ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

Sometimes it feels like the nineties are a distant, Surge-fueled, neon-colored memory. But most of the time, nostalgia creeps in and reminds us that most of the things that we associate with this formative time are still all around us.

This includes celebrities, some of whom have managed to transition from nineties sensations to contemporary superstars.

Check out these celebrities who were all that and a bag of chips in the nineties and see what they're up to today!

Britney Spears

Then: Budding pop sensation and Mickey Mouse Club alum with her whole career ahead of her. *sigh* Simpler times.

Now: Still a reigning pop queen, albeit with a lot less light behind her eyes.

Britney still consistently churns out catchy and successful albums, but none have come close to the overwhelming success of her debut ...Baby One More Time. I'm pretty sure every person on Earth now owns a copy.

Devon Sawa

Then: Child/teen romantic lead in nearly every film you remember from the nineties including Casper, Now and Then, and Final Destination.

Now: Sawa is still grinding away at the acting game. You might recognize him from his recurring role in The CW show [Nikita](series:803599).

I'm pretty sure every straight girl had a crush on this guy when I was growing up, and I hope that he is still cashing in on that teen idol status.

Drew Barrymore

Then: Hollywood royalty's wild child, Barrymore spent the nineties revitalizing her image and making the transition from troubled child star to respected adult actress.

Now: Barrymore has stayed clean and busy throughout her adulthood, becoming a producer at Flower Films, a UN Ambassador Against Hunger, and one of the most recognizable actresses on the planet.

I still have hope that one of these days she'll swear off Adam Sandler movies and throw herself into another dramatic role like Little Edie in Grey Gardens.

Will Smith

Then: Fresh Prince, alien-fighting pilot, and man in black.

Now: Father to Jaden and Willow, Oscar-nominated actor, oh, and the most bankable star alive according to Forbes.

If you want to be a successful actor in Hollywood, follow Will Smith's career trajectory. His name is now associated with blockbuster success and contagious likability.

Ellen Degeneres

Then: Sitcom star, stand-up comic, and one of the most famous open lesbians of her generation.

Now: Prolific afternoon talk show host, Oscar host, and newly crowned Queen of Nice.

Ellen came back from a virtual blacklist following her coming out and has since become one of the most successful and hilarious hosts on TV. Soon, we'll be hearing her voice again in Pixar's [Finding Dory](movie:471757).

Leonardo DiCaprio

Then: Boyishly handsome heartthrob who lost an Oscar to Tommy Lee Jones.

Now: Manly man of excess who lost an Oscar to Forest Whitaker, Matthew McConaughey, and Jamie Foxx.

Leo, who pretty consistently turns in great performances, really wants his Academy Award. How many more years do you think it will be before the Academy caves and lets him off the hook?

Kirsten Dunst

Then: Cute and talented child star who starred in Jumanji, Interview with a Vampire, and The Virgin Suicides.

Now: Dunst made bank playing Mary Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man franchise, and now she focuses more on indie movies with fascinating female characters.

I still think that her best performance ever is reacting to director Lars von Trier's claims that he "understands Hitler" at the Cannes Film Festival.

Jennifer Aniston

Then: Rachel Green was hair inspiration for seemingly every working gal in the nineties.

Now: Aniston remains as popular as ever, but Friends remains her biggest project.

She was gunning for an Oscar this year with her performance in [Cake](movie:1290444), but most would recognize her from comedic roles in Horrible Bosses and her many appearances on magazine covers.

Pamela Anderson

Then: Buxom blonde who defined the fantasies of legions of pubescent boys with roles in Home Improvement, Baywatch, and V.I.P.

Now: Anderson is most active these days for her activism work with PETA and for writing an open letter to President Obama calling for the legalization of marijuana.

Pamela Anderson felt like my generation's Farrah Fawcett. She was everywhere and has since become emblematic of that specific time on TV.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Then: Tim Allen's precious son on Home Improvement, the voice of young Simba in The Lion King, and face on the cover of every J-14 magazine in publication.

Now: JTT has guest starred on a few shows like Last Man Standing, but he's mostly turned his attention to being a student at Harvard, Columbia, and St. Andrew's University in Scotland.

Over 20 years later, but he's still rocking plaid.

Keri Russell

Then: Girl next door beauty who potentially caused the cancellation of Felicity by chopping her famous curly locks.

Now: Criminally overlooked actress who turns in an amazing performance in FX's [The Americans](series:755196) as an undercover KGB spy.

Seriously, people need to start paying more attention to Keri Russell. She's amazing and deserves more work, and I'm not just saying that as a major fan of Honey! I Blew Up the Kid.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Then: Long-haired child star who specialized in being the everyman and awkward kid in 10 Things I Hate About You and 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Now: Versatile actor and fledgling director who received praise for his film Don Jon and for his recent performances in 50/50 and Looper.

Gordon-Levitt is now helping produce a film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's [Sandman](movie:401054) graphic novel series, and he may even direct and star in the film.

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Then: Wholesome but sexy girl next door type who gained a huge fan base with roles in Party of Five, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Can't Hardly Wait.

Now: Hewitt has been starring in [Criminal Minds](series:749528) and is now expecting her second child.

Best JLH moment from the nineties: her appearance as Jennifer Love Fefferman on a Halloween episode of Boy Meets World.

Mayim Bialik

Then: Star of network hit Blossom who inspired a whole generation of girls to wear more hats.

Now: After taking a break from the spotlight to casually become a neuroscientist, Bialik now plays Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on [The Big Bang Theory](series:200751).

Bialik is the celebrity spokesperson for the Holistic Moms Network and probably one of the most well-educated actors in Hollywood.

There's a little update on some of the biggest stars of the nineties.

Obviously, this is far from a comprehensive list, so add any of your favorite stars from the decade in the comments!

Were you surprised by any of these transformations?


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