Rebel Wilson's epic rise to stardom from law school to Hollywood

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Growing up in the beautiful Hills District of Sydney Australia, Rebel Wilson didn't think acting was a dream that could come true for her. 

Born Melanie Elizabeth Bownds, the daughter of professional dog handlers was extremely shy and more interested in doing her school work than making her classmates laugh by being the school clown.

Actress, writer and comedienne Rebel Wilson, a cast member in the film Bachelorette
Actress, writer and comedienne Rebel Wilson, poses for her portrait as a cast member in the film Bachelorette. Photo: AP

“I wasn’t an extroverted kid,” she told Elle. “I was very academic and very introverted."

But her mum Sue wanted to bring her out of herself a little and sent her daughter to acting classes.

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"I was so unusually shy, bordering on a social disorder," Rebel told Marie Claire

"So my mum — one day she drives me to this community acting class. I was holding on to the car door and crying. She had to peel me off the car. She's like, 'I'll pick you up in two hours,' and she left me."

Rebel Wilson was born Melanie Elizabeth Bownds
Rebel Wilson was born Melanie Elizabeth Bownds the daughter of professional dog trainers and grew up in North West Sydney. Photo: Instagram/@rebelwilson

That started her love of acting but it didn't change her academic focus at school. She may have been opening up and becoming more outgoing but she still put all she had into her studies. And that hard work paid off when she graduated from Tara Anglican School for Girls with a near-perfect HSC score of 99.3 per cent.

"She worked incredibly hard, but see Rebel, she is one of those people who whatever she sets her mind to, she just works really hard at it," mum Sue told Julia Zemiro's Home Delivery.

Rebel Wilson choses law and acting

With that score, she could choose to study anything and she got into the University of NSW to study Law and Arts. At the same time, she also got into the Australian Theatre For Young People. She chose to do both, leaving all her options open.

While classmates at acting school were landing auditions for Aussie soaps and commercials, Rebel was struggling.“No one was interested in me,” she told Elle. “All the roles were for, like, ‘Bikini Girl,’ age 18. I thought, I know, I’ll write my own characters, then people can see what I can do.”

After graduating from the acting school she picked up comedy parts in Pizza and The Wedge, which lead to her first film, a feature-length version of Pizza called Fat Pizza.

She was still working at her local cinema in Castle Hill when Fat Pizza came out. "I am in the film and I am still working there making the popcorn, sweeping up the trash," she told the ABC. "People would see me and they're like: 'Hey weren't you just in that film?'. It would confuse the hell out of people because obviously when you start out as an actress you don't earn the big bucks."

Rebel wilson training and playing tennis
Rebel enjoyed tennis as a kid and was happy to get upside down for Pitch Perfect 2 training. Photo: Instagram/@rebelwilson

All this time she was still studying for her degree and in 2009, when she graduated, she decided to take off to The States to see what if she could break into acting there.

Rebel's move to the US

"I cried when she said she is going to America," her mother Sue told Julia Zemiro. "She was supposed to be a lawyer and she got an amazing mark." But she soon proved her mum had nothing to worry about. 

With her success and talent recognised in her home country, Rebel signed up with renowned Beverley Hills talent agents William Morris Endeavour and she started auditioning for roles. One of her first was for the part of Megan in the movie Bridesmaids. While Melissa McCarthy beat her to that role, she was added as Gil's sister Brynn.

"I guess they liked my audition and added me into the film, essentially, so there was never supposed to be two roommates, only one. So I just kind of added myself in in a way to the scenes," she revealed on SiriusXM's The Jess Cagle Show.

From there, her star started to rise and in 2011 she was named one of Variety Magazine Top Ten Comics to Watch. 

In 2012 she landed roles in What To Expect When You're Expecting, Bachelorette and Pitch Perfect and the rest as they say is history.

Rebel Wilson in her movies
No matter what size she has been, Rebel has found success, with her breakthrough role as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect propelling her to the big league. Photo: Instagram/@rebelwilson

And it seems she doesn't regret turning her back on law. "I love telling stories and entertaining people ... it's the best job in the world," she said in an interview with Body and Soul. She also uses her degree to go through her own contracts and make sure she's happy with all the clauses.

With more movies, and comedy turns at award shows and on TV, Rebel had cemented herself both for her talent and as a role model for women who weren't size normative, especially in a place as harsh as Hollywood. 

Rebel Wilson's Year of Health

But that's when she decided to turn her success on its head and declare 2020 her Year of Health vowing to lose weight and get down to her goal weight of 165 pounds (75kg).

During her year of health Rebel wilson
During her year of health, last year, Rebel spent a lot of time in her hometown with friends and family. Photo: Instagram/@rebelwilson

"For me, the big thing was looking at my emotional eating and why I was doing it, and working on the mental side, which for me comes down to self-love really," she told E! Online, "I like being all sizes. It's just now turning 40, I am more health-conscious and thinking of starting a family."

She charted her exercise and eating plans on Instagram and before long was proudly parading her new physique. And like everything she put her mind to, it wasn't long before she reached her target.

Despite the pandemic, 2020 also allowed her to return home to see family and friends and film the dog grooming TV show Pooch Perfect, returning to her roots.

“So I guess what a lot of people don't know about me is that I am a fourth‑generation dog show‑er. My great-grandmother started The Beagle Club of Australia, and every weekend of my childhood I was going to dog shows,” she explained to Forbes Magazine. “My mum was devastated when I chose not to continue the family legacy. She's now a renowned international all‑breed dog show judge.”

Rebel hosted Aussie dog show Pooch Perfect
Rebel hosted Aussie dog show Pooch Perfect on Seven last year and is currently filming comedy Senior Year. Photo: Seven Network & Twitter/@rebelwilson

And her weight loss hasn't seemed to slow down the comic roles either. She has just finished filming Senior Year, a film about a cheerleader who wakes up from a 20-year coma and heads back to high school for prom.

Now she is taking time out to celebrate her wins and see some of Europe, as she's currently posting loads of snaps of her enjoying the Italian coast.

Rebel wilson travelling
Rebel has recently been enjoying some downtime in Italy. Photo: Instagram/@rebelwilson

But the one thing we've learnt over the years is that Rebel should not be underestimated.

"I guess I'm a good example to those who think, or are told by others that they can't do it," she told Noosa Style magazine. "Perhaps you can."

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