It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know Emma Watson’s name. An actress, model, and political advocate, the star rarely takes a break and always seems to make a difference. Fans have loved her since her early acting career, playing the iconic Hermione Granger in the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. As the series progressed, we could see Watson’s transformation on-screen, from child actor to a young woman with passion and a cause. So let’s take a look back through the years at Watson’s transformation and the spell she has cast over all of us.
A role that changed everything
Like many young kids growing up, Watson always wanted to be an actor. Unlike many kids, however, she not only became one, but starred in one of the most famous and successful movie franchises ever. In 2001, the 11-year-old Watson had her film debut as the spunky, witty Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And with that, Watson and her fellow young castmates struck gold.
At such a young age, Watson struck a balance. She had a taste of fame but still had her daily life with school and friends. In 2002, the 12-year-old described going to school since her Harry Potter fame had begun, telling BBC News, "I go to a very big school and some people give me a bit of stick…But apart from that most people are really nice about it. My close friends just treat me normally. They ask questions about it because they’re curious but it’s OK… I still do everything I used to do. I still play hockey and do all my sports."
With the success of the first movie, Watson added more than just schoolwork to her homework pile. She continued to push herself to excel at acting, and showed just how hard she wanted to work for it. Discussing a difficult scene in the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, she said, "I really enjoyed doing that scene because it really tested me." It was clear then that Watson was not your average 12-year-old.
Figuring out our favorite witch
As the years continued and the Harry Potter films continued to be successful, Watson was able to continue to dig deeper into who Hermione Granger was, growing both her character and her acting abilities. At just 14, Watson was interviewed about the third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by IGN and went into detail about playing her iconic character. "I hope I’ve done justice to her character, because it’s my favorite book, and it’s such a great part for her in the third book. And I hope that, you know, I did her justice and she’s what they [fans] all thought she’d be."
And even in those teen years, Watson seemed beyond mature, with zero diva tendencies. She said, "I feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to be in such a fantastic film and worked with so many tons of people. I mean, my ambitions couldn’t even dream of the scale and greatness that Harry Potter is, and so, I’m so very lucky about that." And we’re all very lucky Watson became our Hermione.
Growing with her character
It wasn’t long before Watson’s fame was undeniable, but she didn’t dare let that go to her head. She continued to challenge herself and excelled when she worked hard… sounds a lot like a certain witch we know, right? Even Watson could see that her character, Hermione, had become a part of her. The 15-year-old told BBC in 2005 just that, saying, "It feels like I don’t really have to act any more. There’s so much of me in Hermione and her in me that it feels like I’m barely doing anything sometimes."
As as both Watson and her character grew older, they became more complex. Watson jumped at the chance to challenge herself with a character experiencing conflict. "I loved all the arguing. I thought it was really juicy. We’ve [Harry, Ron, Hermione] always got along perfectly, and I think it’s much more realistic that they would argue and that there would be problems. So I thought it was great fun."
And speaking to IGN about director Mike Newell for the fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she respected how much responsibility he gave her as an actress to become her character. "He wasn’t taking any slack. He was expecting us to be professional the entire time."
Watson wasn’t just responsible in her acting career but her academic one as well. In 2006 while filming her fifth movie for the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it was announced that she received top-level scores on her exams. Is there anything she can’t handle?
Becoming a real-life role model
As her fame grew, Watson became a role model for young girls, and she saw how important it was to emphasize girls’ intelligence in society. The 17-year-old told Parade (via People) in 2007, "There are too many stupid girls in the media. Hermione’s not scared to be clever. I think sometimes really smart girls dumb themselves down a bit, and that’s bad." On that same topic, she told Scholastic, "I’m a bit of a feminist. It’s really important to stand up for yourself, whether you’re a girl or a boy."
And while Watson was taking a strong stand when it came to girl power, she also was focusing on making sure her life stayed normal outside of the Hollywood craze. With lawyers for parents, Watson didn’t feel a need to be surrounded by the excitement of showbiz constantly. She told Parade, "People can’t understand why I don’t want to be a full-time actress, but school life keeps me in touch with my friends. It keeps me in touch with reality…Let’s be honest: I have enough money never to have to work again, but I would never want that. Learning keeps me motivated."
Expanding her horizons
By 2008, the world had been caught under the spell of young starlet, Watson. Now 18 years old, the actress was taking big steps in her career outside of the acting world. It was announced that Watson signed a two-year, $6 million contract with Chanel to be the face of its Coco Mademoiselle fragrance. This was a big moment that showed Watson was no longer the teen we had seen grow up in front of our eyes, but a woman of class.
And she wasn’t just gaining the notice of the fashion world — her academic record was pristine. In 2008, her website posted a statement (via The Telegraph) saying, "We are absolutely delighted to let you all know that Emma received straight As in her three chosen subjects namely English literature, geography and Art!! As you can imagine Emma is absolutely thrilled and we are all very proud of her." Seriously, she was becoming more like Hermione every day, and we loved it.
Trying out normalcy for a while
Watson always strived to keep some bit of normalcy in her life despite the fame of Harry Potter, and college was no exception. In 2009, Watson announced she planned to make her way to the States to attend Brown University, studying liberal arts. And just like any teen, she knew she’d be homesick, telling People, "I will miss marmite, baked beans, London taxis and the rain!…I may have to bring boxes full of marmite and baked beans with me."
And what makes Watson so incredibly cool is that she wanted the full college experience — including the dorms and roommates. She said, "If I’m going to do this experience, I’m going to do it properly and going to do it like everyone else." But she did have one request for her roommate: not to be too big of a Harry Potter fan. "As long as there are no Harry Potter posters on the wall, I will be fine and happy." Can you imagine having Watson has a roommate freshman year of college? Greatest roommate ever.
And never the under-achiever, Watson still wanted to keep acting in her life during school. "I definitely want to continue. I’ve managed to juggle and balance studying and working well enough to this point so I can’t see why I can’t keep doing that…But I am looking forward to being a normal teenager and want a normal experience for a bit."
New hair, new attitude
With the end of filming for the Harry Potter franchise, fans wondered what would be next for their favorite Hogwarts academic, and in 2010 Watson gave us a change that got people talking. She chopped off her hair for a cute, very short, pixie-like ‘do. Watson spoke with Metro about the change, which she wasn’t able to make until filming ended. "I didn’t get to experiment with dyeing and chopping off my hair like most teenagers…I also felt, right, I’m 20, I’m not a little girl any more. I’d been on Harry Potter for ten years so I needed to mark the end of it in some way. I needed a drastic change and that’s what the crop was all about."
She first unveiled the cut on her Facebook page (via The Huffington Post), saying, "Dear all. Cut my hair off a few days ago… Feels incredible. I love it. I’ve wanted to do this for years and years; it’s the most liberating thing ever. Hope you like. Big love from Emma x." And with that fierce new hairstyle, Watson took the world by storm and delved more deeply into the fashion world.
In 2010 she joined forces on a clothing line with designer Alberta Ferretti and clothing company People Tree. She told Metro, "I’m very hands-on. I’ve picked out the fabrics and last year I visited garment factories in Bangladesh. Everything is handmade." And being so fabulous, how can we commoners dress like our favorite style guru? It’s actually easier than you may think. Watson continued on to discuss her favorite designers. While premieres warrant top designers like Balenciaga or Chanel, the starlet loves a good casual look as well. "If I’m going casual, I’ll mix vintage with clothes from TopShop, Zara or Gap. Agnes B is also a favourite. I’ll mix and match, which makes it financially accessible to everyone."
Realizing fame has a cost
In 2011, when 21-year-old Watson would be entering her third year of school at Brown University, she decided to take a moment away from the American college, telling the Sunday Times Style Magazine (via The Huffington Post), "I was in denial…I wanted to pretend I wasn’t as famous as I was. I was trying to seek out normality, but I kind of have to accept who I am, the position I’m in and what happened."
She was not leaving school entirely but would be attending back in the UK. Although rumors swirled, she insisted she was never bullied at her university. If anything, her problem was just the opposite. Watson addressed trying to date in college and said her fame intimated the college boys. "I say to my friends, ‘Why hasn’t X called me? Why doesn’t anyone ever pursue me?’ They’re like, ‘Probably because they’re intimidated.’ It must be the fame wall…It must be the circus that goes around me. Me, as a person, I find it hard to believe I would be intimidating." She continued on to say, "Sometimes, maybe because they feel intimidated, they feel they have to knock me down. They know perfectly well who I am, but they’ll ask me, ‘How are the Narnia films going?’" Sigh, college boys.
Diving deeper into the world of beauty
By 2012, the last Harry Potter film had been released and Emma Watson felt more comfortable to make big changes. As she told Independent, "As I’ve got older, and since I cut all my hair off, I’ve felt a bit more liberated about trying different things out."
One of those different things was being the new face of Lancôme’s "Rouge in Love" campaign, with a focus on their lipstick. Having this role with Lancôme help fans see her in a more adult light, instead of as the frizzy-haired, high-anxiety wizard we’d all grown to love. Not to worry though, Watsons fans loved her in any light.
Not about that celebrity life
When we think of celebrities, we dream of the fabulous, over-privileged lives they lead, but that’s not the case for Watson. We shouldn’t be surprised, as time and again she has stated her desire for normalcy. Speaking with Radio Times in 2013 (via E! Online), the 23-year-old shared one shocking fact about herself: She owns just eight pairs of shoes. Granted, those shoes must be completely fabulous, but Watson isn’t one to live up the celebrity life. She even questioned the definition of that very word, saying, "There’s a whole new definition to celebrity now. And I think that’s why you see a lot of actors blanching at being associated with that word celebrity because it’s become something that isn’t really associated with having a craft… But it’s easy for me to sound like a total hypocrite because, of course, I’m dressed in designer clothes right now." We support Watson no matter how many pairs of shoes she has.
Fighting for gender equality
Emma Watson just gets better as time marches on. She graduated from Brown University in 2014, the same year the then-24-year-old British actress was officially named the new Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N.’s gender-equality arm, U.N. Women. You go, girl.
TIME reported on Watson’s statement regarding the news. She said, "Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting." Watson’s focus would be on the organization’s women’s-empowerment campaign, HeForShe.
Later in 2014, Watson showed just how worthy she was of this role, giving a speech that asked men and boys to join in the support gender equality. TIME reported at the event. Speaking at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, Watson said, "I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too — reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves." And since then, Watson has continued to focus on gender equality and feminism. In 2015, she sat down with Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize winner ever at 18 years old. They discussed her life, advocacy, and feminism, and how to create good change.
She continues to make a difference
Emma Watson isn’t slowing down anytime soon when it comes to her activism. She’s continued to do exactly what she said she would. Notably, she’s dedicated time to doing more research and studying up on all things feminism. In 2016, the 26-year-old commented on the hot-button topic of pay equality for women in Hollywood and beyond. And she’s not backing down. Speaking with Vanity Fair, Watson said, "We are not supposed to talk about money, because people will think you’re difficult or a diva…But there’s a willingness now to be like, Fine. Call me a ‘diva,’ call me a ‘feminazi,’ call me ‘difficult,’ call me a ‘First World feminist,’ call me whatever you want, it’s not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure that the right thing happens."
And overall, Watson wants women to feel they are strong and capable. Speaking with Paper magazine, Watson opened up in a powerful moment, saying, "I guess if I could give women anything through feminism… it would just be, to be able to move away, to move through all of that. I see so many women struggling with issues of self-esteem…They know and they hear it and they read it in magazines and books all the time that self-love is really important, but it’s really hard to actually do."
In March 2017, Emma Watson made her big screen debut as a Disney princess, starring in Beauty and the Beast as Belle. But some might be surprised to learn that she was actually first offered the role of Cinderella in Disney’s live-action remake, but she turned it down. Fortunately, that was for the best, as she told Total Film, "When they offered me Belle, I just felt the character resonated with me so much more than Cinderella did" (via Independent).
Of the bookish princess, Watson, ever the feminist, added, "In a strange way, she challenges the status quo of the place she lives in, and I found that really inspiring. And also, she manages to keep her integrity and have a completely independent point of view."
Besides featuring a strong, smart female character, Beauty and the Beast also offered Watson a chance to flex her singing and dancing abilities. "It’s a totally different thing from acting in a way. There’s nothing to hide behind," Watson shared with Good Morning America. "It’s your voice and yeah, I felt very sort of naked doing it for the first time so I think that was the hardest."
Clearly, Watson, like her famous Harry Potter character, is not afraid of a challenge.