The Stunning Transformation Of Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence has been a fixture in Hollywood's pantheon of stars for so long that it's easy to forget how young she was when she first started out. Born in 1990, just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence was still a youngster when she began displaying an ambition to become an actor. So passionate was she that her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was a teenager so she could pursue her dream.

Clearly, that dream came true — and then some. These days, Lawrence is both a highly respected actor and a huge box office draw, as comfortable headlining huge franchise films as she is in intimate indie films. Balancing those dual tracks of her acting career was part of a natural evolution as she came to better understand herself while navigating her 20s, along with gaining the Hollywood savvy to take the reins and steer her career in the direction she wanted. "I feel like something really clicked when I was 25," Lawrence told Vanity Fair. "It's not as scary to say what you mean anymore. Remember how scary that used to be? Like, 'What if they think I'm mad at them?' Now it's like, 'They better think I'm mad!'"

All that personal growth has taken place out in the open as Lawrence — who celebrated her 33rd birthday in 2023 — charted a course that's led to multiple Oscar nominations and worldwide stardom. To relive that amazing journey, read on to experience the stunning transformation of Jennifer Lawrence.

Discovered at 14

When Jennifer Lawrence was 14, she convinced her parents to bring her to New York City in the hopes of finding an agent and launching herself as an actor. During that trip, she said in a 2015 "Nightline" interview with Diane Sawyer, she and her mom were in Union Square when they were approached by a man claiming to be a photographer, expressing interest in the teenager. "My mom gave him her number because she didn't know that was potentially dangerous and creepy, and then he called and said modeling agencies wanted to meet with me," Lawrence recalled. "And I made up my mind in the cab ride, I was like, 'Well, I'm only going to sign with a modeling agency if they'll let me act.' Which came out of nowhere ... I was already negotiating."

Before long, she was signed to a talent agency, which led to her being cast in a TV commercial for MTV's "My Super Sweet 16" and then another one for Burger King

She soon graduated from TV commercials to guest-starring in scripted television series. In her very first TV acting role, she played a high school sports team's mascot in "Monk." As she recalled during an appearance on "Conan," she mistakenly believed she'd been cast in a larger role in the episode, something she told all her friends at church — who then tuned in, only see her onscreen for a matter of seconds. "I've never been back to church since," she joked.

She dropped out of school to pursue acting

Having moved to Los Angeles at 14, Jennifer Lawrence's career quickly began to take off. After "Monk," more roles followed, with the teenager cast in guest spots for such TV series as "Cold Case," "Medium," and more. 

As her career began heating up, the opportunities grew bigger; Lawrence came to see the idea of going to school as an impediment to getting to where she envisioned. This ultimately pushed her to make a big decision. "I dropped out of middle school," she revealed, with more than a hint of embarrassment, during a 2018 interview with "60 Minutes." "Technically, I don't have a GED or a diploma," she added. "I am self-educated." 

Asked if she ever had second thoughts about setting aside her education to focus on acting, Lawrence admitted she had no regrets whatsoever. "I really don't," she said. "I wanted to forge my own path. I found what I wanted to do, and I didn't want anything getting in the way of it." In fact, she was so determined to make it in Hollywood that her single-minded pursuit of success led her to ignore typical teenage pursuits. "Even friends, for many years, were not as important to me as my career," she told "60 Minutes" via Global News. "I mean, from the age of 14." 

Big break in a TV sitcom

In 2007, Jennifer Lawrence caught her biggest break yet when she was cast as a series regular in "The Bill Engvall Show," in which she played the daughter of comedian Bill Engvall's character in a TV sitcom. The series wound up running for three seasons, giving Lawrence her first-ever full-time, regular acting gig. 

In 2010, a year after the show had ended its run, Lawrence confirmed how important being on the show had been for her. "I'm so grateful for it," Lawrence told Under the Radar. "I had so much fun on that show, and we all became like family." Meanwhile, the regular paycheck she earned provided her with the freedom to be choosy about her subsequent projects rather than take the first thing offered to her out of sheer desperation to land an acting job. "It funded my indie career," she explained, "so I could do the movies that I want."

Speaking with Kentucky's MetroMix (via The Hollywood Reporter), Engvall recalled the precise moment when he recognized Lawrence was destined for bigger and better things, and that an Oscar could be in her future. "We had a scene where she was mad at me and I had to go in and apologize to her," he said. "We had that nice dad-daughter moment. I remember [thinking], 'This girl's good.' She's got it; she's got what it takes. I think she'll be holding that statuette before she's done."

Movie stardom — and an Oscar nod — with Winter's Bone

After the cancellation of "The Bill Engvall Show," Jennifer Lawrence was cast in her first-ever lead role in a feature film. In "Winter's Bone," 18-year-old Lawrence starred as an Ozarks teen named Ree, who embarks on a perilous journey to track down her drug-dealing dad. While Lawrence had been racking up indie-film cred during the sitcom's hiatuses — in "Garden Party," "The Poker House," and "The Burning Plan" — it was "Winter's Bone" that really put her on the map.

Not only did Lawrence earn rave reviews for her performance, she also made a splash during award season. In addition to being nominated for both best actress and best young performer at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, she received nominations for a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit award, a National Board of Review award, a Screen Actors Guild award, and an Oscar

Earning an Oscar nomination for her first major film role at such a young age was heady stuff. "I was a baby, 18 — I had just turned 18," she told Vanity Fair. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly shortly after learning of her nomination, Lawrence admitted she never expected the film would take her to the Academy Awards. "When you make a tiny movie like that on a shoestring budget in the freezing cold — this has surpassed any expectation I could've had," she said.

The Hunger Games was a game-changer for Jennifer Lawrence

In 2008, plans emerged for a movie adaptation of "The Hunger Games," the first book in Suzanne Collins' wildly popular series of novels. When the script was completed in 2010, it went out to Hollywood's hottest young female actors, who began vying for the chance to play arrow-firing heroine Katniss Everdeen in the massively anticipated project. In 2011, Jennifer Lawrence was cast in the highly coveted role. 

The film proved to be a huge hit at the box office, spawning three sequels and transforming Lawrence from an award-nominated indie darling to an international movie star. Suddenly, Lawrence became one of the most famous people on the planet, and she found this unfamiliar terrain to be more than a little disorienting. "I think I lost a sense of control," she told Variety. "I became such a commodity that I felt like every decision was a big, big group decision. When I reflect now, I can't think of those following years, [because there was] just a loss of control."

In another interview with Variety, Lawrence admitted she feared her sudden fame would erode her ability to act. "I could feel my craft suffering. And I didn't know how to fix it," she said. "I was scrambling, trying to fix it by saying yes to this movie and then trying to counteract it with that movie. And not realizing that what I had to do was no movies until something spoke to me."

Winning her first Oscar at 22

Her decision to be choosy about her next project bore fruit when she was cast opposite Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook," from director David O. Russell. According to Russell, when he was casting the film, Lawrence was far from a lock but simply one of many female actors up for the part — or at least that was the case until he watched her audition. "We had every major star wanting to play that role, and Jennifer surprised us all at the eleventh hour," he told The Hollywood Reporter

Playing two people who connect over their own respective mental illnesses, both Cooper and Lawrence received Oscar nominations. This time, Lawrence did not go home from the Academy Awards empty-handed, winning the 2013 Oscar for actress in a leading role. When walking to the stage to accept, she wound up tripping on the steps and taking a brief tumble. "You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing, but thank you," she said of the standing ovation she received. "This is nuts."

A few years later, she looked back on that pivotal moment during an appearance on "Good Morning America," admitting that the fall she took led her to forget the speech she'd planned. "I wish I could get, just a do-over," she said. "But, I mean, it was just the most incredible moment of my life." 

She was the victim of a nude photo hack

By 2014, Jennifer Lawrence was understandably on top of the world, having won an Oscar at age 22 while headlining one of Hollywood's most popular film franchises with the "Hunger Games" movies. It was then that she found herself horrifically violated when she was one of the celebrities caught up in the notorious 4chan hack, with private nude photos from her phone suddenly appearing on the internet. Lawrence's team immediately issued a statement, telling TMZ, "This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence."

In a subsequent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence clapped back at headlines that referred to the hacked photos as a "scandal," declaring, "It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It's disgusting." 

For Lawrence, the trauma she experienced from the hack proved to be long-lasting. "When the hacking thing happened — it was so unbelievably violating that you can't even put into words. I think that I am still actually processing," she said in a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast. Later that year, she told The Hollywood Reporter that the entire thing had left her distrustful of electronic devices, while her feelings of violation had never diminished. "I would much prefer my whole house to have been invaded," she said. "It was violating on a sexual level."

Superhero status with the X-Men

Prior to "The Hunger Games," Jennifer Lawrence made her superhero debut in 2011's "X-Men: First Class," a prequel to the previous films in the franchise featuring different actors playing the mutants in their younger years. Lawrence was cast as shape-shifting Mystique, played by Rebecca Romijn in the earlier movies, returning to the role in various sequels. 

While her character became a favorite with the films' fans, Lawrence herself was not enamored of the head-to-toe cobalt blue makeup she wore to play Mystique in that first "X-Men" film. Not only was the transformation a painstaking process that took hours, but the paint covering her body caused her to suffer a nasty allergic reaction. "I got a couple of things from the paint," Lawrence told E! News. "Like weird boils, rashes and blisters." Her condition, she added, became so severe that a doctor had to be called to the set. "I love these movies," she told Entertainment Weekly of playing Mystique. "It's just the paint." 

When she reprised the character in the 2014 sequel, "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the entire process was revamped in order to save her skin. "I'm so excited because I'm going to wear a body suit," she told E! News. "It will be from neck down so it will cut out time and the blisters." That seemed to do the trick; Lawrence returned as Mystique in 2016's "X-Men: Apocalypse," and again in 2019's "Dark Phoenix."

Cementing her acting chops in American Hustle and Joy

In 2013, Jennifer Lawrence reunited with "Silver Linings Playbook" director David O. Russell and co-star Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle." Her performance won her a third Oscar nomination. Speaking with Deadline during the leadup to the 2014 Academy Awards, Lawrence admitted she was steeling herself for the oncoming onslaught of award-related functions and red carpets. "I'm trying to go back to that place where dress fittings seemed exciting," she joked. She didn't win that year.

In 2015, she, Russell, and Cooper got the band back together for "Joy," which featured the welcome addition of Robert De Niro. The Academy smiled on Lawrence once again, with "Joy" landing Lawrence her fourth Oscar nod. While she didn't win that year either, the 25-year-old did make history as the youngest person to ever receive four Oscar nominations. 

Just two years later, Lawrence proved that winning an Oscar and being nominated four times did not make one immune from critics. That was the case when she starred in director Darren Aronofsky's 2017 horror film "Mother!" While reviews were decidedly mixed, the role earned her another kind of recognition when she was nominated for a Razzie award in the worst actress category. In fact, the movie received multiple Razzie nominations, with "Mother!" also nominated for worst director and worst supporting actor. Thankfully, "Mother!" didn't win any Razzies, allowing Lawrence to at least keep her distance from that particular indignity.

She took on Hollywood's gender-based salary gap

As one of Hollywood's hottest movie stars, Jennifer Lawrence earns the kind of money most people can only dream of. That said, she's still paid considerably less than her male peers, something that first emerged in the notorious 2014 Sony hack when emails confirmed that Lawrence and co-star Amy Adams received seven points (a.k.a. seven percent of the film's profits), while their male co-stars each got nine points.

In 2017, Lawrence addressed that in an essay she wrote for Lena Dunham's Lenny site, bluntly titled, "Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?" In her essay, she wrote, "When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with d***s, I didn't get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn't want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don't need." 

While Lawrence's essay sparked a larger conversation about salary inequality based on gender, the situation didn't really change — which was apparent with 2021's "Don't Look Up," for which she was paid a hefty $25 million while co-star Leonardo DiCaprio raked in an even heftier $30 million. "It doesn't matter how much I do," she said in a 2022 interview with Vogue. "I'm still not going to get paid as much as that guy, because of my vagina?"

She became an action hero in Red Sparrow

In 2018, Jennifer Lawrence pivoted once again when she starred in the Cold War-themed espionage thriller "Red Sparrow." In it, Lawrence played the titular sparrow, a Russian ballerina who is recruited and trained to be a spy. Not only did the role require significant acting ability — not to mention a convincing Russian accent — Lawrence also needed to study both ballet and martial arts. 

In a behind-the-scenes clip appearing in the Blu-ray release of the film, reported People, Lawrence discussed just how intensive her ballet training was. "Part of preparing for Dominica was the physical training with the ballet," she explained. "It was something that was on my mind constantly throughout the entire script." In that clip, choreographer Kurt Froman confirmed that Lawrence trained in dance for three hours each day, for six days a week. 

According to Lawrence, she felt it was necessary that she have the proper grounding in ballet in order to truly inhabit the character and bring the authenticity necessary. "The level of training that ballerinas go through and the level of discipline, so many years of their lives, it comes to play in everything they do. The way they carry themselves, the way they handle themselves and the way they work," she said, admitting the effects of that training remained with her long after filming "Red Sparrow" was completed. "It taught me posture," she said. "It can change your body in other ways."

Love at last with Cooke Maroney

Jennifer Lawrence has dated a few famous men over the years. In fact, her exes include her "X-Men" co-star Nicholas Hoult, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and director Darren Aronofsky. That streak ended in 2018 when she met New York City art dealer Cooke Maroney, with the pair eventually getting engaged in January 2019. "Well, he's just the best person I've ever met in my whole life," Lawrence said — during a red-carpet interview with "Entertainment Tonight" — of saying yes to Maroney's proposal. "It was a very, very easy decision."

Eight months later, in October 2019, the couple tied the knot at a Gilded Age-era mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Among the 150 or so guests were several celebrities, a roster that included Emma Stone, Sienna Miller, Amy Schumer, Adele, Ashley Olsen, Cameron Diaz, and Kris Jenner.

Looking back at her decision to take the plunge into matrimony, Lawrence admitted she wasn't in a marrying frame of mind when she and her future husband first met. "I definitely wasn't at a place where I was like, 'I'm ready to get married.' I just met Cooke and I wanted to marry him," she said during an appearance on the "NAKED with Catt Sadler" podcast, as reported by Harper's Bazaar. "We wanted to marry each other. We wanted to commit fully. And, you know, he's my best friend. I feel very honored to become a Maroney."

Settling into motherhood

In September 2021, nearly two years after her wedding to Cooke Maroney, People reported that they were expecting a baby. The following February, TMZ reported that their little bundle of joy had arrived. Later that year, Lawrence opened up about her experience as a new mom while interviewed for Vogue. "It's so scary to talk about motherhood," she said. "Only because it's so different for everybody. If I say 'It was amazing from the start,' some people will think, 'It wasn't amazing for me at first,' and feel bad."

Having a child, she added, had left her fundamentally changed as a person. "My heart has stretched to a capacity that I didn't know about," she explained. "The morning after I gave birth, I felt like my whole life had started over. Like, 'Now is day one of my life.' I just stared. I was just so in love. I also fell in love with all babies everywhere. Newborns are just so amazing. They're these pink, swollen, fragile little survivors. Now I love all babies. Now I hear a baby crying in a restaurant and I'm like, 'Awwww, preciousssss.'"

That interview also revealed that Lawrence's baby was a boy, whom they'd named Cy. The name, Vogue pointed out, is emblematic of the couple's shared passion for art, with their son named after painter Cy Twombly, an American painter and sculptor whose work is among Maroney's favorites.

Returning to comedy and embracing nudity

Jennifer Lawrence has spent so many years defining herself as an award-winning dramatic actor that it's easy to forget her first major role was in a TV sitcom. In the 2020s, Lawrence took her career full circle when she returned to her comedy roots in 2021's "Don't Look Up," a star-studded dark comedy about the end of the world. She followed that up with the 2023 comedy "No Hard Feelings," playing a down-on-her-luck woman who enters a deal to become the escort-like girlfriend of an awkward teenage boy on his way to college. 

In one highly memorable scene in "No Hard Feelings," Lawrence goes naked — as in full-frontal naked — when she battles a group of thieves attempting to steal her clothing while she's skinny dipping. "That was the most exercise I've had in a really long time," she joked about that scene to USA Today. While she'd previously expressed mixed feelings about appearing nude on film before, in this case, she decided to go all in. "I didn't even have a second thought," she told Variety. "It was hilarious to me."

Speaking with Sky News, Lawrence addressed the raunchy, R-rated humor in the film, insisting that she believed that laughter should trump political correctness. "I think it's time for a good old-fashioned laugh and it really is hard to make a comedy where you're not offending people," she said. "Everybody in some sense will be offended by this film — you're welcome."