35 Of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Starlets

Celebs June 20, 2019 By Hugo

It takes a lot to forge a successful career in a town nicknamed 'The Land of Broken Dreams', but these female stars defied the odds and went on to have illustrious careers that eventually cemented their reputations as icons. 


Today, we look back at 35 starlets from the Golden Age right through to present day Hollywood and explain why they remain fabulous! 

1. Veronica Lake


Veronica Lake possessed a small figure, but in the world of Hollywood, she stood tall as one of the leading starlets of 1940s cinema. Her most famous role arguably came in the Blue Dahlia, with her signature platinum blonde hair proving a hit with viewers.

Her striking hair color had women across America reaching for the bleach to replicate the beauty of the Peek-a-Boo star.

2. Rita Hayworth 


One of Hollywood’s first pinup girls, this red-haired beauty was an extraordinary dancer and actress whose beauty and charm was so overwhelming many men felt helpless in her company. As well as appearing in films such as Gilda, her personal life was equally as famed for her marriage to the director Orson Welles.

However, Hayworth divorced Orson Welles because she couldn't "take his genius anymore."

3. Jane Russell


It was no secret that film director Howard Hughes had a major crush on a then-little-known star from Minnesota by the name of Jane Russell so much so that he quickly signed her up to a seven-year picture deal.

Unfortunately, the deal didn't offer much in the way of acting, and she often found herself playing second fiddle to other leading ladies until 1951's  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes elevated her to the big time.

4. Dorothy Dandridge


An actress, singer and dancer extraordinaire who started out as a singer before transitioning into the movies in 1954's Carmen Jones, Dorothy Dandridge would go on to win a Golden Globe in 1959 for her performance in Porgy & Bess.

But her legacy as the first black sex symbol in Hollywood is really what made her a true icon, and she was the first black actress to grace the front cover of Life magazine. While she died unexpectedly at 42, her legacy lives on. Fellow African-American Halle Berry even portrayed Dorothy Dandridge in a bio about her life called Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.

5Doris Day


Doris Day was arguably America’s first sweetheart, and the world of entertainment mourned her when she passed away earlier last month at the age of 97. In a career spanning some 8 decades, Doris Day's effervescent personality and striking beauty made her a favorite among a broad demographic of cinema-goers for her performances in various musicals and comedies.

In her later years, Day dedicated much of her life to animal welfare before passing away in her California home. A true great. 

6. Ava Gardner


One of the most beautiful Hollywood starlets in recent memory started out in the humble dwellings of a rural Southern farm until a lucrative MGM contract changed her life.

While her performances in her earlier career didn't set the world alight, her first big breaks in Mogambo and The Night of the Iguana showcased her talents on a bigger stage. She was also one of Frank Sinatra's many wives. 


7. Lauren Bacall 


When Lauren Bacall came on the screen, you knew you were watching someone that didn't belong on this Earth, such was her overwhelming beauty and remarkable talents as an actress. Lauren's first leading role came at just 19 when she starred alongside opposite Humphrey Bogart, which would spawn arguably the greatest love story in Hollywood history.

After falling in love on set, they remained together for the rest of their lives until death did them part. At the funeral, Bacall threw a whistle in his coffin in tribute to the film To Have and Have Not. In the scene, she says, "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."

8. Grace Kelly


Rising to fame in High Noon and as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite talents, Grace Kelly was one of the first superstar actresses to be hounded by the paparazzi.  

However, Kelly would quit Hollywood for good and marry Prince Rainier of Monaco and raise their three children in relative peace before a car accident cut her life short at just 52.


9. Anita Ekberg

Shutterstock/ Denis Makarenko

This Swedish model-turned-actor was a favorite of the Italian director Federico Fellini who gave her her first big break when he cast her in 1960’s La Dolce Vita. Displaying her skimpily-clad figure among the beautiful backdrop of the Roman fountain, Ekberg took Italy by storm.

In fact, most of her success remained in Italy, and while Hollywood was aware of this blonde beauty, most of her success came in Italy and European cinema.

10. Natalie Wood


Natalie Wood is one of the few successful child actors to transition to a fully-fledged star. A true success story, Natalie's parents came to America as Russian immigrants, and it was there that their special daughter gave them a life beyond their wildest dreams.

Her first role as a child actress came in Miracle on 34th Street and then as the female muse opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Wood continued to work regularly in Tinseltown, until her untimely death at just 43. 

11. Olivia Newton-John

Shutterstock/ Bart Sherkow

If Olivia Newton-John's career were to be characterized by one film, it would be her role as John Travolta's love interest in the classic Hollywood musical, Grease. But Newton-John isn't only known for her acting abilities, In fact; the starlet continues to tour the world with a string of musical hits, including the iconic song, Physical which has seen the starlet notch up record sales of more than 100m copies.

Away from her acting and musical endeavors, the star is also a keen animal rights advocate and regularly contributes to individual health awareness charities after successfully overcoming her fight with breast cancer in 1992. 

12. Goldie Hawn

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Goldie Hawn is a Hollywood legend, and her friendly, and carefree spirit has given her a reputation as a bit of a hippie (albeit a wealthy one).

Things started looking up for the actress in the 1970s when she won an unexpected Oscar in 1969 for her role in Cactus which gave Hawn's career the upward momentum needed to land iconic roles in the films Death Becomes Her, First Wives Club and The Banger Sisters.

Away from the screen, the charismatic starlet is a mother to three children, two of whom, the actors Oliver and Kate, derive from her first husband, the musician Bill Hudson. Since 1983, Goldie has been married to the Kurt Russell.

13. Diane Keaton


Diane Keaton proved that romances in Tinseltown don't always have to be centered around two attractive twenty-somethings when she starred in the rom-com Something's Gotta Give. 

The actress first came to prominence for her role as Kay in the Godfather trilogy and would eventually go on to win an Academy Award for her role in the Woody Allen classic, Annie Hall. 

14. Sissy Spacek


If you can remember who Sissy Spacek is, then kudos to you! The actress, who has gone under the radar in recent years, is perhaps most known for her role as Carrie in the 1973 movie's namesake which saw Sissy play a revengeful 17-year-old girl living with an unstable mother.

The role would be enough to earn Spacek an Oscar nomination for her efforts, but it was her brilliant role in the critically praised film Coal Miner’s Daughter which saw her take a home her first and only Oscar. Today, the actress isn't as in-demand as she once was, but is mooted to star alongside Meryl Streep in the remake of the 1962 movie, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 

15. Maureen McCormick


Known widely for her role as Marcia Brady on the immensely popular ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch, Maureen McCormick found life after the show much harder. The actress went down an array of new paths, from dabbling in songwriting and TV presenting and even giving it a go as a recording artist.

Unfortunately for Maureen, such endeavors didn't offer her the same success, and since the show's end, she was plagued with rumors of drug addiction and is also thought to have turned to prostitution. Thankfully, the former actress is now clean, and we hope that continues.

16. Jodie Foster 

Shutterstock/ Lev Radin

Jodie Foster's foray into Hollywood started as a child and it wasn't long before she'd established herself as Tinseltown's go-to child star, a reputation that was only cemented when she gained an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic, Taxi Driver.

But unlike most her age, Foster avoided the perils that often come with having everything so young and instead developed into a credible leading lady, with 1991's Silence of the Lambs proving her most famous role. Nowadays, Jodie Foster is more keen to be working behind the camera and has directed 2011's The Beaver, two episodes of Orange is the New Black and most recently held the reigns on the impressive 2016 movie, Money Monster. 

17. Dolly Parton

Shutterstock/ Bart Sherklow

Dolly Parton may have worked the 9 to 5 grind, but at the ripe old age of 70, Parton's hectic life doesn't seem to have affected her looks. Instead, the American treasure still looks as radiant as ever and continues wowing audiences with her catchy lyrics and showbiz persona.

The vivacious performer is also known for her acting abilities and first made waves in Hollywood when she starred in the brilliant 1980 movie, Steel Magnolias.

18. Barbra Streisand

Shutterstock/ Lev Radin

Barbra Streisand is a cultural icon to American music and her talents have been rightly rewarded. As with many stars, her talents were multifaceted, which led her to star in movies such as The Way We WereA Star Is Born and the Funny Girl, the latter of which would garner her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

If that wasn't impressive enough, Streisand would go on to direct many movies, including box offices smashes like The Prince of Tides and The Mirror Has Two Faces.  

Admittedly, the American superstar isn't as busy as she once was, but at 74, she hasn't exactly taken her foot off the peddle and recently embarked on a nine-city concert tour in America to promote her latest album  Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway. 

19. Bo Derek


Bo is an American film and television actress, movie producer, and model perhaps best known for her breakthrough role in the 1979 film 10. The film also launched a bestselling poster for Derek in a swimsuit, and subsequently, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1980s.

Now in semi-retirement, she makes occasional film and tv appearances with her last on-screen appearance being in the film 5 Weddings.

20. Meryl Streep


Most people on this list have needed little introduction and Meryl Streep is another. Over the years Streep has become so famous for her acting pedigree that her name has almost become synonymous with every award season after her breakout role in The Deer Hunter. 

The well-versed actor, who at one point wondered whether every role would be her last, has been working like a horse for more than 40 years and has been nominated 19 times by the Academy, winning on three occasions.

21. Faye Dunaway 


Faye Dunaway will always be known as one-half of Bonnie and Clyde. Since the iconic role, her career was propelled and Dunaway soon found herself with an A-list status, gaining her roles in cinematic masterpieces like ChinatownMommy Dearest and her Oscar-winning turn in Network. 

In her later years, interest cooled off and she was very vocal towards Hollywood's treatment of older woman, who she believed were never cast as the love interest of men- even those older than herself. Having said that. the icon recently returned to the screen, starring in the American supernatural thriller Bye Bye Man. 

22. Victoria Principal


Primarily known for playing the role of Pamela Barnes Ewing in the runaway hit TV drama, Dallas, Victoria also made several films throughout the 70s and became a mainstay of television drama until around 2001. After leaving Dallas, Principal started her own production company and this was her first step into entrepreneurship.

Now with a successful beauty range as well, Victoria focuses all of her time on her business interests now and she has also written a series of self-help books.

23. Susan Dey


A young model before she landed her starring role on The Partridge Family, Susan Dey shot to fame at the age of just 17 for her role as Laurie Partridge. When the show ended she found more success in the series L.A. Law where she would go on to win a Golden Globe for her role as Grace Van Owen

Acting on television and in films right up until 2004, Dey has also produced a few television shows as well.

24. Cher


Cher is so cool that she only goes by one name, and the 70s was no different. Beginning her career on the Sonny and Cher Show, the performer soon became an icon in music, fashion and acting, a feat proven beyond doubt when she won an Oscar for Moonstruck in the late 80s, which added to her already-impressive collection of Emmy, Grammy, and Golden Globe Awards.

Aged 70, Cher, real name Cherilyn Sarkisian, appears more focused on interests outside Hollywood of late and is noted for her political views, philanthropic endeavors and social activism, which has seen her attend many LGBT and climate change rallies.

25. Raquel Welch


To say Raquel Welch was a sex-symbol of the 70s is almost selling her short. She was an icon and arguably the face of American New Wave Cinema, such was the extraordinary celebrity she possessed and the fame Raquel garnered for her acting prowess and model-like looks would see her labeled by many industry commentators as the 'It' girl of Hollywood.

The hype surrounding Welch is thought to have started after she starred in the British indie flick One Million Years B.C. Despite only having three lines, it was the image of her body in one scene, clad only in a doe-skin bikini that instantly propelled the actress into superstardom. What followed was a host of movie offers, which saw the brunette beauty star in the notable films Bedazzled and Myra Breckinridge. 

Shifting her focus away from acting, the icon, who is as prepossessing as ever at the age of 76 (yes, 76) now puts most of her efforts into her popular skin and beauty products.

26. Winona Ryder

credit Wikimedia

First coming to public attention for appearing on the show Mermaids, Ryder soon found herself landing Hollywood hits such as Tim Burton's  Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

She took a brief career hiatus after a problem with shoplifting in 2001 but by 2006 was back on screen. Currently, she plays the mother figure in the incredibly popular Netflix series  Stranger Things.

27. Denise Richards

Shutterstock/ S_bukley

Actress, model and former Bond girl, there was one point in time where it seemed Denise Richards' star would never fade as she was in the biggest films and constantly in demand for acting and modelling work with everyone wanting her to be the face of their brand. These days, however, although still a presence, you don't tend to hear so much about her.

Still picking up regular TV spots, Richards is currently filming the pilot for upcoming TV project Rock In A Hard Place which is a cable series produced by Rat TV about an ageing rock star who ends up broke and having to move in with his elderly mother. Not yet completed yet, there is hope that it will be picked up for a run which will give Richards yet another recurring role on television.

28. Alanis Morissette

Shutterstock/ Joe Seer

The Canadian-American alt-rock singer released her first two albums only in Canada but after their initial success, she moved to LA and released her third studio album Jagged Little Pill that would go on to become a global phenomenon and typify the angst of a generation. 

Continuing to release albums, although less likely to do press, Morisette has also built up a body of acting work in film and television as well as appearing in off-Broadway shows. She also works as an advice columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian.

29. Marilyn Monroe


An enduring icon, Marilyn Monroe's legacy has lived on long after her death. Sex symbol, icon and Hollywood superstar, Marilyn Monroe is one of the most recognizable faces of all time.

A starlet in every sense of the word, Monroe's image has been immortalized on everything from mugs and cups to T-shirts and shower curtains.

30. Beyonce

Shutterstock/ Everett Collection

While undertones of feminism can be found throughout most of her career, Beyonce was initially hesitant to publicly align herself with the movement.

However, she has become far more vocal about feminism and black empowerment throughout the years and her album 'Lemonade' explores both of these themes quite openly, making her a global role model for young girls, women and pop fans.

31. Sophia Loren


The Italian superstar took Hollywood by storm when she arrived on American shores and quickly became one of the biggest movie stars of the time. A beauty queen, model, actress and sex symbol, Sofia Loren is still much beloved today having started her career competing in a Miss Italia beauty pageant.

It was there that Loren caught the eye of future husband Carlo Ponti, who was working as one of the panels judges. Ponti happened to be was a film producer and would go on to cast her in her first movie, Quo Vadis (1951), thus launching her film career.

32. Sharon Tate


Married to the film director Roman Polanski and pregnant with his child, everything seemed to be going just great for the actress Sharon Tate. She was living the dream and appeared destined to continue living it for years to come until Charles Manson directed his "family" of followers to kill her.

The late serial killer was actually indirectly responsible for the murders of seven people, which included the eight-month pregnant actress Sharon Tate. While not taking part in the killings, Manson was held accountable for instructing the murders, which were carried out by Susan Atkins,Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten.

Manson's motive was to start a race war between African Americans and white people by murdering residents in the wealthy, predominately white suburbs of L.A. and then blaming the killings on members of the black community. 

The 83-year-old eventually served over 40 years before he succumbed to his death in a hospital in Bakersfield, California last year, with this elegant photo of the beautiful actress thought to be the last captured image of the star alive before Manson's cult killed her.

33. Mariah Carey

Shutterstock/ JStone

Mariah released her debut single Vision of Love in 1990 and since then it has set the template for almost every female R&B singer since. In 1994 she released her first Christmas album Merry Christmas which contained the massive global hit All I Want For Christmas (Is You).

Having sold over 200 million records worldwide, Mariah became one of the biggest selling artists of all time.  In 2000 she signed a record-breaking $100 million recording contract with Virgin Records America and she went on to appear in many films. 

34. Scarlett Johansson

Shutterstock/ Andrea Raffin

Coming to prominence for her role in Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation and then furthered her credentials with her lead role as The Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Appearing in the unstoppably successful Marvel franchise The Avengers  as well as going on to work with Woody Allen in several films and is now one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

35. Mary J. Blige

Shutterstock/DFP Photographic

Fresh faced and ready to shake up the music world, Mary blew apart the R&B scene when she released "What's the 411?" in 1992 with her gritty and raw music being the antithesis of what most pop icons were putting out at the time.

Seven more albums under her belt and a successful acting career to boot, Mary also launched her own record label, perfume and line of sunglasses and is looking into film and television production.

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