Though these actresses and pop stars are relative unknowns outside their homelands, they’re household names in their own countries. All are professionally accomplished, personally beautiful and still unsigned to a beauty brand. Based on their burgeoning success, though, that’s not likely to remain the case for long.
This story first appeared in the April 11, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Dubbed Italy’s nuova Brigitte Bardot, actress Laura Chiatti made her name by starring in a mobile phone commercial in 2006. From there the blonde ingenue landed a breakout role as a daughter prepared to sell herself to absolve her father’s debts in Italian film L’amico di Famiglia (Family Friend). Since then the 25-year-old actress has flexed her craft in a series of movies, including the teenage comedy Ho Voglia di Te (I Desire You) and the dramatic A Casa Nostra (At Our House), in which she played a cocaine-addicted model. Chiatti hails from Perugia, an Italian town famous for chocolate, where she still lives, preferring to eschew the paparazzi’s eye. With her star on the rise, though, that may not be possible for much longer.
Alice Braga, 25, the niece of Brazilian actress Sonia Braga, has the talent and stunning looks to follow in her aunt’s footsteps. The award-winning role that catapulted her to stardom here was that of Karinna, a hooker whom two men fall for and fight over, shattering their friendship, in the 2005 hit movie Cidade Baixa (Lower City). New York Times reviewer A. O. Scott said that Braga’s “tough, candid performance…almost makes the movie work.” For Brazilians, Braga’s raw and realistic sex scenes definitely made the film work. Braga, who has turned in strong supporting performances in other hit Brazilian films, like the Oscar-nominated Cidade de Deus (City of God), has had smaller parts in recent American movies, among them Blindness (2007) and I Am Legend (2006). Already famous in her homeland, she garnered enough kudos in those films to be one of 10 starlets featured in and on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Annual Hollywood Issue this year.
When director Pradeep Sarkar was searching for his “perfect” Parineeta (a key character in The Betrothed, adapted from a Bengali novel by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay) for his virgin venture in Hindi cinema, the industry was convinced he needed a superstar. It was, after all, to be his magnum opus. Instead, Sarkar chose Vidya Balan, a relative unknown. The critics were skeptical, but Sarkar was convinced. His instincts proved correct: Balan carried the burden of the era film as effortlessly as she collected the awards and the critical acclaim that followed, including The Filmfare Best Actress (one of India’s most coveted awards), Zee Cinema Best Debut Award and Star Screen for Most Promising Newcomer. Since then, the 30-year-old actress has been lauded for her versatility. She morphs comfortably into a dreamy-eyed girl in a conventional Indian household as easily as she turns into a glamorous, independent woman to fight ferociously for the custody of her child. Still, Balan is taking success in stride. “Life is beautiful,” she says of her philosophy for success. “You just have to look at it from the right angle.”
As overachieving wannabe wizard and Harry Potter sidekick Hermione Granger, Emma Watson has been a household name in the U.K. since she was nine years old. Now, at 18, the actress is working her magic on the fashion set as well. Watson, who was born in Paris and grew up in England, has been cropping up at the front rows of shows (including Chanel), hipster-oriented shindigs, such as Balenciaga’s store opening in London in February, and on the cover of glossy magazines like Teen Vogue and Tatler. Her red-carpet fashion choices tend toward the sophisticated, landing her in numerous magazine best-dressed lists. According to her Web site, Watson is “slightly obsessed with cosmetics” and beauty packaging in particular. She also admits to a one-time obsession with Carmex lip balm. Watson has signed on to complete the Harry Potter movie series, but she recently laid down her wand to star in non-Potter productions. While she didn’t gain the notoriety that fellow castmate Daniel Radcliffe did when he shed his clothes for a West End play, Watson’s role as an orphan in the BBC film Ballet Shoes did solidify her spot as one of Britain’s emerging young talents.
She’s portrayed a supermodel, a journalist and a lawyer, though not yet a pianist, the profession that French actress Alice Taglioni originally trained for. After more than a decade at the piano, movie stardom beckoned and at 30, Taglioni’s something of a household name in France, with more than a dozen films to her credit. In the first of three movies this year, Taglioni plays a lawyer in What If…, where she competes for the same job promotion as her other half, played by her real-life beau Jocelyn Quivrin of Syriana fame. Next, Taglioni crosses over to the other side of the law. First as a femme fatale with Jean Dujardin and Jean Reno in Cash, said to be France’s answer to Ocean’s Eleven, then in Sans Arme, Ni Haine, Ni Violence, (Without Guns, Hate or Violence), about the legendary bank robber Albert Spaggiari. More action follows in Tous Sans Exception (Everyone No Exceptions), a Mafia plot, alongside the eminent Gerard Depardieu. But it’s not all guns and tears for the star, who bagged a two-year contract as an ambassador for leather goods brand Lancel last year.
TV soap star at 17, pop star at 18, cancer survivor at 19, Australian singer-songwriter-pianist Delta Goodrem has packed a lot into her 23 years. Signed to Australia’s Sony Music at 15, Goodrem’s debut album Innocent Eyes was the biggest-selling album in Australia in 2003, spending 29 weeks at the top of the charts, spawning five number-one singles, earning platinum status 14 times and seven Australian Recording Industry Association awards. After being diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphona at 18, Goodrem reemerged in 2004 with a second album, Mistaken Identity—and yet more number-one hits. Her third album, Delta, made its debut at number one on the ARIA albums chart in 2007 and has to date reached double-platinum status. One of Australia’s most popular entertainers, Goodrem has achieved eight number-one ARIA singles, multiple U.K. top 10s and at press time emerged as the first Australian recording industry artist to win 12 number-one chart awards. Phew. Little wonder there’s so much speculation that L’Oréal is preparing to tap Goodrem as a new Australian face, taking over from singer Natalie Imbruglia, whose L’Oréal contract was not renewed last year.
Though this bright-eyed, rising starlet is one of Taiwan’s next emerging actresses, association with stardom was not originally the case for 32-year-old Terri Kwan. A prominent socialite and the daughter of a well-known businessman, Kwan’s natural entrepreneurial spirit allowed her to divert from the stable tracks of her family business and right onto the silver screen—much to her family’s dismay. Achieving this was no easy feat. She first enrolled at New York University to study performance arts, then followed with a modeling career and appearances in local TV shows. Seven films, one Golden Horse Award nomination and a gorgeous top model boyfriend later, Kwan has become a media darling, especially after her latest role in the action film Shamo, which was first released at Cannes last November and in Hong Kong this March.
Pop star Diana Haddad’s musical talents were apparent at the tender age of eight. Born in Lebanon and raised in Kuwait, she returned to Lebanon with her family after the Gulf War broke out in 1990. She began her career in the early Nineties with a few winning singles; her first album, Saken, was released in 1996 and was an instant hit all over the Arab world. In 1995 she married a prominent TV director and gave birth to their daughters Sofi in 1997 and Mira in 2007. Lauded for her multitasking methods, Haddad rose to stardom quickly while balancing her family and professional lives, which earned her great respect in the Middle Eastern entertainment industry. She’s released over 10 albums and garnered more than 15 number-one hit singles. Haddad can sing in five different Middle Eastern languages, which gives her talent a wide—and ever escalating—popularity: She’s received a number of esteemed awards in different countries throughout the Arab world, including Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Syria and Oman.