Hollywood is a place filled with opportunities for people from all walks of life. While some might have gotten a start from their famous parents, some have taken a chance by auditioning in the hopes of being recognized by casting directors or executive producers.
Others, however, chose to start their careers in reality television, whether it be a singing competition such as American Idol or a modeling competition series like America’s Next Top Model. Some reality stars who have turned into actors include Emma Stone, Jennifer Hudson, and Lucy Hale.
Jamie Chung started her career in reality television as one of the contestants on the MTV reality series, The Real World: San Diego, where strangers live together in a different city each season. She also starred in The Real World: San Diego’s spin-off show, called Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno II. She is often regarded as the show’s most successful contestant in terms of acting.
Chung began her acting career in 2007 with minor roles such as starring in ten episodes of Days of Our Lives, where she played the role of Cordy Han. She also starred in a few episodes of CSI: NY and Veronica Mars. In 2009, Chung had supporting roles in the feature films Sorority Row and Dragonball Evolution as Goku’s love interest, Chi-Chi. She gained her first major feature film role in David Koepp’s Premium Rush in 2012. Later on, she played a recurring role as Mulan in Once Upon a Timeand a younger version of Fan Bingbing in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Her latest role was playing a recurring character, Ji-Ah, a nurse who falls in love with a U.S. soldier (Jonathan Majors, the male lead) during the Korean War in the HBO series Lovecraft Country.
Believe it or not, the Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone started her career in a TV movie called The New Partridge Family, where she played the role of one of the daughters, Laurie Partridge. A few years later, she landed roles in a few comedy films such as Superbad, Zombieland, and Easy A, where she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. This recognition helped her land roles in the films such as Crazy Stupid Love, co-starring Ryan Gosling, and The Help, co-starring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Later on, she acquired the role of Gwen Stacy for The Amazing Spider-Man and its following sequel.
She played a recovering drug addict in the best picture film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), in which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Two years later, in 2016, in her third film collaboration with Ryan Gosling, she played the main lead of Mia Dolan in La La Land, earning her yet another Academy Award for Best Actress. After her Oscar win, she played more notable roles such as Abigail Masham in The Favourite, Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes, and Cruella de Vil in Cruella.
Julianne Hough started her career in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars as a professional dancer, where she won two seasons. She left the show in 2009 but returned as a judge from 2014 to 2017. She received three Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Choreography and won one alongside her brother Derek Hough.
Although she made her acting debut in 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, her first significant role was in the film Burlesque, which starred Christina Aguilera and Cher. After Burlesque, Hough played the leading roles of Ariel in the 2011 remake of Footloose, Sherrie in Rock of Ages, and Katie in Safe Haven.
Jennifer Hudson made her television debut as a finalist on the third season of American Idol, where she placed seventh. Despite not winning the singing competition, she was cast as one of the leading roles in the film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls, co-starring with Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Beyoncé Knowles. Her role in Dreamgirls earned her an Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress.
Her breakthrough performance as Effie White in Dreamgirls became the kickstart of her acting career. She starred in many more major films, including Sex and the City, where she played Carrie Bradshaw’s assistant, The Secret Life of Bees, The Three Stooges, Empire (TV series), and the television special of the musical Hairspray Live!, to name a few. There are less than 100 people who have been nominated for EGOT, an acronym for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards, referring to people who have been nominated for all four major entertainment awards. According to PageSix, “Hudson would be only the second Black woman and the third Black person in general to earn EGOT status following Whoopi Goldberg and John Legend, respectively.”
Many might recognize Analeigh Tipton from the 11th cycle of the hit reality series America’s Next Top Model. Her CoverGirl commercial on the series impacted Tyra Banks so much that Banks deemed it “the best CoverGirl commercial in the history of America’s Next Top Model.” She was, however, eliminated and placed third in the series.
Tipton appeared as a guest star on an episode of The Big Bang Theory alongside her co-reality star Samantha Potter. She made her film debut in The Green Hornet in 2011 and later played a babysitter in the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. She got more supporting roles in the zombie-apocalyptic horror romance Warm Bodiesand the science fiction film, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. Tipton earned her first lead role co-starring with Whiplash’s Miles Teller in the romantic-comedy movie Two Night Stand.
Lucy Hale started young in the entertainment industry when she made her television debut in Fox’s reality singing competition American Juniors. She finished in fourth place and formed a group of the same name with the top five contestants from the competition. However, the group disbanded just two years after its formation due to a lack of sales in their studio album.
Her first acting debut was a minor role on Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh and guest roles in The O.C., Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, and How I Met Your Mother. She made her big-screen debut in The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants 2 in 2008, which starredAmerica Ferrera and Blake Lively. Two years later, she would be cast in one of the leading roles of the teen-mystery drama series Pretty Little Liars, playing the role of Aria Montgomery. The series received critical acclaim, and Hale received many awards and nominations from award associations such as Teen Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards, and Young Hollywood Awards.
Heather Morris is first and foremost a professional dancer, and that was what she started her career in. Morris appeared in the second season of So You Think You Can Dance in 2006. She did, however, fail to make the final 20. A year later, she had a breakthrough and was dancing for Beyoncé. She continued as one of the backup dancers on The Beyoncé Experience world tour and danced for a few performances on American Music Awards, Saturday Night Live, The Ellen Degeneres Show, and Today. She was also one of the backup dancers for Beyoncé and Tina Turner at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008.
Morris was pursuing an acting career when she taught the Glee cast members the choreography for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” At the same time, Gleewas looking for a third cheerleader, which made her an ideal candidate for the role of Brittany Pierce. She became a series regular as Brittany Pierce by the second season of the series due to positive responses to her character.
Like Jennifer Hudson, Katherine McPhee got her entertainment start by being a former contestant on the fifth season of American Idol. She became the runner-up after she lost the winning title to Taylor Hicks. McPhee released her debut self-titled album in 2007, which made it number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.
Her first acting experience was as a guest star in the web series called lonelygirl15 on YouTube, and not long after made a cameo appearance as herself on Ugly Betty. By 2008, she played the role of one of the sorority members, Harmony, on The House Bunny, with Anna Faris as the leading role. In 2010, she guest-starred in a Community episode called “Basic Genealogy.” Eventually, in 2012, she made a breakthrough by obtaining a leading role, Karen Cartwright, in the musical drama series Smash. Smash was nominated for and won many awards from Primetime Emmy Awards and Critics’ Choice Television Awards.
Before starring as an original cast member of the reality series The Real Housewives of Atlanta, NeNe Leakes had previously had a minor role in an episode of The Parkers. However, The Real Housewives of Atlanta gave her a start in her entertainment career. She stayed as a cast member for the first seven seasons and had a break until her return on the tenth season.
After leaving reality television, she became a series regular playing a secretary on Ryan Murphy’s (also creator of Glee) The New Normal. She later played the recurring role of a synchronized swim coach, Roz Washington, on the Fox musical drama Glee. Her latest filming credits are in the television films as Mrs. Silas in How High 2 and Glo in Ride or Die.
Like Analeigh Tipton, YaYa DaCosta also competed as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. She became the runner-up of the third cycle after losing to Eva Pigford. After finishing second on America’s Next Top Model, DaCosta had a successful career in acting. She played a supporting role in the dance film Take the Lead, which starred Antonio Banderas in 2006, and the musical drama film Honeydripper, which starred Danny Glover.
She became one of the regular cast members on the soap opera All My Children as Cassandra Foster and a year later had a recurring role in the fourth season of Ugly Betty. Her breakthrough role didn’t come until later in 2015, when she became a series regular for six seasons as April Sexton on Chicago Med. She was also a crossover cast member on Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. Her latest television work is on the series Our Kind of People, where she played the leading role of Angela Vaughn.
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