It's easy to look at some of the most beautiful actresses and think that they've had everything handed to them. When they've figured out the publicity game, it's only human nature to get cynical and forget that they took the same path so many dreamers are pursuing.
However, many major stars have been vocal about their early experiences in Hollywood and just how much bigwigs encouraged them to change their appearance and disregard who they really are. This is a shocking collection of successful celebrities who were once told that they just weren't sexy enough to make it in the industry.
1. Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling has brought her brilliant mind to amazing comedies like The Office and The Mindy Project, but she's consistently been hit with a barrage of unwarranted criticisms about her appearance. Her character, Mindy Lahiri, is constantly making jokes about her weight, and it turns out that those are a direct response to her critics.
When she was coming up in the industry, she was offered a sketch show, before the network made her audition to play herself. She told The Guardian:
We were not considered attractive or funny enough to play ourselves. That network is no longer on the air, and The Office went on to be one of NBC's most hit shows in years. I feel like karmically, I was vindicated, but at the time it felt terrible.
Now that she's in one of the most successful movies of the summer, Inside Out, I'd say Mindy is the one coming out on top.
2. Kat Dennings
At the age of 25 years old, Kat Dennings has managed to be everywhere. Whether it's headlining a hit CBS comedy, 2 Broke Girls, or getting in some of the best lines in a Marvel movie, Thor, Dennings has brought her brand of acerbic humor and striking good looks to every role.
But starting out wasn't easy on her, and Hollywood consistently told her that she needed to make a change. She elaborated on these experiences to The New York Times, saying that she denied the early advice of casting agents:
[T]ighten up your teeth, dye your hair, lose weight, get a tan.
Had she become just another generic starlet, I think it's safe to say that Dennings would not have the stellar career she has today.
3. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon has been America's Sweetheart for years, and with movies like Wild and a production company called Type A Films, she's clearly here to stay. Though she always had confidence in herself, the industry was constantly telling her that she wasn't good enough at the start of her career. She told The Daily Mail that her early days in acting were a struggle:
You have to be focused and tough because it takes a tenacious personality to deal with rejection. When I first came here [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.
It just goes to show that it just takes one "yes" to kick off a career that leads to an Oscar win and widespread likability. The fact that Witherspoon never gave up on herself makes her a great role model for any young actress (or person) out there.
4. Kate Winslet
With Titanic, Kate Winslet was cast as one of the most desirable women from New York to London, and her reign as one of the most talented performers continues to this day. However, she was consistently overlooked for stage roles for supposedly being "too fat," she told The Daily Telegraph:
As a young girl, I never felt attractive. I was fat and unhappy at times and that kind of thinking stays with you your entire life. There's always going to be a part of me that worries about not looking as slim as other actresses
Nowadays, Winslet is featured on lists in Shape magazine titled "20 Celebrity Bodies We Obsess Over," so take that, know-nothing casting agents!
5. Jessica Chastain
I must say that Jessica Chastain is my favorite actress to emerge from the past few years, and I will pretty much see anything just because she is in it. Despite her explosive talent and unforgettable beauty, Chastain had trouble breaking into the industry because so many managers and casting directors said that her looks wouldn't cut it. She told Telegraph Magazine:
Only in the past five years have people been telling me I'm attractive. Before then, I wasn't getting parts because people kept telling me I wasn't pretty enough.
Today, her star power is so huge that she has drawn hilarious comparisons to another onscreen beauty, Bryce Dallas Howard. I'll just say this right now: Jessica Chastain will have an Oscar within the next five years, and her career will have the longevity of Meryl Streep's (who was also told she wasn't pretty enough).
6. Maggie Gyllenhaal
In a roundtable discussion with the Hollywood Reporter, Maggie Gyllenhaal and other talented actresses got real about what acting is like for women. It's a long quote, but it reveals an insidious aspect of the industry that pretty much every actress must confront:
When I was starting out, I used to hear ‘no’ a lot and still do. And, ‘You’re not sexy enough. You’re not pretty enough. When I was really young, I auditioned for this really bad movie with vampires. I wore a dress to the audition that I thought was really hot. Then I was told I wasn’t hot enough. My manager at the time said, ‘Would you go back and sex it up a little bit?’ So I put on leather pants, a pink leopard skinny camisole and did the audition again and still didn’t get the part. After that, I was like, ‘OK, f— this!'
Since ditching the appeal to the male gaze, Gyllenhaal took home an Golden Globe for her work on The Honorable Woman, and continues to rail against misogyny and ageism in Hollywood.
7. Jennifer Lawrence
If there's anyone who's taken Hollywood by storm in the past 10 years, it's easily Jennifer Lawrence. She books major franchises (The Hunger Games, X-Men) as well as Oscar-worthy films (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), but, still, she wasn't immune to rampant criticism about her appearance. In Harper's Bazaar UK, the actress admitted that she was on the receiving end of offensive vitriol:
Somebody told me I was fat, that I was going to get fired if I didn’t lose a certain amount of weight. They brought in pictures of me where I was basically naked, and told me to use them as motivation for my diet. It was just that.
Now that she's a major star, Lawrence admits that the pressure has eased, but she stills calls out industry professionals for making it too hard on up-and-comers who are just looking for a foothold in the industry.