Stars Who Hit it Big After Being Named PEOPLE 'Ones to Watch'

After landing on PEOPLE's Ones to Watch lists, these celebrities lived up to the hype and achieved superstardom

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Henry Golding  Awkwafina Florence Pugh
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Since 2012, PEOPLE has named promising up-and-comers to its Ones to Watch list, confident that they'll strike Hollywood gold. These stars really did! See who went from showbiz newbie to industry game-changer.

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Jonathan Majors

Jonathan Majors attends the World Premiere of "NO TIME TO DIE" at the Royal Albert Hall on September 28, 2021 in London
Jeff Spicer/Getty

Majors, who made last year's list, has already secured a number of upcoming roles that prove his prowess as one of Hollywood's newest leading men, including Ant-Man 3 and Creed III. Having previously earned rave reviews for the indie hit The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Majors quickly shot to stardom thanks to his role in Spike Lee's series Da 5 Bloods on Netflix. As Atticus Freeman, the leading role in HBO's Lovecraft Country, Majors earned a 2021 Emmy nomination for best actor in a drama series.

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Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh
Florence Pugh. Karwai Tang/WireImage

After breaking onto the scene in 2019 with her films Fighting with My Family and Midsommar, the British actress cemented her star status with her turn as Amy March in Little Women, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Showing off her range, Pugh also starred opposite Scarlett Johansson in 2020's Black Widow. She currently has five projects in the works, including TV miniseries Hawkeye and Olivia Wilde's highly anticipated film Don't Worry Darling.

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Anthony Ramos

anthony ramos

Ramos, a Brooklyn native, got his big break on Broadway as part of the original Hamilton cast, and later made his silver screen debut as Lady Gaga's best friend in A Star Is Born. Also a musician, his debut album, The Good & The Bad, dropped in Oct. 2019. Since being named to 2019's list, Ramos has collaborated once again with Lin-Manuel Miranda, taking on the leading role of Usnavi in the 2021 film adaptation of In the Heights. He currently has three films in the works, including Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

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Kim Petras

Kim Petras
Kim Petras attends the Alexandre Vauthier Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 21, in Paris. Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Petras, a German pop singer who landed a spot on 2019's list, has steadily climbed the charts with her bubbly hits over the past few years, from "Heart to Break" to her recent single, "Future Starts Now." Having previously released music independently, Petras signed to Republic Records in 2021, where she'll release her upcoming second album. Petras made history at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards when she became the first transgender performer at the VMAs.

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LaKeith Stanfield

Lakeith Stanfield
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Stanfield has landed leading roles and dropped a handful of singles in the years since landing on 2018's list. An actor, dancer and rapper, the Atlanta star earned his first best supporting Oscar nomination for his turn in Judas and the Black Messiah. His standout moments in films including Uncut Gems and Knives Out have further cemented his role as a much-sought-after actor in Hollywood; he currently has four films in pre-production.

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The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion -...

The Colombian singer has dropped three albums since landing a spot on 2018's list, and has racked up a number of awards along the way. Last year, he performed his hit "Hawái" at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, taking home the award for best latin video for the song. The "Pa Ti" singer has also reached nearly 60 million Instagram followers.

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Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo attends the Los Angeles Philharmonic Homecoming Concert & Gala at Walt Disney Concert Hall on October 09, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

By the time she made 2018's list, Erivo already had a Grammy, Emmy and Tony and in 2020 she nabbed an Oscar nomination for her starring turn in Harriet — so it's only a matter of time before she completes her EGOT. Taking on the role of another historic Black woman, Erivo played Aretha Franklin in 2021's TV series Genius. She's also starred in a number of TV series, including Carrier and The Outsider, and currently has five projects in the works.

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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Michael Kovac/Getty

The Yale School of Drama graduate has taken Hollywood by storm since earning a spot on 2018's list. From playing Black Manta in Aquaman to Cal Abar in Watchmen, the actor has starred in one hit after another, earning a best supporting actor Emmy for his turn in the latter. Most recently, he starred in The Trial of the Chicago 7 — which won a SAG Award for best cast — and 2021's Candyman.

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Awkwafina attends the 2021 PEN America Literary Gala at American Museum of Natural History on October 05, 2021 in New York City
Arturo Holmes/Getty

The actress has come a long way since her days as a Youtube sensation and being named to 2018's list after her scene-stealing turn in Crazy Rich Asians. Born Nora Lum, the Queens-born actress and comedian has shown off her dramatic range in films like 2019's The Farewell, and stars in 2021's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. You'll be able to hear her voice as Scuttle the seagull in the upcoming Little Mermaid remake.

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Kelly Marie Tran

Kelly Marie Tran
Karwai Tang/WireImage

Since landing on PEOPLE's 2017 Ones to Watch list, Tran's career has taken off. After her out-of-this-world turn as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, she reprised her role for 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker. This year, she transformed into a Disney princess as the voice of Raya in Raya and the Last Dragon. She's also landed starring roles on the small screen, on Sorry For Your Loss and The Croods: Family Tree. In addition to acting, Tran has served as executive producer on last year's Summertime and the 2021 documentary Lily Topples the World.

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Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce
Carly Pearce. Timothy Norris/Getty

The country star has racked up a number of nominations and awards since being named to 2017's list, from being up for 2019's best new artist at the Country Music Awards to earning nominations for best female vocalist and best album of the year for 2021's 29.

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Storm Reid

Storm Reid attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

The 18-year-old star captured America's attention with her turn in A Wrinkle in Time; she's since landed a number of starring TV roles, from Nia in The Bravest Night to Gia ​​Bennett on Euphoria. Recognized as one of PEOPLE's Ones to Watch in 2017, Reid has continued to land major roles on the big screen, including The Invisible Man and The Suicide Squad.

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Henry Golding

Henry Golding
Henry Golding. Slaven Vlasic/Getty

The Crazy Rich Asians star's resumé has exploded since being named to 2017's list. From his leading roles in A Simple Favor and Last Christmas to his time as part of the star-studded cast in The Gentlemen, Golding's career shows no signs of slowing down — and he currently has two films in post-production. The actor and his wife, Liv Lo, also welcomed their first child together in April 2021.

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Riz Ahmed
Phil McCarten/Invision for the Television Academy/AP

After being named to 2016's list, Ahmed appeared in Star Wars: Rogue One and picked up two Emmy nominations. He became the first South Asian actor to win outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie for his starring role in HBO's The Night Of, and earned Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and Oscar nominations for his part in 2021's The Sound of Metal.

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'Preacher' Season Two Premiere, Ace Hotel Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 20 Jun 2017

"The god of acting laughs in the face of plans," the Ethiopia-born actress told PEOPLE in 2016. "I just want to continue working with like-minded people." Negga did that and more, earning her first Oscar nomination for her starring role in Loving after being included among 2016's crop.

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The This is Us actress has championed body positivity both on- and off-screen since being named as one of 2016's Ones to Watch. She's also received her first Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her role as one-third of the Big Three, aspiring singer Kate Pearson, and showed off her vocal chops at the 2020 Oscars, singing "I'm Standing with You" from Breakthrough.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Panel at the 2017 Star Wars Celebration
Gerardo Mora/Getty

The Brit earned a spot on 2015's list for empowering women as a fierce warrior in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. "I'm just going to plod through life and see what comes my way!" she told PEOPLE at the time. Since then, Ridley hit back against body shamers and signed on to star as the titular character in Ophelia, a reimagining of Hamlet, alongside Naomi Watts and Clive Owen. She also reprised her role as heroine Rey in 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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"Detroit" - European Premiere - VIP Arrivals
Dave Benett/Getty

"The whole world was perfect in that one moment," Boyega told PEOPLE for 2015's Ones to Watch package of landing a role in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Since then, the star has portrayed a policeman working during the 1967 Detroit riots in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit, and joined Pacific Rim: Uprising with Charlie Day and Scott Eastwood. Boyega also appeared as Storm Trooper Finn in the subsequent two Star Wars installments and in the summer of 2020, earned support from peers after giving an impassioned speech at a Black Lives Matter rally in London.

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Goalkeepers: The Global Goals Awards 2017
Monica Schipper/Getty

After taking the role as secret agent Alex Parrish on ABC's Quantico in 2015, the India native explained to PEOPLE, "I didn't want to play a stereotype." Chopra continued to break the mold as the villain in 2017's Baywatch remake, and has spoken out on everything from skin color and the gender pay gap to her fashion regrets and being encouraged to play up her accent in order to get roles.

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"Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between" Costume Institute Gala
John Shearer/Getty

Following his stint on the 2015 list, the actor received nominations at the Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards for his role on USA's Mr. Robot, ultimately scoring his first win at the 2016 Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. Malek arrived on the big screen as Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, for which he won an Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. Next up, he plays the villain in the James Bond film No Time to Die.

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Benjo Arwas

While the dance prodigy left Dance Moms shortly after being deemed One to Watch at age 12 in 2015, her résumé has grown tremendously. Zielger — who starred in Sia's hit music videos for "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" — became So You Think You Can Dance's youngest judge, appears in the upcoming West Side Story remake and went on to release a bestselling memoir and activewear line, all while amassing more than 13 million Instagram followers. In her personal life, Ziegler has formed a sweet best friendship with fellow teen star and Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown.

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74th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals

"I just have to keep moving and going with that momentum," Rae told PEOPLE in 2014, referring to the popularity of her YouTube series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Fast forward to September 2017, when the actress became the new face of CoverGirl just weeks after her HBO comedy Insecure was picked up for a third season only halfway through its second. But Rae has stayed humble, telling the audience at the Create & Cultivate conference, "I wouldn't be anywhere without the women that I work with." She recently wrapped the final season of Insecure and joined the voice cast of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2.

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2017 ASCAP Pop Awards - Inside
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

She was all about that bass when she joined the Ones to Watch ranks in 2014, but two albums and three Grammy nominations later, Trainor has proved that she's a music mainstay. Beyond that, the Best New Artist winner and new mom continues to advocate for body positivity, most notably when she addressed Photoshopping in her "Me Too" video. She's also crossed into TV, mentoring on The Voice and co-hosting Top Chef Family Style.

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Dear Evan Hansen (2016)
Ben Platt

Moviegoers reveled in Platt's onscreen awkwardness as magician and a capella singer Benji in the first two Pitch Perfect films. He then became One to Watch in 2014 in the midst of his run in Broadway's Book of Mormon, but truly broke out when the heartwarming (and celeb favorite) Dear Evan Hansen opened in late 2016. The musical earned nine Tony nominations five months later and took home six awards on the big night, including Platt's Best Actor in a Musical win. He also earned a Daytime Emmy and Grammy for the show. See him on the big screen now in the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, and on the small screen in The Politician and The Premise.

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69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

The comedian had a moment at the 2014 Emmys. "Jessica Lange came up to me holding her Emmy," he told PEOPLE at the time. "That's as surreal as it gets." Things must have felt truly unparalleled come 2017, when the Billy on the Street star earned his first Emmy nomination (he now has three), filmed the live-action Lion King and joined the cast of the series that won Lange that Emmy: American Horror Story.

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Premiere Of Columbia Pictures And Sony Pictures Animation's "The Emoji Movie" - Arrivals
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

The actress joined the Ones to Watch lineup in 2013 when her CBS series Mom first kicked off. Now Faris — a mom herself to son Jack with ex-husband Chris Pratt — also hosts her Anna Faris Is Unqualified podcast and has a slew of projects lined up for the near future.

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He'd been making Saturday Night Live audiences laugh since 2005, but the 2013 premiere of his comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine is what eventually earned Samberg a spot on our list. The next year, he nabbed the Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a television series, comedy or musical for his role on the Fox series. With Brooklyn Nine-Nine now wrapped after eight critically acclaimed seasons, and Samberg starring in movies like Brigsby Bear and Palm Springs, it seems he's making good on his 2013 promise: "To not get kicked out of the business — that's my main goal."

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"Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between" Costume Institute Gala
John Shearer/Getty

Jordan garnered Oscar buzz in 2013 for his breakout role in Fruitvale Station, and while he didn't end up getting nominated after appearing in our roundup, the actor did go on to join the Marvel universe in 2015's Fantastic Four, the same year he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone in Creed. Jordan — PEOPLE's reigning Sexiest Man Alive — continued his Marvel run with Black Panther, and will be on the big screen again this year in A Journal for Jordan.

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Australian actress Rebel Wilson's defamation case

The Australian actress scored a place in the 2013 group thanks to both her scene-stealing moments in Bridesmaids and her portrayal of Amy in the Pitch Perfect films. While Wilson has gone on to have success with the ABC's Super Fun Night and romantic comedy How to Be Single, the former Jenny Craig spokesperson proved she's a force outside of acting by taking control of her reputation and winning a defamation lawsuit in June 2017, as well as influencing the plus-size fashion world with her Rebel Wilson x Angels line and collections for Torrid and Mamiye Brothers.

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