Teen stars seem to have it all: looks, talent, success, and of course, tons of money. But behind all the red carpets and glitzy galas, being a famous young person isn't all fun and games. It's hard to claw your way to the top of the heap and land a lead role or killer song—and these young starlets know that's true more than anyone else on earth.
1. I-lish I Was A Teen Star
Billie Eilish might as well be known as the Teen Queen. When the whisper-tone singer broke out into the mainstream in 2019, she set so many records that you’d need an accountant to keep track of them all. But her most impressive achievement has to be that the 18-year-old singer is the first person born in the 2000s to win a Grammy…
2. A Style of Her Own
Eilish is known for a rather unique fashion style that incorporates bold colors and baggy clothing. On her sartorial choices, Eilish explained to Harper’s Bazaar, “I just like dressing out of my comfort zone. I want to dress in a way that if I was in a room full of people wearing regular clothes, I would be like, ‘Oh, I bet everyone's looking at me.’ I want to feel that way. That's my casual.”
However, in an ad campaign for Calvin Klein, Eilish revealed a darker reason for her bold outfits. She said that baggy clothing helped shield her from body shaming and being sexualized as a young woman in the music industry. Well played, Billie. We wish things were different, but at least she's thinking about how to navigate the system as it is.
3. No Time to Age
There is a very exclusive club amongst musicians—and no, I’m not referring to the 27 Club. This club is all about Bond, James Bond. The list of artists who have had the privilege of performing James Bond title themes consists of industry legends…and an upstart teenager. When Billie Eilish composed and performed “No Time to Die” she became the youngest person to ever have a Bond song.
Don’t mess with Kiernan Shipka. When she isn’t casting spells on the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, she’s breaking bricks with her bare hands. In case you didn’t know, Shipka is a black belt in taekwondo. She’s yet to apply her bad guy busting skills on film but there are more female led action movies getting made by the day.
She could be kicking her way into a theatre near you…or just punching down your door.
5. Super Syndrome
Not all stars get their shine in Hollywood. Take Greta Thunberg, for example. The young Swede rose to prominence for her environmental activism. Thunberg has been outspoken about her struggles with mental health including Asperger’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and selective mutism. Where most people twice her age would consider those to be character flaw, Thunberg refers to Asperger’s as her “superpower”.
6. It 1 and It 2
The 2017 franchise revival film It was a who’s who of young Hollywood. The young—and very, very talented—Sophia Lillis got her big break in the clown horror flick. But if the filming ever got too scary for her, she could have just called in her twin to take over. Not actually. Lillis has a fraternal twin brother—the director may have noticed his actor looked a little different.
7. Boss Baby
Most film producers are industry veterans with decades of experience in front of and, likely, behind the camera. They are the titans, determining which films will light up screens and which ones won’t. They might also happen to be a teenager—as is the case with Marsai Martin. The teen rose to fame in the ABC series Black-ish but already has an executive producer credit to her name for the film Little.
Even crazier? She was just 15 when it came out.
8. Mother Dearest
Millie Bobby Brown is a bona fide teen star. She has a starring role in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things and boasts guest appearances in NCIS, Modern Family, and Grey’s Anatomy. One thing that she can’t put on her resume, though? Wardrobe. Brown’s mother selects her clothes for her to ensure that they are age-appropriate. At least Mama Brown’s got style.
9. Puppy Love
In December 2017, Brown revealed on Instagram that she was dating her friend and pop star, Jacob Sartorius. Their relationship lasted just seven months (which is pretty long by middle-schooler standards) until some dicey rumors tore the couple apart. Apparently, Sartorius cheated on Brown. Even after that, they reconciled and later became friends.
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10. The Nugget of My Eye
The Noah Cyrus and Lil Xan love affair would require a map, a compass and a seeing eyeglass to properly navigate. But Lil Xan did manage to find the key to Noah Cyrus’ heart: chicken nuggets. In a red-carpet interview with Billboard, Cyrus attributed her love for the rapper to the fact that he would get her chicken nuggets when she was hungry.
11. I Saw Your Ad On…
Craigslist is the infamous classified advertisements website where one can find all sorts of seedy and unsavory posts…and a career in Hollywood. Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things and It fame got his first acting gig on Craigslist. Before you go diving into the endless ads on that site, know that Wolfhard had his parents’ supervision. Thank goodness!
12. Double Trouble
Do you remember the foul-mouthed mutant kid from Deadpool 2? And do you remember what a handful he was for Deadpool? Imagine that…times two. Julian Dennison, the lovable Kiwi who portrayed Firefist in Deadpool 2, is a twin. Does that make them Firefists? Firefirst-i? Who knows? All of this twin talk has me seeing double…
13. It Girl
Emma Chamberlain is YouTube's resident Cool Girl. Her hilarious, self-deprecating videos netted her millions of viewers and fans, but behind the scenes, she's struggled with real darkness. In a Cosmopolitan interview, Chamberlain revealed that she has "struggled" with "eating issues" for her whole life and became so thin that her family became concerned.
She went on to describe the pressure of social media as "a bloodbath" and vowed to refuse Photoshopped images of herself.
14. Taking One for the Team
Gaten Matarazzo is best known for playing Dustin Henderson in the Netflix series Stranger Things. His character is known as the peacemaker in the series and it seems like that holds true in real life. In an episode of Truth or Dab on YouTube, Matarazzo chose to eat a wing so spicy it's called a “death wing” instead of offing one of his fellow co-stars’ characters. What a guy.
15. Stranger Interviews
But Gaten hasn't always gotten good press. When the young star announced that he was going to be involved in a cruel reality TV show, the internet backlash was fast and furious. The premise of Matarazzo's show involved pranking people who were looking for work. They'd come in for an interview, only to be subjected to baffling bosses and strange requests. Matarazzo clarified that the show was all in good fun and the participants wouldn't be hurt. Time will tell!
16. Keen on Keen
The search for talent can be exhausting—not everyone is a teen star. While casting for Logan, the film creators were looking for someone with just the right skill set. Out of over 500 child actors considered, including Millie Bobby Brown, it was the Spanish-born Dafne Keen who snagged the role. After watching a tape of her acrobatic skills, casting director Priscilla John said, “People are going to fall in love with her.” They certainly did.
17. Sting of Destiny
Dafne Keen of Logan and His Dark Materials fame wasn’t sure that she would get the role of Lyra Belacqua in the massive BBC production. She had only read half of the book that the show was based on by the time of her first audition. When casting asked for another tape she was in a bad spot. Keen had been on vacation in Puerto Rico and had been stung by a jellyfish, causing her face to swell.
18. Last Call
Auli’i Cravalho is best known as the voice of Moana in Moana. But did you know that the teen star nearly never came to the world’s attention? According to casting director, Rachel W. Sutton, out of the hundreds of women auditioned for the role of Moana, Cravalho was the very last one. Talk about saving the best for last.
19. I’m Every Woman
Getting equal representation in film and television is hard work. It requires balancing the artistic needs of the production with the budget while hunting for diverse talent. But what if you could have a diverse cast…in one actor. Teen star Auli’i Cravalho of Moana fame is part Chinese, Native Hawaiian, Irish, Portuguese and Puerto Rican. That’s like…genetic calculus or something.
20. Big Sister, Bigger Shadow
Noah Cyrus comes from a very famous family. She’s been outspoken about forging her own identity separate from that of her big sister, Miley Cyrus—though, it’s been a long time in her shadow. One of Noah Cyrus’ first acting credits was as a lowly background dancer in her sister's flick Hannah Montana: The Movie. She’s come a long way since then.
21. Hidden Heritage
What do Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho and Jaeden Martell have in common? On the surface of it, nothing at all. One is an established auteur and the other is a budding teen star. But take a deeper look—as in, into Martell’s heritage—and the similarity is glaringly obvious. Martell is part Korean! The It and It Chapter Two star’s maternal grandmother was from Korea. Now he just needs that Oscar.
22. Do Not Disturb…Or Do, Whatever
Teen stars do quite a bit of traveling which means staying in hotels. You’d think they’d be travel experts…not so much. Storm Reid was on location in South Africa for An American Girl: Lea to the Rescue when she had some…unexpected guests. After leaving the patio door of her hotel room ajar, Reid returned to find the room had been trashed by monkeys. No monkey business.
23. High School, Higher Standards
Elsie Fisher is the teen star of the critically acclaimed Sundance film, Eighth Grade. With reviews from top film critics for her performance that included words like “authentic” and “radiant,” you’d think that Fisher could get any role she wanted. Well, you'd be wrong. The starlet was turned down for a role in her school play. But that's nothing compared to her other high school drama...
24. Hollywood Heroine, High School Zero
Apparently, fame isn’t the same thing as popularity. Just ask the star of Eighth Grade, Elsie Fisher. On a school trip to Washington D.C., Fisher reportedly had a hard time with three of her bunkmates who were just awful to her. Maybe they were just jealous of Fisher’s red carpet looks, starring roles and adoring fans? We’ll never know because unlike Fisher, they’re not famous.
25. Ring Around the Wormie?
Jack Dylan Grazer has evaded some pretty evil dudes in his on-screen career. He and his besties bested Pennywise in It and he was right there with Billie Batson to beat Dr. Thaddeus Sivana in Shazam!. But in an interview on Camp Confessions, Grazer confessed to losing one fight—with ringworm. Apparently, the teen star contracted ringworm after petting a wildcat in Belize.
Getting a starring role in a major motion picture is like winning the lottery. Roman Griffin Davis—star of the hilarious Taika Waititi film Jojo Rabbit—knows all about those long odds. By the time the teen star was cast as Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, Waititi and his casting team had already gone through over 1,000 audition tapes.
27. Potty Mouth
Teen stars seem to get away with a lot. The same rules that apply to regular teenagers just don’t apply to them. Roman Griffin Davis, for example, wasn’t just allowed to but was encouraged to swear like a trucker on the set of Jojo Rabbit. Director Taika Waititi had the young star do multiple takes of a scene where he got use the “F” word. It was his favorite scene to film.
A film set can be a dangerous place. To deal with these dangers, most actors require stunt doubles who are trained professionals in averting disaster and injury. Teen star Oakes Fegley, however, asked for no such stand-in. On the set of Pete’s Dragon, Fegley and co-star Oona Laurence performed their own stunts. Their parents likely held their breath.
Finding love as a teen star can be difficult…unless you double your odds. Take Willow Smith—the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett—for example. In 2019, the young fashionista, actress, model and singer came out as bisexual. In an episode of Red Table Talk, the fresh princess of Bel Air said, “I love men and women equally…” What she said next was even more “woke.”
30. Poly Want a Boyfriend…and Girlfriend?
Willow Smith—the “Whip My Hair” singer and daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett—has a lot of love to share around. So much so, in fact, that the little Smith stated that she could be in a “polyfidelitous” relationship with one man and one woman. She was less enthusiastic about monogamy, stating, “Monogamy, I feel, actually inhibits you from learning those skills of evolving past those feelings of insecurity and jealousy."
31. A Place for Everything
The room of a young actor probably looks like any other teenager’s room. Dirty clothes litter the floor, maybe some dirty dishes lying around and a Critics’ Choice Award next to a Millennium Falcon. Ok, that last detail is specific to Canadian teen star Jacob Tremblay who won the award for his role in Room. If his early success is any indicator of things to come, he’d better make more “room” on that shelf for awards.
32. Baby Back, Baby Back, Baby Back Ribs
Casting directors always look for actors with that little extra something. Willow Shields is the teen star who brought that little extra to the character of Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games film franchise. What exactly was her added oomph? Some spare ribs. In May of 2015, Shields tweeted out an x-ray of her ribs showing two spare ones.
33. Silent Film Star
Millicent Simmonds rose to prominence after starring in A Quiet Place alongside industry heavyweights Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. While the silence in the film was used to eerie effect, Simmonds was accustomed to it. The starlet has been deaf most of her life. A medication overdose before she was even a year old left her hearing impaired.
34. What’s My Line?
According to RuPaul and his cabal of drag queen superstars, “Reading is what? Fundamental.” That is…unless you are Elsie Fisher. Before starring in Eighth Grade, Fisher was the voice of the absolutely adorable Agnes in Despicable Me. One small hitch—the teen-star-to-be couldn’t read. Her lines were read out to her and she would just repeat them. Knowing this just makes Agnes even cuter now.
35. You’re Gonna Remember My Name
Cameron Boyce from the Descendants and Grown Ups movies was on track to be a major Hollywood actor. With his warm smile and big brown eyes, he had the world at his feet. Tragically, when he was just 20 years old, Boyce shocked the world by passing away. He perished in his sleep due to epilepsy, which he had struggled with long-term.
36. The Name Game
Maddie Ziegler is best known to fans for featuring in Sia’s music videos for “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart.” Since then she’s branched out into acting and modeling. No matter how many credits she gets, however, she’ll always have more nicknames than anything else. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Ziegler admitted to having the nicknames: Maddie “Moo-Moo,” Maddie Girl, and Mad Dog.
Anyone want to start “Mad Money Maddie”?
37. Call Me
Asher Angel—what an angel. For his birthday, the teen star of Shazam! really just wanted to be closer to his fans. But with agents, producers, publicists and mom and dad standing between him and his adoring angels, what was he to do? Tweet out his phone number. Seriously. Angel tweeted out his number on his 17th birthday so that his fans could send their well wishes.
But there’s one fellow teen star who probably already had his number on speed dial…
38. It’s Just Science
The internet sensation Annie LeBlanc met fellow teen star, Asher Angel, on the set of his music video for the single “Chemistry.” You could say that they took the song's title to the next level. The teenage super-couple started dating after shooting the steamy vid.
39. Some Don’t Like It Hot
Caleb McLaughlin rose to stardom as Lucas Sinclair in the Netflix series Stranger Things. But while the teen star’s career continues to heat up…McLaughlin will steer clear of the heat. While making the publicity rounds for the third season of Stranger Things, McLaughlin admitted that he doesn’t like spicy foods. Makes sense, he’s as cool as a cucumber.
40. Sheep & Schnapps
Teen stars are just like any other teen—plus some fame. They like social media and would be lost without Wi-Fi. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, Noah Schnapp of Stranger Things shared his internet-less experience on the set of Waiting for Anya. What did the star do without his Tik Tok, Instagram and Snapchat? To pass the time, he made new friends…with sheep.
I doubt this is what his parents meant by playing outdoors.
41. License and Registration, Please
Method acting is the strategy normally employed by the older, serious thespians in pursuit of Oscar glory. But who’s to say a teen star can’t get all method up in here? That’s what Levi Miller—of Pan and Wrinkle in Time fame—must have been thinking when he was on the set of Red Dog: True Blue. The teen star learned to ride a motorcycle just for the film…and maybe some joy rides.
42. Star Meets Star
Even the stars get starstruck. For teen stars, meeting their idols is a major perk just like awards shows, red carpets and photo shoots. Take Eris Baker, for example. The This Is Us star gushed about meeting one of her idols in a BuzzFeed News interview. So, just who was the starlet so excited to meet? None other than the Oscar-winning Halle Berry.
43. Theater Nerd
When you’re a teen star, your options are really limitless. You can get starring roles in major motion pictures, hit the catwalk or…run for president? Asante Blackk, of When They See Us and This Is Us fame, was the president of his school’s theater club. With his acting credentials, I imagine he ran unopposed.
44. Stay in School, Kids
Ella Jay Basco grabbed headlines when she starred alongside Margot Robbie in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. It can be so easy to get swept up in the tide of fame but in an interview with A Book of Us, Basco stressed the importance of education. Her exact words, “[…] I don’t know what I would do without an education…” Maybe star in another blockbuster? Or…
45. A Bird in the Hand
To prepare for her role in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, Ella Jay Basco had to do some training. In case she ever drops of out school and this whole acting thing doesn’t work out; she has a backup career ready to go. In an episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show, Basco stated that she actually learned how to pickpocket for the film. Hold your wallets close.
46. Triple Threat
Ella Jay Basco is just chock-full of talents. When she isn’t studying super hard, on the set of a major motion picture or pickpocketing unwitting strangers you can find her playing the piano…or the guitar…or the ukulele. Basco’s musical talents also include a beautiful singing voice. This teen star really can do it all.
47. She Can’t Hear Us Out
Here's another lesser-known fact about Millie Bobby Brown. The young actress was born with partial hearing loss in one of her ears. As she grew up, she continued to lose hearing in that ear until she became completely deaf on that side.
48. Name Change
In the first It movie, young Bill Denbrough was played by Jaeden Lieberher. But by the time It: Chapter Two was released in 2019, the young actor had changed his name to Jaeden Martell, choosing to move away from his dad's last name and embrace his mom's. To this day, Martell hasn't addressed the reasons behind his mysterious name change, though we do know that his parents are no longer together.
49. Behind the Scenes Sadness
Willow Smith is no stranger to some of the worst aspects of being young and famous. In another episode of Red Table Talk, the teen star made a jaw-dropping, tear-inducing revelation. Smith opened up about her practice of self-harm after her meteoric rise to fame. The star confessed to cutting herself and stated, “I feel like I lost my sanity at one point.”
50. Taste the Rainbow
Have you ever wondered what purple tastes like? Or maybe how C-flat feels? What about the smell magenta? Ask Billie Eilish. The teen singing sensation has synesthesia—a condition in which one type of sensory stimulation triggers another sensory experience. According to Eilish, her brother and long-time collaborator Finneas, also has synesthesia.
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