Brave Celebs Who Lived to Tell the Tales of Their Awkward Phases

Get ready for a boatload of hilarious, empowering and totally relatable inspiration

01 of 18

BELLA HADID

bella
Ethan Miller/Getty; James Devaney/GC Images

Even one of the world's most in-demand supermodels went through cringe-filled years. "I think I had more beauty insecurities growing up than probably anybody," she told Cosmopolitan in 2018. "Growing up, I was always self-conscious about my brows but I never knew that you could do something about it. I've always had really thin brows, I got them from my dad. I was also kind of chubbier growing up until I was 15, so there were a lot of things I had to grow into — I definitely had to grow into my face a lot. I wasn't very secure with myself until recently."

02 of 18

JAMEELA JAMIL

Jameela Jamil
Jameela Jamil/ Instagram; Chris Haston/NBC via Getty

"I've never had a birthday party. My family tried to throw one for me when I was 10 and no one came, because I was just bad at making friends," theGood Place star said during a "Screen Test" video for W magazine. "I was very bully-able and very socially inept."

"I was definitely not gorgeous as a child — and that's definitely not to say that I think I necessarily am now," she added. "I'm half Pakistani and part Indian, and came from a poor background. I was also mostly deaf until I was 12 years old. And so, I think those things inhibit your social skills and you miss a lot."

Jamil also revealed that she didn't have her first kiss until she was 21. "The film 40-Year-Old Virgin had just come out, and everyone that I knew gave me a copy of that film. So I had 25 copies," she said. "And a friend of mine finally kissed me on a bench outside a bus stop, and it was the best and he was such a good kisser."

The actress's hearing was improved by a surgery that "replaced" her eardrum, and she told the outlet that her childhood difficulties actually helped her become more "observant" and emotionally intelligent in her adult life.

03 of 18

GWYNETH PALTROW

gwyneth-paltrow
Jim Smeal/WireImage; JB Lacroix/WireImage

While discussing daughter Apple in a Today interview, the Goop founder took a moment to reflect on her own experience as a teenager. “It was brutal. That was a really hard year for me," Paltrow said of being 13 years old. "I was really trying to grow into this awkward gawky body, which I think I half grew into. I had braces, and I decided it would be a great idea to shave the back of my head." She continued: "I think it’s a time in one’s life where you’re trying on different personas and you’re trying to see what kind of a person you’re going to be. I think it’s just also painful.”

04 of 18

ALEXANDRA DADDARIO

alexandra-daddario
Gregory Pace/FilmMagic; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

In April, the star opened up to PEOPLE about taking on a suit-clad role in the Baywatch film reboot — while simultaneously getting "revenge" on her former peers. "It feels really surreal — as a teenager I could never really get guys and I was pretty nerdy," she said at a Slowmo Marathon in honor of the beach flick. "Now I feel like I'm getting my revenge by being a Baywatch babe. I'm like, 'You could have had this and now look at me.' " As "nerdy" as she may have been, Daddario did manage to score a role on All My Children as a teen actress. She played Lauren Lewis on the soap from 2002 to 2003.

05 of 18

SARA SAMPAIO

Sara Sampaio throwback funny photo

The Victoria's Secret model poked fun at some of her early fashion choices with a collage of throwback snapshots on Instagram. "You guys are very welcome!!! #thanksmum #nevergiveuphope," she captioned the photos, which featured a temporary butterfly tattoo, tinted glasses and a bandana shirt.

06 of 18

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

justin-timberlake-2000x2000
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library; David Livingston/Getty Images

Years before JT brought sexy back, he was warding off bullies who picked up on him, making jabs at his "terrible acne and weird hair." He recalls: "When you're a kid I think you try so hard to fit in and when you get older you realize that fitting in isn't really the thing that's more interesting … I would not be here if I would have listened to the kids who told me I was a terrible singer and I was a sissy … Be different."

07 of 18

OLIVIA CULPO

olivia-culpo-2000
Source: Olivia Culpo Instagram; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Proof that even a former Miss Universe has gone through an awkward phase: "As a little girl, I was really chubby. I don't think kids know anything about diet, so I'm sure I was eating whatever I wanted to. And on top of that I was not athletic," she told Ocean Drive. "I was definitely more into the arts. All of a sudden, I got really tall and lean. After my crazy growth spurt, I looked like a completely different person."

08 of 18

NICOLE KIDMAN

nicole-kidman-2000
Courtesy Nicole Kidman; Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Turner

Though her brilliant red hair is the source of envy to many, Kidman, at 4 ½, lamented her locks growing up. She told PEOPLE that her hair made her feel "awkward and repulsive. When I was little I had curls down to my bum and people would always pull at my hair and say, 'Ohhh, she's got currrrls!' And I hated that."

09 of 18

BEYONCÉ

beyonce-2000
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Yes, even flawless (super)humans like Queen Bey have gone through their own awkward phases — according to the "Formation" crooner who previously told Essence she felt "awkward around other kids" — but chose to reflect on her emotional transformation in her short film, Yours and Mine: "I know when you grow up, when you learn a few things, you're no longer afraid of letting go. You're no longer afraid of the unknown. You're no longer afraid of going to certain places in your body and your mind and your soul, that may make you feel uncomfortable. It all starts with if you can look at yourself in the mirror and say 'I like that person,' you know? If I hadn't gone through some of the painful experiences in my life, I would not be me."

10 of 18

JOE MANGANIELLO

Image
Courtesy Awkward Family Photos; Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Before becoming the buff heartthrob loyal fans of True Blood and Magic Mike know and love, Sofia Vergara's leading man was an adorably lanky basketball player with a penchant for mullets.

11 of 18

MATTHEW PERRY

matthew-perry-2000
Donald Sanders/Globe Photos; Mike Pont/WireImage

Growing up, Perry "was the most popular of the geeky kids," he told InStyle in September 2002.

12 of 18

MATTHEW LEWIS

matthew-lewis-2000
Warner Bros/courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection; Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Best known for his role as Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter film franchise, Lewis found a new fanbase following his seemingly magical transformation from serving as the series' chubby outcast to being a full-fledged hottie IRL. "I don't know what to make of this," he said in 2011. "It was not something I did intentionally. I don't know, people are very kind, but it came from nowhere. I don't feel hunky at all. Don't get me wrong; it's very kind to hear these things but very awkward."

13 of 18

KRISTEN STEWART

kristen-stewart-2000
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Michael Kovac/Getty Images for ELLE

When Stewart looks back at her time in Twilight, she considers a majority of those formative years cringe-worthy. "I look at those photos, and I feel like I'm looking at a college yearbook," she told Ellen DeGeneres in a November 2016 interview. "I don't jump right back into those memories but as soon as you see a picture, it's like, 'Oh God, it's like yesterday.' I was 17, 18 years old when that all went down, and that's the most uncomfortable, terrible, weird [time]."

14 of 18

SANDRA BULLOCK

sandra-bullock-2000
Globe/Karwai Tang/WireImage

While a student in Arlington, Virginia, the Oscar winner felt she was miles away from being red-carpet ready. "I always had these stupid barrettes holding my hair back. I was just a couple of beats off," she said.

15 of 18

TAYLOR SCHILLING

taylor-schilling-2000
Wayland/Splash; Mike Pont/WireImage

"It was tough at home, and it was tough at school. My experience was painful, so painful," the Orange Is the New Black star told Allure of her teenage years. "There was a period of time I had very short hair, and I had glasses, and I was very tall for my age." Despite the difficult time, Schilling learned a valuable lesson: "I don't feel bound by my face or my body. I don’t feel like that's the biggest gift I have to offer the world. I feel like there are more parts of me to offer than that."

16 of 18

DWAYNE 'THE ROCK' JOHNSON

the-rock-2000
Source: Dwayne Johnson Instagram; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

"I had an awkward phase when I was 13, 14 years old," PEOPLE's 2016 Sexiest Man Alive said in an interview. "I was trying to find my identity and trying to settle into my identity." The action star also got candid about his struggle with acne as a teenager. "I loved sweets. Every day after school I would go get doughnuts and I would go get cookies. I have an adverse reaction to sugar and chocolate, where I would break out in all these pimples," he said. "You could just imagine that, with my curly half-Afro."

17 of 18

TINA FEY

tina-fey-2000
Splash News; Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Before finding fame on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, the award-winning comedian went through "a pretty rough puberty" that led to a "deadly combination of greasy skin and getting your boobs at 10."

18 of 18

ZOOEY DESCHANEL

zooey-deschanel-2000
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library; Barry King/Getty Images

"Nothing could be as hard as middle school," the New Girl star revealed, adding she was ridiculed by her peers for being "chubby" growing up. But Deschanel took those experience as fuel to launch her own media company, HelloGiggles. "[N]ow I feel like I'm on a mission to make it a thing that helps other women. If there had been a place like that for me when I was 13, I would have felt so much less alone."

Related Articles