Growing up, you never think that the kid you share a locker with will become the next pop star. Additionally, you may not expect that the bully who pantses everyone in the halls will turn out to be a future Oscar winner. That is the funny thing about fame. It can happen to anyone and it happened to the friends and classmates of the following redditors. These are their stories of growing up with those destined for stardom.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
Robert Downey Jr.
“I went to junior high with Robert Downey Jr.
He was like many of the characters that he plays in movies – always trying to make the quick joke. Sometimes I cannot separate his character (especially in his early movies) from the kid I knew in school because that is exactly the way he acted back then.
We were also in a drama class together one year and the teacher used to constantly make a joke in which he basically wondered aloud why Downey was in the class, adding that his father (a writer and filmmaker) was going to get him a bunch of jobs through his connections. There was another time when he got the stuffing kicked out of him by another kid for dating a girl whom the other kid liked.”
“I went to high school with Aziz Anzari. He used to always answer questions wrong in class and try to argue that he was right. If the teacher asked what year America was discovered, he would say 1896 and tell the teacher they were wrong. He would ask for their source and claim the source was unreliable. Eventually, the teachers would ignore him, then he’d tell me they were prejudice. I wasn’t sure if he was funny or weird. I guess he was both.”
“I had Justin Trudeau as a substitute teacher for eleventh grade social studies. We were learning about the origins of the first World War. He started telling us about this cool band called Franz Ferdinand. He seemed agitated that no one in the room had heard about them. He was taking personal offense at that and kind of spazzing. At the time, I was just thinking, Wow settle down man. A few months later, ‘Take Me Out’ became a smash hit, and I thought, Man, that prime minister’s son sure is hip. That’s bad news for Ben Mulroney.
Another time, September 11, 2001, I was only 13, but I could tell that this was some serious stuff. For social studies that year, I had a wonderful teacher named Tom Harpunik who had won the Prime Minister’s Award for teaching, and I knew that he would have an excellent class discussion set up for that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have socials that day. Fortunately, my French teacher wasn’t at school that day. Our sub was Mr. Trudeau. At the time, I knew who Pierre was, and I think I knew he had a son who was a teacher, but I don’t think I put that together at the time.
There I was in French class on 9/11 with this sub who said that he was actually a history and drama teacher, but he said that he was from Montreal so he taught French from time to time. He was not going to teach us French that day: he wanted to talk about geopolitics to the extent that 13 year-olds could. He had some thoughts, but he was more concerned with facilitating discussion. Unfortunately, I do not remember a lot of what was said, but I remember that he did want to hear from every student about how they thought it would affect their lives.
I have my problems with his policies, but, given that day, I am not surprised that he is Canada’s prime minister. He’s got the name recognition, he’s handsome, and he’s good at bringing people together and making them feel heard.”
“I went to high school with Heath Ledger. In Guildford Grammar School, we had a ‘house system’ as a way to organize students and have a more engaging mentoring system through seniors and a head teacher. We were in Woodbridge house, one of the ‘day’ houses where the students weren’t staying on campus. Being a year ahead of me, the seniority mentality set in. Like the rest of them, Ledger was seen as a jerky senior who would not think twice about beating you up if you were a junior who crossed him.
One time, we were playing ping pong at lunch and I lent him my paddle. One of his friends shoved him as he was taking a shot and he used my paddle to break his fall. It splintered it to pieces. He replaced it a week later with the cheapest piece of wood he could find at the local dollar store.
He was obviously talented in drama, but also field hockey. He was in the first team picked to play other private schools in our region. Academia? Not so much. He dropped out a year before graduating, but turned up to support his friends.
He went on to do small turns in local TV soaps and dramas before rising through the ranks as we have all seen. During the rise, he was interviewed and asked what it was like going to an exclusive private school. For whatever reason, perhaps to give himself more street cred, he painted the school as some sort of debaucherous hole of illegal substances and bullying where kids were forced to learn how to fire weapons as part of a cadet program. It was not complete bull, but exaggerated.”
“My mother dated Mark Hamill’s cousin and indirectly caused the car accident Hamill was in. She convinced her boyfriend to have Mark come to some family reunion or something. I do not remember the details and, considering my mother, I would say this story has a chance of being completely true.
My mother and uncle were friends with Alexis Denisof (Wesley in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, among other things) growing up. He was nice and down to earth. The same uncle was roommates or neighbors (I forgot which) with Jason Segel when they were both trying to make it big. Apparently, he’s a great guy and funny.
My grandmother knew all the great singers of her time, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, etc. Frank was a twerp, but Bobby was sweet to her. She loved the movie ‘Beyond the Sea,’ and wrote to Kevin Spacey about how spot on he was in portraying Bobby Darin. He wrote back, which was pretty cool. Not many celebrities mail a handwritten note to a fan.”
“Two of my friends at college went to school with Miley Cyrus. They said she was not popular or anything. She was on the cheer team and was kind of annoying. They said they remember her coming to school and saying that she had landed her own tv show but no one believed her. Then she didn’t come back to school and they were like, ‘Oh.’
Also, one of my friend’s friends went to school with Emma Watson and, in passing conversation, he said that she was ‘bizarre.’ I’m not sure what he meant, but I didn’t care enough to ask him to elaborate. In context, it seemed like he was saying that she was kind of in her own celebrity world and did not associate with any of them.
I’m from Augusta, Georgia, and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum went to Lakeside High School. Everyone said he was a cool, sweet kid. My dad works with Haywood’s dad at the hospital and he told me that he remembers Dr. Haywood bringing him a CD of his son’s demo work and my dad was like, ‘Yeah sure I’ll listen to it,’ but he never did. He lost the CD.”
“I went to college with Lamar Odom. He was a giant loser back then. I have heard he had gotten his act together before more recent events. He would park his brand new SUV (which ‘coincidentally’ matched the SUV of every other player on the basketball team, only with his customized LOdom license plate) on the sidewalk. He couldn’t be bothered to park anywhere legally, we even spotted a handicapped tag in his car more than once.”
George R. R. Martin
“My cousin went to high school with George R. R. Martin and recalled having a freshman literature class with him. When it was time for everyone to read their stories, George’s was BY FAR the best. Apparently, the entire class simultaneously dropped their jaws. When it’s the first day of high school and every kid’s story starts off with ‘Once upon a time…’ and one person hits everyone with some eloquently-put narrative, it catches your attention. The guy is talented and, apparently, he was your typical nice dude.
He also started a fight club.”
“I was two years behind Kristen Bell at Shrine High School. It was an odd transition seeing someone you vaguely know become famous. Even in high school, she was in regional Rite Aid commercials. That was strange enough. Then my friends started having viewing parties when she’d make an appearance on The Shield or had 10 minutes in a David Mamet movie. She had a couple of TV movies and then suddenly she was Veronica Mars and a star.
My friend and I went to see Pootie Tang opening day because we heard she was in it. It turned out she had roughly two minutes of screen time during the end credits.”
Tyler The Creator
“I went to the same middle school and high school as Tyler The Creator. He was kind of a loner. In high school, he would spend his lunch in the auditorium playing on the piano. He kept to himself at school but was really goofy and energetic. I remember, In middle school, he made a MySpace music page and posted some beats he made. He was already into graphic art and stuff.
He used to skate a lot. He won first place at our middle school talent show by lip-syncing a song. Everyone liked him a lot.”
“I went to school with Miranda Kerr. She was a typical popular pretty girl, who tried hard and had everyone fawn over her. Basically, she was the perfect poster child and good girl who did whatever she was asked. I mean that with no disrespect intended.
Her parents, on the other hand, were attention seekers, and I have no respect for them. They moved the family across the country for her ‘career’ when she was still young, without much care for her childhood and even less care for her younger brother who has struggled a lot in life living in her shadow.
She was doing magazine shoots at 14 and being heavily made up and posed in skimpy outfits. There was quite a bit of uproar locally with people asking the question of whether it was borderline illegal because she was so young. They were making her up to be so much older because she was tall and skinny with big eyes and lips. It seemed they were making an adult out of a girl who wasn’t even close to the legal age of consent. It always seemed off that a parent would allow that. The parents made it all about her and they pinned everything on her gaining success at whatever cost. The parents were controlling and only gave the brother half glances in life.
I believe Miranda tried to distance herself from them for a while. Not long ago, they were doing interviews saying they had not seen her in years and she wouldn’t speak to them and didn’t know why. Again, manipulative attention seeking trash.”
“I went to elementary school with Grimes. She was charismatic, but I got the feeling she was more of an introvert.
If I recall correctly, she was an average student. Keep in mind that this was a private Catholic school in an affluent neighborhood, so all of our parents had high expectations. I did not know her parents that well, but her mom is a crown prosecutor and her dad is a professor, so I’m sure they expected her to be doing well. Her parents went through a messy divorce in either the fifth or sixth grade. Claire (Grimes) took it hard. She had always been artsy, but I think she got more into her art during this phase as she focused less on her academics.
One thing that may come as a surprise is she wasn’t musical at all in these days. Apparently, she taught herself how to play the piano when she was 16 or 17, but this was after I lost track of her. Our school had a decent music program, but she wasn’t into it. We had an excellent visual arts program at the school and that was her jam – drawing and painting. She liked drawing fashionable women.
She also loved animals, so she would paint them a lot. I think her dog’s name was Toby and she liked to paint him. I think I remember her drawing and painting nature scenes from time to time. She also loved Barbie dolls.”
“I went to high school with Carrie Underwood. She was a grade below me. She sang at just about every football and basketball game we had, as well as the yearly ‘Old Settlers Day’ celebration. She was nice, though there are some that might say she was just the teensiest bit snobby. This was mostly because she did not party like a lot of kids her age were at the time and she did not sleep around. She also sang ‘I Will Remember You’ at my graduation.
One thing I remember was that she sometimes had a strange sense of fashion. She’d sometimes wear these weird red leather pants with an old, faded Dan Marino Dolphins jersey.”
“Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons was a goofy music kid. He was nice and mellow, one of us California Russian River rats. I also went to elementary and middle school with him. He was voted ‘Most Likely To Get Hit By A Parked Car’ in eighth grade.
He also had a ‘Just Blame It On El Niño’ shirt in 1996 and asked our eighth grade, first period math teacher to sing us ‘Lemon Tree.’
He was way cooler than me, but really, really nice. I can’t stress enough how chill.”
“I went to school with Ellen Page. We were in the same group of friends, went to all the same parties, and ate lunch together. She kept thinking I was calling her ‘Helen’ all the time, which was weird.
I would say, ‘Hi Ellen, how’s it going?’
‘My name is ELLEN! Not Helen!’ she would say. I think it was a legit thing the first time, but she later started doing it purposely as a joke to get me riled up.
My best friend, a guy, dated her for a bit in 2005 and they were nice together. When she came out, I thought it was a tabloid rumor at first but, frankly, wasn’t that surprised. It wasn’t an overly serious relationship nor did it last long. He still hears from her every so often, but less now then he used to.
I have not spoken to her for a few years. She may not even remember my name, honestly. Weirdly enough, I work behind the camera in film and I’ve seen her at some film galas and around town occasionally. I always imagined if we did talk it’d just get a little awkward. Hey, Ellen, what are you up to these days? Making movies? Oh me too… Just small, little ones for much less money in Nova Scotia.
She’s one of those people who acted exactly how you would expect. She’s a bit timid and shy, but nice.”
“I know a few celebrities personally and I have met quite a few over the years. Carrot Top is one of the sweetest and most genuinely gracious people I’ve ever met. He will do everything he can to make whoever is speaking to him as comfortable as possible and then he’ll patiently hang on their every word.
The first time I met him was at a pool party. At one point, we were talking and I told him that I was worried about my dogs being home alone because I had just moved into a new place. About three months later, I happened to walk by him while walking through a casino. I didn’t think he would remember me, but I still waved hello as he walked by. He smiled and waved back, but almost continued walking by.
Instead, he stopped and turned back to greet me with my name, shake my hand, and ask me if my dogs had settled into their new home. That’s after only meeting him once! I’ve known him, casually, for about three years now and I have never once seen him act in any way other than sweet and considerate.”
“I grew up with Sum 41 and went to high school with them. Out of the small handful of high school bands, they seemed like they were the only ones who had a shot at being something. As it turned out, they did.
The first time I got wasted at a house party and was puking, Steve Jocz was that dude who had my back.
‘It’ll be okay buddy,’ he said. ‘You got this.’
Just after he quit the band (before they got famous), I would occasionally DJ with Richard Roy. Mark Spicoluk also quit the band before the fame. He was an idiot, but one heck of a hockey player. Dave Baksh (and his wife) are both stand-up people and still keep in contact with a LOT of the people from back home from what I gather. I still have a few friends that do dinner with him from time to time. Deryck Whibley was kind of the quiet kid in the cafeteria who sat alone. He got picked on a bunch, but I’m not sure why. We had these horrible hot dogs in the cafeteria and, from time to time, people would throw these things at him. It resulted in the band doing a cover of the Oscar Mayer Wiener song during our Christmas talent show.
Some of them are still seen around town from time to time. They were party kids who got rich quick, nearly killed themselves on illegal substances and drinks, then got a manager who toned them down. But they never forgot their friends.”
Jessica And Ashlee Simpson
“I went to the same church as Jessica and Ashlee Simpson for a short time. My best friend and her family were members. I visited for about three months.
Jessica was nice and Ashlee was annoyed about being in her shadow. Ashlee was OK and never mean to me, but you could tell she did not like just being the little sister of somebody who was very clearly gonna do something major. Jessica was probably high school age at the time.
Their father, Joe, was as creepy then as he seems now.”
“I went to college with Anne Hathaway. She was the roommate of my best friend’s girlfriend. I was invited to the pre-party for this massive party she threw when she got paid for The Princess Diaries.
Honestly, it makes me happy to say she was kind and generous. Even after she left school to pursue acting full-time, I would run into her on campus now and then. Anne always said hi to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss, even though I suspect she didn’t remember my name. I wasn’t going to complain.
It was obvious to everyone on campus that she was incredibly talented. I remember friends going to see her perform a scene in a campus production in which she played an assault victim. They said it was probably the most moving live performance they had ever seen and they were amazed at her ability to cry on cue. She embodied the role.
To this day, I smile every time I hear about her success. She was a lovely girl and I think she deserves what she has achieved. It also helps that she’s been openly supportive of equal marriage rights and has generally taken advantage of her ‘soapbox’ to spread a bit of goodness.”