Kristen Bell is now a household name, thanks to her voice roles and acting gigs. But how did the little girl from Michigan make it big in Hollywood? In honor of Kristen's 40th birthday on July 18, 2020, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at her biggest career moments! Keep reading to see our favorites over the years…
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Kristen Bell was a student at NYU when her acting career got underway. She eventually left school after nabbing a few roles on Broadway including in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in 2001 and in the revival of "The Crucible" in 2002. With a solid start on the stage under her belt, Kristen (seen here in 2003) moved west to Los Angeles, setting her sights on television.
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After years of auditioning in Los Angeles, Kristen Bell landed a 2004 Lifetime movie that ended up being wildly popular. "Gracie's Choice," a TV film about a girl trying to adopt her siblings after they're abandoned by their drug-addicted mom, scored some of the network's highest ratings ever — and helped put Kristen on the map.
From a hit TV movie to a smash TV series, Kristen Bell's career really took off in 2004. That fall, her UPN series "Veronica Mars" debuted. She played the titular crime-solving character on the show that eventually moved to The CW and ran for three seasons.
From one CW show to the next! Though you didn't see her, Kristen Bell had a very prominent and memorable role on the hit teen show "Gossip Girl" from 2007 to 2012. Once again, she scored the titular role: As the narrator, Kristen's voice kicked off every episode of the show's six seasons. She also had a fun cameo on the series finale.
Her transition from TV to film stardom came in 2008 with a starring role in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Kristen Bell played the titular role (again!) in the Judd Apatow comedy alongside co-stars Jason Segel, Mila Kunis and Russell Brand. The film was a huge hit that grossed more than $100 million worldwide and earned rave reviews from critics.
Kristen Bell lent her voice and her likeness to the character Lucy in the video game "Assassin's Creed" in 2008. She also recorded her voice for the game's followups, "Assassin's Creed II" and "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood."
Back to her musical roots! Kristen Bell joined Christina Aguilera and Cher for the 2010 music-heavy flick "Burlesque," which let her show fans a different side. She ditched her natural blonde locks and wore a dark wig to play a wilder character than usual.
The face of Neutrogena! Kristen Bell signed a deal with the beauty company to be its spokesperson in 2011 and went on to star in a campaign for the Neutrogena Naturals line that year.
The world already adored Kristen Bell, but everyone fell a little more in love with her in 2012 when she stopped by "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and shared an adorable story about the time her then-boyfriend Dax Shepard surprised her with a visit from her favorite animal — a sloth. In a video of the encounter, which went viral, Kristen can be seen sobbing with happiness ahead of meeting her favorite animal. That same year, she appeared on-screen with Dax in the comedy "Hit & Run," which unfortunately wasn't as beloved by audiences as their adorable real-life love story.
Kristen Bell headed back to the small screen in 2012 for the Showtime series "House of Lies," a critically acclaimed show that picked up numerous Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy nominations. The show ran for five seasons and ended up nabbing a Golden Globe for co-star Don Cheadle's work and an Emmy for art direction.
Kristen Bell's biggest career hit came courtesy of her incredible voice! The star voiced Anna in the Disney animated mega-hit "Frozen" in 2013, lending not only her speaking voice but her singing voice to the uber-popular character. To say the film did well with audiences would be a massive understatement — it's the highest grossing animated film ever and the 12th-highest grossing film of all time.
Despite being in the highest grossing film of the year in 2013, Kristen Bell still made time for a bit role on TV! She did a run of three episodes on the hilarious NBC hit "Parks and Recreation" that fall.
"Veronica Mars" came back! After massive fan demand, the show was rebooted as a film. Show creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell teamed up to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund the movie — and it reached its $2 million goal in just 10 hours! The flick, which was released in select theaters and on VOD, debuted in 2014 and earned $3.4 million at the box office — well over its Kickstarter budget.
How often do commercials become hits on YouTube? Not that often… unless they're starring Kristen Bell and her real-life hubby, Dax Shepard. The couple appeared in a commercial for Samsung in 2014 and the ad amassed more than 20 million YouTube views. Since the spot did so well, Samsung hired them for a sequel, which aired during the holiday season.
A bad mom in real life? No way! A bad mom on the big screen? Yep! Kristen Bell starred in the comedy "Bad Moms" in 2016 alongside Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn. The hilarious flick grossed $183 million worldwide, which helped pave the way for a sequel.
2016 saw Kristen Bell sign on to the NBC comedy "The Good Place." On the series, she starred as Eleanor, a woman living in the afterlife alongside Ted Danson's "architect," Michael. The show garnered great reviews and ran for four seasons, wrapping in 2020.
A People's Choice Award! Kristen Bell took home the trophy for favorite actress in a new TV series in 2017 for her work on "The Good Place."
In late 2017, "A Bad Moms Christmas" continued the 2016 "Bad Moms" story. The film, which reunited Kristen Bell with co-stars Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn, didn't fare as well as its predecessor but still made more than $130 million worldwide.
2018 saw Kristen Bell explore another forum — web videos! The mother of two started the digital series "Momsplaining with Kristen Bell" in partnership with Ellen DeGeneres' Ellen Digital Studios and vitamin brand Olly Nutrition. In the hilarious shorts, she dishes out parenting advice and gets real about what motherhood really entails.
In 2018, Kristen Bell added yet another job to her long list of talents — awards show hosting! The actress and singer took on the daunting job of emceeing the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony — she was the annual event's first ever host — and delivered some great jokes as she ably showed off her comedic chops and impeccable timing.
In 2019, Kristen Bell earned her first Golden Globe nomination! At the star-studded ceremony that year, she was up for best performance by an actress in a music or comedic TV series for her performance as Eleanor Shellstrop on "The Good Place." Though she didn't take home the prize, the nomination still marked a major milestone in her career.
2019 proved to be a busy year for Kristen Bell — in addition to acting on a hit comedy series, she and husband Dax Shepard launched a business. The couple founded the company Hello Bello, a line of natural and affordable baby care products. In honor of the company's one-year anniversary in February 2020, Kristen announced that Hello Bello would be offering a free pack of diapers to new and expecting parents. "When we started this company, the goal was genuinely to try to make parenting a little bit easier and make sure the parents had access to safe, premium and affordable things for their children — especially diapers," she told E! News.
Yup, it was every "Veronica Mars" fan's dream come true. On July 19, 2019, Hulu released all eight episodes of the highly anticipated fourth season of "Veronica Mars" a week early after announcing the news at Comic-Con in San Diego — all in honor of Kristen Bell's birthday. The season saw a more mature Veronica in the present day and brought back beloved characters Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) and Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring).
"Veronica Mars" wasn't the only big project Kristen Bell worked on in 2019 — she also served as the host and executive producer of the Disney+ series "Encore!" which debuted on the streaming platform that November. The heartwarming docuseries reunites cast members of high school musicals and chronicles their efforts to put on a special encore performance years after they originally took the stage. Season 1, which consisted of 12 episodes, included productions of "Beauty and the Beast," "Godspell," "High School Musical" and "Anything Goes." Kristen is pictured here alongside Yvette Nicole Brown at the Disney+ Showcase in 2019.
An occasion to celebrate! On Nov. 19, 2019, Kristen Bell was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside "Frozen" franchise co-star Idina Menzel's. During her hilarious speech, Kristen spoke candidly about the uncertainties of her career. "I definitely heard from numerous adults in my life that cared about me, 'Have a backup plan, have a backup plan, have a backup plan.' But I also heard from some other artists, 'If you have a plan to fall back on, you'll fall back,'" Kristen told Variety. "So I just decided to go for broke — I've always been an optimist." She was honored by "The Good Place" creator Michael Schur and actress Jackie Tohn during her star ceremony.
Just three days after Kristen Bell was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 2019, her movie "Frozen II" — in which she again voiced Anna — hit theaters. The film, which also brought back stars Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff, was a major box office success — it earned a whopping $1.45 billion on a $150 million budget. The film's big song "Into the Unknown" also received an Academy Award nomination for best original song in 2020.
On Jan. 12, 2020, Kristen Bell accepted the #SeeHer Award at the Critics' Choice Awards, a prize that honors women who "push boundaries on changing stereotypes and acknowledge the importance of authentic portrayals of women across the entertainment landscape." When she took the stage to accept the honor, Kristen contemplated the all-too-familiar question of what it means to be a woman today. "My immediate reaction is always to answer with words like 'strong' and 'brave' and 'powerful,' but if I'm being honest, to me, being a woman is not about being brave or being strong or being powerful. It's not about being anything specific," she said. "It's just about giving yourself permission to be the things that you already are — which seems very easy, but it is not. Because women have been conditioned to fit into boxes — usually tiny, pretty, sparkly boxes with bows on them, generally."
2020 was a year filled with new creative endeavors for Kristen Bell. On May 29, the Apple TV+ animated musical sitcom "Central Park" hit the streaming service. The series focuses on a family residing in Central Park who must protect it from a selfish property developer. She starred as a biracial character, Molly Tillerman, before leaving the role in June 2020 so that it could be re-cast with a person of color. "Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege," Kristen wrote on Instagram on June 24. "Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience. It was wrong and we, on the Central Park team, are pledging to make it right. I am happy to relinquish this role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion." Kristen will instead be voicing a new character on the series.
Kristen Bell can now add children's book author to her list of accomplishments! On June 2, 2020, "The World Needs More Purple People" — the kids' book Kristen co-wrote with Benjamin Hart — was released. The effort wasn't without controversy, as some criticized the book for its colorblindness, as it focuses on a "purple person who looks for similarities before differences," according to The Associated Press. Days later, Kristen responded to controversy surrounding the book. "I think people are just confused abt what the book is. Its being looked at like book intended to teach kids abt race, which its not at all,&I am also not qualified to teach on," she tweeted. "Its a book abt kids finding things in common, being inclusive, being kind,&being uniquely themselves.Xo."
What's next for Kristen Bell? She's set to reprise her role as the narrator on HBO Max's "Gossip Girl" revival. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the reboot — which was initially set to debut on the streaming service in 2020 — was pushed back to at least the summer of 2021. We can't wait to hear Kristen's iconic voice once again!