Ryan Reynolds Owes His Career to Push Pops (Plus 19 Other Celebs Who Got Their Start in Commercials)

When it comes to some of our favorite performers, we feel like we’ve grown up with them. As teens, we came home from school and unwound by turning on the TV and watching them in corny Disney shows and teen soap operas, or we danced along to their music videos on Vh1 and MTV.

But, while our first encounter with Lindsay Lohan was The Parent Trap and the first time we watched Ryan Reynolds was in comedies like National Lampoon’s Van Wilder and Just Friends, these stars—and several others—got their start long before that. For many of them, their careers began with commercials.

Luckily for you, we’ve done some deep YouTube digging and we’ve found the rare vintage clips of these celebs when they were just kids trying to catch their big break. How many of these ads do you remember watching back in the day?

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1. Selena Gomez – Joe’s Crab Shack

Before she rose to prominence as the wand-waving Alex Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place, Selena Gomez got her start with various acting gigs, including a role on Barney & Friends from 2002 to 2004. However, during that time, Gomez also featured in some TV commercials, including this one, where the 12-year-old star is seen snacking on some “scrumptious shrimp.”

2. Leonardo Dicaprio – Bubble Yum

We know Leonardo DiCaprio as the Academy Award-winning star of films like Titanic and The Wolf of Wall Street, but before he became a household name, DiCaprio was a child actor who preferred auditions over his classes and was often reported as misbehaving on film sets. But despite DiCaprio’s mischief, he was undeniably electric on camera, and he booked commercials in the late ‘80s for various companies, including this one for Bubble Yum.

3. Kirsten Dunst – Trouble

Kirsten Dunst was used to being in front of cameras from a very young age. She was only 12 when she got her breakthrough role in the movie Interview with the Vampire alongside major stars like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. However, the Spider-Man actress had been acting for years before that. At the age of three, Dunst was already starring in television commercials as a model and actress, including this one for the board game Trouble.

4. Joseph Gordon-levitt – Pop-tarts

After playing the Scarecrow in a stage production of The Wizard of Oz (at age 4, we might add), Joseph Gordon-Levitt was approached by an agent, who then signed him on to do commercials for kitchen staples like cereal and peanut butter. In this clip from 1991, a precocious Gordon-Levitt encourages a businessman to eat a couple of Pop-Tarts before heading out the door (and his performance is so convincing that we want some Pop-Tarts too).

5. Kristen Stewart – Porsche

It makes sense that Kristen Stewart got into acting, given the fact that her father, John Stewart, worked as a producer for Fox, while her mother, Jules Mann-Stewart, has directed and worked as a script supervisor. But, while Stewart always imagined herself behind the camera, her roles started arriving when she was young, including this TV commercial where her dad drives her to school in a Porsche (little did she know that her future ride would be the back of a vampire).

6. Ryan Reynolds – Push Pops

Long before he was Van Wilder or Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds found his first acting gigs as a teenager, playing Billy Simpson in the teen soap opera Fifteen, as well as a recurring role in the fantasy series The Odyssey. However, it appears Reynolds did some commercial acting as well, including this TV spot for Push Pops that aired in the early ‘90s.

7. Mila Kunis – Lisa Frank

Mila Kunis’s father put her in acting classes at the age of nine, where she quickly nabbed a role in a Barbie commercial, as well as this one, where 12-year-old Kunis promotes the colorful Lisa Frank line of school supplies, toys and accessories. Believe it or not, this ad premiered only two years before Kunis would claim the role of Jackie in That ‘70s Show (after fudging the details of her age to casting directors).

8. Heath Ledger – Chicken Treat

Heath Ledger started acting in his home country of Australia, where he held various parts before moving to the United States in hopes of building his career further (and he would succeed, becoming an instant heartthrob for his turn as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You). One of his first roles was in this commercial for the Australian fast food chain Chicken Treat, where the late actor watches rotisserie chickens cook in the back of a restaurant.

9. Hilary Duff – Subway

Hilary Duff and her older sister, Haylie, both entered the business from a young age, landing roles in commercials after moving to California with their mom in 1993. While Duff achieved her breakout at the age of ten in Casper Meets Wendy, she spent much of her childhood doing commercials, like this ad for Subway in 1999. Only a couple years later, Lizzie McGuire would premiere on Disney Channel.

10. Matt Leblanc – Heinz

It’s hard for us to imagine a time before Matt LeBlanc transformed into the Italian-American, sandwich-loving Joey Tribbiani on Friends. However, LeBlanc was in his thirties when he landed the role of Joey and had spent the years prior trying to succeed in acting. One of his first appearances on TV screens was in this Heinz commercial from 1987, where he played another character obsessed with food.

11. Jodie Foster – Crest

Raised by her mother, Evelyn, Jodie Foster demonstrated talent very early on, making her first television appearance at the age of three in a Coppertone commercial. This quickly led to other work in a number of Disney projects, as well as other ads and TV spots, like this one from Crest in 1968.

12. Elijah Wood – Cheddar Cheese

Before the world knew him as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, Elijah Wood was a prolific child actor. After making his debut in Paula Abdul’s music video for “Forever Your Girl,” Wood nabbed a small part in several blockbuster movies, like Back to the Future Part II. He also took a variety of acting and modeling gigs, including this commercial sponsored by the National Dairy Board, where he tops his broccoli with some melted cheddar cheese.

13. Zendaya – Icarly Toys By Playmates

Zendaya’s star turn arrived when she was only fourteen, when she got cast as Rocky Blue on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up. However, prior to the lead role, the actress had worked as a model and backup dancer for companies like Old Navy and Sears. One of her big commercials was connected to the hit Nickelodeon series iCarly, where Zendaya plays with toy figures fashioned after the main characters.

14. Keanu Reeves – Coca-cola

Keanu Reeves grew up surrounded by performers, with his mother working as a costume designer and her romantic partners ranging from Hollywood directors to rock music promoters. Well, the entertainment industry must’ve rubbed off on him, because The Matrix star began pursuing acting jobs in the early ‘80s, making his debut in an episode of Hangin’ In, as well as landing a couple of major TV ads, including this clip from Coca-Cola.

15. Amanda Bynes – Buncha Crunch

You might think that Amanda Bynes got her start doing comical impersonations and skits on Nickelodeon’s All That, which eventually led to her own spin-off, The Amanda Show. However, even before her successful career as a child actress, Bynes starred in multiple stage productions as well as TV commercials, with this Buncha Crunch candy bar ad being her first professional acting gig.

16. Channing Tatum – Pepsi

The origins of Channing Tatum’s career have been widely discussed ever since the release of his blockbuster Magic Mike movie series, which was loosely based on the star’s stint as a stripper. But, when Tatum quit stripping and ventured into the entertainment industry, he booked modeling gigs with brands like Abercrombie and Fitch, as well as national TV ads, like this one for Pepsi, where he plays a DJ at a party.

17. Lindsay Lohan – Jell-o

Although Lindsay Lohan was only twelve when she starred in The Parent Trap, she stole the spotlight from her high-profile co-stars, Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson. By that point, Lohan had become a natural in front of the camera. The now 34-year-old actress was signed to the Ford Modeling Agency when she was only three, and she was featured in quite a few national ad campaigns, including this clip for Jell-O.

18. Ben Affleck – Burger King

We now know Ben Affleck as an Academy Award winner and a leading man, but before he became a major star, he grew up pursuing acting gigs wherever he could, working on the PBS series The Voyage of Mimi throughout his childhood and teenage years. But one of Affleck’s early breaks was this 1989 Burger King commercial, where a teenage Affleck delivers some food to a pretty voice who dials the wrong number.

19. Drew Barrymore – Pillsbury

When Drew Barrymore was born, performing was practically in her veins. Her grandfather, John Barrymore, was a successful stage actor and notable figure from the silent film era. Both of her parents were actors as well. So, it makes sense that even before her iconic role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Barrymore’s life started in front of the screen. Here, a four-year-old Barrymore stars in a cookie dough ad, but her first commercials began when she was only eleven months old.

20. Britney Spears – Maull’s

Britney Spears catapulted into the spotlight at the age of seventeen, when her debut album ...Baby One More Time made her a global superstar. However, Spears knew she wanted to perform long before that moment, singing songs in her church choir and taking dance and gymnastics as a child. When she caught the eye of a talent agent, she started getting some acting gigs in commercials, including this one for Maull’s barbecue sauce.

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the former Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a...