THEN AND NOW: 12 of the most iconic teen idols throughout history

Donny Osmond in 1970 and 2018.

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Donny Osmond in 1970 and 2018.
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images and Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

There have been many incarnations of the teen idol over the years, starting with wholesome ’50s stars like Frankie Avalon, through the indie, brooding Jared Leto-types of the ’90s. But in recent history, the most iconic has been none other than Justin Bieber.

Bieber, who turns 25 on March 1, has been through a lot in his decade or so in the spotlight. But it’s not anything more disastrous than a fair few of these teen celebrities.

From Leif Garrett to Will Smith, here are 12 of the most iconic teen idols in history, and what they’re doing in 2019.


Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube in 2008, and set off Bieber Fever.

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Justin Bieber in August 2009.
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After posting covers of famous songs on YouTube, the then-13-year-old was discovered by industry powerhouse Scooter Braun, and flown to Atlanta, Georgia, to sing for Usher.

Throughout the 2010s, Bieber skyrocketed to be one of the most – if not the most – famous people on Earth. “Beliebers” followed his every move, tracked every girl he was spotted with, and propelled him to four No. 1 albums.


A decade later, Bieber is married to Hailey Baldwin, and fans are eagerly awaiting new music.

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Justin Bieber in February 2019.
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Bieber, who turned 25 on March 1, has been through some rough times as of late. After more than a few scandals, an apology tour, and multiple chart-topping collaborations, including the inescapable “Despacito” and “I’m the One,” Bieber is focusing on his mental health, his new marriage to Baldwin, and his much-anticipated new music.


The Beatles were the original British boy band — and Paul McCartney was at the center of Beatlemania.

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Paul McCartney in 1963.
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Popperfoto/Getty Images

What hasn’t been said about The Beatles? Largely considered the best band of all time, the foursome inspired such mania and love that they had an entire phenomenon named after their rabid fanbase.

Twenty-two-year-old McCartney especially garnered a lot of attention, due to his front-man position in the group as lead singer and bassist.


McCartney is still performing and releasing music more than 50 years later.

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Paul McCartney in December 2018.
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Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

The Beatles broke up in 1970, and McCartney has steadily released music with both his band Wings and as a solo artist – he even collaborated with Kanye West and Rihanna. At 76, there’s still no slowing McCartney down.

In fact, his 2018 album “Egypt Station” was his first to debut at No. 1 ever and his first to top the charts at all since 1982’s “Tug of War.”


Mario Lopez stole hearts everywhere during the iconic ’90s show “Saved by the Bell.”

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Mario Lopez in 1990.
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Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

As a kid, Lopez appeared in the show “Kids Incorporated” for two years. But his big break came in 1989 when the 16-year-old began starring on seminal high school sitcom “Saved by the Bell” as the prototypical jock and ladies man AC Slater.

Lopez stayed on the show, appeared in “The College Years,” and two “Saved by the Bell” TV movies. After the show ended, Lopez continued to act, mainly in lesser-known movies and television series.


Lopez is mainly known for his hosting duties now, including “Extra” and his own radio show.

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Mario Lopez in February 2019.
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Eric McCandless via Getty Images

Lopez, now 45, parlayed his acting career into a pretty lucrative hosting one. From hosting the US version of “The X Factor” to anchoring his own iHeart radio show, “ON With Mario Lopez,” the TV icon truly is everywhere.

Since 2012, Lopez has been married to dancer Courtney Mazza. The two announced in January 2019 that they’re expecting their third child, joining daughter Gia and son Dominic.


Donny Osmond quickly became the most popular Osmond brother during the ’70s.

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Donny Osmond in 1970.
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Osmond made his TV debut when he was just five years old alongside his brothers in 1963. His first solo single in 1971, “Sweet and Innocent,” reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 when he was 14.

Throughout the ’70s, Osmond continued to drive fans wild with his perfectly feathered hair and wholesome, family-friendly vibe. But seemingly overnight, his overly perfect image turned uncool during the ’80s, and he took a bit of a career hiatus.


Osmond still performs in Las Vegas alongside his sister, Marie.

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Donny Osmond in October 2018.
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Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

Osmond, 61, returned with a vengeance in 1989, and has been releasing music steadily since then – though most millennials know him best as the singing voice of Li Shang in the Disney movie “Mulan.” He sings on the classic song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

Osmond also won “Dancing with the Stars,” and has appeared with his sister Marie in Las Vegas since 2008. Their final show will be held in November 2019.

He also just came in second place on the bizarre singing competition “The Masked Singer,” where he was revealed to be disguised as a peacock.


Justin Timberlake was many a fan’s favorite from boy-band *NSYNC.

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Justin Timberlake in 2000.
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Timberlake first achieved fame alongside Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Ryan Gosling on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the early ’90s.

In 1995, a year after he left the show and at the tender age of 14, Timberlake teamed up with former castmate JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Joey Fatone to form *NSYNC, which would become one of the most beloved boy-bands of all time.

Timberlake’s desire to go solo caused the group to take a permanent hiatus after their third album “Celebrity” was released in 2001.


Timberlake remains an A-lister after over two decades in the industry.

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Justin Timberlake in September 2018.
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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Timberlake has received 10 Grammy Awards and four Emmy Awards, among many other nominations and honors during his illustrious career. All but one of his albums have reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 (“Justified,” his debut, peaked at two).

Plus, he’s branched out to acting. He appeared in “The Social Network,” “Friends with Benefits,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” to name a few.

The 38-year-old was also in numerous high profile relationships, but has since settled down with actress Jessica Biel. The couple has a son, Silas.


Frankie Avalon’s first No. 1 single came out when he was 19 years old in 1959.

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Frankie Avalon in May 1959.
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Avalon was an in-demand singer and actor during the ’60s, known for his smooth voice and squeaky-clean image.

The then-19-year-old had two chart-topping songs with “Venus” and “Why” in 1959. He took a break from music to act in “Beach Party,” which spawned six more sequels, and popularized the beach movie genre.


Avalon now focuses on his line of health and cosmetic products, and his cookbooks.

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Frankie Avalon in October 2015.
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Rob Kim/Getty Images

Avalon was introduced to a new generation of fans during his role in 1978’s “Grease” as the Teen Angel, in which he sings “Beauty School Dropout.”

However, in his later years, he’s pivoted away from the music industry and now concentrates on his business, Frankie Avalon Products, which specializes in pain-relieving products. He also released a cookbook, “Frankie Avalon’s Italian Family Cookbook.” The 78-year-old is also still touring.


Leif Garrett was both a successful musician and actor.

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Leif Garrett in 1970.
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Garrett’s breakthrough as a teen idol came when he starred in the show “Three for the Road” when he was only 14.

Garrett released his first album two years later in 1977, despite having no musical training. His immense popularity was enough to overshadow this lack of training, and he released four more through 1981.

He later returned to acting and appeared in ’80s classics “The Outsiders” and “Thunder Alley.”


Garrett has been through struggles with drug abuse in his adulthood.

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Leif Garrett in April 2016.
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Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Garrett has been arrested multiple times throughout his career for drug possession, driving while intoxicated, and leaving court-mandated rehab. The 57-year-old also appeared on season four of “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” which was also his last on-screen appearance to date.

His upcoming memoir, “Idol Truth,” will be released in July 2019.


Will Smith was originally a rapper before starring in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

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Will Smith in 1994.
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NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Smith originally burst onto the scene as The Fresh Prince, a rapper, in the late ’80s with frequent collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff. Their best-selling album, “He’s the Rapper, I’m the DJ” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified triple platinum.

But Smith’s star-making role came in 1990 when he was 22 and cast in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” playing a fictionalized version of himself as a teenager who moves across the country to the affluent suburb of Bel-Air after getting into fights in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Throughout the ’90s, Smith starred in six seasons of the show, released multiple top 10 albums, and appeared in blockbuster films “Bad Boys,” “Men in Black,” and “Independence Day.”


Smith was named “the most powerful actor in Hollywood” by Newsweek.

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Will Smith in 2016.
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Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Smith’s career has seen some high highs and low lows. He’s been nominated for two Academy Awards, but also appeared in notorious flops “After Earth” and “Suicide Squad.”

The 50-year-old is set to have a banner 2019, though – an upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel and the role of the Genie in the live-action “Aladdin” are sure to keep Smith busy.

Plus, he’s part of a bona fide Hollywood dynasty now. His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, alongside their daughter Willow and Pinkett Smith’s mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones star on Facebook Watch talk show “Red Table Talk,” and their son Jaden is a successful musician and actor in his own right.


John Travolta’s singing and dancing skills put everyone under his spell in the ’70s and ’80s.

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John Travolta in December 1978.
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Travolta’s first big role was as Barbarino in the 1975 series “Welcome Back, Kotter” when he was just 21. His character was the leader of a high school gang, the Sweathogs, which the show centered around.

His star continued to rise as he booked arguably the two most iconic movies of his career back to back: “Saturday Night Fever” in 1977 and “Grease” in 1978.


Travolta has had an interesting career since then.

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John Travolta in January 2019.
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Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic via Getty Images

During the ’80s, his career experienced a downturn after he starred in multiple financial failures, including “Perfect” and “The Experts.”

Travolta’s career had a resurgence after parts in “Pulp Fiction,” “Face/Off,” and “Phenomenon,” but his time as a teen idol was over.

Recently, Travolta, 65, made headlines for his flub at the Oscars when he called Idina Menzel “Adele Dazeem.” He appeared in the film “Gotti,” which garnered a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. You might have also heard about how his “good friend” Pitbull convinced him to shave his head.


Leonardo DiCaprio rocketed to success after getting nominated for an Oscar at 19.

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Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993.
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Rose Hartman/Archive Photos/Getty Images

After his nomination for his role in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” DiCaprio cemented his heartthrob status with roles in “Romeo + Juliet” and the second-highest grossing film of all time, “Titanic,” when he was 23.


Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most highly celebrated actors of his generation.

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Leonardo DiCaprio in November 2018.
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Noam Galai/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Beginning in the 2000s, DiCaprio appeared in prestige film after prestige film, including “The Departed,” “Gangs of New York,” “Inception,” “Django Unchained,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “The Revenant,’ which finally earned him his long-deserved Academy Award.

DiCaprio, 44, is set to appear in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” alongside Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie.


Shaun Cassidy was one of the biggest pop stars of the ’70s.

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Shaun Cassidy in February 1977.
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ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Cassidy was 19 years old when he achieved his first No. 1 single, a cover of The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” in 1977. That same year, he began starring in “The Hardy Boys,” a mystery TV series based on the book series of the same name.

He achieved continued success with more covers, such as “Do You Believe in Magic?” and “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.”


Cassidy’s now more focused on behind the scenes roles.

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Shaun Cassidy in October 2016.
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John Lamparski/Getty Images

Cassidy, 60, stopped producing music in 1980 after his album “Wasp” failed to chart. He then began to appear on Broadway and on TV, starring in “General Hospital” and in miscellaneous other shows.

But now, he’s a producer and writer. Currently, he’s a consulting producer on medical drama “New Amsterdam,” and produced the since-cancelled series “Emerald City.”


Jared Leto’s portrayal of Jordan Catalano in “My So-Called Life” cemented his teen icon status.

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Jared Leto in October 1994.
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ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Who among us didn’t have a giant crush on 23-year-old Leto’s brooding Jordan Catalano in one-season-wonder “My So-Called Life?”

The actor soon became an indie icon, appearing in “Girl, Interrupted” and “Fight Club,” and founding his own rock band, Thirty Seconds to Mars.


Leto is now more of a polarizing figure in pop culture.

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Jared Leto in February 2019.
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David M. Benett/Dave Benett/ Getty Images for Universal Music & Soho House Group

Leto’s antics on the set of “Suicide Squad,” in which he played famed Batman villain the Joker, have achieved notoriety – for example, he supposedly sent his co-stars used condoms in the mail.

The 47-year-old is still releasing music with Thirty Seconds to Mars, and is slated to appear in at least two more movies as the Joker. He’s also making the jump from DC to Marvel, and will star in a film adaptation of the “Morbius” comics.