The Biggest '90s TV Teen Idols, Then and Now

Here's what the teen dreams you remember from your must-watch shows look like today.


Every decade produces its own teen idols, but when it comes to TV stars all the kids wanted to be, the '90s ruled. From Felicity to Buffy to Dawson's Creek and The Fresh Prince, there were so many series that launched their young talent into the stratosphere. Many of them are still in the spotlight today, so we're looking back on what our favorite '90s teen TV stars looked like when they first hit the airwaves compared to now. We'll also tell you how they've been keeping busy. And for more snaps that will send you back in time, here are 13 Photos of Celebrity Couples When They First Got Together.

Read the original article on Best Life.

Keri Russell: Then

Keri Russell 1998
Tsuni/USA/Alamy Stock Photo

Keri Russell's first major acting gig was in 1992's Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, but she became a teen icon when the college dramedy Felicity premiered in 1998.

And for the most famous person who shares your birth year, here's The Biggest Star Who's the Same Age as You.

Keri Russell: Now

Keri Russell 2019

Russell's spy drama series The Americans wrapped in 2018; in 2019, she appeared in the final flick in the most recent Star Wars trilogy.

Claire Danes: Then

Claire Danes 1994
Tsuni/USA/Alamy Stock Photo

Claire Danes played Beth March in Gillian Armstrong's Little Women in 1994, the same year My So-Called Life, her short-lived but much loved teen drama, premiered.

And for the star your peers wanted to be, This Was the Most Popular Teen Idol the Year You Graduated.

Claire Danes: Now

Claire Danes 2020
Shutterstock/lev radin

For eight seasons, Danes starred as a CIA agent on the drama-thriller Homeland.

Jared Leto: Then

Jared Leto 1995
Tsuni/USA/Alamy Stock Photo

Jared Leto rose to fame as the aloof object of Danes's character Angela's affections: Jordan Catalano.

And for the best teen-focused flicks of the decade, we're Ranking Every '90s Teen Movie, From Worst Reviewed to Best.

Jared Leto: Now

Jared Leto 2019

In 2021, Leto will be seen in the comic book adaptation Morbius. He also fronts the band Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Tia and Tamera Mowry: Then

Tia and Tamera Mowry 1994
PARAMOUNT TV/Album/Alamy Stock Photo

Twin actors Tia and Tamera Mowry played long-lost twins reunited on the sitcom Sister, Sister, which aired its first episode in 1994.

To see how some of the most famous kids from the House of Mouse grew up, check out The Biggest Disney Channel Stars, Then and Now.

Tia and Tamera Mowry: Now

Tia and Tamera Mowry 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Tia (left) and Tamera (right) are both Hallmark Christmas movie frequent fliers and have several other individual ventures.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Then

Mark-Paul Gosselaar 1990
Barry King/Alamy Live News

Mark-Paul Gosselaar started playing wise guy Zack Morris in 1987, when Good Morning, Miss Bliss premiered. But it was in the early '90s, when the retooled version of the sitcom—Saved by the Bell—premiered in 1989 that he became a bonafide teen heartthrob.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Now

Mark-Paul Gosselaar 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Gosselaar currently stars as Bow's dad on the black-ish spinoff mixed-ish, and will soon reprise his defining role on the upcoming Saved by the Bell revival.

Mario Lopez: Then

Mario Lopez 1990
MediaPunch Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

The jock to Zack's prep, A.C. Slater made Mario Lopez equally as popular with the kids.

Mario Lopez: Now

Mario Lopez 2019
Shutterstock/Featureflash Photo Agency

Lopez will also be back for the new Saved by the Bell, but has otherwise kept busy more as a host than an actor.

Tiffani Thiessen: Then

Tiffani Thiessen 1990
Globe Photos/MediaPunch/Alamy Stock Photo

Then known as Tiffani Amber Thiessen, she played cheerleader Kelly on Saved by the Bell, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and the TV movie where Zack and Kelly tie the knot. She also joined the cast of another influential teen drama, Beverly Hills, 90210.

Tiffani Thiessen: Now

Tiffani Thiessen 2019
Shutterstock/Ovidiu Hrubaru

Thiessen, like her other costars, is also returning to her teen dream role. She also stars on the Netflix series Alex & Katie and has led her fair share of Hallmark holiday movies.

Will Smith: Then

Will Smith 1990
Barry King/Alamy Stock Photo

Will Smith was already famous as a rapper by the time his series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air started airing in 1990.

Will Smith: Now

Will Smith 2019

Smith is one of the most bankable actors of all time, but he hasn't forgotten his roots. Fresh Prince reunion special is coming to HBO Max this November.

Tatyana Ali: Then

Tatyana Ali 1992
Michael Ferguson/PHOTOlink/MediaPunch

Tatyana Ali played Will's little cousin Ashley on Fresh Prince and also released her own pop music.

Tatyana Ali: Now

Tatyana Ali 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Ali can be spotted all over the small and big screens (including, yes, the occasional holiday romance), but her most recent project was the son (her second) she welcomed in 2019.

And for more new celeb parents, check out All the Cutest Celebrity Baby Names of 2020.

Sarah Michelle Gellar: Then

Sarah Michelle Gellar 1998
Photo 12/Alamy Stock Photo

Sarah Michelle Gellar staked countless creatures of the night on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which aired from 1997 to 2003.

Sarah Michelle Gellar: Now

Sarah Michelle Gellar 2019
DFree / Shutterstock

Gellar still grabs the occasional acting role, but she's also known for her cookbook and her adorable marriage to fellow '90s teen icon, Freddie Prinze Jr.

And for more on their long-lasting love, check out 20 Celebrity Couples You Totally Forgot Are Still Together.

Joey Lawrence: Then

Joey Lawrence 1991
Globe Photos/ Stock Photo

If you weren't a '90s kid, you'll never know just how ubiquitous Blossom star Joey Lawrence and his catchphrase—"Whoa!—were at the time.

Joey Lawrence: Now

Joey Lawrence 2020

Lawrence, who had a couple of fairly popular hits back in the day, released some new music as recently as 2017, and also was on Celebrity Big Brother in 2019.

James Van Der Beek: Then

James Van Der Beek 1998
Nina Prommer/Globe Photos/ Stock Photo

James Van Der Beek became a hero to film nerds everywhere when he played the eponymous aspiring director on Dawson's Creek, which came to The WB in 1998.

James Van Der Beek: Now

James Van Der Beek 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

In 2019, Van Der Beek competed on Dancing With the Stars (coming in a respectable fifth) and made a cameo in the Kevin Smith movie Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.

Katie Holmes: Then

Katie Holmes 2019
Featureflash Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

As Joey Potter, Katie Holmes was the next door neighbor with a secret crush on her best friend, Dawson.

Katie Holmes: Now

Katie Holmes 2019
Shutterstock/lev radin

This year, Holmes appeared in the movies Brahms: The Boy II and The Secret: Dare to Dream.

Michelle Williams: Then

Michelle Williams 1998
Featureflash Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Michelle Williams broke out playing new girl Jen, Joey's rival and eventual friend, on Dawson's.

Michelle Williams: Now

Michelle Willams 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Just last year, Williams won an Emmy for playing the dancer Gwen Verdon in the miniseries Fosse/Verdon. In 2020, she announced that she'd gotten married to the series' director Thomas Kail and they welcomed their first child in June.

Joshua Jackson: Then

Joshua Jackson 1998
Globe Photos, Inc/Globe Photos/ Stock Photo

Prior to playing Pacey Witter, Dawson's Creek's resident sarcastic class clown, Joshua Jackson was known for The Mighty Ducks movies.

Joshua Jackson: Now

Joshua Jackson 2019
Silvia Elizabeth Pangaro / Shutterstock

In 2020, Jackson starred with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington on the series Little Fires Everywhere and announced the arrival of his first child with wife and fellow actor Jodie Turner-Smith.

Shannen Doherty: Then

Shannen Doherty 1990
FOX/BROADCASTING CO./Album/Alamy Stock Photo

Shannen Doherty had tons of credits under her belt—including Little House on the Prairie—before playing Brenda Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, which premiered in 1990.

Shannen Doherty: Now

Shannen Doherty 2019

In 2019, Doherty joined her old friends back at the Peach Pit on the revival series BH90210, and made a tearjerking cameo in the Riverdale episode honoring the late Luke Perry.

Jason Priestley: Then

Jason Priestley 1990
FOX/BROADCASTING CO./Album/Alamy Stock Photo

Jason Priestley won millions of hearts playing Brenda's twin brother Brandon on 90210.

Jason Priestley: Now

Jason Priestley 2019

Priestley was also onboard for BH90210 and currently plays a detective on the Canadian series, Private Eyes.

Brandy: Then

Brandy Norwood 1996
Barry King/Alamy Stock Photo

Brandy Norwood, or just Brandy, was well known to her teen fanbase before taking on the lead role of Moesha in 1996. Her 1994 debut album was a massive hit.

Brandy: Now

Brandy Norwood 2019
F. S/AdMedia via ZUMA Wire/Alamy Stock Photo

This summer, Norwood released her new album, B7. She was also recently a regular on the showbiz drama Star.

Melissa Joan Hart: Then

Melissa Joan Hart 1996
Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Melissa Joan Hart grew up with her fans. She followed up her role on the Nickelodeon series Clarissa Explains It All in the early 1990s with the primetime sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch in 1996.

Melissa Joan Hart: Now

Melissa Joan Hart 2019
Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

In 2019, Hart led the Netflix series No Good Nick, and already has a holiday movie in the can for this Christmas.

Sage Young
Sage Young is Best Life's Senior SEO Editor. Read more
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