Sometimes it feels like the ’90s were only yesterday. But time has ticked on, the world has changed, and some of the most famous faces of that era are barely recognizable these days. Teen idols who once ruled the roost have now been replaced by younger models. Some of those heartthrobs, of course, went on to bigger and better things – but others just faded into obscurity. Whatever their status, you may be surprised to see how much they’ve all changed.
20. Luke Perry
The Beverly Hills, 90210 star was massively popular in the early ’90s. So massively popular, in fact, that occasionally fans were crushed and injured when he made public appearances. Those days are over now, though. Perry’s still a successful actor – he currently appears in Riverdale – but his army of fangirls are long gone.
19. Joey Lawrence
Joey Lawrence wasn’t only the hottie from Blossom, he also crooned sweet love songs like “Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix” that every girl could pretend was about them. But there was something his love couldn’t fix, and that was getting old. Luckily for him he remained good-looking, and he even went on to capitalize on his ’90s fame. These days he appears with another ’90s teen star, Melissa Joan Hart, on Melissa & Joey.
18. Kirk Cameron
In his heyday, Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron courted the attention of thousands of girls. Now, he goes out of his way to avoid it. In 2008 it came out that Cameron – who became an evangelical Christian at age 17 – won’t even kiss women in the course of his acting work, as his beliefs dictate that he can only pucker up to his wife. And thus, a thousand pre-teen dreams disappeared.
17. Aaron Carter
Aaron Carter, little brother of Nick, often appeared on the same bill as Backstreet Boys back in the ’90s. Unfortunately, neither the fame nor the brotherly love really lasted. The younger Carter is now better known for arrests and bankruptcy than for making music, and as of 2017 there were tensions between him and Nick too. Reportedly the brothers did eventually make up, but who knows what will happen next?
16. Rider Strong
The magnificently named Rider Strong set young hearts aflutter as Shawn Hunter on Boy Meets World. In fact, Hunter was a character Strong could never quite leave behind, as he also played an older Shawn for the 2012 revival Girl Meets World. However, in addition to acting, Strong also directs, podcasts, writes and produces, so he’s definitely more than the one role that made him famous.
15. Ryan Phillippe
Ryan Phillippe was one half of a ’90s power couple – from 1999 to 2006, the I Know What You Did Last Summer star was married to Reese Witherspoon. Indeed, the pair even appeared in the box-office hit Cruel Intentions together. But in the years following their divorce, there’s no doubt that Witherspoon eclipsed her old flame when it came to stardom. Yet even though his ex is now an A-lister, Phillippe has been doing just fine for himself with TV shows like Shooter.
14. Jeremy Jackson
Jeremy Jackson was all hot and desirable as young Hobie Buchannon on Baywatch, but behind the scenes he suffered from serious drug addiction. And unfortunately, he was never able to shake the substance abuse. At age 19 Jackson was arrested and charged with possessing meth, and after kicking that he became addicted to steroids. In 2017, after a string of rehab visits and assaults, he was sentenced to 270 days in prison for a 2015 stabbing incident.
13. Zachery Ty Bryan
Although Zachery Ty Bryan starred on Home Improvement alongside the massively popular Jonathan Taylor Thomas, he still gained plenty of attention himself as a youth. But now, you won’t see much of him on TV. In fact, Bryan seems to have given up acting altogether, as his last role was playing Thor in a 2009 TV movie called Thor: Hammer of the Gods. As a side note, apparently he once invested in a sports bar called, for some reason, Big Wangs.
12. Mario Lopez
Saved by the Bell’s Mario Lopez was the number one choice for ’90s girls who dug jocks. And though he’s been in plenty of other things since Saved by the Bell ended, he’s still known first and foremost as A.C. Slater. He even said in a 2016 interview with Closer magazine that he’d definitely be up for starring in a Saved reboot if ever one happened. And handily, he still looks much the same!
11. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas was absolutely huge in his heyday, and to this day still tops the occasional “greatest ever teen idols” list. And yet, most teenagers today won’t even have heard of him, such is the fleeting life of a child star. But Thomas has popped up every now and again this decade, including in the TV series Last Man Standing alongside his one-time screen dad, Tim Allen.
10. Freddie Prinze Jr
The I Know What You Did Last Summer series and the romcom She’s All That made Freddie Prinze Jr a big name among teen audiences. But even though his professional career never really got back up to that level in future years, his personal life flourished. In 2002 he married his Scooby-Doo co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar, and they’re still together today. Oh, and he kept his youthful looks.
Three for the price of one teen heartthrob! Brothers Taylor, Isaac and Zac made up Hanson, one of the biggest boy bands of the 1990s. The siblings and their music may be fairly obscure to younger music lovers, but to this day many loyal fans of the group celebrate Hanson Day every year on May 6. Tragically though, the band’s long hair is long gone.
8. Joshua Jackson
Joshua Jackson was in two big teen hits of the ’90s, Dawson’s Creek and Cruel Intentions. And if that wasn’t enough, he also dated Katie Holmes! Jackson is much less of a big name these days, but he sure knows how to have fun with his former teen idol status. In 2010 he held “Pacey-Con” – named after his Dawson’s Creek character – and even filmed the whole thing for the Funny or Die website.
7. Mark Paul Gosselaar
In the ’90s, Mark Paul Gosselaar had it all. Not only was he on Saved by the Bell but he also dated all three of his female co-stars – Lark Voorhies, Tiffani Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley – at separate times during the show’s four-year run! These days he looks completely different after changing his appearance for the TV series Pitch. Now that’s dedication to your job.
6. Nick Lachey
Twenty years ago, gossip websites couldn’t get enough of the relationship between 98 Degrees frontman Nick Lachey and blonde bombshell Jessica Simpson. We all know how it ended: they married in 2002 and divorced a few years later. But Lachey bounced back and wed actress and TV host Vanessa Minnillo in 2011. Their nuptials were, of course, filmed for reality TV.
5. David Chokachi
David Chokachi won so many hearts on Baywatch that in 1997 he was named one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” Moreover, though his name is no longer a household one, he remembers his Baywatch years fondly. “We’re showing up at the beach, it’s summer time in L.A. We’re running around with a bunch of beautiful people and saving lives. How do you get a better job than that?” he told E! in 2016.
4. Ricky Martin
Singer Ricky Martin was a teen idol and sex symbol to thousands of girls – but that hurt him, rather than helped him. That’s because the singer feared that coming out as gay would reduce his fanbase and therefore damage his career. But in 2010 he finally did come out – and he’s been happy ever since. Martin is now married to Syrian-born Swedish artist Jwan Yosef.
3. Brendan Fraser
Brendan Fraser’s impressive physique in George of the Jungle had countless women drooling. Moreover, he seemed to be ready for even bigger things, but then he just faded away. So what happened? Some people blamed suspect movie choices, while others suggested that maybe he simply didn’t want to be a leading man. Whatever the reason, the world was left Brendan-less – but not anymore! The star has some TV shows coming up, so perhaps a comeback is on the cards…
2. Jared Leto
Impressively, Jared Leto never really seemed to leave his teen idol phase. The My So-Called Life star stayed good-looking and remained successful – but still indulged in teenager-like behavior every now and again. Reportedly, he sent his co-stars gross Joker-like gifts after being cast to play the famous Batman villain, and he even waxed his entire body for the movie Dallas Buyers Club. That paid dividends, though, as he did win an Oscar for the latter.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio may be the most successful teen idol ever. In the 1990s everyone swooned over his pretty face, but as time went on he proved he had major acting chops as well. And that talent has seen him pick up six Oscar nominations and one win to date. He may have lost his boyish looks as time went on, but he’s one of the most respected actors in Hollywood.