The Transformation Of Ian Somerhalder From Childhood To 42 Years Old

Ian Somerhalder is a staple of American television and has been just that for more than two decades. The actor's good looks — coupled with the fact that he is seemingly ageless — has found him considerable success in shows aimed at younger audiences. There was "Smallville" and, most notably, "The Vampire Diaries," the hit CW vampire series in which he portrayed one of the main characters, Damon Salvatore, for nearly eight years (via IMDb). His years as the older Salvatore brother made Somerhalder a star, earning him a series of accolades, including a handful of Teen Choice Awards and a few People's Choice Awards.

Members of a more millennial audience will also remember Somerhalder as Boone Carlyle on Season 1 (as well as an older brother character later on) of "Lost," a series that swept the world off its collective feet between 2004 and 2010 and that continues to rank among the best in history. Rolling Stone called the show the 39th best series of all time, so it was a good gig to book! Somerhalder won a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the series' ensemble cast and was personally nominated for a Teen Choice Award.

But the star is far from being just a pretty face, and his activism and charitable work have also earned him widespread recognition. While his baby face may be deceiving, Somerhalder has been in the biz for most of his life. Keep reading to see his transformation.

Ian Somerhalder had a happy childhood in a small town

Ian Somerhalder's roots couldn't have been farther from the glam of Hollywood. The son of a massage therapist and an independent building contractor, the actor grew up in Covington, a town in southeastern Louisiana, according to IMDb. Even after all these years of fame, Somerhalder carries his attachment to his native town and state, as he told Atlanta Magazine in 2020. "There's something magical about going back. There's nothing like it ... The bayous and rivers that snake through those places — they are all part of my being," he said.

Somerhalder is a middle child, sandwiched between an older brother and a young sister, according to Digital Spy. He grew up catching crabs with his brother, Robert, and fishing for sac-a-lait, trout, and other local specialties, per the outlet. "We had an abundance of life, energy, family, and culture. Most people don't get to grow up with that," Somerhalder added to Atlanta Magazine. 

Somerhalder still likes to go back often. When he does, he can't skip stopping for a cup of strong coffee and beignet with his father, who generally picks him up from the airport in New Orleans, per Atlanta Mag. While home, he tours his favorite places around the area, including a host of eateries to make sure to fill up with local flavors to last him the long months he's away.

Ian Somerhalder started out a model

Ian Somerhalder was a natural-born performer. As a child, he would "sing and dance and do funny things" for hours until bedtime — skills that weren't lost on his mother, he told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in 2010. "She scraped together her life savings to put me into these conventions," he said. She also enrolled him in modeling and acting classes, he told Brut. 

He was ten when he managed to snag a modeling contract with Ford Models, which led his family to rent a place in New York where he lived with his mother until he was 13, he detailed. "It was a blast. It was so fun," he said. Somerhalder's child modeling career took off immediately, landing him work with the likes of Gap Kids and Ralph Lauren, per Brut.

However, at 13, he wanted to return to normal life, one that involved playing football and riding his horse, he told Leno. As a kid, Somerhalder wanted to be a marine biologist, he added to Brut, so his love for the environment is also something he's carried with him all his life. But by 15, he realized he "craved this New York international feel that I had come to know." So he found a manager and, soon enough, a New York agency took some Polaroids of him. Within five days, he had been booked to shoot a spread for L'Uomo Vogue with renowned photographer Steven Meisel.

Ian Somerhalder started getting parts quickly

A few years after returning to New York when he was 16 in 1994, Ian Somerhalder began to take a stronger interest in acting. And it didn't take long at all for him to begin landing roles. In 1997, he appeared in an episode of the USA Network's crime drama series "The Big Easy," and on CBS's "Now and Again" in 1999, according to his IMDb page. In 2000, he landed the main role in The WB's "Young Americans," a spin-off of the network's hit shot "Dawson's Creek." The latter's popularity, however, didn't translate into ratings for its sister show, and "Young Americans" was canceled after only eight episodes.

In 2002, Somerhalder starred in Roger Avary's "The Rules of Attraction," opposite James Van Der Beek of "Dawson's Creek" fame. Somerhalder's portrayal of a bissexual man who becomes entangled in a love triangle put him firmly on the radar. He also starred in popular TV shows, including "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "CSI: Miami" between 2002 and 2003.

In 2004, Somerhalder starred in what would become his big break, though how big that break would be took him by surprise. Following the "Lost" premiere, Somerhalder woke up to frantic emails from his manager. "Lost" had become an instant success, marking what he called "the best year of his life," per the Calgary Sun.

Ian Somerhalder became a household name with 'The Vampire Diaries'

If "Lost" made Ian Somerhalder a star, "The Vampire Diaries" made him a household name. But he almost didn't get the part, in essence, because he did badly at the audition. As he told Entertainment Weekly, "When you want something that badly, the stakes are very high. I did really well in my studio test, which was fun. And then I bombed my first network test. The first take I did was awful," he said. Luckily for him, co-creator Kevin Williamson was impressed by Somerhalder's portrayal of Boone Carlyle in "Lost" and he had previously worked with him on the film "Pulse."

The other actor being considered was the preference of most of those involved in the process. But co-creator Williamson wanted Somerhalder. "I was like, 'I know the other guy gave a better audition, but this role is Ian, and I think I can write for him in a way in which I cannot write for this other guy. Please trust me on this. Because if you can't see it, I don't know if I'm going to be able to continue on with the show,'" Williamson told the staff, per EW. And like that, Somerhalder became a vampire!

The series also ignited a relationship between Somerhalder and co-star Nina Dobrev between 2010 and 2013, per Us Magazine. They continued to work successfully and professionally together after the breakup.

Ian Somerhalder is also known for his environmental causes

While starring on "The Vampire Diaries," Ian Somerhalder also began to direct some episodes and to produce the show, an opportunity he demonstrated gratefulness for on his Instagram in 2014. As he developed his film career, also grew his involvement in environmental causes. On his birthday in 2010, he launched the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, through which he collaborates with other organizations and projects to advance causes near and dear to him.

As a kid, Somerhalder wanted to be a marine biologist, as he told Brut. Interestingly, it was his career as an actor that allowed him to do that. "Because of the global success of TV shows I've been on, I now get to work with the greatest marine scientists on the planet. So it's sort of amazingly came full circle," he said.

Somerhalder has also produced the documentary "Kiss the Ground," which was released in 2020, further combining his career in the film industry and role as an activist. In addition to it all, Somerhalder found time to launch a bourbon brand with "The Vampire Diaries" co-star Paul Wesley, per The Weather Network. As he flaunts on his Instagram, Somerhalder also proudly carries the title of doting father to Bodhi, born in 2017, and of husband to actor Nikki Reed of "Twilight" fame, whom he married in 2015.