It’s the season of pink tulle, blue tuxes and gyms draped in themes of “A Night in [insert tropical locale].” Around the country, teens are sweating hard to be cool under high school’s hottest spotlight. But take heart, brave youth! Even the most luminous stars insist they had growing pains too.
“If you look at my picture, the caption should say, ‘How long is the geek convention in town?’ ” Today anchor Matt Lauer readily told PEOPLE in 1997. As a Greenwich (Conn.) High student, he added, “my head was too big for my body.”
Nerdiness struck early for Sharon Lawrence at Collinswood Elementary in Charlotte, N.C. “The kids called me Cow Eyes,” she says. “When I was 11, I had these huge eyes with big granny glasses. I had long, flat hair and an overbite.”
“I gained ail of this weight, I was perming my hair, and I was just trying to do everything I could to fit in!” says Never Been Kissed star Drew Barrymore of her desperate days from age 8 to 14. “As soon as I loosened up, the awkwardness sort of evaporated.”
“There were quite a few years there where I didn’t have any friends in the neighborhood,” comedian Jerry Seinfeld told Barbara Walters in 1992. “That’s what makes you funny.”
“I wasn’t cute,” says Morgan Fairchild (née Patsy Ann McClenny), called Fatsy Patsy as a kid in Dallas. “I’ve been blind as a bat since I was in the third grade, so I had these big, thick Coke-bottle-bottom glasses.”
“In my yearbook, I look like an ugly David Cassidy,” says comic Ray Romano, a ’75 grad of Hillcrest High School in Queens, N.Y. “I wasn’t one of the cool guys.”
As a shy, chubby girl growing up in Miami, “I used to be so withdrawn,” singer Gloria Estefan told a reporter in 1996. “I had to be to survive. But inside, I was like a volcano.”
Being a teenage superstar didn’t keep Brandy from prepubescent torment. “I was skinny, and I wasn’t pretty,” she told Teen of her early L.A. years. “Girls pulled my hair and tried to jump me.”
“I was called Braille Face,” says Marilu Henner, a grad of Chicago’s Madonna High. “I had bad skin. It was kind of affectionate, because only my friends and family called me that.”
Rocker Bruce Springsteen told Crawdaddy magazine of being an outsider in his Freehold, N.J., school, where they wouldn’t “let me graduate unless I cut my hair.” He skipped the ceremony.
“I thought I was a bit gawky,” says Jane Seymour, who attended a performing-arts school in London during the 1960s, where classmates “said I was a baby for having long hair.”
“All the girls would laugh at me when I walked by,” model Tyra Banks told PEOPLE in 1996, explaining that thin wasn’t always in. “I wasn’t just skinny and tall; I was sick-looking, if anybody called me skinny, I would just smile, then run into my room and burst out crying. It was a really unhappy time.”
“I was self-conscious about everything,” says Boy Meets World costar Maitland Ward, a 1995 graduate of Lake-wood (Calif.) High. “I wish I hadn’t been so prim-and-proper-looking.”
Television’s Hercules faced one Olympian trial at Mound-Westonka (Minn.) High. “I had this David Letterman gap between my teeth,” says Kevin Sorbo. “I didn’t get it closed until I was 28.”
“I had huge hair, the big Jersey hair,” says America’s Funniest Home Videos host Daisy Fuentes of her image back in Newark. “No matter what I do, it always goes back to the bad hair. I cringe, I was working that long hair like it was going out of style. Why didn’t someone stop me?”
Country star Reba McEntire says she was “a big tomboy” growing up in Kiowa, Okla. “I liked to wear my hair pulled back because I was very involved with basketball and rodeoing.”
“I was a quiet, shy guy,” says Spin City’s Barry Bostwick, a 1963 graduate of San Mateo (Calif.) High. “I always wish I had gotten Best Eyes in the yearbook. It was traumatic when I didn’t get it.”
“Deer caught in the headlights” is how NYPD Blue star Andrea Thompson describes her 1975 image. “Oh, God, I thought I was hideous-looking. And I was painfully shy.”
“I was a late bloomer,” says Early Edition star Kyle Chandler, who grew up in Loganville, Ga. “Here I was, this short, fat kid who was interested in girls, but none of them would look at me.”
Self-help author Iyanla Vanzant (Yesterday I Cried) had early makeup mishaps with “samples of pink and orange lipsticks that were never made for people of color” and “gluey” false eyelashes.
“I was such an unbearable dork,” recalls E!’s Melissa Rivers. “I was really little and really scrawny. I don’t think I broke 100 pounds until my junior year. I look back and cringe.”
“I’ve always had an awkward stage—I never grew out of it,” says Lisa Kudrow, who know relies on “hair and makeup.” At Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif., “I was told, ‘You’ve got to put on makeup.’ ”