There couldn’t be a more fitting name for Australian actress Rebel Wilson. From her raunchy jaunts as Fat Amy, to redefining what a leading actress looks like, Wilson has always rebelled against Hollywood norms. In 2011, the Bridesmaids star hit America like a wrecking ball, figuratively and later literally in Pitch Perfect 2. But her comedy queen status came after a malaria scare, years of hard work in the land down under, and some media backlash.
Wilson hasn’t let fame go to her head, though. She may be worth an estimated $22 million, but she still considers herself an every-woman on the big screen. “I am the average size of the American and Australian woman, and yet plus-size actresses have less than one per cent of all leading roles,” she told The Daily Telegraph in 2018. “The beauty standards put up there, especially for young women, [they] can be unfair at times … In the works that I do, I am trying to put those positive messages out there.”
Had things gone a bit differently, this Aussie blonde bombshell would be in a courtroom right now. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! From her childhood aspirations to her big a-ha moment and beyond, this is the transformation of Rebel Wilson.
Rebel Wilson came from dog breeding and Disney royalty
Rebel Wilson was born in Sydney, Australia. According to Biography, her parents were “professional dog handlers,” which means her childhood was unique, to say the least, as her family traveled the country selling dog products, attending shows, and breeding beagles (via Herald Sun). “I was forced to be a junior handler, which is kind of like Toddlers & Tiaras ’cause you are dressed up in little outfits, and you run around with the dogs,” Wilson told Collider in 2012. Per Herald Sun, her mother still breeds “one or two litters a year” and works as “an international dog-show judge.” Wilson’s only connection to show biz was her great aunt, Lillian Bounds, who was married to Walt Disney, though she’s quick to clarify that her family is “not in line for any royalties.”
Rebel Wilson was an Australian comedy mainstay
After her stranger than fiction hallucination, Rebel Wilson enrolled in The Australian Theatre for Young People where actresses like Nicole Kidman and Toni Collette had studied, per Collider. She quickly became known in the Australian comedy scene for writing and starring in her own productions. “I’ve had to create my own plays, television roles, and movie projects in order to play the parts I’ve wanted,” she told People (via Who) in 2017.
In 2002, Wilson continued on her path to Hollywood with stops in Chicago, thanks to a scholarship to the legendary Second City improv school, and New York City where she reportedly once “enrolled at the New York Film Academy” (via The Sydney Morning Herald). This led to her television debut as Toula in 2003’s Australian series Pizza, according to Biography, after which her career picked up steam, leading to stints on Australian shows, including The Wedge and Bogan Pride. However, America was always Wilson’s goal, and cameos in Rules of Engagement, 2007’s Ghost Rider, and the above cheeky appearance at 2008’s Nickelodeon Australian Kids’ Choice Awards showed she was chomping at the bit to prove herself.
Bridesmaids was Rebel Wilson’s breakthrough in the U.S.
Rebel Wilson’s big break came with a little film called Bridesmaids. Produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Paul Feig, the 2011 comedy blockbuster featured an ensemble cast of humorous heavyweights, including Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Rose Byrne. It was a massive box office hit, eventually becoming the highest-grossing “R-rated female comedy of all time,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. While the film introduced audiences across the globe to Melissa McCarthy, it also served as an introduction to Wilson, whose scenes as Wiig’s roommate, Brynn, were instantly memorable.
Disputes about Rebel Wilson’s past stirred up some drama
According to Biography, 2017 marked the end of Rebel Wilson’s years-long battle with Bauer Media. Two years earlier, the Australian publication dug up that her birth year was 1980, which conflicted with Wilson’s rather vague statements in the press about her actual age. The publication also claimed “she had lied about her age and other biographical information,” including her family’s status growing up. While Wilson poked fun at the reports on Twitter, writing, “I’m actually a 100 year old mermaid formerly known as ‘CC Chalice,'” behind-the-scenes, she wasn’t laughing.
After suing for damages in 2015, Wilson initially won her case, resulting in a $4.7 million payout, the largest for a defamation case in Australian history according to BBC News. She asserted that Bauer had made her out to be a “serial liar,” hurting her career. However, the damages were reduced by nearly $4 million after a 2018 appeal from the publication. The actress insisted it was never about the money and planned to donate any payments she received to charity, calling the appeal “bizarre” and “unfair” in a since-deleted tweet (via AdNews).