From Ariana Grande to Jessica Alba, these stars discovered the spotlight at the kid-friendly channel.
When you think of Nickelodeon, you probably think of slime and not necessarily big stars, but you’d be surprised to find out how many major celebs got their start on the network! Since the station’s debut in 1979, tons of actors have kicked off their career on one of Nick’s kid-friendly shows.
While many Nickelodeon stars have gone on to focus on acting, like Emma Roberts and Nat Wolff, a select few have pivoted to music, like Ariana Grande. Whatever sector of the entertainment industry they favored, there’s no denying that there’s plenty of talent in the Nickelodeon universe!
Read on to find out which stars got their start on Nickelodeon…
Fans may know Ariana Grande from her super successful music career, but she’s a Nickelodeon kid at heart. Ariana landed her breakout role on “Victorious” playing the loveable and bubbly Cat Valentine. She even nabbed her own spinoff, “Sam & Cat,” before deciding to focus on her music career full time.
Although Ariana at one point called her role “frustrating” because she was so unlike her character, she has said she’s grateful for the experience. “I’m very appreciative. Nickelodeon always will hold such a tremendous place in my heart, not only because of ‘Victorious’ and ‘Sam & Cat’ and the amazing years I spent working with them, but also just for SpongeBob, you know?” Ariana said at the 2020 Kids Choice Awards.
Both Nat and Alex Wolff got their start on Nickelodeon as the stars of “The Naked Brothers Band,” which ran for three seasons on the network. Both brothers have gone on to have successful acting careers, with Nat landing roles in “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars” and Alex joining the cast of “Hereditary” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
“We were really working our assess off on that show. We wrote all the music, we’d record all the music. Alex, as a 7, 8-year-old, was playing live drums on all of our music. It’s why the music is really authentic and original, but it’s also why certain songs will make you cringe a little bit,” Nat told GQ.
Emma Roberts’ first major role came as the star of Nickelodeon’s “Unfabulous” which aired from 2004 to 2007. Since then, she’s expanded her career to include roles in “American Horror Story” and “Scream Queens” as well as films like “Palo Alto” and “Holidate.”
“Growing up, I was obsessed with all shows Nickelodeon – ‘Clarissa Explains It All,’ ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch.’ I remember saying to my mom, ‘I want my own show on Nickelodeon one day,’ and she was like, ‘That’s a great dream to have.’ Then when I was 12, I auditioned for a Nickelodeon show and my childhood dream came true,” Emma told PorterEdit.
Kenan Thompson’s time on Nickelodeon totally set him up for success. Kenan kicked off his career on “All That” and then starred in its spinoff “Kenan & Kel.” Both sketch comedy shows gave him all the tools he needed to join the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” where he has been featured on the program since 2003. Keenan has nothing but good things to say about his time on Nick – in fact, he’s returning to the network to host the 2021 Kids’ Choice Awards!
“Nickelodeon has been part of my life and my family forever and I can’t wait to host this year’s Kids’ Choice Awards. Am I worried about getting slimed? Naaaah. It’s going to come fast and cold, but it’s not my first rodeo — you know what I’m saying? So, bring on the slime and let’s do this!” Keenan told People.
Miranda Cosgrove landed one of her first major television roles on Nickelodeon’s “Drake & Josh” before getting her own incredibly popular show, “iCarly.” During her time on the program, she was named the world’s highest paid TV child actress per episode. Since then, she landed a starring role on “Crowded” and currently hosts “Mission Unstoppable,” a science program which highlights female innovators. Plus, it was recently announced that an “iCarly” revival is on the way!
While Keke Palmer first entered the spotlight for her role in “Akeelah and the Bee,” she became even more widely known when she landed the starring role on Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP.” She was simultaneously given a record deal and has gone on to drop multiple albums, have her own talk show and write a memoir… all in addition to her many roles in film and TV.
“People don’t understand. Nickelodeon, Disney Channel — those are corporations. That is a machine and it’s a well-oiled machine… Not only when you work with them are you working on their show, but you’re working with their brand so you become that identity in which they want you to be. There’s rules and regulations and so they pigeonhole you when the reality is, ain’t nobody that PG… Once I finally let go of the fear of moving past Keke Palmer ‘True Jackson, VP,’ I was able to become Keke Palmer the woman. And so when I get on those carpets, that’s who you get to see,” Keke said.
Jessica Alba may not be immediately associated with Nickelodeon, but her early fans may remember her from her role in “The Secret World of Alex Mack.” After the show ended, she landed roles in programs like “Beverly Hills, 90210” before transitioning to the big screen in films like “Sin City” and “Fantastic Four.” And to top things off, she’s now the mogul behind Honest Company.
Melissa Joan Hart had the starring role in not one, but two Nickelodeon shows! She got her start on “Clarissa Explains It All” before moving on to take the lead in “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.” After her run on Nick ended, Melissa appeared in multiple movies before being cast in her successful Freeform series “Melissa and Joey.”
“I know that that’s where most of my fan base comes from,” Melissa told Refinery29 of her role on “Sabrina.” “I know that that’s how people feel like they relate to me or they know me cause I was in their house every Friday night for seven years and then some. So I embrace it and I love it. It was a great time of my life. I mean, it wasn’t my favorite character to play, but it opened up so many opportunities and doors and I absolutely loved my time on it… I’ve made my best friends and had such a blast and it, it gave me so many opportunities to move on with my career or my life. You know, it was such a wonderful time. And so I totally embrace it.”
Jamie Lynn Spears stepped out of her older sister’s shadow when she joined the cast of Nickelodeon’s “All That.” She then was given the lead role in their series “Zoey 101,” which became an instant hit and ran for four seasons. Nowadays, Jamie Lynn is focused on her music career, her role on “Sweet Magnolias” and the Zoey 101 reboot that’s currently in the works.
“As I’ve gotten older and I see people who are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I grew up watching this show. Seeing how much the fans really are still so in love with it was really when I understood, right, wow, this is a really big deal,” Jamie Lynn told Nylon.
Amanda Bynes joined the cast of Nickelodeon’s “All That” when she was just 10 years old. By the time she was 13, she had landed her own self-titled spinoff and was a regular on “Figure It Out.” After “The Amanda Show” wrapped, she starred in numerous films including “What A Girl Wants,” “She’s The Man,” and “Easy A.”