Everyone grows up, including child prodigies. And as they grow up, prodigies either continue the path they’ve taken in their earlier years, or go for a new one. Among these prodigies, those who pursue acting are the likeliest to have a change in direction, as show business is an ever-fickle thing. After all, there’s no guarantee that a child actor or actress would be just as good at acting as an adult. Plus, there’s also the fact that while talent plays a big role in stardom, popularity and charm are just as important.
Talent and charm in mind, it’s no surprise that the child actresses on this list, or at least almost all of them, have managed to be just as popular now as they were in their early years. They’ve got the skill, dedication and appeal to stay relevant. They also made the right choices in their roles—something a lot of aspiring and budding actresses seem to make a lot of mistakes in. Last but definitely not the least, these once little lasses are now beautiful belles, so it’s no surprise that they managed to stay in the limelight. They’ll do so for a long, long time, and will hopefully be A-listers one day.
15. They Ariel Winter
Ariel Winter, known for her role as Alex Dunphy in Modern Family, is nothing like the character she plays in real life. She’s a lot more confident with her beauty and her body, as she’s not afraid to show off her voluptuous curves. And other than being one of those actresses that redefine the meaning of sexiness, she also has a long voice acting career despite being only 19-years-old. She’s Candace’s best friend Gretchen in Phineas and Ferb, young Kairi in Kingdom Hearts and even the titular character in Sofia the First, just to name a few. Who knew that the voice behind that charming and insightful little lady is such a bombshell in looks and in talent? Oh Sofia, you better grow up like Ariel.
14. Bella Thorne
At the age of 11, Bella Thorne was already playing a recurring role in Dirty Sexy Money, and as one of the central characters in My Own Worst Enemy—two series that are definitely not for children. She later moved on to play the role of CeCe Jones in the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up. For the role, she had to take three dance classes. Talk about dedication. After Shake It Up, Bella finally made it to the silver screen with Blended and Amityville: The Awakening. She’s also a Netflix favorite, as she’s the lead of two of the streaming service’s originals: You Get Me and The Babysitter. Hopefully, she gets more projects in the future, as she’s shaping up to be a big Hollywood star.
Zendaya began her acting career alongside Bella Thorne in the Disney Channel sitcom Shake it Up, portraying Rocky Blue, CeCe Jones’s best friend. She then had her breakout role as the genius and socio-politically “woke” Michelle in Spider-Man: Homecoming. She is also slated to be in the upcoming movie The Greatest Showman, which is about Barnum and Bailey Circus founder P.T. Barnum. She’s a recording artist as well, and even has an album named after her. Other than her singing and acting chops, Zendaya is known for her beautiful complexion, charming smile, killer stare and her sexy body. Guess it makes perfect sense that she’s in Bruno Mars’ music video for “Versace on the Floor”.
12. Nicola Peltz
Nicola Peltz is as talented as she is beautiful. After all, she’s the love interest of the younger version of the titular character in Bates Motel, one of most critically acclaimed horror drama series right now. Unfortunately, her other roles were in big movies that were considered by some of the worst movies to ever be released. The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, was heavily criticized by critics and fans alike. And Transformers: Age of Extinction? Not as bad as The Last Airbender, but still bad. But in the bad things, including bad movies, there’s still some good to be had. For both films, it’s definitely Nicola Peltz. After all, a break is still a break, and it’s not her fault that those movies weren’t good.
11. Taylor Momsen
Country music once had Taylor Swift, but the genre lost her to the oversaturated pop scene. Thankfully, rock will always have Taylor Momsen. More important than her being a child actress back then is her role as the vocalist of The Pretty Reckless today. The band, which broke into mainstream success with “Make Me Wanna Die”, now has a third album entitled Who You Selling For. It’s a far cry from her first acting role as the sweet and innocent Cindy Lou in the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, but it definitely suits her better. After all, she’s a sexy and blonde rock goddess now, so she can’t be caught dead being a cutie-pie in this day and age.
10. Emma Watson
Even non-fans of Harry Potter know who Hermione Granger, and of course, who Emma Watson is. But simply knowing JK Rowling’s witch by name is nothing compared to knowing that Hermione is not only the smartest witch of her generation, but also always fights for what’s right, just like the actress who once filled her shoes. Emma Watson’s not just known for being Hermione, as she, thanks to her talent, managed to avoid being typecast, and got herself a rather diverse career. She’s the cool Sam in the Perks of Being a Wallflower, jewel thief Nicki in The Bling Ring and quintessential Disney princess Belle in Beauty and the Beast. And just like Hermione, she’s as loyal to a cause as she’s talented. What cause? A worthier, realer one: feminism.
9. Peyton List
There are actually two Peyton Lists, but we’ll go with the younger one. Love it or hate it, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie adaptations can evoke one’s nostalgia for middle school life. Crushes are a part of that, and Holly Hills, the crush of the titular character Greg, made a pretty convincing childhood crush. We can all thank Peyton List for that. Other than being the seemingly perfect and unreachable early teenage crush, Peyton List is also in the Disney series Jessie, where she plays as one of the millionaire’s children the eponymous lead takes care of. Peyton was also in the 2017 film The Outcasts, where she and Victoria Justice are nerds who are set to overthrow the queen bee for playing a prank on them.
8. Demi Lovato
You know her from Camp Rock and Sonny with a Chance. And if you’re an even bigger Disney fan, you know her from Princess Protection Program. The Demi Lovato of today, however, has become a lot less Disney. Outside of—or arguably, after—her Disney career, she became a much more serious artist. Proof of this are some of her top-notch songs, like “Here We Go Again”, “Skyscraper”, “Heart Attack”, “Made in the USA” and the more recent “Sorry Not Sorry”. And in stark contrast to her cheery Disney image, she’s shed light on her real and personal struggles against depression, self-harm, body issues and addiction. Thankfully, she’s been winning against them, showing her fans that if she can overcome such things, they can, too. Indeed, she’s an inspiration.
7. Alexa Penavega
Spy Kids was a fun and family-friendly franchise for kids of all ages. The first three of the four-part movie series were all about the Cortez siblings, Carmen and Juni, fighting whatever weird overlord with a very strange and unlikely plan to rule the world. Unfortunately, kids grow up. Or rather, fortunately, as the boys (and some girls) who once had a crush on Carmen as a kid, or Alexa Penavega in real life, will be pleased to know that Agent Carmen is now one hot blonde latina mama. Yes, mama, as she’s already married and has a son. Hopefully, Agent Carmen would pass on the torch so that the boy would be a Spy Kid someday. That would be a dream come true for us now grown-up kids.
6. Selena Gomez
If you’re a big fan of Wizards of Waverly Place, you know Selena Gomez as the cunning yet secretly caring Alex Russo. That Disney show has long ended, but the baby-faced yet sexy Selena still does magic today. In the music and movie industry, that is. She began her career in the music scene as the vocalist for her band Selena Gomez and The Scene (pun intended), where she had hits like “Falling Down”, “Love You Like A Love Song” and “Year Without Rain”. She then moved on to a solo career, where she went all sultry with songs like “Same Old Love” and “Hands to Myself”. As for her silver screen life, she’s been the lead actress for films like Monte Carlo, The Fundamentals of Caring and Hotel Transylvania.
5. Tania Raymonde
Tania Raymonde had a recurring role in the popular TV show Malcolm in the Middle, as well as in the critically acclaimed mystery drama Lost, where she portrayed Alex Rosseau—her most popular role yet. Other than starring in some of the best and biggest TV shows, she’s also appeared in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D and Maroon 5’s music video for “Can’t Go Home Without You”. To a lot of critics, her best work yet is in the TV movie Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret, where she played the role of a convicted criminal who murdered her boyfriend Travis Alexander. She garnered a lot of praise from critics for her performance. If she can pull off a performance like that, then she deserves bigger roles in the future.
4. Alyson Stoner
Remember the movie Cheaper by the Dozen 1 and 2, where Chris Martin was this father with 12 kids that he can’t manage (well, nobody can anyway)? Well, Alyson Stoner played as one of those kids, and one of the more memorable ones at that. It’s no surprise, as she was already a good actress at such a young age. But after her first-ever exposure to Hollywood, she became more as Camille in the street dancing box office hit franchise Step Up. She’s made an appearance in the first film, but had a much bigger role in Step Up 3D, where she’s the love interest of prodigy street dancer Moose. And yes, Alyson is actually good at dancing, as she teaches hip-hop classes. Yes, she’s got street cred.
3. Amber Scott
Remember Hook, one of the movies of the late great Robin Williams, where he, an aged Peter Pan who forgot who he was, returns to Neverland to save his daughter Maggie? Well, Maggie is all grown up now. Not only that; she’s also got a smoking hot body and piercing blue eyes. Guess staying on Earth rather than Neverland works wonders. Unfortunately, it seems like we’re not going to see Amber any time soon in either the big or the small screen. Going by what’s on IMDB, it doesn’t look like she has any upcoming projects. It’s a bit of a shame, but hey, stardom’s not for everybody. Some even choose to walk away from it, as it’s not all that. Maybe that’s what Amber did.
2. Danielle Campbell
Danielle Campbell has come so far from her guest starring role in Prison Break, one of the biggest TV series in the 2000’s. A few years after that, she became the female lead for Disney Channel’s original movie Starstruck. Nowadays, she’s one of the most beautiful and one of the most promising Hollywood actresses, so it won’t be surprising if she becomes an even bigger name in the few years to come. Proof of that would be the fact that she did a good job in The Originals, a Vampire Diaries spinoff. In it, she portrayed Davina Claire, a powerful young witch who’s also the Regent of all witch covens in New Orleans. Hopefully, we will see more of her in future projects as we believe she could be a great actress someday.
1. Naya Rivera
While Naya began with small roles in ’90s TV shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Baywatch and Even Stevens, she will always be remembered most fondly as that mean-spirited lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez in Fox’s musical comedy hit series Glee. She auditioned for the show because she wanted to have the opportunity to “sing, dance and act all at the same time”. She got what she wanted, and managed to impress fans while doing so, making her one of the show’s biggest and most attention-catching side characters (as well as most-hated) despite its huge cast. Her most iconic performance in the show was when the cheerleading team applied for Glee Club and sang “I Say a Little Prayer”. To Naya, it’s also her most memorable piece in Glee.
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