Nerd culture has evolved from something that was astutely foreign and strange to the masses to something that has become massively popular. Suddenly, it has become cool to be a nerd. Which sounds like a weird oxymoron, but alas, it is true. The kind of comic books that were made fun of unapologetically by the average high school jock are now globally beloved by everyone and their mother, and made into box office hit movies. Whereas it used to be par for the course to make fun of the stereotypical sap who knew more than his own good about everything, it is now fashionable and heavily desired by every struggling school student to be super smart.
Nerd culture has become immersed into our overall culture and much of it has to do with the nerds we see in pop culture. Namely, all of the nerd characters that we found ourselves slowly falling in love with in television shows and movies. Some of the actors who play these characters are so good at playing their parts that we tend to expect them to look just as nerdy in real life. On the contrary, many of these actors look stunning in real life. Here are some examples.
15. LINDA CARDELLINI (VELMA)
For most of us, our favorite animated TV nerd that we practically grew up with through the small screen was Velma from Scooby-Doo. The orange sweater wearing textbook bookworm always seemed like the only character among the Scooby Gang who had a clue what was going on when Daphne and Fred were busy shagging it up and Shaggy and Scooby were too busy running away from the monster of the week.
The lovable character was brought to life when Linda Cardellini was cast in the part of Velma for two of the early ’00s Scooby-Doo films. While Velma’s sweater, bowl cut hairdo, and window sized glasses made her seem aesthetically unappealing, Linda Cardellini is actually quite a sight for sore eyes in the real world.
14. TATIANA MASLANY (COSIMA)
Tatiana Maslany proved on Orphan Black that she is a marvelous actress after spending five seasons on Orphan Black playing a multitude of different clones and characters. Miraculously, she was able to bring a unique look and personality to each character she played, especially Cosima, the bookworm of the group. The interesting thing here is that while Cosima does not try to earn any beauty contest ribbons on her own merit, but Tatiana Maslany herself sure can.
We have seen on many red carpets how after ditching the glasses and the dreads, Tatiana Maslany looks like an absolute stunner on this or any side of the pond. To be fair, we can also see how naturally attractive she is whenever she is not playing Cosima, who is intentionally dolled up to look as unattractive as possible on the show.
13. JALEEL WHITE (STEVE URKEL)
Jaleel White quickly rose to televised superstardom when he donned the iconic glasses and suspenders combo for the role of Steve Urkel on Family Matters. Initially, the character was introduced for a one episode guest spot, but audiences fell in love with the character instantly. Fans around the world were begging for more Urkel, and lo and behold, they got it as White was quickly added to the regular main cast of the show.
Much of the appeal surrounding the character of Urkel was based on the fact he was an oafish (but lovable) plain Jane. Audiences would soon discover in a matter of a few seasons that in real life, White is actually a catch. In season five, Urkel got a hold of some “cool juice” and used it to become the much more suave Stefan Urquelle.
12. MELISSA RAUCH (BERNADETTE)
In season three, The Big Bang Theory introduced Melissa Rauch to play the recurring character of Bernadette, a co-worker of Penny’s who quickly begins to date Howard. The following season, after Howard got engaged to Bernadette, Rauch was promoted to series regular and has remained a vital member of the cast ever since.
According to several fans who enjoy the show, they think Rauch’s character of Bernadette is a perfect spouse for Howard because she is just as nerdy as he is. In real life, Rauch certainly does not look the part of a nerd. In modelling photoshoots and in performances like the one on the show True Blood, Melissa Rauch has gotten to show a lot of people the kind of appeal that they were not aware that she possessed.
11. JULIA SAWALHA (SAFFRON)
One of the biggest and longest running British hit comedy sitcoms on the other side of the pond was Absolutely Fabulous. The series has been on and off the airwaves between 1992 and 2012, and even had a movie spin off in 2016. The premise followed Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as two drug addicted fashionistas who struggle to act their own age. The most mature person around them Saunders’s daughter, Saffron, played by Julia Sawalha.
Saffron is a scholar and overachiever who has become cynical after years of cleaning after her mother’s messes. Sawalha has a Plain Jane type of style with a wildly unkempt hair and boorish style, but in real life, she actually knows how to clean herself up.
10. DERON HORTON (LIONEL HUGHES)
In 2017, Netflix adapted the 2014 film Dear White People into a ten episode season of the same name. DeRon Horton was cast in the role of Lionel Higgins, a role originally portrayed by Tyler James Williams in the film. On the show, Lionel is a reserved, shy, and closeted college freshmen who in many ways is a loner on the campus.
Not because he is an outcast or anything like that, because he struggles to find his own place among his peers as he struggles with his own identity both as a black man and as a gay man. DeRon Horton brought an interesting gravitas to the character that separates his performance from Williams. By season’s end when he gets his afro chopped off, we learn that Horton actually cleans up pretty nicely.
9. ARIEL WINTER (ALEX DUNPHY)
Ever since the very beginning of Modern Family, Ariel Winter played the nerdy middle child of the Dunphy family, Alex. Now at age 19 after nine seasons and counting on the air, Ariel Winter has blossomed right before our very eyes as a woman. When she disposes of her glasses and dolls herself up when she gets off the set, she models for publications like LaPalme Magazine, her most recent photoshoot of choice.
She also spends much of her time posing for the camera for the sake of her Instagram page. It seems as though social media must really be enamored with Ariel Winter’s looks as the girl has accumulated 3.4 million followers just over the last couple years. It may only be a matter of time before Winter transitions into being a top Hollywood actress.
8. SHAMEIK MOORE (MALCOLM ADEKANBI)
“We’re just doing what geeks do.” That is how Malcolm Adekanbi describes himself in the 2015 indie darling, Dope. In Dope, Malcolm is a self-professed geek and outcast living in “The Bottoms,” a crime infested neighborhood. When he gets himself in some trouble that can only get fixed by going outside of the law, he uses his geek essence to mask the fact that he’s doing illegal activity with his geek pals.
While Malcolm is just as much of a geek as people treat him in the film, the way that the actor who plays him acts in real life is the complete opposite. In real life, Shameik Moore is a super cool actor and a rapper. Most recently, he was cast as Miles Morales for the upcoming 2018 animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
7. RAJIV SURENDRA (KEVIN GNAPOOR)
Fans of the film Mean Girls should fondly remember the character of Kevin Gnapoor, played stupendously by Rajiv Surendra. Gnapoor was a “hormonal mathletes president” who had a crush on Lohan’s character. While he was not the most memorable part about Mean Girls, he certainly did leave an impression thanks to his sharp wit and dope lyrics as an MC. Well, not nearly as dope as he thinks his lyrics are, but we all catch the drift.
We certainly would like to catch the drift that Rajiv Surendra is catching nowadays as the actor growed up big time. Not only did the guy get ripped since production wrapped up on the film, he also became a well respected artist. He dedicates much of his time now to calligraphy, pottery, painting, drawing, and chalkboard art.
6. DANIELLE FISHEL (TOPANGA LAWRENCE)
While Fishel was not much of a nerd in the later seasons of Boy Meets World, fans know that she was introduced to the show as a strange combination between a geek and a hippie. After a couple seasons, Topanga got a makeover and suddenly — while she still retained her high intelligence — her braniac attitude took a backseat to her growing relationship to love interest and eventual boyfriend/husband Cory Matthews.
Now, in both real life and on the short lived spin off Girl Meets World where she reprised the role of Topanga Matthews (sans Lawrence) for younger audiences, there are no traces of the nerd who first stepped onto the set of Boy Meets World oh so many decades ago. She recently started dating writer Jensen Karp.
5. SHANNON PURSER (BARB HOLLAND)
When Stranger Things premiered on Netflix back in 2016, it wowed us with stunning visuals and intricate storylines that paid homage to classic science fiction. However, the surprise show stealer that stole all of our hearts was Barbara “Barb” Holland, played superbly by Shannon Purser. We were all heartbroken to see the exit of both the character and the actress from the show at the end of the first season, but thankfully, we can still catch Purser on television, thanks to The CW’s noirish rendition of the Archie Comics universe, Riverdale.
Purser plays Ethel Muggs, a character who is not all that different from Barb in that she’s portrayed as a homely, unattractive individual. In real life, interestingly enough, Shannon Purser is just the opposite.
4. DANIEL CURTIS LEE (COOKIE)
Millennials should be able to look fondly on Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, a staple of mid-’00s live action Nickelodeon sitcoms. The show focused on a group of friends who get in a plethora of shenanigans in middle school, all while establishing a specific set of rules for themselves that will ensure survival for the semester. Among the main cast was a young Daniel Curtis Lee, who played the tech nerd Simon Nelson Cook, or better known as Cookie. Ten years after the show left the airwaves, Lee ditched the glasses, grew out a beard, and grabbed a mic.
That’s right, Daniel Curtis Lee has since become a rapper. The overall quality of his music is, however, debatable considering that his single “Laughin'” almost has as many dislikes as it has likes on Youtube.
3. JASON SCHWARTZMAN (MAX FISCHER)
Jason Schwartzman got his first big break in Hollywood after starring in the 1998 Wes Anderson film, Rushmore, as lovestruck know-it-all nerd Max Fischer. From there, Schwartzman’s acting career skyrocketed. Showing how grateful he is to Wes Anderson and how much the actor owes his growing fame to the director, Schwartzman has appeared in several of Wes Anderson’s movies and continues to do so.
In a startling glow up from his initial introduction to audience as a movie star, Schwartzman ditched the signature glasses and braces from his Rushmore days, started using way too much grease in his hair, and has actually evolved into quite the stud muffin. Although, he still takes part in playing hapless losers most of the time despite his newfound good looks.
2. MATTHEW LEWIS (NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM)
Neville Longbottom was always an oafish, but adorable part of the Harry Potter franchise. A character who was there merely as comic relief and to be the butt of a joke, ended the book series playing a vital part in the demise of Lord Voldemort. In the films, he was played to perfection by Matthew Lewis. Much like the character he was playing, Lewis was never the most dashing lad of the bunch, but boy did puberty hit him hard in the best way possible.
Growing into adulthood, he got his teeth straightened. He also got a nice a little makeover and worked out at the gym, and before we knew it, he was in a shape where all the girls and boys were chasing after him.
1. EMILY BETT RICKARDS (FELICITY SMOAK)
On the CW superhero show, Arrow, Emily Bett Rickards has played the role of Felicity Smoak ever since the very first season of the show. Rickards had only signed on for one episode, but positive response to her performance from both the fans and Warner Bros. added some longevity to her stay on the hit show. She was added to a few more episodes as a recurring character and by season two, she was made into a series regular.
She still has a spot on the show has even been elevated to play the love interest to the main title character. In real life, Rickards was dating her Arrow co-star Colton Haynes. In more recent news, Haynes got married to Jeff Leatham last October. Word on the street is that Rickards is still single.
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