100 Greatest Kid Stars of the last 20 years

100 Greatest Kid Stars on VH1 Nov. 29-Dec. 2 counts down the the biggest names in TV, music and entertainment who burst onto the scene as kids from the past two decades.
100 Greatest Kid Stars
Child stars in pop culture are like pet alligators. They’re cute when young, but they often get flushed before they grow big.

VH1 counts down the top kid stars of the past two decades in the five-part special 100 Greatest Kid Stars, a nostalgic look back at the biggest names in TV, music and entertainment who burst onto the scene as kids. Hosted by Catherine Reitman — daughter of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman and once a child actor herself — the special includes old and new interviews, and early performance footage from when the stars were kids. The countdown begins Thursday, Nov. 29 and concludes Sunday, Dec. 2.

The countdown includes recent stars like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Dakota Fanning as well as kids like Candace Cameron, Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Paquin (pictured) and Jonathan Taylor Thomas who grew up onscreen during the ’90s. It’s also a nostalgic look back at the shows and movies like Full House, My So Called Life, Family Matters and Home Alone that made them famous.

Fame and fortune are fickle, and they’ve been especially unforgiving to child stars. For every Ron Howard, Jodie Foster or LeAnn Rimes, there seem to be 10 Corey Feldmans, Danny Bonaduces or Jodie Sweetins. Child stars like Gary Coleman, Macaulay Culkin, Emmanuel Lewis, and basically the entire cast of The Brady Bunch lost their appeal as adults. Many fall victim to addiction and self-destructive behavior. Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins usually make headlines for things other than performing. Drew Barrymore, now one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, overcame drugs, alcohol and The Amy Fisher Story. Britney Spears had her Kevin Federline phase. Some have more tragic endings, like River Phoenix, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland and Dana Plato, who all succumbed to drug overdoses.

Of course, there are some who got undeservedly lucky, like Stand by Me’s Jerry O’Connell, who fell ass- backward into big TV roles and Rebecca Romijn.

The Kids Are Alright
Not all child stars are destined for Celebrity Boxing and rehab stints. These performers turned early success into solid careers:

Kirsten Dunst
Then: Hit it big at age 12 starring alongside Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles.
Now: Played Mary Jane Watson in the 2002-07 Spider-Man films, and frequently stars in independent films like Melancholia and Bachelorette.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Then: Started acting at age 6. Landed a breakout TV role as a teen in 3rd Rock From the Sun.
Now: Stars in some of today’s biggest films, including Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Looper.

Anna Paquin
Then: At age 11, became the second-youngest actor to win an Oscar for her role in The Piano.
Now: Appearing in large films like the X-Men franchise and small indie flicks. Stars as Sookie in HBO’s True Blood.

Raven-Symoné
Then: Joined The Cosby Show as adorable tyke Olivia at age 3.
Now: Steadily starring in TV shows and movies for the ABC Family/Disney set. She’s also a successful recording artist and appeared in Sister Act on Broadway.

Romeo
Then: The son of rapper Master P went by Lil’ Romeo when he recorded the hit single “My Baby” at age 11.
Now: Rapper/actor/model/entrepreneur Romeo played basketball for USC (sparingly) and competed on Season 12 of Dancing With the Stars.

Elijah Wood
Then: Had big roles in early ’90s films like Avalon, Radio Flyer, The Good Son and North.
Now: Reprising his Lord of the Rings role as Frodo in The Hobbit films and starring in the FX comedy Wilfred.

Photo: ANDREA RENAULT/GLOBE PHOTOS,INC./ZUMA Press/Newscom

About Ryan Berenz

Star Wars nerd. Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL). Father of two. Husband of one. I write about sports on TV because I am bad at sports in real life.
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