‘It Girls' Through the Ages: The Most Popular Teenage Idol From the Year You Were Born

influencer 101

| LAST UPDATE 09/23/2021

By Maya Hendrix

There's nothing better than fangirling over our favorite celebs! Geek out over yours, your parents, and your grandparent's most beloved female teen idols. From 1960 to 2005, get ready for a sweet dose of nostalgia...

Sandra Dee (1960-'61)

If you were around between 1960-63, there’s no doubt you’ll remember Sandra Dee. She was in the top 10 at the box office throughout this period as one of the most famous ‘teeny-bopper’ stars of the early 60s.

Sandra Dee, teen idolSandra Dee, teen idol
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Sandra first came to fame with her role in 1959s Gidget, one of the first teen beach movies. "She didn't have a bad bone in her body," pal Steve Blauner recalled of Sandra. Despite being a major star in Hollywood, she "treated the grip the exact same way she treated the head of the studio... She wasn't phony," as he put it.

Shelley Fabares (1962-'63)

Let’s move on to music: Shelly Fabares was known both as an actor and pop singer. Her most popular song was the 1962 chart-topper Johnny Angel, which hit the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It even reached across the pond, finding a place on the UK charts.

Shelley Fabares, female idolShelley Fabares, female idol
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Throughout her early singing career, she was also well-known for her role as Mary Stone on the Donna Reed Show - the role that first brought her to public attention. She went on to claim a Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award for her 1958-1965 run as Mary, according to IMDb.

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Joey Heatherton (1964)

Another former child actress, Joey Heatherton first came to fame as a 15-year-old understudy in the smash-hit stage production The Sound of Music. She continued to pursue further film credits in the 1960s, with shows such as The Merry Mailman, which starred her famous father, Ray Heatherton.

Joey Heatherton, teen idolJoey Heatherton, teen idol
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But these days, audiences recognize Joey from her performance in Cry-Baby, Twilight of Honor, and My Blood Runs Cold, as documented on her IMDb page. Throughout her career, she received many award nominations, including a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.

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Sally Field (1965-'67)

Here’s a face we know you’ll recognize - but did you know Sally Field got her start as a teen idol? This is shown in her first starring role on the show Gidget, which aired in 1966. Though she is better known for her later films, some may still remember her from early roles in The Way West and Night Gallery.

Sally Field, teen idolSally Field, teen idol
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Though she still acts occasionally, these days, she spends more time behind the cameras as an executive producer! She had helped to produce documentary pieces like The Lost Children of Berlin and TV shows including Brothers & Sisters. IMDb lists her considerable accomplishments, including 2 Golden Globes and 2 Academy Awards!

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Peggy Fleming (1968-'69)

But actors and singers weren’t the only teen idols back in the day! Just look at Peggy Fleming, who gained mass attention when she claimed Olympic gold in 1968 for her figure skating prowess. She also grabbed the ABC title of Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year!

Peggy Fleming, female idolPeggy Fleming, female idol
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This dedicated sportswoman spent her prime years dominating the sport and even spent 20 years after retirement as a figure skating commentator on national TV. She even helped to spoof the sport, by acting as a judge on the 2007 comedy film Blades of Glory. We stan a celebrity who doesn’t take herself too seriously!

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Ali MacGraw (1970)

Before embarking on an acting career, Ali McGraw worked in the fashion industry as a photo assistant and model for publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. After her first film role in 1969’s Goodbye Columbus, it was clear that her future was on the screen. She even won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

Ali MacGraw, teen idolAli MacGraw, teen idol
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"There's so much craziness that comes along with being a movie star," MacGraw has since revealed. As she put it, it's pretty intimidating, "Unless you've spent your whole life waiting to be the center of attention." She went on to win another Golden Globe in 1971 for the famous tear-jerker Love Story.

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Maureen McCormick (1971-'72)

Remember the Brady Bunch? There's a good chance you do! And no doubt you recognize the gorgeous Marcia Brady, played by Maureen McCormick. She starred on the hit show for 5 years (1969-74) and even showed up in many Brady Bunch spin-offs that were made in the following years.

Maureen McCormick, teen sensationMaureen McCormick, teen sensation
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But that wasn’t the end of her career, by a long shot. During the 1990s, she was more drawn to theatre and landed roles in hit shows like Grease and Peter Pan. She was slated for many awards, including 4 nominations and 1 win for the TVLand Awards, and 1 Popular Culture Award.

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Susan Dey (1973-'74)

Another model-turned-actress, Susan Dey, left the world of fashion modeling at just 17. She opted to make her way into the film & TV world. In 1970 she was introduced to the world in the role of Laurie Partridge in the hit show The Partridge Family, where she earned her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Susan Dey, teen idolSusan Dey, teen idol
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Riding on the back of her Partridge Family fame, she published a book called Secrets on Boys, Beauty, and Popularity. It wasn’t until years later that she was nominated for a second Golden Globe for her roles in L.A. Law and L.A. Law: The Movie. This time, she won!

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Carrie Fisher (1975-'76)

If you recognize Carrie Fisher from anything other than the Star Wars movies, it might be from the bedroom posters of teenage boys all over the world! Fisher was world-famous for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars. Her stardom made sense, as she was the daughter of both Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Carrie Fisher, female idolCarrie Fisher, female idol
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She went on to have a thriving career in film and television and even won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album! Who would’ve thought? This multi-talented woman was even recognized by modern youth culture as the 2018 Teen Choice Award for Choice Fantasy Actress, for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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Valerie Bertinelli (1977-'78)

This cheery, bubbly young woman won viewers' hearts when she first appeared in the TV series One Day At A Time back in 1975. It was in this role that Valerie Bertinelli won two Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Series in 1981 and 1982. She left the show in 1984.

Valerie Bertinelli, female idolValerie Bertinelli, female idol
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She spent less time acting in her later years, turning to daytime cooking television with her own show called Valerie's Home Cooking. For this show, she was given 2 Daytime Emmy Awards! You may even recognize her son, famous musician Wolfgang Van Halen.

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Jodie Foster (1979-'80)

At only 3 years old, Jodie Foster began working - first as a child model before segueing into the acting world. It’s no wonder it feels like she’s been on our screens forever! Her biggest adolescent role came in 1976 when she starred in Martin Scorsese’s thrilling classic Taxi Driver.

Jodie Foster, teen idolJodie Foster, teen idol
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And as we know, Jodie pursued a fantastic Hollywood career after that. She is widely praised for both her talent and her looks. In 1992, she was named The Most Beautiful Woman in The World by People Magazine. She has also won multiple Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Jupiter Awards over the years.

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Brooke Shields (1981-'82)

Another young starlet who started her career as a model, Brooke Shields, got her first big break with Vogue in 1980. She was only 14-years old at the time - the youngest person to ever be featured on the magazine’s cover. She soon became a household name with roles like Pretty Baby, Blue Lagoon, and Endless Love.

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Shields was more than just a pretty face, gaining nominations for 2 Best Actress Golden Globes for her role in the TV series Suddenly Susan. And through 1978-2014, she even documented her extraordinary life over the course of 5 autobiographical books.

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Winona Ryder (1983-'84)

Winona Ryder got started at an early age when she joined the American Conservatory Theater at just 12-years old. "Winona was so smart. She was a prodigy," said former producer and collaborator Denise Si Novi. "From a very young age, she was an old soul. She was really sophisticated intellectually."

Winona Ryder, teen sensationWinona Ryder, teen sensation
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Her soul and intellect came across in the range of unconventional film roles she chose as a young woman. Just look at her most popular films according to IMDb, which include Lucas, Beetlejuice, and Heathers. She went on to win two Golden Globes, the second for The Age of Innocence. A classic film for a classic actress!

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Lisa Bonet (1985-'87)

The jaw-droppingly gorgeous Lisa Bonet made her career debut as a participant in multiple beauty competitions and minor roles on tv. It wasn’t until 1984 that she landed her iconic role as Denise Huxtable in the beloved series The Cosby Show, which she starred in until 1992.

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She won the affection of millions of viewers as Denise, so it’s no surprise that she reprised her role in A Different World, which she starred in from 1987 to 1993. One of her greatest achievements came with the 1998 film Angel Heart, for which she won the Best Young Female Superstar in a Motion Picture.

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Alyssa Milano (1988-'89)

Who's The Boss? Melrose Place, Charmed - these are just a few of the roles you might recognize from Alyssa Milano's career. She even won multiple awards for Who's The Boss?, including a Young Artist Award for Best Young Supporting Actress in TV Series, and Best Young Female Superstar.

Alyssa Milano, teen idolAlyssa Milano, teen idol
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Milano was a pop culture icon for years, attracting much attention as a vampish teen idol, and raking in the Kid’s Choice Awards as a result (she won three!). She’s still very busy on the big screen and still has her share of fans from the heydays of the 80s and 90s.

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Christine Taylor (1990)

Christine Taylor started her career on Hey Dude, a popular Nickelodeon venture. But she caught the public eye because of her connection to another teen idol on this list… she took on Maureen McCormick’s role as Marcia Brady in the 1995 spin-off The Brady Bunch Movie!

Christine Taylor, female idolChristine Taylor, female idol
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But after the success of the Brady Bunch, Taylor moved onto a successful career in comedy films, most memorably in The Wedding Singer and Zoolander in 2001. She’s since made a bit of a comeback, particularly in 2016’s Search Party and 2020’s Friendsgiving. Now onto the rest of the 90s!

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Christina Applegate (1991)

Though younger viewers probably recognize her for later roles, Christina Applegate first entered the public consciousness as Kelly Bundy on the sitcom Married...With Children. She became the crush of virtually every teen boy in American. But she soon made a bigger name for herself in the industry.

Christina Applegate, teen idolChristina Applegate, teen idol
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This began with her 1991 role in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead. It quickly snowballed into all 15 of her prestigious acting awards as listed by IMDb, including a Primetime Emmy Award and 2 People's Choice! Now let's take another look at a teen idol who captured the hearts of teens everywhere.

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Tiffani Theissen (1992)

If you remember the halls of Bayside High, the school from Saved By The Bell, then you no doubt remember Tiffani Theissen. She starred as Kelly Kapowski in the hit teen show from 1989-1992 and was nominated for a slew of acting awards, including a Teen Choice and Young Artist Award.

Tiffani Theissen, female idolTiffani Theissen, female idol
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But just because the original Saved By The Bell series is long in the past doesn't mean that Kelly Kapowski is! Theissen reprised her iconic role in the 2020 reboot, starring in all 20 episodes alongside her former costars. We know we'll be watching it!

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Tatyana Ali (1993)

90s kids will recognize this talented chick! She started off on the beloved kids' show Sesame Street at just 6 years old. Ali was then cast as little cousin Ashley Banks in NBC's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She acted alongside Will Smith from 1990 to 1996, before the show officially wrapped.

Tatyana Ali, female idolTatyana Ali, female idol
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Ali has since starred in nearly 40 films over her career so far, according to IMDb. But she didn’t restrict herself to acting, as she also released an album titled Kiss The Sky, which was a popular jam for kids at the time. Next up, we’ve got one of the most iconic child actors in film history...

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Drew Barrymore (1994)

You’ll probably remember Drew Barrymore from her role in the nostalgic classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, in 1982 - as well as a slew of other films. These days, she’s best known for fun-filled flicks like Charlie’s Angels and 50 First Dates. She’s also tried her hand as a screenwriter, director, and producer.

Drew barrymore, teen idolDrew barrymore, teen idol
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And she has the accolades to back up her impressive career. IMDb lists 59 nominations and 34 wins on the awards circuit throughout her life. Some of these include the Hollywood Film Festival's Actress of the Year in 1999 and a Motion Picture star Walk of Fame.

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Alicia Silverstone (1995)

Beginning her career in 1992, Alicia Silverstone has never slowed down throughout her impressive filmography. Her first film, The Crush, was released in 1993, for which she won MTV's Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance! It could only be up from here.

Alicia silverstone, female idolAlicia silverstone, female idol
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And sure enough, just two years later, she starred in the cult classic teen movie Clueless, where she was awarded Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture Award. Over her career, she has been nominated for 16 awards and taken home 15, according to IMDb. One of her nominations was a Golden Globe in 1996.

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Reese Witherspoon (1996)

Rising to fame in her teenage years, Reese Witherspoon officially hit the A-list with her role in Legally Blonde. Among all the many movies of her career, she’s been nominated for 114 nominations and has won 55 awards. Her biggest win was her 2005 Oscar for Walk The Line.

Reese witherspoon, teen idolReese witherspoon, teen idol
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These days the blonde beauty has also dipped her toes into producing - starting off with the 2014 film Wild, which she also starred in. As IMDb notes, the inspiring film follows one woman's 1,100 mile-long hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Definitely a must-watch!

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Jennifer Love Hewitt (1997)

For four years between 1995 and 1999, Jennifer Love Hewitt starred in the hit Fox show Party of Five, which skyrocketed her to teen idol status. Since then, she has racked up 25 award nominations and 10 wins, as listed on IMDb. And in the latter half of her career, she too has begun to dabble in producing.

Jennifer Love Hewitt, teenJennifer Love Hewitt, teen
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Her production credits include the film Time Of Your Life as well as several other films and tv shows. She spent over a year producing it before returning to acting. Since then, she has starred in well-known films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Tuxedo, and Heartbreakers.

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Aaliyah (1998)

Young Aaliyah burst onto the R&B scene when she was only 12 years old. She dropped her first studio album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, with the record label Blackground Records Label. It was met with acclaim, selling 74,000 copies in the first week and reaching #24 on the Billboard 200 Chart.

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Since her untimely passing, she has only gathered more fervent fans who pour over her discography, including 27 film soundtrack credits! She also won 7 awards over her short career as listed by IMDb. These include 1 American Music Award for Favorite Soul and 1 for best R&B Female Artist.

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Britney Spears (1999)

Next up is not just any teen idol, but the unequivocal “Princess of Pop!” Britney Spears rose to pop star fame in the early 2000s. After starting out on the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, Brit signed her first record deal with Jive Records at just 15 years old.

Britney spears, teen, yearsBritney spears, teen, years
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And with Jive Records, she released two wildly popular albums, Baby One More Time (1998) and Oops... I Did It Again (2000). Over the next 20 years, she became one of the best-selling female artists of the 2000s according to IMDb and sold a whopping 100-million records around the world.

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Christina Aguilera (2000)

Next in line as a pop princess, Christina Aguilera came onto the scene in 1999 with her smash-hit single Genie In A Bottle. Almost immediately, it shot to the top of the US Billboard Hot 100, and X-tina became an international phenomenon. A decade later, she was officially given a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Christina Aguilera, teen, yearsChristina Aguilera, teen, years
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In those ten years, Aguilera won an impressive 5 Grammys and even placed on the Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time list at #58. According to Rolling Stone, "[Aguilera] has had the finesse and power of a blues queen ever since she was a child star." Agreed.

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Destiny's Child (2001-'02)

In an age of boy-band pop, Destiny’s Child made a name for themselves as the ultimate R&B girl group. Officially forming in 1997, the core members of the group consisted of the inimitable Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams - though other members joined and leftover time.

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They have been described by Billboard as "Defined by a combination of feisty female empowerment anthems, killer dance moves, and an enviable fashion sense." James Montgomery of MTV fame also called them "One of the best-selling female pop vocal groups in history."

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Mandy Moore (2003)

Another star who started young, Mandy Moore started crafting music at just 14 and launched her debut song Candy in 1999. It brought her to the fore of teen stardom almost overnight and peaked at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100. Moore was quickly compared to industry giants of the time like Britney Spears.

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By the 2000s, Moore was winning awards for both music and film, raking in titles such as the Young Hollywood Award for Unstoppable Vision and the Young Hollywood Award for Superstar of Tomorrow. With seemingly the whole industry behind her, there was no other way but up.

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Megan Fox (2004)

Known for her idyllic beauty and talent, Megan Fox initially came to public attention with Holiday in the Sun in 2002. Since then, she has been nominated for 31 awards and has won 10 as listed by IMDb. She also won the Teen Choice Award, which was fitting as she was admired by teen boys and girls alike.

Megan fox, years, teenMegan fox, years, teen
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The next role would turn out to be the Transformers star's big break when she was cast next to Lindsay Lohan in the 2004 teen film Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. From that point on, she shot to near-instant stardom and still keeps busy in the industry to this day.

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Hilary Duff (2005)

There are few shows for teens that were as beloved and identifiable as Disney’s Lizzie McGuire, which officially gave its young star the Hollywood stamp of approval. Hilary Duff’s TV persona was an instant hit, earning 2.3 million viewers per episode at its peak and solidifying Duff’s place as teen queen supreme.

Hilary duff, teen, yearsHilary duff, teen, years
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And like many of her peers, Duff made the business-savvy decision to move into music, releasing the songs Beat of My Heart and Wake Up in 2005. She was loved for her seemingly humble, down-to-earth, bubbly personality and is still well-loved by Lizzie fans to this day.

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