We’ve all probably contemplated a career change at some points in our lives. But at the same time, we also probably didn’t (most of us, I don’t know about you) start out as multi-award winning pop stars beloved by millions for our singing and dancing. Proving that even the richest and most famous get bored or at least hear from an agent or two that they’re something special, many a pop sensation get the itch sometime down the road to give acting a shot.
Whether or not they’re successful, well, that’s up for us to sit through and ultimately decide. For every On The Line, there’s an Oscar-winning performance in Moonstruck that somehow happens.
Some people just have all the luck.
5. Justin Timberlake
When the former N*SYNC frontman first hosted Saturday Night Live in 2003, the groans were audible. But it turns out there was so much more to Timberlake than being an acid wash denim enthusiast and boy bander. To everyone and their mother’s surprise, a star was re-born that night; he proved his comedic chops in sketches that have held recurring status like “Omeletteville” and “The Barry Gibb Talk Show.” His weird, wonderful friendship with Andy Samberg brought us “Dick in a Box” and more variations of those smarmy, threeway-having 90s crooners.
Since then, Timberlake has gone on to host SNL six more times and has starred in a slew of films – some better than others – making him a certified double threat. Well, as much as you can be when you still have The Love Guru in your wheelhouse. His turn as manic and visionary Napster founder Sean Parker in The Social Network proved his worth as more than a stunt cast; he could hold his weight against seasoned vets. Lest he get too cocky, there’s always something like Runner, Runner in his resume just to keep him grounded.
4. Jessica Simpson
Barely making the decade cut-off by rising to fame in 1999, poor, simple Jessica Simpson made the transition from music to television in 2003 with her short-lived but much beloved reality show with then-husband Nick Lachey, Newlyweds. One utterance of “is this chicken or fish?” and a swift divorce later, Simpson took her newfound exposure as America’s bizzaro sweetheart and quickly launched herself into the next level of stardom: her film career. Hey, capitalize on it while you’ve got it.
Her roster of questionable, but wholly appropriate roles included the modernization and film adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard, costarring Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott as Luke and Bo. Her contribution to the film was famously, somehow, managing to make Daisy Dukes even smaller than the original pair. She also starred in Employee of the Month, in which she had to pretend to be in love with Dane Cook. That role took considerably more work. Though Simpson’s film career wasn’t much longer than her Daisy Dukes, her blonde ambition was admirable.
3. Mandy Moore
Yes, here’s another who barely slipped in under the Y2K wire. While Mandy Moore does have the voice of an angel (“Candy” was a solid jam, okay?), she might have actually found her calling when she decided to switch teams and give acting a shot. Does anyone really remember her teen pop days anyway? Instead, she suddenly morphed into the queen of teen movies, and then later transitioned to light adult fare so seamlessly, Diane Keaton was practically waiting for her on the other side.
It was Moore’s starring turn as a dying, shy Christian girl who gains the love of the school bad boy in the 2002 Nicholas Sparks tearjerker A Walk to Remember that solidified her place as an actress; nothing gains you notoriety like going ugly, then going pretty, then dying quite beautifully in the arms of a hot dude (Shane West) to win the hearts of teen audiences everywhere. From there, she expanded her range by being supremely, perfectly catty as the vengeful bible-thumper in Saved! and the popular foe to Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries.
Of course, they’re not all winners; she’s starred in a hell of a lot of terrible romcoms, and 2007’s License to Wed is truly atrocious. But hey, most recently, she became an actual Disney princess by voicing Rapunzel in Tangled. So you know, maybe if you have one hit single…don’t put all your eggs in one basket?
For someone who is practically perfect in every single way, it’s a little gratifying to know that Beyoncé doesn’t quite excel in one area – acting. At least, the projects that Queen Bey is involved with are generally not of the greatest caliber. But for every Carmen: A Hip Hopera (why yes, this is a hip hop retelling of the opera “Carmen” costarring Mekhi Phifer, I’m glad you asked), we’re treated to something like Obsessed, maybe the greatest cheese fest about a crazed stalker since Fatal Attraction. Have you ever wanted to hear Beyoncé scream “stay away from my man!” and then watch her proceed to beat the hell out of Ali Larter for a good half hour? Is this the movie for you, friend.
When she was just 19, Beyoncé scored the part of Austin Powers’ gal Foxxy Cleopatra in Goldmember. Though not exactly the most highbrow venue for showcasing her talent, the threequel did allow her to transition into acting – even if that meant having to fall for Mike Meyers while wearing a gold bikini for most of the film. She starred opposite Steve Martin in The Pink Panther, and tried her hand at serious fare in Cadillac Records and Dreamgirls.
Even if she never acts again, her sending Ali Larter through that chandelier is enough for an entire career.
1. Jennifer Lopez
It would be remiss to not mention Jenny from the block when making this list. Jennifer Lopez already had a film resume by the time 1997 rolled around, but it was portraying another pop superstar, the late Selena Quintanilla, in Selena, that gave her recognition as an actress. After that, JLo switched back and forth between being the queen of romantic comedies, in films like Maid in Manhattan (the one that tried to make Ralph Fiennes as a romantic lead a thing) and The Wedding Planner, and playing female badasses in fare like The Cell and Enough. Somehow she’s still doing all of that and making music.
There’s a distinct formula to JLo movies: she must usually play a tightly wound-up professional of some sort (also true of The Back-Up Plan), she must heavily question her relationship (is McConaughey the right man?) and there must be at least one JLo song played in the film’s soundtrack. It’s contractual, and it’s flawless. Whether or not it’s masterful is a whole different can of worms. But she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank.