5 Best Models Turned Actresses

Many women in Hollywood started their careers walking the runways or posing for ads and transitioned to acting, but these 5 best models turned actresses took it one step further. These women who started as models have gone on to win acting's highest honor—the Academy Award.

  1. Charlize Theron. Charlize Theron, the first on the list of best models turned actresses, dreamed of being a ballerina as a kid. But when the 5'10" South African girl won a modeling contest at the age of sixteen, a new path was laid out for her. She moved to the fashion capital of the world, Milan, where she worked for a year before setting out for New York. She told the New York Times magazine in 2008, "I had the capability to be a bigger model than I was. They were always telling me, 'Lose five pounds and you’ll be a supermodel.' I saw modeling like waitressing—it was a way to pay for another career." When a knee injury stopped her from dancing, she moved to Los Angeles and set her sites on acting. She had an agent in a few weeks and got her first part within eight months. Today Theron is one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood and in 2004 she won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in "Monster."
  2. Halle Berry. When she was just seventeen years-old, Halle Berry was crowned Miss Teen All-American, representing her home state of Ohio. The following year she became Miss Ohio 1986, was the first African American contestant in the Miss World competition, and then became the first runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant. After her pageant days, she began modeling, appearing in many print and TV ads. But that part of her career did not last long and she, too, became one of the best models turned actresses. In 1989 she was cast in a TV series, "Living Dolls,"  and by 1991 got her big break with Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever." In 2002 she won the Best Actress Academy Award for her work in "Monster's Ball," the first African American actress to win the prestigious honor.
  3. Kim Basinger. The next on the list of best models turned actresses is Kim Basinger who got her start on stage in pageants at the age of sixteen—first at the Athens Junior Miss contest, then Junior Miss Georgia, and finally the national Junior Miss pageant. By twenty, Kim was hired by Eileen Ford of the Ford Modeling agency and began appearing on magazine covers and in ads, most notably as the Breck girl. She was reportedly earning $1,000 a day for her modeling work. But Hollywood came calling and after some bit parts on "Starsky and Hutch" and "Charlie's Angels," she graduated to feature films. In 1997 she won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance in “L.A. Confidential.”
  4. Geena Davis. After graduating from Boston University with a degree in drama, Davis moved to New York where she got signed by the Zoli Agency and became a Victoria's Secret model. But she joined the best models turned actresses list when director Sydney Pollack saw that year's catalogue and cast her in "Tootsie." From there she went on to films like "The Fly" and "Earth Girls Are Easy" before her Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winning turn as Muriel Pritchett in “The Accidental Tourist.”
  5. Jennifer Connelly. The final star to make the list of best models turned actresses is Jennifer Connelly, who began modeling when she was just ten years old. A close ad executive friend of her dad's suggested she audition for a modeling agency. The young beauty didn’t land at just any firm. She was signed to Ford and reportedly fashion guru, Eileen Ford, took her to calls after school. Pretty soon Connelly was all over ads and magazines, including Seventeen. She also began acting and by the time she was sixteen, starred in the cult hit "Labryrinth" with David Bowie. In 2001 she won both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for her role in “A Beautiful Mind.”


Charlize Angel

Geena Davis

Kim Basinger

Halle Berry

Jennifer Connelly

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