with Oprah, Jackman also revealed, “It wasn’t until I was 22 that I ever thought about my hobby being something I could make a living out of… The idea at my school was that drama and music were to round out the man. It wasn’t what one did for a living. I got over that. I found the courage to stand up and say, ‘I want to do it.’” And it’s a good thing he did.

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9. Prince Philip

As the longest-living male royal ever in the U.K., Prince Philip has definitely seen and done a lot. By the time he stepped back from public life in 2017, in fact, he’d completed more than 22,000 formal commitments on his own. And shortly after his retirement, the Queen’s husband reached one more milestone: his platinum wedding anniversary. Quite a feat!

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Given when Philip was born, however, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s a WWII veteran. He joined the British Royal Navy while only in his late teens, rising to become one of the service’s youngest senior officers at just 21. Back then, he was also handsome enough to turn the head of a princess.

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8. Ricky Gervais

Unlike most of us, Ricky Gervais is actually okay with being described as “fat.” He’s even unafraid to poke fun at his own weight. In 2019 the star of Netflix’s After Life and the British version of The Office told The New York Times, “Before I could do [comedy], I had to learn to relate. Getting fat and old and ugly helped with that.”

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But Gervais was definitely svelte back in the ’80s. He even wore makeup! While attending University College London, the future television star and his pal Bill Macrae tried to make it in the world of new romantic pop with their band Seona Dancing. And thankfully for us all, the rather incredible pictures from this period have survived.

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7. Judi Dench

Thanks to her work on both stage and screen, Judi Dench was already a national treasure in her native England before joining the James Bond franchise. Then, once she was cast as M – a part that had never been portrayed by a woman before – in 1995’s GoldenEye, the whole world got to see what all the fuss was about. Dench continued to play that role right up until Skyfall in 2012.

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But Dench has actually been acting for longer than a lot of people realize. She was only 23 years old, too, when she first trod the boards in a 1957 production of Hamlet. At the time, the London Evening Standard damned Dench with faint praise, writing her talents “will be shown to better advantage when she acquires some technique to go with it.” It’s fair to say that she’s done that and more.

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6. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger moved from bodybuilding competitions to Hollywood casting calls after his star turn in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. And from there, the Austrian Oak hasn’t looked back. But what do you do once you’ve become one of the biggest movie stars in the world? Turn to politics, of course! Well, that’s what Schwarzenegger did, anyway, when he successfully ran for Governor of California in 2003.

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Way before he became the Governator, though, Arnie had an incredible seven Mr. Olympia titles under his bodybuilding belt. And although his accent and name were seen as obstacles to achieving a film career, he didn’t let that stop him. There’s a lesson in there for all of us…

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5. Queen Elizabeth II

You’d have to have lived under a rock for a very long time to not know Queen Elizabeth II. Since the British ruler was crowned in 1953, she’s been an ever-constant presence. And the monarch now holds all sorts of records for her longevity. For one, she can now boast of being the female leader with the longest term in office in the whole of recorded history. That’s a pretty good achievement for a woman who seemed unlikely to be queen when she was born.

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But Elizabeth didn’t actually get the crown on her head until she was well into her twenties. By then, she’d already done plenty with her life, including serving as a mechanic during WWII. And as soon as she turned 21, Princess Elizabeth – as she was at the time – made her devotion to the British people clear. In a radio address, she said, “I declare before you all that my whole life – whether it be long or short – shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

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4. Ian McKellen

Ask someone to picture Ian McKellen, and they’ll most likely imagine either Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings movies or Magneto from the X-Men franchise. But, of course, the beloved star has achieved far more in his career beyond those very popular roles. And even though he’s in his eighties now, he shows no sign of stopping.

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McKellen has been acting ever since he was a teenager, in fact, learning his craft during his time at Cambridge University. From there, it was practically inevitable that he would go on to success in London’s West End. And now, the veteran of stage and screen has more awards than he can possibly fit onto his mantel.

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3. Barack Obama

After Barack Obama concluded his second term as the President of the United States, the media noted how much he’d changed since first being elected. It hadn’t escaped the man himself, either. According to The Daily Telegraph, Obama wistfully remarked in 2015, “When I came into office, I had no gray hair. And now I have a lot.”

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But plenty of photographs exist of pre-presidency Obama, and they show a fresh-faced young man. What was the former POTUS doing in his early twenties? Well, as a student at Occidental College in LA, he was already making important speeches and becoming involved in politics. In that same period of his life, he also encountered Michelle Robinson, who in 2009 would become his First Lady.

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2. Ozzy Osbourne

Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne has had a wild life, to say the least. Even the so-called Prince of Darkness has admitted that he’s amazed he survived his years of raucous rock ‘n’ roll excess. But as they say, behind every great man, there’s a great woman. And in Ozzy’s case, it’s his long-suffering wife and manager Sharon.

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Back when Osbourne was in his early twenties, though, he looked remarkably ordinary. He even wore glasses! Then, as the ’70s rolled around, the singer first started experimenting with cocaine. This set him down a path that, for a while, he looked as if he’d never escape.

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1. Sean Connery

The late Sean Connery will of course forever be known as the first silver-screen James Bond. He built quite a legacy outside of the Bond franchise, mind you, with his starring roles in The Untouchables, Highlander and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade among many other hit movies. But enduring fame only came after a brush with the darker side of life.

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Over the course of his twenties, Connery performed on the stage and as an extra in movies. He also had a memorable run-in with gangsters. While working in Scotland as a young man, the fledgling actor squared up against a number of gang members and kicked considerable butt. The whupping was so thorough, in fact, that the other men subsequently gave Connery a wide berth. No wonder he later earned his license to kill.

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