Meghan Markle
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23 Household Names Who Were Nobodies 10 Years Ago

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Meghan Markle
Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images

From Nobody to Notable

It only takes a moment to become famous, but most stars dubbed "overnight sensations" have been working for years to get to their breakthrough — people just hadn't heard of them before they hit the big time. The last decade has created many new celebrities who were working in obscurity 10 years or fewer before. Here are 23 people from the worlds of entertainment, politics, sports, and beyond who are household names now, but you wouldn't have known them a decade ago. For a closer look at what it looks like before fame blows up, check out 25 Celebs Whose First Job Was Worse Than Yours.

Jennifer Lawrence
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Jennifer Lawrence

Lawrence earned her first Oscar nomination in 2011 for the previous year's "Winter's Bone." She became the young Mystique in the rebooted X-Men series, but it was taking on the role of "Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen that made Lawrence a household name. She even earned the celebrity nickname J-Law, and finally won that Oscar for 2012's "Silver Linings Playbook."

Mike Pence
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Mike Pence

Florida Man was already famous when he ran for president, but when he chose Pence as his running mate, the former Indiana governor and congressman became forever tied to Florida Man's headlines. After the election, Pence attended a performance of "Hamilton," where the cast broke character to speak to him, an event that also made news.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, represents a congressional district in New York, but she's all over the news and social media with political initiatives like a Green New Deal and combatting income inequality. All of this happened for her in the last 18 months. Ocasio-Cortez first made headlines for running against an incumbent when she announced her candidacy in 2017 while still working as a waitress and bartender. But when she won in June 2018, she became a household name.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
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Lin-Manuel Miranda

When the hip-hop musical "Hamilton," based on Ron Chernow's biography, became a Broadway phenomenon, it made instant celebrities of its cast, which also included Daveed Diggs and Phillipa Soo. Miranda not only played the title role of Alexander Hamilton, but he wrote the show and its songs. Since, he's made more music for Disney's "Moana" and the upcoming, live-action "Little Mermaid," and singing and acting in "Mary Poppins Returns," and trying to get a full original cast performance of "Hamilton" on film.

Kellyanne Conway
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Kellyanne Conway

Many people had never heard of Conway before 2016. Once she became Florida Man's campaign manager, however, she became the subject of almost as many headlines as the president-to-be. Her public persona was further reinforced when Kate McKinnon played her on "Saturday Night Live." Conway is still in the news and the Florida Man administration, now as a senior counselor to the president.

Meghan Markle
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Meghan Markle

Before Markle married Prince Harry, her biggest claim to fame was the TV drama "Suits." "Suits" has a lot of fans, but not enough to make its cast household names. All that changed in 2017 when she announced her engagement to Harry. Now she is the Duchess of Sussex and can't go anywhere without being hounded.

Edward Snowden
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Edward Snowden

Even if Snowden isn't in the news as much anymore, his revelations were big enough that they've cemented him in history. In 2013, Snowden went public with evidence that the National Security Agency was allegedly using our devices to collect information and spy on citizens. Snowden currently has sought asylum in Russia because the U.S. charged him with violating the Espionage Act.

Brett Kavanaugh
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Brett Kavanaugh

The newest Supreme Court justice made headlines not because of his nomination or legal accomplishments, but because of past allegations. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while both were in high school. Kavanaugh was still confirmed despite the allegations against him, but the public hearings covered on national news and satirized on "Saturday Night Live" made him infamous.

Colin Kaepernick
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Colin Kaepernick

Before 2016, Kaepernick was just another player on the San Francisco 49ers. When he remained seated for the national anthem, the media noticed and he said he remained seated to protest the treatment of African Americans and other minorities in the U.S. He ultimately transitioned to kneeling, as a way to show respect to the armed forces while still protesting. Despite no longer playing in the NFL, Kaepernick has continued to appear in Nike campaigns after leaving the 49ers.

Pete Davidson
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Pete Davidson

When Davidson joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 2014, he made headlines, in part, because he lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. He's made a name for himself in comedy, but also by dating famous women like Ariana Grande and Kate Beckinsale. Now he's making movies, still doing standup, and working late nights on SNL's 45th season.

Millie Bobby Brown
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Millie Bobby Brown

The debut of "Stranger Things" on Netflix made everyone in that cast a household name, but Millie Bobby Brown was at the center of it all. Everyone knows her as Eleven, the psychically powered teenager from the Upside Down. Before the first season dropped in 2016, Brown's longest-running role was on the BBC America series "Intruders," and she'd had episodic roles on "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," "NCIS," and "Modern Family."

One Direction
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One Direction

Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Zayn Malik, collectively known as One Direction, just barely make the 10-year cutoff. It was 2010 when they formed a group act on the UK version of "The X-Factor." Their first hit single, "What Makes You Beautiful," came a year later. The boys may have become men and gone solo, but thanks to nearly a decade as One Direction, they're all household names.

Pete Buttigieg
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Pete Buttigieg

Before mayor Buttigieg announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2019, only the folks in South Bend, Indiana, would have known his name. Now he's in the primaries and the headlines. Being one of the first openly gay presidential candidates is huge, and now everyone wants to know how to pronounce Buttigieg's name. Per Mayor Pete's Twitter bio, it's BOOT-edge-edge.

Daisy Ridley
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Daisy Ridley

Playing the central character in the long-awaited 2015 sequel "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" made Daisy Ridley an instant star. Rey was not her first role, but it was her first lead role in a blockbuster movie. Rey also gave "Star Wars" fans a female Jedi warrior role model, when traditionally Luke and Annakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi had those roles. In between "Star Wars" films, Ridley has made other blockbusters like "Murder on the Orient Express" and indie movies like "Ophelia," but from now on she'll probably always be best-remembered as Rey.

Related: 13 Destinations Every 'Star Wars' Fan Should Visit

Beto O'Rourke
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Beto O'Rourke

O'Rourke made headlines when he nearly won a Senate seat as a Democrat in 2018 in the traditionally Republican state of Texas, losing by less than three percentage points. Before that, he'd been a congressman since 2013. That near-victory gave him momentum to enter the 2020 presidential election. And while O'Rourke has since dropped out of the race, his name remains familiar to many.

Sterling K. Brown
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Sterling K. Brown

"This Is Us" made stars of lots of actors, including Brown's on-screen adopted sister Chrissy Metz. Brown had an extra push though, winning an Emmy for playing Christopher Darden in the FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" a year before. Now the world knows him as Randall Pearson, the sensitive father and adopted triplet of the NBC tear-jerker.

Zendaya
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Zendaya

Zendaya first got noticed on the Disney Channel series "Shake It Up." That recognition also gave her music a platform. She came in second on "Dancing With the Stars" as the show's youngest celebrity competitor in 2013. Her triple threat led to a role in the hit musical "The Greatest Showman," and she's currently playing the role of MJ in the "Spider-Man" franchise, while her edgy HBO show "Euphoria" is coming back for another season, too.

Billie Eilish
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Billie Eilish

Eilish became famous for her music, releasing her first single on SoundCloud in 2016. Now she tours, plays awards shows, and endorses fashion lines. Fans have especially responded to Eilish speaking openly about her depression and self-harm in interviews.

PewDiePie
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PewDiePie

Swedish YouTube content creator PewDiePie (born Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg) amassed a fortune and a celebrity following simply by recording commentary as he played video games. By 2013 his channel had 19 million subscribers, and two years later he became the first YouTuber to top 10 billion views. That alone would be noteworthy, but Pewdiepie courted controversy. With that many people watching his videos, they noticed when he used racist or anti-Semitic language.

Related: 12 People Making Real Money on YouTube and Instagram

Jenna Marbles
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Jenna Marbles

When people think of YouTube celebrities, Marbles, whose real name is Jenna Nicole Mourey, is at the top of that list. She's managed to amass 20 million subscribers just by the quality of her content, rather than by courting controversy, although her videos are still NSFW. Her how-to videos speak to the struggles of everyday women, like applying makeup while drunk or avoiding creeps in dance clubs.

Logan Paul
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Logan Paul

Logan Paul's name may be more infamous than famous. Paul became one of the initial YouTube content creators who amassed a following for his videos, but he became known outside the web video community on New Year's Eve, 2017, when he filmed a video in Japan's "suicide forest" mocking a suicide victim's body. Paul continued posting controversial videos including content related to the Tide Pod challenge and animal cruelty.

Charlie Puth
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Charlie Puth

Singer/songwriter Puth began performing on YouTube in 2009 and collaborating with other artists. When his single "See You Again," with Wiz Khalifa, landed on the soundtrack to "Furious 7," it put Puth on an international stage. The same year, 2015, Puth recorded a duet with Meghan Trainor, "Marvin Gaye," and opened for her in concert. Now he headlines tours and has released three albums.

Liza Koshy
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Liza Koshy

Koshy has been a pioneer in emerging social media. She first got 7 million followers on Vine with her comedic shorts. While Vine is no longer, Koshy brought those fans over to YouTube and grew even more. She had 10 million subscribers by 2017 (she crossed 17 million in 2019) and has parlayed her fame into hosting gigs and her own series, "Liza on Demand," plus a spate of movie roles. It's not all laughs for Koshy. She uses her platform to speak about important issues like voting and bullying, too.