Ones to Watch Hall of Fame: Stars Who Got Insanely Famous After PEOPLE Took Notice
Since 2012, PEOPLE has named promising up-and-comers to its Ones to Watch list, confident that they'll strike Hollywood gold. These 16 stars really did! See who went from showbiz newbie to industry game-changer.
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.
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 Emmys nominations for her role as one-third of the Big Three, aspiring singer Kate Pearson. In addition to rooting for her character on the hit NBC drama, fans have fallen in love with her real-life romance with boyfriend Josh Stancil.
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'll also reprise her role as heroine Rey in 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
"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 filmed Pacific Rim: Uprising with Charlie Day and Scott Eastwood. Boyega will also appear as Storm Trooper Finn in the next two Star Wars installments.
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.
Following his stint on the 2015 list, the actor received a total of five nominations between 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. The hacker drama is still going strong three seasons in, allowing Malek to arrive on the big screen as Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, due out in 2018.
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 just after leaving the reality show, and went on to release a bestselling memoir and activewear line, all while amassing more than 10 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, and celebrated 10 months of datingboyfriend Jack Kelly in October.
“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 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 continues to advocate for body positivity, most notably when she addressed Photoshopping in her "Me Too" video.
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.
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 and joined the cast of the series that won Lange that Emmy: American Horror Story.
The actress joined the Ones to Watch lineup in 2013 when her CBS series Mom first kicked off. Now heading into her fifth season on the show, Faris — a mom herself to son Jack with estranged husband Chris Pratt — also hosts her Anna Faris Is Unqualified podcast and plans to release her memoir in late 2017.
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, the rising star 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 in its fifth season, and Samberg starring in movies like Brigsby Bear and HBO's Tour de Pharmacy, it seems he's making good on his 2013 promise: "To not get kicked out of the business — that's my main goal."
MICHAEL B. JORDAN
Jordan started garnering 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. The sequel to the sports drama is planned for a 2018 release, and Jordan will continue his Marvel run with Black Panther, the first black superhero movie.
The Australian actress scored a place in the 2013 group thanks to both her scene-stealing moments in Bridesmaids and her portrayal of Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect, a role she'll reprise in the upcoming third movie. 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.