The Transformation Of Nina Dobrev From Childhood To 33 Years Old

Nina Dobrev isn't one to stick to what she knows. Over the course of her impressive career, the actor has pretty much done it all: she's been in big-budget action movies and small indie dramas, starred on sitcoms and supernatural soaps, and she still manages to find the time to give back. Oh, and there are those tabloid-fodder relationships, too. "I want to do things where the talent range is difficult and that [scares] me," she told Interview in 2015. "I thrive on that; if it's not scaring me then I'm not growing."

However, Dobrev didn't always have her sights set on the silver screen. "I am not the typical actor type in the sense that my journey didn't begin with me always dreaming of being an actor," she reflected to Imagista. Dobrev noted, "From a very young age, I loved performing, in whatever form that was." Her performances have taken on many forms over the years, so read on for a look back at all the different incarnations of Dobrev's stardom. This is the transformation of Nina Dobrev, from childhood to 33 years old.

She was born in Bulgaria

Nina Dobrev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1989, according to Yahoo! Lifestyle, and she was initially called Nikolina Dobreva. She lived in Eastern Europe for her first few years, but she moved to Canada when she was two. However, she kept in touch with her roots even as she grew up in a new country. "Everyone who knows me knows I am Bulgarian and that I am proud of it!" she told Digital Spy. She even retained the language, showing off her Bulgarian skills on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" years later.

Before she became an actor, Dobrev was in dance and gymnastics classes as a kid. "It's not the kind of gymnastics where you do flips on a beam or across the floor. You do more dance and then you have apparatus like ribbons and hoops and clubs," she explained in Interview. "I loved it. I got a lot of injuries doing it, though."

Eventually, Dobrev decided to switch from gymnastics to acting. "I started booking immediately after," she recalled about her life at age 16. When she got her first acting gig, she told TV Addict that she was unfamiliar with the acting landscape. "I am not the biggest TV person," she claimed. "I'm really into school, sports and gymnastics." Little did she know, her life was about to change forever.

She played a teen mom on TV

In 2006, Nina Dobrev got her big break. She joined the cast of Canadian teen drama "Degrassi: The Next Generation" in its sixth season, playing a new character named Mia. In a storyline typical of the show, Mia tries out for the cheerleading squad until the rival mean girls learn that she has a young daughter, at which point she is ostracized — until she catches the eye of fan-favorite character JT, who doesn't mind that she had a baby when she was young.

Dobrev told TV Addict that she made sure to do her research before tackling the difficult material. "I went to a lot of web sites that dealt with teenage pregnancy. I read a lot of stories about girls having to go through what Mia did," she explained. "There's the alienation factor and there are all the stories and rumors, having everybody judge you. It isn't easy."

While Dobrev was on the show, she crossed paths with that other big "Degrassi" breakout, then going by the name of Aubrey "Drake" Graham. She reunited with former co-stars years later to appear in the rapper's music video for "I'm Upset," and Dobrev described the experience on "LIVE with Kelly and Ryan." "It was like a real-life reunion for us as a cast, as well; we hadn't seen each other in over ten years," she explained. "It was really cool to get everybody together." 

The Vampire Diaries brought new fame

Like her former "Degrassi" castmate Shenae Grimes, who left Canada to star on The CW's reboot of "90210," Nina Dobrev departed the long-running teen drama in 2009 to lead the cast of "The Vampire Diaries." She played Elena Gilbert, a high school girl who falls in love with a handsome guy in her class who turns out to be a vampire. As a bonus, he's got an older vampire brother, who's also handsome. What more could a girl in the "Twilight" era want?

Dobrev knew that her show was part of a movement, admitting to Entertainment Weekly, "Vampires clearly right now seem to be something to talk about." However, she didn't mind the perks that came with the job. "I am a fan of the vampire shows, especially 'True Blood,'" she said. "I'm obsessed with it. I got to meet the entire cast at Comic-Con and hang out with them. And that was awesome. I basically died and went to heaven."

The new show meant a new level of fame for Dobrev, who had to adjust. "Everything is different now," she told The Globe And Mail. "Aside from having a personal publicist for the first time, the show has a great buzz and everyone is talking about it." She also recalled a visit to New York City — her first — during which she saw billboards for her own show. "It was a little intimidating, but cool," she marveled.

She was arrested with her castmates

Early in the run of "The Vampire Diaries," Nina Dobrev and her castmates found themselves making headlines for all the wrong reasons. One day near Atlanta, Dobrev and her costars Candice Accola, Sara Canning, and Kayla Ewell were questioned by cops who had been called to the area for reports of "females hanging from the bridge," according to a Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman who spoke to Entertainment Weekly. They were even reported to have flashed passing cars! Along with a photographer and another actor who wasn't on the show, the six were taken into custody and had to pay fines in order to be released. According to TMZ, the photographer, Tyler Shields, picked up the tab.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Ewell insisted they hadn't been flashing anyone — and she had a rather frank alibi. Ewell, who played Vicki on the CW hit, insisted, "We are not the type of girls who flash our breasts. In all honesty, the size of my breasts aren't necessarily something people would be interested in."

She struck up a relationship with Ian Somerhalder

On "The Vampire Diaries," Nina Dobrev's character Elena was constantly torn between the two vampire brothers who were both after her heart. Off-camera, however, it seems that Ian Somerhalder (who played Damon) was the one to capture it. The two sparked dating rumors early in the show's run, including when they were spotted together sitting courtside at a Lakers game, she in an oh-so-2010 chunky beanie and he with his own choice of hipster headwear. A source at the time who spied the couple in the crowd told Us Weekly that "they looked flirty."

It wasn't until the following year, however, that they finally confirmed the relationship, making fans' dreams come true. They appeared arm in arm at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, sending speculation into overdrive, and that fall, they finally admitted that they were an item. Us Weekly was the one to get them to admit their coupledom, cornering the twosome at a party for the premiere of the third season of "The Vampire Diaries." They each had nothing but glowing things to say about one another. "Her desire to experience and appreciate everything around her, and chuckle and enjoy it, is great," Somerhalder insisted. Dobrev, on the other hand, told the tabloid, "He always has a positive outlook and positive energy, and he's always happy."

She related to her Perks of Being a Wallflower character

Nina Dobrev had been in films before "The Vampire Diaries," including Atom Egoyan's 2009 film "Chloe" as well as a small part in the Leighton Meester/Minka Kelly thriller "The Roommate." However, thanks in part to the increased industry cachet that came with leading a successful show like The CW hit, Dobrev's film profile started to rise as her television stardom did, too. 

In 2012, she was cast as the older sister of Logan Lerman's character Charlie in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Though the film mostly focuses on Charlie and his friends, played by Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, Dobrev makes quite the impression in the film as his caring, empathetic sibling. Her primary storyline from the book, which involves an abortion, was ultimately cut from the film, but Dobrev does the most with the scenes she had left, including abuse at the hands of "Succession" star Nicholas Braun's character. "She's an overachiever and I can relate to that," Dobrev told Movie Fanatic. "I'm constantly trying to better myself and juggling a million things. I strive for perfection all the time in every area of my life and so does Candace. I'm kind of a control freak."

The film was a success, garnering an impressive rating of 85% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it would be several years before Dobrev starred in a film again.

She used her platform for good

Acting on one of the biggest shows on television comes with a platform, and while she starred on "Degrassi" and "The Vampire Diaries," Nina Dobrev was dedicated to using the attention she got to raise awareness for causes she believed in. According to Teen Vogue, the "Perks of Being a Wallflower" star worked with organizations like Free the Children and Me to We, doing everything in her power to help out, from building schools in Africa to designing t-shirts to raise funds to end childhood hunger. Alongside Joe Jonas, she also hosted the 2011 incarnation of We Day in Toronto, a charity event. "When I went to Kenya when I was 17 to help build a school, I met amazing children," she told the magazine. "The kids taught me as much as I taught them. I came back to the United States and Canada a changed person. My eyes were completely open." 

She also worked with Puma's Project Pink to raise funds for various breast cancer charities, per MTV. She reflected, "It's important to me because, every single person, there's not a single person who isn't affected by it or knows someone who is affected by breast cancer."

Parting ways with Ian Somerhalder

Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder's relationship was the stuff of fan shipping dreams. "I didn't want to be dating one of my costars," she told Seventeen, several years into their partnership. "But sometimes you can't help who you have a connection with, and you can only fight it for so long." That might as well be the way Elena explained her crush on Damon to Stefan!

However, the relationship was unfortunately not meant to last. People reported in May 2013 that Dobrev and Somerhalder had called it quits. However, according to their costar Claire Holt, they managed to work together fine on set. On an episode of the "Not Skinny But Not Fat" podcast, the actor behind Rebekah explained, "They kept it super professional; it never got weird. Like, props to them." She acknowledged, "But it's hard, like for a lot of people it's really tough."

Not only did Dobrev and Somerhalder manage to remain coworkers, they also stayed friends! When "The Vampire Diaries" finally went off the air in 2017, they reunited for what Dobrev called on Instagram a "farewell dinner." At that point, Somerhalder had married "Twilight" star Nikki Reed — vampires tend to stick together, it seems — but that didn't seem to bother Dobrev. In fact, on an episode of "Watch What Happens Live," she insisted, "I don't think it's weird at all! I think it's great."

She left the show that made her famous

After six seasons on "The Vampire Diaries," Nina Dobrev decided that she'd had enough. In 2015, the actor posted a photo of herself hugging showrunner Julie Plec on Instagram and announced that she would be stepping away from the series at the end of the sixth season. "I always knew I wanted Elena's story to be a six season adventure," she claimed, "and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime." Running through her greatest hits, she reflected, "I was a human, a vampire, a doppelganger, a crazy immortal, a doppelganger pretending to be human, a human pretending to be a doppelganger. I got kidnapped, killed, resurrected, tortured, cursed, body-snatched, was dead and undead."

Whether this was always the plan or not — whether it had anything to do with the fact that her character was still in love with Dobrev's ex-boyfriend's — it seems that she did leave the show on good terms. Her character was merely put on hold in the Season 6 finale, placed in a crypt rather than killed off with any finality, and when the actor was asked to come back for one final appearance in 2017, she did so. "[The series finale] was great because I got to go back and be part of the finale and say goodbye and pay homage to characters," she recalled years later, on "Watch What Happens Live." "I was really happy with it for sure."

xXx: Return of Nina Dobrev

Nina Dobrev's highest-profile role in the aftermath of leaving "The Vampire Diaries" came in 2017, when she joined the cast of Vin Diesel-starring action flick "xXx: Return of Xander Cage." In the movie, Dobrev played Becky Clearidge, a nerdy weapons specialist who functions like this universe's version of Bond's Q. To complete the beautiful Dobrev's transformation into a geekier character than she typically played, in true movie fashion, she donned a pair of glasses.

Unlike her co-stars, Dobrev initially wasn't involved in any of the film's high-octane action sequences. "I sort of begged D.J. [Caruso, the film's director]," she revealed to CineMovie. "I was like ... 'I'm in a movie with Vin Diesel. It's an action film. My friends are gonna make fun of me if I'm just sitting in the corner crying the whole time. Give me a grenade. Give me a gun. Give me something.' So we did!" In the sequence, because Dobrev hadn't had time for on-set weapons training, her character trips at exactly the right moment.

Dobrev appears to have stayed close with the cast. Years later, in 2022, she wished Diesel a happy birthday on Instagram, sharing a snap of the two of them together. By way of thanks, he commented a single red heart emoji.

She became a sitcom star

Several years after the end of "The Vampire Diaries," Nina Dobrev's career underwent another transformation: from supernatural teen drama star to sitcom star. She led the cast of CBS comedy "Fam" in 2019, a show about a woman whose happy engagement gets upended when her troublesome half-sister moves in. Dobrev played Clem, the newly-engaged woman; the cast also included "Abbott Elementary" star Sheryl Lee Ralph and "Veep" vet Gary Cole.

Dobrev, it seems, joined the cast explicitly because the show would require new skills. She told TV Line, "The reason I took the show when the opportunity presented itself was that it was so different from anything I'd ever done before ... It was also scary, which only made me want to do it more." She noticed that her time on the comedy was having a physical effect on her body as well. "The laugh lines on my face are getting deeper and deeper, and I couldn't be happier about it," she observed.

Unfortunately, the career transformation would prove to be short-lived; the sitcom was canceled after only one season. In their announcement about the show's cancellation, Deadline noted that the show had premiered at midseason, and it hadn't received much in the way of acclaim or viewership.

She's dating an Olympian

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Us Weekly broke the news that Nina Dobrev was quarantining with a new paramour: retired Olympic snowboarder Shaun White. A source speaking with the tabloid explained, "Nina really likes Shaun and they both laugh a lot together and think each other is funny." Seems to us like a solid foundation on which to build a relationship!

They went Instagram official a month after Us Weekly got the exclusive. On May 28, 2020, Dobrev posted a photo of herself giving her boyfriend's trademark long red locks a chop. Celebrity at-home haircuts were in vogue early in quarantine; the very next night, CBS aired a pandemic fever dream of a TV special centered around that exact concept, called "Haircut Night in America."

Their relationship still seems to be going strong. Dobrev frequently posts photos of the two of them on social media, showing off their impressive physiques together in exotic locations around the world. White revealed to Us Weekly that he had been teaching his girlfriend some tricks of his trade so that their vacations could be more adventurous, explaining that they had moved on from snowboarding to surfing. "She's excited about it, so now we're trying to find places we can go surf and vacation and hang," he said. A source told Entertainment Tonight in August 2022, "Nina and Shaun are incredibly in love and in it for the long haul."

She starred in a rom-com

Having tackled teen dramas, supernatural romance, action movies, and sitcoms, Nina Dobrev made yet another career pivot in 2021, starring in the Netflix Christmas rom-com "Love Hard." In the film, Dobrev played a woman who traveled to meet up with a man she had a crush on from the internet — only to discover that she'd been catfished.

Dobrev was excited about getting a chance to appear in a romantic comedy. "I love rom-coms," she told Shondaland. "I especially loved ours because it's unique and doesn't take the rom-com genre seriously, and turns it on its head, which was really fun to do." Fans seemed to agree; according to Film Updates, the movie topped the Netflix charts worldwide!

Her co-stars on the film included "Silicon Valley" actor Jimmy O. Yang and "Never Have I Ever" lead Darren Barnet, who had nothing but good things to say about working with the "Vampire Diaries" alum. The role required some improvising, and Barnet said Dobrev was able to give as good as she got. "Nina was always a very worthy opponent, when it came to, if I gave an ad-lib and sometimes tried to stump her, she came right back and it made for some great scenes," he told Collider. "Some of those ad-libs made the cut, so our director and everyone else thought it worked out. She was really great."

Nina Dobrev: Shark Diver

This look back at Nina Dobrev's transformation has taken her from actor to activist, from dramas to comedies, from sitcoms to rom-coms, and from snowboarding to surfing. More recently, Dobrev showed off yet another side of herself on Instagram: in a July 2022 post, she revealed that one of her favorite hobbies is diving with sharks!

"I used to be afraid of them until i got into the water to try to get over my fear," she wrote in a lengthy caption about how much she loves swimming with the fearsome beasts. "That's when i realized how uninterested in humans they are." In the video that went along with the post, Dobrev dives down and glides through the water alongside a tiger shark, reaching out to touch it on its side. Just as her caption promised, it doesn't seem interested in her.

In 2019, Dobrev appeared in a public service announcement for Discovery's Shark Week, advocating for humanity to recognize that sharks shouldn't be killed. "Sharks face many threats, like overfishing and the global fin trade," she said, noting that 73 million shark fins are sold every year. Her Instagram caption, too, called for more awareness of the dangers faced by sharks around the world. "It makes me so sad to see their corpses washed up on the sand after they've been thrown back into the water to drown," she wrote. "WE (humans) are the vicious KILLERS."