Entertainment
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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Entertainment
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News.
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
social
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“My passion is doing movies, so as long as I keep

doing that I will be happy.” Vanessa Hudgens broke into the entertainment

industry at the age of 15 when she made her film debut in Thirteen

(2003). She rose to even greater fame in 2006 when she was cast as Gabriella

Montez in the High School Musical film series. Amid her success in the

franchise, Hudgens has proven her talents as an actress and singer with credits

in Beastly (2011), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012), and The

Princess Switch (2018). Also starring in Fox’s live musical production of Grease:

Live (2016) and Rent: Live (2019), let’s take a closer look at the

30-year-old’s rise to fame!

1980s to Stardom

The daughter of a firefighter and an office

administrator, Vanessa Anne Hudgens was born on December 14, 1988, in Salinas,

California. She was raised alongside her younger sister on the West Coast and

developed an early interest in performing as her mother enrolled her in dance

class and later in community theater. “I was probably only like four or five

years old, but I was the little girl in dance class that would actually

remember the choreography, so all the other little girls would watch and copy

what I was doing,” she recalled. “I felt really proud of that.”

Hudgens knew she wanted to pursue her interests in

performing and was 10 years old when she first took the stage in the local

theater. She appeared in productions of The Wizard of Oz, Carousel, The King

and I, Cinderella, and The Music Man before she started auditioning

for television roles. Shortly after she landed her first television commercial,

Hudgens and her family moved to Los Angeles where she made her television debut

in an episode of Still Standing (2002). She snagged minor roles in Robbery

Homicide Division (2002) and The Brothers Garcia (2003) before she

made her film debut in Thirteen (2003).

Over the next two years, Hudgens honed her talents

in the 2004 film Thunderbirds and in television series like Quintuplets

(2005) and Drake & Josh (2006). In 2006, she heard about a new

Disney Channel film titled High School Musical and knew she had to audition.

“I feel the most fulfilled when I get to tell a story on a stage. I just love

the format of musical theater—that’s where I grew up, where I found my own

footsteps—and it feels like the most organic thing for me to express myself

with,” she said.

The auditions went incredibly well

for Hudgens who was cast in a leading role as Gabriella Montez because of her

talent and her instant chemistry with her costar Zac Efron. “For the first mix

and match, there was probably five or six people there for each part. They

would kind of run you through different people. I think I only got matched up

with one other guy, and then I was matched with Zac the rest of the time,” she

recalled. “I was a baby, 15 years old. I was like… oh my God, this guy is so

cute! So, that definitely helped the chemistry. I feel like we kind of created

a bond right from the star. We were like… we’re doing this. It’s us or

nothing.”

Hudgens joined Efron and

Ashley Tisdale in High School Musical (2006) and instantly became a

star. “It was the best time ever. You’re literally a kid running around,

singing and dancing, hanging out with people that you really like, and you get

to do what you love and document it,” Hudgens said. “It was literally a dream.”

That dream continued for Hudgens who reprised her

role in High School Musical 2 (2007) and confirmed her blossoming

romance with her costar, Zac Efron, whom she dated from 2005 to 2010. Together,

the duo joined forces a third time in High School Musical 3: Senior Year

(2008).

Amid her growing success in the High School

Musical franchise, Hudgens also launched her music career with the release

of her debut album, V, in 2006. She released her second album, Identified,

in 2008 and embarked on the Identified Summer Tour. While things seemed

incredible for Hudgens in terms of her career, she fought against being

typecast as the girl-next-door and was desperate to prove her talents beyond

her teen idol status.

“After High School Musical, I wanted to play

a stripper or a drug addict,” Hudgens said. “There were a lot of projects

coming in that were very similar, with the same sweet, girl-next-door

characters which people knew I could do, and could have been easy things to do

just to work. But we said no. We needed to move away from that, to find a part

that allowed people to see me for something else. I’m really happy with the way

we held out, and how we were able to make myself a little more diverse.”

Life Today

Hudgens proved her diversity with films like Bandslam

(2009), The Ultimate Idol (2009), Beastly (2011), Sucker Punch

(2011), Journey 2: The Mysterious Land (2012), and Spring Breakers

(2012). On television, she appeared in Punk’d (2012) and Inner Circle

(2013) before returning to film in The Frozen Ground (2013), Machete

Kills (2013), and Gimme Shelter (2013). Hudgens saw another dream

come true in 2015 when she was cast in the title role of Gigi, which

opened at the Kennedy Center before it moved to Broadway. Hudgens’ performance

was critically praised and inspired her next performance as Rizzo in Fox’s live

broadcast Grease: Live (2016).

In 2017, Hudgens returned to television for the

short-lived series Powerless and wrapped up filming for the romantic comedy,

Dog Days (2018). She also joined Jennifer Lopez and Peter Segal in Second

Act (2018) with her most recent credit coming in the 2019 Fox live musical

presentation of Rent: Live (2019). As for her legacy, the 30-year-old

Hudgens embraces what High School Musical has done for her career.

“People may remember me for that part for the rest of my life,” she says. “it’s

special when you’re able to leave something behind that can contribute to

someone’s life with positive effect… The fact that I can be a part of something

that hopefully inspires kids to be fearless, follow their dreams, and not be

afraid of going after what they’re truly passionate about… That’s an amazing

thing to have as a legacy.”

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