Some stars have had to deal with constant criticism and rejection based solely on their appearance. Some have even been told to undergo potentially dangerous surgeries if they wanted to make it in show business! Take a look at how some of your favorite stars have defied the critics to make it, even though they weren’t “pretty enough.”
When it comes to making it big in Hollywood, it’s an unfortunate reality that size matters, especially for many actresses. When actress Kate Winslet was only 14, she was told by her drama teacher that she would have to “settle for the fat girl parts”, the “ugly sister,” or the “cute, fat best friend role”.
Thankfully, the young star didn’t let her teacher’s inappropriate words get to her, in fact, she used them to prove her critics wrong. Today she is one of the most celebrated stars in Hollywood with countless nominations and acting awards.
Behind the wild glitter makeup and party girl persona, Kesha has actually had to deal with a lot of negativity before her rise to fame. Not only was she criticized by her classmates, but she was constantly told by music executives that she wouldn’t “make it” in the music industry because she wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough.
But, like her album title Warrior, the singer hasn’t let their mean words get to her. Not only did she carve out a successful singing career for herself, but she has written many songs for other artists.
Before she was starring in films like “Heathers” or “Girl, Interrupted”, Winona Ryder almost threw in the towel after receiving some pretty harsh criticism from a casting director. The star was apparently told (in the middle of an audition nonetheless) “Listen, kid. You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don't have it.”
Thankfully, young Winona knew she was destined for great things and has managed to achieve her acting dreams without losing her unique identity.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker’s road to fame hasn’t been without some very harsh commentary on her looks. Early in her career, director David Frankel, lamented that despite being a very talented actress, she was often “tragically overlooked” because she “was not pretty enough”.
These days, the “Sex and the City” star has become not only one of the most popular actresses in the industry but is also hailed as a style icon. As for the criticism about her looks, Sarah doesn’t let it deter her, saying, “I guess I just don’t care enough about everybody else’s opinion.”
When it comes to telling it like it is, few celebrities are as bold as singer Pink. The “Who Knew” singer revealed that her athletic figure often led to her being told “you’re not pretty enough” to land a magazine cover by magazine editors.
Now an award-winning artist with chart-topping hits and many magazine covers later, Pink has said “So What” to critics and has embraced her unique look. The singer even poked fun at the industry’s obsession with a narrow definition of what a female artist should look like with her 2006 hit, “Stupid Girls”.
Though the acting industry can be deeply superficial, it often pales in comparison to the cutthroat world of modeling. Scouted at just 12 years old, model Ashley Graham faced constant rejection due to her weight. She recalls being told “you’re not skinny enough. You’re not big enough.” and that her weight would cause the end of her career.
Thankfully, she didn’t give up. Today, she has made historical strides in the fashion industry landing covers of Vogue and Sports Illustrated’s coveted ‘Swimsuit Issue’, repped some of the biggest companies in the world, and launched her own podcast.
In her memoir, “Finding Me”, and in various interviews, Viola Davis has described how she was rejected many times in Hollywood because of her appearance. She was even told by fellow actors that she “wasn’t pretty enough to pull it off” regarding her Emmy Award-winning role as Annalise Keating in the drama “How to Get Away with Murder”.
Despite having been called “not classically beautiful” by many casting directors, Viola is one of the most celebrated actresses of her generation with an Oscar, a Tony Award, an Emmy Award, and many other awards to her name.
Considered one of the most beautiful and talented actresses in Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence has faced a great deal of criticism regarding her figure. She recalls being told that she would have to “lose 15 pounds in two weeks” or risk being fired like another actress who hadn’t slimmed down fast enough.
She admits she often complied because “I felt like I had to for my career,". Looking at her career today, and the many awards and accolades she has received, it’s safe to say that Jennifer feels a lot more comfortable in her skin.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch may be one of the biggest stars in the industry with many acting awards and nominations, but he has often been criticized for his looks. After being cast in the BBC series “Sherlock”, the series' co-creator Steven Moffat, revealed that executives and even Benedict’s own mother didn’t think he was good-looking enough for the role of the famous sleuth!
In fact, one BBC executive even said “You promised us a sexy Sherlock, not him,” after hearing of Benedict’s casting. Ironically enough, Benedict has found himself being an unexpected heartthrob with a huge internet following!
With a successful music, film, and dance career, it can be hard to imagine anyone saying “no” to Jennifer Lopez, but early on in her career, rejection seemed to be all too common for the icon. While there’s no doubt that the young performer was beautiful, she didn’t quite fit into the typical Hollywood standard of beauty.
Thankfully, J.Lo ignored their “mean and closed-minded" calls to change her appearance and embraced her unique figure - even when casting directors rejected her or told her she would never succeed in the entertainment industry with her body.
With starring roles in “The Good Place” and the “Frozen” films, there seems to be no limit to what actress Kristen Bell could do. But early in her career, she found herself in a unique position when it came to auditions.
She stated that she was often told “you’re not pretty enough to play the pretty girl, but you’re not quirky enough or weird enough to play the weird girl,” These confusing messages could have ended her acting aspirations, but Kristen continued to move forward and eventually landed a role in “Gracie’s Choice”, launching her successful career.
Hollywood can be a harsh place for actresses who don’t look like the stereotypical leading lady. Early on in her career, actress, and writer Nia Vardalos was told she wasn’t booking jobs because “you’re not pretty enough to be a leading lady and you’re not fat enough to be a character actress.”
She was even dropped by her agent because she “wasn’t pretty” and later her manager after she revealed her writing aspirations. Luckily she continued to pursue her dreams and just a year later she starred in (and wrote) the cult-classic “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”!
Mindy Kaling might be one of the funniest women in Hollywood, but things weren’t always so light-hearted. Early on in her career, Mindy faced rejection due to her appearance. In one particularly humiliating event, she was even told that she wasn’t “attractive or funny enough” to play herself in a sketch show she had produced!
Thankfully, the star hasn’t let the superficial criticism stop the momentum of her career. With roles in “The Office”, “The Mindy Project”, and two New York Times bestsellers, Mindy has proved that she can do anything!
Like her idol Barbra Streisand, Lea Michele was told that she would have to drastically change her appearance if she wanted to succeed in Hollywood. In an interview, the Broadway and television star said that before joining the cast of “Glee”, she was told that she “wasn’t pretty enough” and even had a manager tell her to get a nose job when she was just 15 years old!
Thankfully she dropped that manager and was later cast in major Broadway productions such as “Spring Awakening” and the Fox series “Glee” where she became a household name.
It turns out that even celebrated actresses such as Meryl Streep have had harsh criticism thrown their way early in their careers. While auditioning for the 1976 film, “King Kong”, producer Dino De Laurentiis asked his son in Italian, “Why do you bring me this ugly thing?” in reference to Meryl.
The film icon, who was also fluent in Italian said “I’m sorry I’m not beautiful enough to be in King Kong .” With close to two dozen Academy Award nominations and 32 Golden Globe nominations, we’re sure criticisms about her looks are ancient history for Meryl!
With her cheery persona and doll-like looks, it’s hard to imagine Reese Witherspoon having difficulty making it in Hollywood. But when the actress first arrived on the scene, she was constantly told, “No, not right – not tall enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough.”
While hearing those things would make anyone want to catch the next bus out of Los Angeles, Reese persevered thanks to her “tenacious personality”. We’re sure her fans are thankful for her stubbornness - we can’t imagine a world without Reese as Elle Woods in the Legally Blonde film series!
As the star of “Will & Grace”, actress Debra Messing was one of the funniest women on television, yet early on in her career, there was nothing funny about the criticism she received about her appearance. She shared that a famous director once made the crew stop filming so he could say, “How quickly can we get a plastic surgeon in here? Her nose is ruining my movie.”
The actress was shocked to have been “reduced to an un-Hollywood nose.” Today, Debra has embraced her features and has become a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress.
It’s an unfortunate reality that even some of the most beautiful actresses have been told by agents that they must undergo potentially dangerous surgeries in order to change their appearance in order to succeed. Early on in her career, "Pitch Perfect” star Elizabeth Banks was told by her first agent to surgically enhance her chest.
The actress told one outlet, “I was so grateful that I didn’t have enough money at the time to follow his advice.” Today she has a successful movie, television, and now directing career - all without changing who she is!
With her incredible bone structure and flowing red hair, actress Jessica Chastain is one of the most stunning and talented women in Hollywood. But it wasn’t long ago that not everyone felt that way.
“The Help” actress told “Telegraph” magazine, "Only in the past five years have people been telling me I'm attractive," and that "Before then, I wasn't getting parts because people kept telling me I wasn't pretty enough." If that wasn’t bad enough, many suggested that she dye her signature crimson locks blonde! Awful on so many levels!
In case you thought that criticism was reserved for mere commoners, it turns out that even members of the royal family aren’t safe from mean comments! Before becoming the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle was an actress trying to break into Hollywood and was often told she was “'Not thin enough, not pretty enough, not ethnic enough, while also being too thin, too ethnic, too pretty the very next day.'
Thankfully, not only did Meghan become part of the hit television series “Suits”, but she actually married a prince - seems pretty successful to us!
Rebel Wilson may be one of the funniest actresses in Hollywood, but while she is clearly a talented performer, many in show business just couldn’t see past her appearance. She shared that, “agents would look at me and just be like, ‘No way,’ because I was overweight,”
Thankfully, Rebel told herself, “I'm gonna take something that you think is a disadvantage — I don't actually think it's a disadvantage — and I'm going to turn it into my success story,’” And she did - with a successful film career, fashion line, and many other upcoming projects!
You may want to sit down for this one - it turns out that even Queen Bey isn’t immune to criticism. Early on in her career, the singer began receiving criticism about her curvy body. She explained that she was beginning to feel insecure when the designer sample clothes didn’t fit her and people would mention her weight.
Thankfully Mama Tina Knowles was able to create memorable outfits for Beyoncé (and the other Destiny’s Child members) to wear. As for the critics, Bey says that she “refused to feel sorry for myself, so I wrote 'Bootylicious,”. Take that!
With a powerhouse voice and a new successful role as a daytime television host, there seems to be no limit to what Kelly Clarkson can achieve. But early on in her career, the “American Idol” winner was constantly faced with pressure to lose weight even though she was “really thin and not super healthy,”
She was even told she would have to lose weight to compete with other female celebrities! Thankfully, her attitude today is “I dare you to say something. I’m happy in my life. I’ll work on me in my time!” Amen Kelly!
As the hilarious Max Black on the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls”, actress Kat Dennings made even the most cynical character likable. With her curvaceous figure and dark hair, Kat Denning isn’t just a great actress, she’s also one of the most unique beauties in the industry.
Sadly though, early on in her career, the “Dollface” star was told to drop weight, tighten her teeth and even get a tan! Thankfully, Kat has embraced her looks and has no trouble finding memorable roles such as the character Darcy Lewis in Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Thor” film franchise.
It seems that even Miss World can’t catch a break when it comes to criticism. The former beauty queen-turned-actress Priyanka Chopra Jones was already a Bollywood star in India when she decided to try her luck in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, she was told by both a director and her own manager (!) that she would have to augment her chest, “fix my jaw, and add a little more cushioning to my butt." Thankfully that humiliating moment is in the past and Priyanka is one of the biggest stars today and the wife of pop star Nick Jonas!
She may be considered one of the most celebrated actresses today, but Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field didn’t always have it easy. After finding success in sitcoms like “The Flying Nun” Sally wanted to branch out into film. Unfortunately, she was told by her agent, “Well that's ridiculous. You can't do that, you can't get into film. You're not pretty enough. You're not good enough.”
The criticism continued even after her critically-acclaimed performance where the actress was often called “ugly”. Today, with countless acting awards and memorable roles, we can’t imagine anyone criticizing Sally today!
Julie Chen is easily one of the most well-known television personalities. But before she was a mainstay on television across the country, she was frequently told that her Asian heritage would be a hindrance to her career.
In fact, the pressure to “look less Asian” was so bad that Julie even had plastic surgery performed to change her facial features. Today, she has proven her critics wrong and has not only succeeded as a news anchor, but also as the host of the reality show “Big Brother”, and part of the popular daytime television show, “The Talk”.
Surprisingly, it turns out that Hollywood standards of beauty apply to even mythological creatures. Long before the world was divided into either #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob thanks to the Twilight fantasy films, actor Taylor Lautner was told he would have to completely change his body if he wanted to play werewolf heartthrob Jacob Black.
The actor was forced to pack on an estimated 30 pounds of sheer muscle to land (and keep) the career-making role. Though he was thankful for his role as the dashing supernatural being, he criticized the immense pressure to look a certain way.
As the star of the “Underworld” film franchise, you would think that Kate Beckinsale wouldn’t feel the need to change her appearance for a film, but unfortunately, the pressure was still there, even for an established film star.
When shooting the war drama “Pearl Harbor”, director Michael Bay allegedly said, “Kate wasn’t so attractive that she would alienate the female audience.” The brunette actress added that she apparently “didn’t make sense to him as an attractive woman.” Luckily, her many fans disagree and Kate is considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood!
Despite having a successful career as a popular media personality and BBC Radio 1 presenter in her native UK, Jameela Jamil wanted to parlay her fame across the pond. When she told others about her plans, she was told that she was, “throwing away an eight-year career and that I was too old - I was only 29 - too ethnic, and too fat to come over to Los Angeles."
Thankfully, the hilarious and talented Jameela didn’t pay the haters any mind and nailed her “The Good Place” audition, earning a major role in the critically-acclaimed series.
Though she has an award-winning voice, former- “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood was often criticized for her curvy figure. Most of that criticism came from online message boards when she was a contestant on season four of the music reality show.
The award winning-country superstar admits that criticism from those online trolls made her question her talent and even how she looked - prompting her to lose weight, even in some unhealthy ways. Thankfully, the singer has been able to overcome her insecurities and is now one of the reigning queens of the country music scene!
As the opinionated Tibby Rollins in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” films, it would come as a surprise to learn that behind-the-scenes actress Amber Tamblyn was struggling with her self-image. She shared that a Warner Bros. executive once told her, “You have a real choice here. You can either be Nicole Kidman or you can be a character actress,” basically the only thing stopping her career was her weight.
Today, with several major film and television roles and as a published author, Amber is using her voice to inspire others to work on their self-acceptance.
When it comes to experiencing harsh criticism, it seems that both men and women in Hollywood aren’t safe. When actor David Harbour was shooting a scene in the film “Brokeback Mountain”, he was allegedly told by director Ang Lee to look “more handsome” in a certain scene!
The actor was also apparently turned down for the role of The Blob after casting directors thought he was too overweight. Today, the actor has simply laughed off his past criticisms about his appearance and is now starring on the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things”.
If there’s anyone who knows about the relentless pressure women face to look a certain way it's comedian, writer and actress Amy Schumer. In one interview, she revealed that “Somebody, like, explained to me, ‘Just so you know, Amy, no pressure, but if you weigh over 140 lbs, it will hurt people’s eyes.’”
She has also said that she was told she would only be successful if she dropped weight for her hit film “Trainwreck”. Thankfully Amy hasn’t let the pressure stop her from working on new projects such as her most recent show, Hulu’s “Beth & Life”.
When you’re one of the original supermodels and one of the barrier-breaking fashion icons of the ‘90s, the scrutiny on your appearance can be overwhelming. No one knows the feeling of being under a microscope like model and media personality Tyra Banks.
Early in her career, she was rejected for many jobs not only because of her race, but also because of her famously curvy figure. Even decades after she began modeling, Tyra’s appearance has been the focus of media attention - something that prompted the supermodel to infamously tell the media to kiss her derriere!
Ashley Benson may have starred on the popular teen mystery drama series “Pretty Little Liars”, but casting directors weren’t mysterious at all when it came to revealing why she was being overlooked for certain parts.
The actress revealed that in recent years, she’s been told “You’re too fat for this,” and that “I get told all the time to lose weight.” Considering that the actress is quite petite to begin with, hearing this is very sad. We hope that casting directors see just how talented and beautiful she is without having to try to change her appearance.
As Rachel Green on the hit television series “Friends”, actress Jennifer Aniston epitomized ‘90s fashion and beauty. But behind-the-scenes, Jennifer was struggling with her own self-esteem after she was told by her agent that she would need to “lose thirty pounds if she wanted to stay in Hollywood.”
After realizing “I wasn't getting lots of jobs because I was too heavy," Jennifer embarked on a life-long fitness journey saying that she actually welcomed the criticism saying “I never knew I had this body in me." Today, Jennifer is one of the most successful and stylish actresses in Hollywood.
While most criticism directed towards stars comes from agents or casting directors, it’s sometimes fans who can be the cruelest. Sophie Turner, star of the popular fantasy adventure series “Game of Thrones” found her looks being criticized for everything from her skin to her weight.
Not only were the fans mocking her, but casting directors told her she needed to lose weight if she wanted to get certain roles - even when the role didn’t necessarily change in appearance. The actress has been very vocal about her struggles with self-esteem and how important it is to love yourself.
It may be hard to imagine a supermodel nicknamed “the body” dealing with rejection based on her looks, but it actually happened to Gisele Bündchen.
Before she was a Victoria’s Secret Angel and one of the most popular (and well-paid) models in the world, she was told that she would never make it onto the covers of magazines because “my nose was too big or my eyes were too small." Flash-forward to today, and Gisele has graced the covers of thousands of magazines. It’s no wonder that she’s often considered one of the most powerful women in fashion!
Though actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has never made it a point to be considered a Hollywood heartthrob, even she hasn’t been immune to conversations about her appearance. The “Secretary” star was recently being turned down for a role because she was too old (in her late 30s) to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man!
The actress said “It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”. With her incredible talent on screen and behind the camera, we’re sure that criticism isn’t keeping her up at night!
Who can forget Melissa McCarthy’s scene-stealing roles in films like “Bridesmaids” and “Gilmore Girls”? But believe it or not, the hilariously talented actress has battled critics since the beginning of her career.
The actress shared that even after starring in “Bridesmaids”, she recalls being asked “Are you shocked that you actually work in this business at your tremendous size?” adding that questions like that happen, “all the time”. Thankfully, her fans (and Hollywood) have realized that the only focus should be on her talent and not her appearance.
Having starred in one of the most well-known love scenes with stunning actress Keira Knightley in Atonement, it may be hard to believe that James McAvoy was turned down for a role as a love interest. The Scottish actor said that he was told by a female actress, “nobody would believe [he] would be with someone like her.”
The “His Dark Materials” actor also revealed that, “As a shorter man, I sometimes get told I’m too short for a role.” Considering how amazingly talented James is, we hope casting directors will continue to see past his height.
While the Kardashians have had no problem revealing the most intimate moments of their lives, Khloe Kardashian, unfortunately, has long been a target of the media and internet trolls from the moment the family began taking part in their reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”.
From comments about her weight, height, and facial features, Khloe has constantly been compared to her other famous siblings. The star has said that criticism was not only “hurtful,” but "It was always emphasized that they were so much prettier," -we can’t imagine how hard that must have been for her!
With a beautiful voice displayed in “Phantom of the Opera'' and some truly impressive acting chops, Emmy Rossum’s career should need no introduction. But unfortunately, the “Shameless” star has revealed that she was once asked to show up to a director’s office wearing just a bikini.
The reason? “He wanted to know if I was fat now.” In case that wasn’t shocking enough, the actress has had various equally rude comments about her appearance and body. We just hope that Emmy (or any other actress for that matter) ever has to deal with comments like that again!
You would think that as one of the most celebrated actresses, British actress Emma Thompson wouldn’t have to deal with criticism due to her appearance - unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
In an interview, Emma revealed that she hasn't starred in many intimate scenes because she was told by movie executives that she was “not pretty enough” or didn’t have the right kind of body. Thankfully, these days Emma has no problem starring as the romantic lead and is embracing her body and self - regardless of what the world has to say.
Minnie Driver may have been nominated for an Academy Award for best-supporting actress for her role in “Good Will Hunting,” but the iconic role almost didn’t happen. The actress was told that she wasn’t hot enough to play the character of Skylar in the Oscar-winning drama.
Unfortunately, the actress has continued to face criticism regarding her looks saying, “there are still just times when people are like ‘she’s too old’ or ‘she’s too tall.'” Thankfully, she has been able to ignore the naysayers and create a career for herself that many in Hollywood would envy.
As Joan on AMC's "Mad Men", actress Christina Hendricks quickly became a fan favorite for her complex character and curvy figure. But despite receiving handfuls of acting award nominations, Christina’s career has been limited due to her appearance.
The actress has been told things like, “We just don't think that a doctor would look like that” or being told by agents, “You have to lose some weight,”. Thankfully, her fans love her just the way she is. And with roles in films like “Drive'' and television series like “Good Girls”, it’s clear Hollywood loves her too!
Often playing the wise-cracking character such as Janis in the film “Mean Girls”, it’s hard to imagine actress Lizzy Caplan letting criticism get to her. But when she was younger, she found it hard to find roles on network television.
After being rejected from several roles on the now-defunct television network the WB, she joked “My friend Lindsay Sloane and I wanted to get T-shirts made that said, "I AM WB PRETTY!" because we'd just been told, "Oh, she's great, but she doesn't have that WB look,” - but what exactly is a WB look?
Unlike many stars, Kirsten Dunst has been able to successfully transition from child star to adult star. With roles in both popular films such as “Bring it On” and critically-acclaimed films like “The Power of the Dog,” it would seem that she wouldn’t have to deal with criticism about her looks.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case. The actress revealed that it was only until she worked with director Sofia Coppola on “The Virgin Suicides”, that she felt she was a “beautiful woman” in contrast to the many producers who wanted her to correct her teeth.
While female stars are often pressured to look a certain way, it seems that men are also told they’re not attractive enough. Though he may be one of the most talented young actors today, Andrew Garfield was once turned down for the role of the dashing Prince Caspian in “The Chronicles of Narnia” film.
When he asked his agent, Andrew was told “It’s because they don’t think you’re handsome enough, Andrew.” Although he didn’t get that role, his career has taken off and today he is one of the most in-demand actors in the industry.