We often look at celebrities and wonder how they’re so beautiful. Even without editing and photoshopping, they seem to have the perfect everything: cheekbones, jawlines, bust size, abs, height, and luscious tresses. So it’s probably going to come as a total shock to hear that a lot of the stars that we find so beautiful were actually told to change their looks in order to succeed.
It’s crazy to think that there are people out there who thought that the leading actresses of today were too plain, models who grace the Victoria’s Secret runway weren’t thin enough, and musicians who embody sureness and self-acceptance were too unattractive to have their art and work appreciated. But the following stars aren’t making it up—they really were told they weren’t good-looking enough to succeed in their careers.
These stories are sad in one way—they confirm that just about every woman out there will be shamed for the way she looks at some point. In another way, though, they’re a source of inspiration; they remind us that sometimes, even the experts get it wrong and the opinions of others only count if you let them.
15 Gigi Hadid: Too Big For VS
We know—it sounds insane that anybody would even think to criticize the looks of supermodel Gigi Hadid. But believe it or not, Hadid has been rejected more than once because of her looks, and from the one show she wanted to be part of most: Victoria’s Secret. After auditioning for the gig twice and getting turned down, Hadid finally landed a spot in the famous show on her third audition. In those early days when she was trying to make it as a model, she was told by various agencies in New York City that she was too big to be a mainstream model, and she needed to lose a lot of weight.
In an attempt to help her young fans get over criticism, Hadid shared an Instagram post addressing the comments and advice she’d received from agents. “Yes I have boobs, I have abs, I have a butt, I have thighs, but I’m not asking for special treatment… If you don't like it, don't follow me, don't watch me, cause I'm not going anywhere.”
14 Sarah Jessica Parker: Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard
She played one of the most iconic TV characters of all time, but Sarah Jessica Parker knows all too well the feeling of being told that she’s unattractive. A lot of the time, aspiring musicians and actors hear that they’re not pretty enough on their way up, but the criticism calms down after they’ve established themselves. For SJP, the nasty comments have continued throughout her entire career.
In 2007, three years after she wrapped up her role as Carrie Bradshaw for the last time, Maxim published a gross list of “Unsexiest Women Alive” and placed the actress at number one. SJP continued to star in movies (and make so much more money than anybody involved in that list could dream of), but the comments did understandably upset her. “Do I fit some ideals and standards of some men writing in a men's magazine? Maybe not. Am I really the unsexiest women in the world? Wow! It's insane.”
13 Kesha: Consequences of Pressure
A lot of the time, the people who tell aspiring artists that they don’t look good enough to succeed aren’t even haters, but are those closest to them who genuinely believe that such comments will help their careers. In such cases, success and public appeal is higher on the priority list than happiness and well-being, but the agents and managers who tell their clients to lose weight and get facial work done think they’re doing the right thing.
Pop star Kesha rose to fame when she was just a teenager, and her manager at the time, David Sonenberg, was constantly picking at her solid build and pressuring her to lose weight. He might have thought he was helping her career, but Kesha’s fans loved her because of her music, not her waistline. All his comments did was push Kesha toward bulimia, which she thankfully beat with the help of her family and fans.
12 Meryl Streep: The Last Laugh
Legendary actress Meryl Streep is one of the most famous cases of an A-list star being told that she wasn’t pretty enough for a part. Before she was the icon that she is today, Streep auditioned for a role in King Kong in 1976. She met the film’s producer, Dino de Laurentiis, after getting to know his son. But when de Laurentiis saw her, he didn’t think she was attractive enough for the part, and told his son so in Italian. Not sugarcoating his feelings, he bluntly said, “Why did you bring me this ugly thing?”
Like the queen that she is, Streep responded back in fluent Italian, “I’m sorry I’m not beautiful enough to be in King Kong.” How we wish we were there to see the look on his face! Somebody thought the actress was pretty enough, though, because she’s gone on to have one of the most successful careers in Hollywood.
11 Pink: Confidence Over Beauty Standards
Pink has been a long time advocate for powerful, confident women, and constantly reminds her young fans that women are worth more than how they look. One of the factors that led to this strong and admirable attitude was a lifetime of people telling her that she was never going to grace the front cover of magazines like other pop stars, because she wasn’t pretty. We happen to think Pink is beautiful, but in the end, it was her talent and voice that shut up all those people who tried to shut her down.
Today, Pink is sharing her wisdom about real beauty with her young daughter who told her that she’s “the ugliest girl” she knows. “We don’t change,” she told her daughter. “We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.” Now, there’s something to frame and hang above your bed!
10 Reese Witherspoon: Too Stubborn to Care
When she first arrived in Hollywood, Reese Witherspoon was met with hateful comments from all directions. Among other things, she was told that she wasn’t pretty, tall or smart enough to make it as an actress. But impressively, she didn’t care about their opinions because she had her heart set on being an actress.
“You have to be focused and tough because it takes a tenacious personality to deal with rejection,” she advised. “When I first came [to LA], all I heard was, ‘No, not right—not tall enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough.’ But I didn’t really care about their opinions. I’m stubborn.” Despite not being able to change her brain or height, Witherspoon proved them wrong and became one of Hollywood’s favorite leading ladies. She’s still not tall, but she is an Academy Award and Golden Globe winner…we know which one we’d rather be!
9 Kate Winslet: The Wrong-Sized Feet
Having started acting at a young age, Kate Winslet was used to the sort of criticism floating around the industry by the time she was a teenager. Today, we see the actress as one of the most elegant and talented stars in the business, but back when she was still trying to get her foot in the door, she was fed some harsh comments—mainly that she wasn’t skinny enough, but also that her feet weren’t the right size. And no, that last one is not a joke!
Even though hearing those things about yourself must be tough, and could possibly make you want to hide under your bed and cry, Winslet chose to move on quickly from those who rejected her and focus on other jobs, until she landed one that we all remember. Starring in Titanic showed Winslet that persistence will pay off, and when she visited her old acting theatre, she told the young aspiring actors just that: “Anything is possible.”
8 Winona Ryder: “Go Back to School.”
Some mean comments are disguised as compliments to try and ease the blow, but in an industry as brutal as Hollywood, a lot of the time, folks are a lot blunter than that. Winona Ryder revealed that though she’s now a household name, back in her teens, she was told that would never happen because of the way she looked.
During one audition, she wasn’t even finished reading yet when a casting director cut her off. “Listen, kid. You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to where you came from and you should go to school. You don't have it.” Those (incorrect) words seem like they’d devastate any teenager, but Ryder maintains that she brushed it off. “…I wasn't crushed,” she told Interview magazine. They [her parents] had always instilled in me that it was way cooler to be an individual and to be unique and that you don't want to blend in.”
7 Viola Davis: Knowing Your Own Beauty
Actress Viola Davis was recently on the receiving end of a harsh comment that was masked as a compliment, but that doesn’t make it any less offensive (or silly, for that matter). In an article published in the New York Times, Davis was labelled as “less classically beautiful” than Kerry Washington while she was being praised for her acting ability.
Thankfully, many fans and other celebrities could see the comment for what it was, and called out the newspaper for the article. Davis herself addressed the issue on The View: “Being a dark-skinned Black woman, you heard it from the womb. And ‘classically not beautiful’ is a fancy term for saying ugly. And denouncing you. And erasing you.” Davis didn’t let the opinion drag her down, though, receiving support from users on Twitter who used the hashtag #lessclassicallybeautiful to defend Davis’ natural beauty, which encompasses her “big lips, big hair” and “high cheekbones” and is something to be proud of.
6 Chrissy Teigen: A Grudge
Model Chrissy Teigen is one of the most popular faces in pop culture right now, and envied all over the world for her striking looks. But Teigen has revealed that not everybody thought so highly of her appearance in the early days of her career. One of her first gigs was with Forever 21, and after posing for a shoot, the company sent her photo to her agent (and not to tell them that they were happy with her work!).
“[My agency] calls me as I’m sitting in the makeup chair, and they say, ‘You need to leave right now. They just said that you are fat and you need to come get your measurements taken,’” Teigen revealed. She recognizes how unfair it was for Forever 21 to treat her like that, and definitely isn’t their BFFE today. “And I hate you, Forever 21,” she admitted. “I hate you so much. Honestly, you’re the worst.”
5 Jennifer Lawrence: Not Starving
J-Law is yet another megastar who was told that she needed to lose weight to be successful, and her story is another one that makes us question humanity. For her, the brunt of the criticism came after she had already starred in a major movie: The Hunger Games, where she played hero Katniss Everdeen. In 2012, the actress was the target of much hate due to her “lingering baby fat” which was supposedly completely unacceptable.
The media labelled Lawrence many things after the film came out, including “well-fed” and “womanly” and even too “big-boned” to make the role seem believable. The actress told Elle that she was never going to resort to hurting her body for a part. Yes, Katniss came from a background of poverty and starvation, but were the critics hoping that a real-life starvation or anorexia survivor was cast in the role instead? Probably.
4 Mindy Kaling: Not Pretty Enough to Play Herself
Before she was successful, Mindy Kaling had such a hard time in Hollywood for the way she looked that she couldn’t even get cast as herself! At one point, a network offered her the opportunity to write a sketch show about her own life. Once she presented it to them, they actually made her audition for the role of Mindy Kaling because they weren’t sure about her look. As if that weren’t shocking enough, they eventually decided that she wasn’t right for the part because she wasn’t funny or beautiful enough. What a face-palm moment!
As it turns out, Kaling didn’t need to do that show anyway. She ended up playing Kelly Kapoor on The Office, which brought her international fame. After that, she starred as Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project, which she created, wrote, and produced. Take that, unnamed network!
3 Lea Michele: Only 15
Actress Lea Michele of Glee fame is another star bizarrely told that she wasn’t pretty enough for the industry. Back when she was only 15, she was told to get work done if she wanted representation. Luckily, she decided against playing with her face, and went on to land A-list projects with her own natural beauty, as well as her undeniable talent.
She told Allure about the experience in 2011: “When I was 15, my mother and I went to meet a manager who said, ‘You have to get a nose job in order for me to work with you.’ My mother would say to me, ‘Barbra Streisand never got a nose job. You’re not getting a nose job.’ And this was before I really even knew who Barbra was. I just knew that she was, like, the messiah for girls like me.” Today, thousands of fans adore Michele just the way she is, so we bet that agent is rethinking their life choices.
2 Gwyneth Paltrow: Too Plain Jane
One star who seems to get a lot of hate from the general public is Gwyneth Paltrow. Not only does she get condemned for creating websites and going on diets, but she’s also landed in hot water just for the way she looks. Even though she was crowned the Most Beautiful Woman Alive by People in 2013, she was torn down after starring as Audrey Hepburn in an ad campaign for Max Factor. According to critics, she wasn’t pretty enough to follow in the footsteps of the Hollywood icon.
Things were tough in early auditions for Paltrow too. When she read for a role in Golden Gate, she was told no solely because they thought she looked “too plain” for the part. The actress takes all the comments with a grain of salt, and continues to live out her life in the public eye, in spite of the mean things people say.
1 Nia Vardalos: Not Blonde or Blue-Eyed
If you love My Big Fat Greek Wedding, chances are you love Nia Vardalos, who played Toula. But before she brought the 30-something-year-old singleton to life, she was told by her agent that she had no chance in Hollywood. “You are not fat enough to be a character actress,” her agent said, “and you’re not pretty enough to be a leading lady. Plus, there are no Greek roles. So I can no longer represent you.”
The agent may have been correct about one thing: the lack of Greek roles. But rather than getting work done to make herself seem non-Greek, Vardalos created her own very Greek role by writing My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The film, which contains messages of loving and accepting who you are rather than trying to fit in with the rest of society, has gone on to be legendary, and brought Vardalos much respect and admiration from the industry.
Sources: diply.com, www.etonline.com, stylecaster.com, www.telegraph.co.uk