Every big name superstar has to start out somewhere. Sometimes they get their breakthrough in TV commercials, sometimes through really embarrassing movies – but other times, they first come to the attention of audiences through their appearances in music videos.
Did you know the following celebrities starred in music videos before becoming famous in their own right?
30. Patrick Swayze (Toto – Rosanna)
The late, great Swayze was propelled to stardom in 1987 after his stellar performance in Dirty Dancing. Swayze found himself in high demand after the success of Dirty Dancing, and in 1990 went on to star in the hugely popular Ghost. But back in 1982, pre-Dirty Dancing and pre-Ghost, Swayze was busy dabbling in music video appearances.
The star appeared as one of a group of male dancers in Toto’s music video for their single Rosanna. Funnily enough, it wouldn’t be the last time Swayze danced with Cynthia Rhodes – the actress who starred as Rosanna in the video. Rhodes went on to play Penny in Dirty Dancing – Johnny’s initial dance partner before Baby comes along.
29. Kim Kardashian (Fall Out Boy – Thnks fr th Mmrs)
Back in the early 2000s, Kim Kardashian was just a typical LA socialite and semi-well-known for being Paris Hilton’s best friend. Nobody knew just how much her career was set to take off before the success of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In 2007, Kardashian began making tentative steps towards getting herself out there in the world of showbiz. Notably, she appeared in a music video for pop punk band Fall Out Boy, promoting their single Thnks fr th Mmrs.
The band’s bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz stayed in contact with Kardashian after production wrapped for the video. “I [recently] ran into her, and she was probably the nicest person ever,” Wentz told People in 2018. “She’s exactly the same as she was then, except she’s, like, a trillion times more famous.”
28. Matt LeBlanc (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Into the Great Wide Open)
Matt LeBlanc is, without a doubt, best known for his portrayal of journeyman actor Joey Tribbiani in Friends. But LeBlanc had been working hard to get his name out there for several years before he landed his Friends role in 1994. Back in 1991, LeBlanc featured in a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers music video for their single Into the Great Wide Open.
LeBlanc appeared alongside fellow up-and-coming actor Johnny Depp, who took the lead role in the vid. Depp was already considerably better-known due to his appearance in the 21 Jump Street TV series. Suffice to say, nobody knew that LeBlanc had such a successful career ahead of him back in 1991.
27. RuPaul (B-52’s – Love Shack)
RuPaul is probably the most famous drag queen in the world right now, thanks to the huge success of his show RuPaul’s Drag Race. But before RuPaul made his name as a glamorous drag star, he was making cameos in music videos. Most people may not realise that RuPaul actually features in the video for the B-52’s 1989 single Love Shack.
In the video, RuPaul, complete with a huge afro, appears in drag and looks dazzling dancing in an all-white outfit. The future reality TV star went on to make his name in 1992 when he released his first single, Supermodel (You Better Work.) In 1996 his first show, The RuPaul Show, premiered on VH1. The show ran for 100 episodes before ending in 1998.
26. Christina Hendricks (Everclear – One Hit Wonder)
Christina Hendricks is probably best known for her stellar portrayal of Joan Harris on the AMC series Mad Men. While Joan is cool, calm, and collected, Hendricks portrayed a much giddier character in one of her earlier roles. In 1997, Hendricks played gameshow contestant ‘Loopy’ in Everclear’s video for their single One Hit Wonder. In the video, Loopy goes on to win the game, bagging $1,000 and driving off with the band at the end of the video.
Hendricks was only 22 years old when she shot the video, but her natural enthusiasm certainly shone through. She first appeared as Joan in Mad Men in 2007, exactly ten years after performing in the Everclear video.
25. Elijah Wood (The Cranberries – Ridiculous Thoughts)
Elijah Wood was catapulted to stardom after securing the role of Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wood had of course already done a fair bit of acting as a child and teenager, including a minor role in Back to the Future II. When he was 14, Wood also appeared in the music video for The Cranberries’ song Ridiculous Thoughts. In the 1995 video, Wood walks around a ruined building while listening to a radio device.
Wood continued to make steady progress with his acting career throughout the 1990s, gaining recognition as a talented child actor. Then in 1999 his career took off as he was cast as Frodo in the first Lord of the Rings film, which was released to great critical acclaim in 2001.
24. Matthew McConaughey (Trisha Yearwood – Walkaway Joe)
Matthew McConaughey embarked on his acting career in the early 1990s, appearing in various television commercials. One of his more memorable early roles saw him star in a 1992 Trisha Yearwood music video for her single Walkaway Joe. In the video, McConaughey stars as Walkaway Joe himself – a delinquent young man who breaks a young woman’s heart by abandoning her after a short romance.
Later in 1992, McConaughey appeared on one episode of Unsolved Mysteries, where he played a murder victim. Then in 1993 he landed his breakthrough role in coming-of-age film Dazed and Confused, where he played David Wooderson. McConaughey’s career took off pretty quickly after that, and today he’s regarded as one of the most popular actors in modern Hollywood.
23. Ke$ha (Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl)
Californian pop singer Ke$ha catapulted to fame in 2009 after singing guest vocals on Flo Rida’s chart-topping hit Right Round. The talented artist has many music videos of her own nowadays, but pre-fame she actually appeared in a Katy Perry video, back in 2008. Ke$ha was friends with Perry and was hired to make a cameo in her I Kissed A Girl video.
The video, which has over 200 million views on YouTube, sees Perry singing while surrounded by other dancing women – including Ke$ha. Ke$ha made a name for herself the following year after collaborating with rapper Flo Rida. She then went on to release her record-breaking debut album, titled Animal, in 2010. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 100 in the US.
22. Eva Mendes (Aerosmith – Hole in My Soul)
Eva Mendes is a woman of many talents: as well as having a successful acting career, she’s also an accomplished model and businesswoman. But before Mendes’ career took off, she appeared in an Aerosmith music video back in 1997. The video was to promote the band’s single Hole in My Soul, and features a geeky high school student attempting to create the perfect girl, à la Weird Science.
About three quarters of the way through the video, the student’s creation is brought to life. And, surprise surprise, it turns out the ‘perfect girl’ is a young Eva Mendes – much to the student’s delight. His joy is short-lived, however – Mendes goes off with another guy at party, prompting the student to create another girl.
21. Katy Perry (Cupid’s Chokehold – Gym Class Heroes)
Perry has had a slew of successful singles over the past 10 years, and has even broken four Guinness World Records. But before all of this, Perry got her start in showbiz by appearing in a Gym Class Heroes music video. The video was for the band’s song Cupid’s Chokehold. Perry starred as a love interest for lead singer Travis McCoy. The video sees McCoy jump from one girlfriend to the next until falling for Perry and leaving his womanising days behind him.
In real life, Perry and McCoy dated between 2006 and 2008. McCoy also appeared in Perry’s video for her hit single I Kissed A Girl. Her breakthrough album, One of the Boys, was released in 2008 and has since sold seven million copies worldwide.
20. Vin Diesel (Kwamé – Nastee)
Most people know Vin Diesel for his role as Dominic Toretto in the Fast and Furious movies. His dazzling performances in the film franchise made him one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. But it was Vin Diesel’s cousin, the rapper Kwamé, who gave the actor one of his earliest screen roles.
In the music video for Kwamé’s 1992 song Nastee, Vin Diesel and his cousin play two romantic rivals who get into a fist fight. Nastee was a minor hit for Kwamé and peaked at No. 16 on the US Hot Rap charts. Who knew that before he graced the silver screen, Diesel was busy appearing in hip-hop videos?
19. Courteney Cox (Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark)
Unforgettable as Monica Geller in Friends, actress Courteney Cox also stars in the Scream films and the sitcom Cougar Town. Pre-stardom, Cox studied Architecture at Mount Vernon College in Washington, DC – but she knew deep down that she wanted to be an actress. Cox dropped out of college to pursue acting and modelling and soon found work in Bruce Springsteen’s music video for Dancing in the Dark.
Her cameo is, admittedly, very brief – towards the end of the video, Springsteen pulls her onstage and the two share a quick dance before the music fades out. The dance went on to inspire Alfonso Ribeiro when he choreographed his famous ‘Carlton dance’ in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The video was released in 1984, exactly ten years before Cox first graced our screens as Monica in 1994.
18. Naomi Campbell (Bob Marley – Is This Love)
One of the most famous models of all time, Naomi Campbell was a keen ballerina in her youth. Her mother, who was also a dancer, sent her to London’s Barbara Speake Stage School. At the age of seven, Campbell secured her first professional role in Bob Marley’s music video for Is This Love. The video centres around Marley and the Wailers performing Is This Love at a children’s party.
Seven-year-old Campbell makes an appearance about two minutes into the video – you can see her dozing on a sofa as Marley drapes a blanket over her. Campbell would later show off her tap dancing skills in the music video for Culture Club’s I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.
17. Jason Statham (The Shamen – Comin’ On)
Jason Statham is one of Hollywood’s premier action heroes, thanks to such franchises as Fast & Furious, The Transporter and The Expendables. Most of us know the English actor got his break in acting through the Guy Ritchie movies Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. You might not have known, however, that the future big screen tough guy made a very different early appearance in a 90s music video.
Statham (multiple Stathams, in fact) can be seen dancing in the video for Comin’ On, a 1993 single by dance act The Shamen. The actor is immediately recognisable by his bald head and muscular body, clad in nothing more than leopard print hot pants and baby oil. The 90s saw Statham make further such appearances in music videos by Erasure and The Beautiful South.
16. Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone (Aerosmith – Crazy)
By the mid-to-late 90s, Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone were two of the most sought-after actresses of their generation. Silverstone rocketed to superstardom after taking the lead role in smash hit Clueless, whilst Tyler starred in such popular films as Empire Records and Armageddon. Before this, the young stars appeared side-by-side in the video for Aerosmith‘s 1994 hit single Crazy. Tyler is the daughter of the legendary rock band’s frontman Steven Tyler, and her appearance in this video sent her career sky-rocketing.
The video also significantly raised Silverstone’s profile: she would go on to appear in two more Aerosmith videos, Amazing and Cryin’. Both actresses have pulled back from the limelight in recent years, taking the most recent roles on TV: Tyler in 9-1-1: Lone Star, Silverstone in The Baby-Sitters Club.
15. Jack Black (Foo Fighters – Learn to Fly)
Before his breakthrough turn in 2000 romantic comedy High Fidelity, Jack Black was largely unknown by the mainstream. The actor, comedian and musician had built up a cult following throughout the 90s, and clocked in a number of small movie roles. But it wasn’t really until Black appeared in the 1999 Foo Fighters video Learn to Fly that he started to gain widespread recognition.
Black appears in the video alongside Kyle Gass, his collaborator in musical comedy act Tenacious D, who would also enjoy success in the years that followed. This paved the way for Black to star in the hit movies School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda and the recent Jumanji movies. Black also appeared in a number of other music videos including Beck’s Sexx Laws and another Foo Fighters video, Low.
14. Angelina Jolie (Antonello Venditti – Alta Marea)
As the daughter of Coming Home Oscar-winner Jon Voight, Angelina Jolie has long been thought of as Hollywood royalty. Even so, when Jolie first broke into show business she had to work her way up like anyone else. The actress made her first credited screen appearance aged just 16, in the video for Antello Vendetti’s Alta Marea, an operatic cover version of Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over.
Jolie would go on to appear in many more music videos in the 90s, for such artists as The Rolling Stones, Meat Loaf and Lenny Kravitz. Jolie also started breaking into movies at the same time, with leading roles in Cyborg 2 and Hackers. Then in 2000, Jolie’s performance in Girl, Interrupted earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and from there her superstardom was assured.
13. Channing Tatum (Ricky Martin – She Bangs)
The Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street movies have made Channing Tatum one of the biggest names around in recent years. Though he’s an esteemed actor today, Tatum has long been most recognised for his physique and killer dance moves. He first got the chance to show these off in the video for Ricky Martin’s 2000 single She Bangs.
Admittedly Tatum’s a little difficult to spot, as he’s just one of a multitude of pretty people partying in the video. Pause it around the 1:29 mark, though, and Tatum can be spotted to the left of the screen, playing shirtless bartender. Tatum would go on to appear in more music videos for Sean Paul and Ciara before breaking through in the movies with 2006’s Step Up.
12. Jennifer Lopez (Richard Rogers – Can’t Stop Loving You)
Before she became a superstar for her acting and singing career, Jennifer Lopez broke into the industry as a dancer. The artist later known as J-Lo made one of her first appearances in the video for the Richard Rogers song Can’t Stop Loving You. Aged 21 at the time, Lopez appears prominently in the video as a waitress in a diner.
This would be the first of a number of such appearances Lopez made around that time, later showing off her moves in a Sam Fox video. More famously, Lopez also appeared in the video for Janet Jackson’s That’s the Way Love Goes in 1993. By the late 90s, roles in Jack, Anaconda and Out of Sight catapulted Lopez to stardom, and her music career began soon thereafter.
11. Zooey Deschanel (The Offspring – She’s Got Issues)
Thanks to her roles in sitcom New Girl and perennial Christmas classic Elf, Zooey Deschanel is a familiar face to many. Before all that, though, the actress and singer-songwriter made one of her earliest appearances in a 1999 music video for The Offspring. A red-haired Deschanel plays the central female in the promo for the punk rock band’s song She’s Got Issues.
Deschanel worked her way up in the years that followed, her 2003 breakthrough Elf leading to roles in Yes Man and 500 Days of Summer. Deschanel has since also shown off vocal abilities of her own in such films as 2011’s Winnie the Pooh and Trolls.
10. Katie Holmes (Tongue Tied – Eve 6)
Nowadays, Katie Holmes is mostly known for playing Bruce Wayne’s love interest Rachel in Batman Begins, as well as for her stint on Dawson’s Creek. However, before Holmes really got settled playing the Creek’s Joey Potter, she first starred in Eve 6’s video for Tongue Tied. Eve 6 were a California rock band formed in 1995, so they were still relatively early in their own careers when they brought on Katie Holmes.
Holmes starred in the Tongue Tied video as a beautiful but aloof school girl, who disregards the advances of the group’s lead singer. Thankfully, Holmes escaped wearing a tacky school uniform and even avoided the worst pitfalls of late 90s fashion. With that said, Holmes probably doesn’t look back on the video as a high point of her career, since Eve 6 faded into obscurity soon after.
9. Mila Kunis (Jaded – Aerosmith)
If any band have cultivated a reputation for creating elaborate music videos starring actresses at the beginning of their careers, then Aerosmith has. Mila Kunis was not the first actress to star in a music video for the band, but she certainly made an impact when she appeared in their video for Jaded. At the time of the video’s release, Kunis had appeared on a number of popular TV shows, such as Baywatch and Days of Our Lives. However, most of Kunis’ work up until that point had been as a featured extra, until her appearance in the Jaded video put her on the map.
Kunis would shoot more music videos after her experience with Aerosmith, specifically starring in The Strokes’ video for The End Has No End. Kunis later went on to appear in progressively bigger projects, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Black Swan, and has had a main voice role in TV’s Family Guy since 1999.
8. Charlie Puth (Dear Future Husband – Meghan Trainor)
Many of the celebs on this list made their start in music videos in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, but becoming famous through the medium of music videos is an ongoing phenomenon. For example, Charlie Puth earned his first-ever acting credit appearing in Meghan Trainor’s video for Dear Future Husband. Following his stint as the charming pizza boy in Trainor’s video (he even kisses the star herself), Puth went on to appear in many other music videos.
Puth contributed vocals to both Wiz Khalifa’s track See You Again and Lil Wayne’s track Nothing But Trouble, so of course he appeared in both of those music videos as well. Following those appearances, Puth was able to branch out his career into composing for other artists, such as Zara Larsson. Puth even wrote a song for the movie Penguins of Madagascar and is currently composing the soundtrack for a TV series based on Macbeth.
7. Macaulay Culkin (Black or White – Michael Jackson)
Macaulay Culkin is undoubtedly one of the most famous child stars of all time, thanks mostly to his memorable performance in Home Alone. However, shortly after Culkin starred in the hit Christmas movie, he cemented his position in Hollywood by raising his profile even more. In 1991, Culkin was given the opportunity to star in the music video for Michael Jackson’s hit song Black or White.
Culkin played a young, rock-obsessed kid who hoists giant speakers into his living room to shock his parents with the power of electric guitar. Seeing Culkin wearing the iconic single leather glove is both hilarious and adorable, as is seeing him play electric guitar and yell at his parents. Culkin’s performance no doubt influenced the success of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York a year later, since audiences couldn’t get enough of Culkin’s charm.
6. Norman Reedus (Wicked as It Seems – Keith Richards)
Norman Reedus is now immediately recognisable as the actor who plays Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, a role that Reedus has held for over ten years. Before Reedus settled into his stint on The Walking Dead, however, he starred in various projects, including a Keith Richards video. Reedus starred in Richards’ video for As Wicked as It Seems, which was released in 1992.
Reedus is simply credited as ‘Street Vagrant’, and spends most of his screen time looking rugged and sullen. Reedus obviously caught the music video bug whilst working on Keith Richards’ video, as he immediately went on to star in another music video project. The following year, Reedus appeared in Björk’s video for Violently Happy, credited this time as just ‘Patient’.
5. Mandy Moore (Little Things – Good Charlotte)
Depending on who you are, you probably recognise Mandy Moore as the mean popular girl from The Princess Diaries or as Mary Portman from Grey’s Anatomy. Either way, what you might not know is that Moore started out as a pop star, releasing her own singles and music videos throughout the late 90s. In order to promote her own fledgeling music career, Moore appeared in Good Charlotte’s video for Little Things in 2000.
Moore is credited as herself in the video, and is portrayed as a loner high schooler who is not as obsessed with the band as the rest of the students in the school. Moore did eventually pivot away from her own music career, and channelled her singing abilities into voicing Rapunzel for Disney’s Tangled instead. However, Moore did also star in Elton John’s music video for Original Sin two years later, playing John’s daughter.
4. Jamie Bell (Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day)
The video for Wake Me Up When September Ends is one of Green Day’s least upbeat and most serious. It follows a young couple whose lives are torn apart when one of them makes the decision to join the military, despite the other’s protests. The boyfriend who makes the decision to join the army is played by Jamie Bell, who had already made a name for himself as a child star.
Bell played the titular role in the movie adaptation of Billy Elliot, five years before he appeared in Green Day’s music video in 2005. Though Bell’s first-ever movie role was as the star of a big-budget musical, his participation in the Green Day music video helped reintroduce him to the world as an adult actor. From appearing in the video for Wake Me Up When September Ends, Bell went on to star in both Jumper and Jane Eyre in principal roles.
3. Dita Von Teese (mOBSCENE – Marilyn Manson)
Unlike many of the celebrities on this list, Dita Von Teese was hardly an unknown name before she began doing music videos. However, Teese was mostly known in the worlds of burlesque and pin-up, and wasn’t yet a complete household name. Dita Von Teese appeared in Marilyn Manson’s music video for mOBSCENE in 2003, doing her famous martini glass burlesque routine.
Teese was married to Manson at the time, and also appeared in his music video for (s)AINT doing a similar burlesque act. Following her music video debut, Dita Von Teese later appeared in a music video for rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars. Teese also appeared in the music video for Die Antwood’s track Ugly Boy, and later starred in the video for Blue Eyed Christ’s song Freakshow.
2. Gigi Hadid (Bad Blood – Taylor Swift)
Gigi Hadid is another celebrity who was definitely in the public eye before beginning her music video appearances. However, Hadid agreeing to star in Taylor Swift’s video for Bad Blood did help Hadid transition from a public figure into an on-screen star. By the time that Hadid starred in Taylor Swift’s video in 2014, Gigi Hadid was already a popular model and influencer. However, it was only following her appearance in Bad Blood that Hadid agreed to star in Zayn’s video for Pillow Talk, which took her fame to the next level.
Since appearing in those two music videos in 2014, Hadid has starred in several filmed runway shows, including for Victoria’s Secret. Hadid has even had a solid movie role in the years since her music video debut, featuring in Ocean’s 8 as herself back in 2018.
1. Jeremy Renner (Trouble – Pink)
Out of all the big-name Hollywood stars that you would expect to appear in a music video, Jeremy Renner probably isn’t at the top of the list. Nevertheless, in 2003 Jeremy Renner starred in the music video for Trouble, performed by rebellious pop star Pink. As if that fact was not surprising enough on its own, Renner played a cowboy sheriff in the music video.
Not only that, but he played an eyeliner-laden sheriff at that, in order to fit in with Pink’s over-the-top aesthetic. Renner had made an indie breakthrough playing Jeffrey Dahmer only a year before in 2002’s Dahmer, meaning any Renner fans would have gotten tone whiplash seeing him in such a fun project so soon after.