Channing Tatum never drew much fame from his role in Ricky Martin’s video for “She Bangs.” Katy Perry didn’t become famous by starring alongside P.O.D. in “Goodbye for Now.” Nonetheless, a music video can make or break an actor’s career. It can turn an average person into an absolute icon. This is none more apparent than in the ’80s when Courteney Cox got her big break in Bruce Springsteen’s video for “Dancing in the Dark,” but not every music video actor becomes a megastar.
Everyone gets their 15 minutes, and these actors in iconic music videos have used up more than their fair share. While some have been able to parlay their fame in to a long-lasting career, most have returned to a private life. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even recognize them from the starring video roles. From Ola Ray, the woman who fell in love with Michael Jackson on the set of “Thriller,” to Alyson Stoner, the girl who danced her childhood away in Missy Elliott’s music videos, these iconic music video stars are absolutely unrecognizable, fame or not.
Mini-Sia is a full-blown star
Reality TV fans knew Maddie Ziegler before she ever appeared in one of Sia’s music videos. The dance star got her start in the public eye on Dance Moms. In an interview with News.com.au, Ziegler revealed that Sia was a fan of her work with the series, so she reached out to Ziegler on Twitter and asked her if she wanted to be in a music video. “There was no audition, no anything,” Ziegler said. All it took was a gentle slide into the dancer’s DMs.
The video for “Chandelier,” which saw Ziegler don a wig and leotard and thrash around like a pint-sized version of the megastar, garnered almost two billion video views and the pair have formed quite a special bond. Ziegler told Jimmy Fallon (via Page Six) that Sia is now legally family. “She is the best person in my life,” Ziegler told the talk show host. “She really is. I think she’s my god mom now? So if anything were to happen she would take me, which is really cool.”
According to Billboard, Sia even bought her young pal a car for her 16th birthday, which sort of borders more on fairy godmother than regular godmothers, but we wouldn’t complain. Though she was notably tiny when she landed her first gig with the singer, the star is finally tall enough to snag some pieces from her god mom’s wardrobe.
Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift’s minis are all grown up
In 2013, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran sparked romance rumors with their adorable song “Everything Has Changed.” Today, we know the pair are great collaborators and even greater friends (Swifty even helped set up Sheeran with his longtime partner), but at the time, Sheeran had to majorly shut down the tabloids. It didn’t help that the pair released what might just be the cutest music video to ever exist.
The video for “Everything Has Changed” featured two children who played younger versions of the stars entrapped in a too-cute childhood love story. They go from playing in the playground and building bedroom forts to slow dancing in an empty gymnasium. We sort of need a Kleenex just thinking about it. Though the boy who starred in the series went uncredited, we know the girl was played by Ava Ames. Since her appearance, she’s grown up quite a bit. What’s the video star actually up to? From the looks of her Instagram, Ames is a normal student. She’s on the varsity dance team and cheer squad, and enjoyed going to homecoming with a braces-clad date. She’s also still acting, though she’s mostly been in shorts and TV cameos.
Little Jesse J actually became a singer
In 2011, young actress Adrianna Bertola took on the role of a mini Jesse Jay lookalike in the singer’s video for “Who’s Laughing Now.” She played an unpopular student who was doing her best to deal with rampant bullying in class. Ultimately, she ends up spraying her bully down with a fire extinguisher. The funny thing is that Bertola hardly seems unpopular at all.
At the time of the shoot, the actress was well-versed in the world of theater and wildly successful for her age. She had starring roles in The Sound of Music and Matilda (she was Matilda!) and a pretty decent TV career after landing a recurring role on Casualty in 2009. Since then, the star has appeared on Doctors and Call the Midwife. She also starred as Violet Beauregarde in the original London production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and launched a music career of her own, rather than just playing the part. Bertola released a single called “Fire and Ice” in 2014.
Macaulay Culkin, who?
In 1991, Michael Jackson tried to top “Thriller” with another epic, 11-minute video. According to Yahoo, “Black or White” premiered “to an audience of 500 million people” in 28 countries, simultaneously. The cinematic video, which cost $4 million to make, was wrought with controversy after a specific crotch-grabbing scene and some racist graffiti. That was later cut for subsequent airings. What wasn’t cut was one of Hollywood’s youngest rising stars — and Jackson’s dear friend — Macaulay Culkin. The star was fresh off his success in Home Alone.
According to Yahoo, Culkin and Jackson were “known for their onset pranks.” One day, the pair ended up ditching work and reportedly spent $60,000 at Toys “R” Us instead. Today Culkin is more known for his status as a child star than his actual acting talent. He’s also a fan of creating viral memes. The star reprised his role of Kevin from Home Alone in a Google ad, trolled his brother on Twitter during the Golden Globes, and launched a poll to determine his new legal middle name. The options included “Shark Week,” “Kieran” (his brother’s name), “TheMcRibisBack” and “Publicity Stunt.” Macaulay Culkin ultimately one out. Yes, Culkin’s full name is now Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin, if he did actually change it.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” girlfriend had a shocking transformation
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” may just be the most recognizable music video on the planet. When it premiered in 1983, the nearly 14-minute epic transformed everyone’s perceptions about what a music video should be through its cinematic storyline. It was part film, part music video and all Michael Jackson. According to Rolling Stone, it was also the most expensive music video ever made at the time and aired alongside a making-of documentary.
Though Jackson obviously stunned throughout, it’s hard to forget Jackson’s adorable, dance-happy, on-screen girlfriend played by Ola Ray. According to Yahoo, the actress landed the role “after Flashdance actress Jennifer Beals turned it down”, but she almost didn’t get the part because of a Playboy centerfold she posed for in 1980. On set, Ray fell in love with King of Pop. In an interview with ABC, she revealed that she never told him about her true feelings.
These days, Ray, who is now a mother living in Sacramento, Calif., looks nothing like she did in the video. After a decades-long hiatus, she jumped back into the acting world with a smattering of projects slated for 2019.