The Untold Truth Of Nina Dobrev

Avid television viewers of a certain age — Millennials, primarily — positively grew up with Nina Dobrev. A child and teen actor who successfully segued into adult roles, Dobrev is an icon for a generation thanks to her roles as Mia Jones in various 2000s-era iterations of the Canadian young adult soap franchise, "Degrassi: The Next Generation," and also for her many years as Elena Gilbert on The CW's supernatural-romance smash hit, "The Vampire Diaries." Dobrev earned a lot of goodwill from her time on two well-liked and fondly-remembered shows, which she parlayed into parts in big-time movies, indie films, and network TV shows — both in her naturalized homeland of Canada and under the bright lights of Hollywood — while remaining in the public consciousness for some high-profile relationships, tireless activism, and her many extra-curricular, non-acting pastimes. 

Here's a look into the successful and enduring professional life — and the sometimes topsy-turvy personal life — of "Vampire" queen Nina Dobrev.

Nina Dobrev came to The CW by way of Canada and Bulgaria

The actor well-known for portraying Elena Gilbert uses the name Nina Dobrev in a professional capacity, but that's not the one she was born with. Born in Bulgaria, her real, full name is Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva, according to Seventeen (via Yahoo! News). When she was two years old, Dobrev's family emigrated to the Toronto area in Canada. "In the beginning, we lived with another family in a one-room apartment," the actor told Harper's Bazaar, and her mother purchased her daughter's clothes primarily at a local secondhand thrift shop.

Dobrev developed an interest and skill for acting early, and enrolled in an arts academy in suburban Toronto, according to ESPN. By the time she was a senior in high school, Dobrev was booking parts in Canadian movies, including the acclaimed "Away from Her" and the TV movie, "Playing House." Just a year later, she began playing her breakthrough role as Mia Jones on the mega-hit, widely syndicated teen drama, "Degrassi: The Next Generation." After three seasons, her character was written out of the show, while Dobrev moved on to college. 

After studying sociology for a while at Toronto's Ryerson University, she withdrew, seeking to further her acting career. By 2009, Dobrev had moved to the U.S. and landed the lead role on "The Vampire Diaries," the first new American show for which she ever auditioned.

This actor was an elite gymnast

As a teenager growing up in suburban Toronto, Nina Dobrev wasn't interested in only creative pursuits. Yes, she attended the Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, a public magnet school — but at the institution, she was a five-sport athlete, competing at the varsity level in soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and flag football, according to ESPN.

Beyond team sports, Dobrev participated in high-level gymnastics, making Team Canada's national squad in aesthetic gymnastics, a discipline similar to rhythmic gymnastics or athletic dance. "We trained five days a week for three to four hours a day and traveled to Europe to compete," Dobrev said. "One of the girls on our team became an Olympian."

But not Dobrev, who explained, "My body just couldn't handle the [intense regimen], so I started acting." By her senior year, she was landing professional gigs, which caused her to miss so many competitions that she "finally had to let sports go."

Nina Dobrev couldn't stand her TV boyfriend (at first)

Judging from the highly-controlled discourse that comes out of hardworking Hollywood public relations agents and behind-the-scenes footage on entertainment news shows and in blooper reels, one might be led to believe that every actor on the set of every film and television show gets along famously right away and they all have just a grand old time together. Nina Dobrev boldly challenged that notion, however, owning up to the fact in the early days of "The Vampire Diaries," she didn't much care for her co-star — who also played her character's love interest — Paul Wesley.

"I respected Paul Wesley, but I didn't like Paul Wesley," Dobrev said on the podcast, "Directionally Challenged," in 2019 (via Yahoo! News). "Everyone thought that we had such good chemistry. I realize now that there's a fine line between love and hate, and we despised each other so much that it read as love." After about five months of working together, Dobrev explained, the two became very cordial, and stayed that way. "We're really good friends. I love his wife. It's so funny how time changes everything." 

A true sign of friendship: Wesley and Dobrev got costume coordinated and dressed as ill-fated celebrity couple Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez for Halloween in 2013.

Why Nina Dobrev left The Vampire Diaries

Portraying Elena Gilbert on "The Vampire Diaries" (not to mention side, lookalike characters Katherine Pierce and Amara) made Nina Dobrev into one of the best-known stars in young Hollywood. The role also netted her three People's Choice Awards and a whopping eight Teen Choice Awards, including five in a row for Choice TV Actress: Fantasy/Sci-Fi. Yet, after six seasons and all the fringe benefits, Dobrev decided that she'd had quite enough of "The Vampire Diaries," announcing on Instagram in April 2015 that she planned to leave the series. "I always knew I wanted Elena's story to be a six season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime," she wrote in part.

In 2017, Dobrev explained her exit to Rogue Magazine (via Just Jared). "I've always wanted to take big risks. I started 'Vampire Diaries' when I was 20, and I was playing a young teenage girl," the actor said. "I grew with the show and I wanted to continue to grow outside of it." Essentially, Dobrev was afraid of getting "stuck playing younger roles," or getting typecast.

Nina Dobrev and her famous boyfriends

Nina Dobrev has been one-half of several highly visible and telegenic relationships, often with other celebrities. When an actor is confined to a set of a regular TV show for long shooting days, they don't have as many opportunities to meet people. And so, in 2011, Dobrev revealed that she was dating a man she met at work — her "The Vampire Diaries" co-star, Ian Somerhalder — even though she didn't like the idea. 

"I didn't want to be dating one of my costars — my goal on the show was to be professional," she told Seventeen (via CBS News). "But sometimes you can't help who you have a connection with, and you can only fight it for so long." According to Us Weekly, Dobrev and Somerhalder split up in 2013 and continued to act opposite each other on "The Vampire Diaries."

After a couple of very brief dalliances with "Dancing With the Stars" dancer Derek Hough and actor Liam Hemsworth, per Us Weekly, Dobrev dated "Scream Queens" star Glen Powell and then actor Grant Mellon for slightly less than a year each. In early 2020, Nina Dobrev and snowboarder Shaun White posted nearly identical photos of a South African vacation on social media, and the couple confirmed their relationship in April of that year. Dobrev and White spent the coronavirus lockdown together, and by April 2021, a source who knows the pair told Us Weekly that an engagement was possibly imminent.

There weren't many 'perks' for Nina Dobrev in auditioning

Nina Dobrev is primarily known for her television roles, likely because she's made so much of it, with long runs on small-screen hits like the "Degrassi" franchise and "The Vampire Diaries." But the actor has slowly carved out a film career, too. Her first major movie role after "The Vampire Diaries" made her a star — Candace, supportive older sister to timid, clinically depressed teenager Charlie (Logan Lerman) in Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his young adult novel, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Getting the role wasn't easy for Dobrev, who told MTV News that she was one of the last actors cast before production began. She desperately wanted the part, but couldn't land a traditional tryout. "I was in Atlanta filming [another project]," Dobrev said. "... But I couldn't get to where Stephen was, so we Skyped my audition." As if that wasn't enough of a hassle, Dobrev did her online tryout in brief breaks between filming scenes, saying, "I was in between takes, and I kind of had to be like, 'Guys, I'm going to go to the bathroom. I just have to pee for five minutes.'"

Nina Dobrev and Julianne Hough are best friends

Nina Dobrev is a very famous person, and celebrities need similarly very famous friends to whom they can relate. Fortunately, Dobrev found that BFF in Julianne Hough, who's best known for her many years as a professional partner on "Dancing With the Stars," as well as her acting work in films like "Paradise" and "Rock of Ages." While they run in some high-profile circles, the pair met in a very old-fashioned way — through a mutual friend. But in a very Hollywood twist, that shared friend was their hairstylist, Riawna Capri

During a joint appearance on "The Drew Barrymore Show" in 2021, Dobrev revealed that she and Hough have been friends for about a decade, dating back to their stints on "The Vampire Diaries" and "Dancing With the Stars," respectively. "Julianne and I were both going through life crises at the time, and we were using that mutual friend as a free therapist, kind of," Dobrev said. "It got to a degree where she was so sick of hearing about our problems that were very similar that she was like, 'Okay, I'm going to put you guys together, and then you guys can use each other for therapy, and I can remove myself. And I feel like you'll be best friends.'" And thus, their lady bromance blossomed.

According to People, the best pals even started a business. They're principals in Fresh Vine, a Napa, California-based wine business that produces an assortment of "thoughtfully crafted" varieties that are gluten free and contain as little sugar as possible.

Yes, that was Nina Dobrev in the middle of the wilderness

While many Hollywood big-shots exude on social media the idea that they're pampered, privileged, city folk who don't want to be far from the creature comforts afforded by their homes and abundant wealth, Nina Dobrev is not among them. The actor loads her Instagram grid with photos and videos captured on her many travel adventures and outdoor pursuits. At various times, according to Harper's Bazaar, Dobrev has shared footage of herself in the midst of thrilling activities like rock climbing, swimming amongst sharks, parachuting out of a plane, wakeboarding, hoverboarding over water, and bungee jumping. That last one is one of the few such activities that gave Dobrev pause, and she almost didn't take the leap. 

"Every cell in your body is like, 'Why would you do this?'" Dobrev told the outlet. "Unlike skydiving, you can see the rocks clearly and imagine what would happen if you went splat." Not to mention, during a shooting break from "The Vampire Diaries" at the peak of the show's global popularity, Dobrev went backpacking through Europe and Asia alone — and didn't book or plan anything beforehand. In the course of her long journey, Dobrev reports that she was never once recognized or approached by fans. "Nobody imagines me to be by myself backpacking, so they just think, 'It can't be her,'" she said.

No, Nina Dobrev and Victoria Justice are not the same person

Multiple actors may share a certain "type," either physically or in the kind of projects in which they thrive or pull in huge audiences. For example, the Marvel Cinematic Universe employs multiple affable and hunky guys named Chris — Evans, Pratt, and Hemsworth, to be precise. However, no two performers are ever 100% alike, although they may closely resemble each other and confuse the public by taking similar roles.

Such is the case for Nina Dobrev and Victoria Justice. They're about the same age (born in 1989 and 1993, respectively) and are both conventionally attractive, dark-haired actors who first made a name for themselves in the early 2010s on television geared toward teen viewers — Dobrev with "The Vampire Diaries" and Justice on "Victorious." But it's more than just a matter of having similar physical features and playing similar roles — Dobrev and Justice could be twins (or at least relatives). In 2010, Justice — who once referred to Dobrev as "my doppelgänger" — recalled to MTV News, "I met her and she was like, 'Everyone thinks I'm you!' And I was like, 'Everyone thinks I'm you!' We hugged it out, and it was all good."

In 2015, Justice and Dobrev at least proved that they were not the same person when they posed for a Twitter picture together at a polo match. As Glamour put it, it was the "ultimate celebrity twinning moment." (FYI: In the photo above, Justice is on the far left, and Dobrev is the person on the far right.)

What is Nina Dobrev's net worth?

Nina Dobrev is only in her early thirties, at the time of this writing, but she's already accumulated a pretty hefty life savings. As previously mentioned, she was a regular cast member on "The Vampire Diaries" for six full seasons, where, according to Seventeen, she earned as much as $40,000 per episode. Over the course of more than 100 episodes, that certainly adds up, and that doesn't even count her cut of the royalties from the deal the series' original broadcaster, The CW, made with Netflix to stream old episodes of the show, per The Verge. Shortly after leaving "The Vampire Diaries," Dobrev starred in "Fam" on CBS — a one-season wonder, but a show rife with the money afforded by being part of a highly-watched broadcast network's schedule.

Add in Dobrev's royalties from still-running reruns of "Degrassi," and her financial compensation for major films like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "xXx: Return of Xander Cage," and "Let's Be Cops," and this star won't have to worry about going broke. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Dobrev's fortune amounts to an estimated $11 million.

Nina Dobrev does a lot for charity

Nina Dobrev generates a lot of income, but she gives a lot of it (along with her time) right back to the world, to people and organizations that can truly use it. According to Look to the Stars, Dobrev has helped support the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Free the Children (which helps provide young people in the developing world with basic needs, such as food and education, per Teen Vogue), and the educational foundation Communities in Schools, as well as Flo Good, which provides dental care to underserved communities.

Not to mention the fact that, in 2018, ocean and marine life preservation organization Oceana named Dobrev an Ocean Ambassador and cast the actor in a series of public service announcements to call attention to the industrial decimation of sharks. "I've been fascinated by sharks for a while," Dobrev said in a press release. "The U.S. has a great opportunity to set a positive example and help discourage the demand for shark fins around the world."