Channing Tatum never drew much fame from his role in Ricky Martin’s video for "She Bangs." Katy Perry didn’t become famous by starring alongside P.O.D. in "Goodbye for Now." Nonetheless, a music video can make or break an actor’s career. It can turn an average person into an absolute icon. This is none more apparent than in the ’80s when Courteney Cox got her big break in Bruce Springsteen’s video for "Dancing in the Dark," but not every music video actor becomes a megastar.
Everyone gets their 15 minutes, and these actors in iconic music videos have used up more than their fair share. While some have been able to parlay their fame in to a long-lasting career, most have returned to a private life. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even recognize them from the starring video roles. From Ola Ray, the woman who fell in love with Michael Jackson on the set of "Thriller," to Alyson Stoner, the girl who danced her childhood away in Missy Elliott’s music videos, these iconic music video stars are absolutely unrecognizable, fame or not.
Blind Melon’s "Bee Girl" still wears the costume
In 1992, Blind Melon released what NME calls their most successful single ever: "No Rain." The song shot to No. 3 on Billboard’s US charts and the music video was equally as memorable. It portrayed unknown actress Heather DeLoach tap-dancing around in a bee costume. Despite the fact that the song premiered in an era before online viral videos, DeLoach’s image has become almost as synonymous with ’90s-era MTV as The Real World. DeLoach even later reprised her role for a Weird Al Yankovic video.
If you don’t want to feel old, don’t read any further. Blind Melon’s bee girl is all grown up. As of 2019, the former video star was in her mid-30s. According to People, she even got married to a financial advisor in 2017. The pair met online, but we’re guessing it was more Tinder than You’ve Got Mail. It’s not the ’90s anymore.
Though DeLoach looks vastly different from her childhood self, the star told MTV (via NME) that people still come up to her "all the time with stories about how I changed their childhood and got them through a tough time of not being accepted." She’s been known to still don her bee costume on occasion. She even wore it on ABC’s Greatest Hits.
Mini-Sia is a full-blown star
Reality TV fans knew Maddie Ziegler before she ever appeared in one of Sia’s music videos. The dance star got her start in the public eye on Dance Moms. In an interview with News.com.au, Ziegler revealed that Sia was a fan of her work with the series, so she reached out to Ziegler on Twitter and asked her if she wanted to be in a music video. "There was no audition, no anything," Ziegler said. All it took was a gentle slide into the dancer’s DMs.
The video for "Chandelier," which saw Ziegler don a wig and leotard and thrash around like a pint-sized version of the megastar, garnered almost two billion video views and the pair have formed quite a special bond. Ziegler told Jimmy Fallon (via Page Six) that Sia is now legally family. "She is the best person in my life," Ziegler told the talk show host. "She really is. I think she’s my god mom now? So if anything were to happen she would take me, which is really cool."
According to Billboard, Sia even bought her young pal a car for her 16th birthday, which sort of borders more on fairy godmother than regular godmothers, but we wouldn’t complain. Though she was notably tiny when she landed her first gig with the singer, the star is finally tall enough to snag some pieces from her god mom’s wardrobe.
Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift’s minis are all grown up
In 2013, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran sparked romance rumors with their adorable song "Everything Has Changed." Today, we know the pair are great collaborators and even greater friends (Swifty even helped set up Sheeran with his longtime partner), but at the time, Sheeran had to majorly shut down the tabloids. It didn’t help that the pair released what might just be the cutest music video to ever exist.
The video for "Everything Has Changed" featured two children who played younger versions of the stars entrapped in a too-cute childhood love story. They go from playing in the playground and building bedroom forts to slow dancing in an empty gymnasium. We sort of need a Kleenex just thinking about it. Though the boy who starred in the series went uncredited, we know the girl was played by Ava Ames. Since her appearance, she’s grown up quite a bit. What’s the video star actually up to? From the looks of her Instagram, Ames is a normal student. She’s on the varsity dance team and cheer squad, and enjoyed going to homecoming with a braces-clad date. She’s also still acting, though she’s mostly been in shorts and TV cameos.
Yes, that’s actually Zooey Deschanel
1998 was a weird year for the world. Seinfeld aired its last episode, Ginger Spice quit the Spice Girls, and The Offspring were still a thing that everyone thought about. The band released their fifth — yes, fifth — studio album Americana, which got rather mediocre reviews despite containing what’s arguably their biggest hit, "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)." If there’s anything great that came out of 1998, it’s that Americana would lead us to Zooey Deschanel, if only for three minutes and 44 seconds.
Today, we know the mega-star for her FOX sitcom New Girl and her work with the band She & Him, but in 1998, she was a teenage actress who was anything but famous. The year after The Offspring released album number five, Deschanel ended up landing the starring role in the video for their fourth single, "She’s Got Issues." This version of the actress was completely devoid of her patented bangs and long, tousled locks. In fact, her hair was red. She was still quirky, but hadn’t quite created the adorkable persona that’s made her a TV star. That same year, Deschanel got a very memorable role in Almost Famous, which was her fourth credited acting gig, and basically kick-started her stardom.
Tom Petty’s Alice was a heartbreaker
Back when MTV was known for videos rather than reality shows, Louise Foley-Cohen was a recognizable face. You might not know her name, but if you watched TV during the golden era of music videos, you might just have seen her in Tom Petty’s video for "Don’t Come Around Here No More" alongside a giant mushroom (it was the ’80s, okay?). The video was a psychedelic play on Alice in Wonderland, and Foley-Cohen played the coveted role of Alice.
"I got the one-time payment of, I think, $2,500. Since I was a starving actress, I managed to make it last about two months," she told Noblemania. "I didn’t even get to keep the costume because it was ruined by the tea and frosting."
Since then, Foley-Cohen has become somewhat of an icon among classic rock fans, and she spent a good portion of her 20s living among them. The actress took a second starring roll in Petty’s video for "Make it Better (Forget About Me)" and dated the Heartbreakers’ former drummer Stan Lynch for five years. Though she didn’t think her first video was going to blow up in the way it did, the Houston Chronicle reports that she’s "still introduced to people as the girl from the Tom Petty video" even 30 years after the fact.
Mini-Macklemore isn’t so mini
The video for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ "Wing$" had a powerful anti-consumerism message, one that railed against the culture of expensive sneakers. It followed the story of a young boy, played by Lucas King, who begged his mom to buy him trendy basketball shoes so he could fit in with his peers. Ultimately, it ends with his friends’ brother getting murdered over a pair of Air Jordans. The entire song is basically about how $300 sneakers don’t make you cool. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the rapper got absolutely railed on when he censored the anti-sneaker lyrics for an NBA promotion.
Though Macklemore may have been labeled as a sell-out, King is still stoked on his starring role in the video — you just might not recognize him because he’s all grown up. In an Instagram post he claimed a still from the video was "one of my favorite pictures ever!" Today, it doesn’t look like King is doing much acting. Instead, the student has turned to soccer. He also clearly taken the message of "Wing$" to heart and shops for his mislabeled Nike’s at Nordstrom Rack.
Little Jesse J actually became a singer
In 2011, young actress Adrianna Bertola took on the role of a mini Jesse Jay lookalike in the singer’s video for "Who’s Laughing Now." She played an unpopular student who was doing her best to deal with rampant bullying in class. Ultimately, she ends up spraying her bully down with a fire extinguisher. The funny thing is that Bertola hardly seems unpopular at all.
At the time of the shoot, the actress was well-versed in the world of theater and wildly successful for her age. She had starring roles in The Sound of Music and Matilda (she was Matilda!) and a pretty decent TV career after landing a recurring role on Casualty in 2009. Since then, the star has appeared on Doctors and Call the Midwife. She also starred as Violet Beauregarde in the original London production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and launched a music career of her own, rather than just playing the part. Bertola released a single called "Fire and Ice" in 2014.
Stacy has got it going on
Fountains of Wayne rocked the early ’00s with their song, "Stacy’s Mom." The accompanying tongue-in-cheek music video featured two major stars: Actress Rachel Hunter (Stacy’s mom) and Gianna Distenca (Stacy). Though Hunter hasn’t changed much over the last decade, Distenca has blossomed into an extremely talented, successful adult — just not as an actress.
Distenca hasn’t spent much time in the world of acting since her debut with Fountains of Wayne in 2003. Her only credit not related to "Stacy’s Mom" was when she voiced a character in an animated short. According to The Sun, Distenca left the United States in 2013 and has been living in Lebanon where she works at a volunteer center with refugee kids. Beyond that, she’s a painter and sculptor, who regularly posts her work on Instagram under the name Gianna Dispenza. Though her acting never got her a lot of acclaim beyond an episode of Making the Video and Video on Trial, her art sort of has. The former music video star is regularly in the press for her craft. And in case you were wondering, yes, she’s still absolutely gorgeous.
Macaulay Culkin, who?
In 1991, Michael Jackson tried to top "Thriller" with another epic, 11-minute video. According to Yahoo, "Black or White" premiered "to an audience of 500 million people" in 28 countries, simultaneously. The cinematic video, which cost $4 million to make, was wrought with controversy after a specific crotch-grabbing scene and some racist graffiti. That was later cut for subsequent airings. What wasn’t cut was one of Hollywood’s youngest rising stars — and Jackson’s dear friend — Macaulay Culkin. The star was fresh off his success in Home Alone.
According to Yahoo, Culkin and Jackson were "known for their onset pranks." One day, the pair ended up ditching work and reportedly spent $60,000 at Toys "R" Us instead. Today Culkin is more known for his status as a child star than his actual acting talent. He’s also a fan of creating viral memes. The star reprised his role of Kevin from Home Alone in a Google ad, trolled his brother on Twitter during the Golden Globes, and launched a poll to determine his new legal middle name. The options included "Shark Week," "Kieran" (his brother’s name), "TheMcRibisBack" and "Publicity Stunt." Macaulay Culkin ultimately one out. Yes, Culkin’s full name is now Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin, if he did actually change it.
Is that Buffy?
Even though Sarah Michelle Gellar was right smack in the middle of her Buffy the Vampire Slayer run, she wasn’t too famous to pick up a starring role in Stone Temple Pilots’ video for "Sour Girl." Her gothy portrayal, in dark hair and lipstick, made her almost unrecognizable. Hey, it was the ’90s and dark lipstick has since come full circle as a trend.
Today, Gellar isn’t really acting on screen as much as she used to besides starring in CBS’ The Crazy Ones between 2013 and 2014. She married fellow ’90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. in 2002 and jumped behind the camera to become a voice actor and producer. The actress also launched a DIY baking company called Foodstirs, which raised $5 million in funding and is shelved in about 7,500 stores.
"I always knew I wanted to do more than just be an actor for hire," she told Entrepreneur. "I thought producing might be enough, but I realized I still desired more. That’s when I realized I could utilize my great existing platform and actually be a part of creating something tangible." But that doesn’t mean Gellar still can’t snag a high-profile acting gig here and there. Point in case: Her horror movie-inspired ad for Olay during Super Bowl LIII.
Missy Elliot’s dancing queen became a movie star
Alyson Stoner was a mainstay in Missy Elliott’s music videos while Sia’s famed tiny dancer, Maddie Ziegler, was still pretty much a zygote. She was the original pop video dancing star. The young actress-slash-dancer grooved her way through 2002’s "Work It" and "Gossip Folks" and 2004’s "I’m Really Hot." Since then, Stoner has changed a whole lot and unfortunately learned about the real price of childhood stardom.
Stoner is no longer just that girl who dances alongside Missy Elliott. She’s parlayed her sick moves into a lasting film career. Stoner has appeared in hits like Disney’s Camp Rock, Cheaper By the Dozen and the original Step Up, where she starred alongside Channing Tatum. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While promoting her single "Stripped Bare" (yup, she’s a singer, too), the Disney star shed light on the dark side of childhood fame.
"Several years ago, I discovered I was being taken advantage of since childhood and left in a very compromised position," she told People. "My health was affected along with my career path, my relationships and identity."
Regardless, Stoner has never forgotten her roots. The 20-something filmed a Missy Elliot tribute in 2015.
Blink 182’s naughty nurse got into tons of trouble
If you were a huge fan of Blink 182 — and adult films — in the ’90s and early 2000s, then the band’s video for "What’s My Age Again?" was probably the best thing that ever happened to you. Why? Because it featured adult film star Janine Lindemulder as the naughty nurse who stopped the streaking band in its tracks, that’s why. Lindemulder also posed on the cover of the band’s 1999 album Enema Of The State, so think of this musical masterpiece as exactly the kind of thing Parental Advisory stickers were made for.
Unfortunately for Lindemulder, her association with the band was probably the best press she ever received, considering she essentially faded from mainstream consciousness until 2011 when a decidedly unflattering mugshot of her made the internet rounds. But according to Life & Style, that 2011 arrest was merely the latest in years of legal troubles for the actress, which included jail time she did for assault charges as well as "failing to pay federal income taxes."
Lindemulder detailed her harrowing fall from grace for the 2017 Netflix documentary After Porn Ends 2 (above right). Shortly after her rapid rise to the top of the adult industry, she descended into drug use, became homeless, lost custody of her daughter, and even contemplated suicide. At the time of the recording, Lindemulder described herself as still "in limbo" and just trying to figure out her "next move" in life.
Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" girlfriend had a shocking transformation
Michael Jackson‘s "Thriller" may just be the most recognizable music video on the planet. When it premiered in 1983, the nearly 14-minute epic transformed everyone’s perceptions about what a music video should be through its cinematic storyline. It was part film, part music video and all Michael Jackson. According to Rolling Stone, it was also the most expensive music video ever made at the time and aired alongside a making-of documentary.
Though Jackson obviously stunned throughout, it’s hard to forget Jackson’s adorable, dance-happy, on-screen girlfriend played by Ola Ray. According to Yahoo, the actress landed the role "after Flashdance actress Jennifer Beals turned it down", but she almost didn’t get the part because of a Playboy centerfold she posed for in 1980. On set, Ray fell in love with King of Pop. In an interview with ABC, she revealed that she never told him about her true feelings.
These days, Ray, who is now a mother living in Sacramento, Calif., looks nothing like she did in the video. After a decades-long hiatus, she jumped back into the acting world with a smattering of projects slated for 2019.