"Ugly" Actresses: Gorgeous Stars Who Lost Their Looks for a Role

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Gwyneth Paltrow

Actresses are second only to models in making a living on their looks. An actress who dares to get an unflattering haircut or gain a few pounds makes herself a target of media scorn unless she's doing it for a role. Script writers don't pen movies only about beautiful people swanning through life in evening gowns, though, so there's a disconnect between what's expected of actresses in their daily life and what directors ask of them.

No one wants to watch a movie about women going through dozens of costume changes and shrieking with glee over shopping trips -- well, there was "Sex and the City 2," but it didn't win any Oscars. When a role calls for a gritty -- read ugly -- take on real life, there are no genuinely homely actresses to call on, so a gorgeous one must cover her beauty with a fake nose and bad hair. Here are a few actresses who got de-prettified for a movie role.

Charlize Theron, "Monster"

Actress, model and dancer Charlize Theron could be one of the most beautiful women in film, yet she was chosen to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster." Theron gained about 30 pounds to play the solidly built Wuornos in the movie, but most of her transformation took place in the makeup chair. She spent hours in makeup getting her chiseled features altered from stunning to plain. Charlize won a well-deserved Oscar for her role, but although Theron applauded makeup artist Toni G and said she should win every award possible, Toni G wasn't nominated.

Rooney Mara, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

With her good looks and family history -- she's a descendant of the founders of both the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers -- Rooney Mara could easily lead the pampered life of a socialite instead of taking on difficult acting roles. Instead, she decided to go after one of the most challenging parts to come along in years: that of Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant and troubled computer genius. Lisbeth isn't glamorous; she's emotionally scarred, and her appearance reflects that in the Stieg Larsson novels. Rooney's black bowl cut, multiple piercings and stark makeup aren't exactly ugly, but they're startlingly different from conventional Hollywood aesthetics.

Mo'Nique and Mariah Carey, "Precious"

As herself, Mariah Carey is famous largely for her magnificent voice, but also for her impeccably groomed beauty. For someone who apparently goes through her day with makeup so flawless that she looks Photoshopped in real life, being on screen in dowdy clothes and unflattering makeup must have been a challenge. Some viewers didn't realize the social worker in the movie was Carey -- she looked so different from her usual self.

If Carey's transformation was startling, Mo'Nique's was astonishing. As Mary, Precious's viciously abusive mother, the normally lovely Mo'Nique looks anything but. It was Mo'Nique's acting, though, not cosmetic changes that brought the repellent character to life; she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her fearsome portrayal of one of the vilest characters in recent Hollywood history.

Gwyneth Paltrow, "Contagion"

Whether reading her "goop" blog or watching her red carpet appearances, it's easy to see Gwyneth Paltrow as perfect -- or at least as someone who tries hard to appear perfect. For her role in the recent movie about a bird flu pandemic, "Contagion," she looks terrible. No one looks good with a case of the flu, and Paltrow is no exception; her sunken eyes and red nose look like an only slightly more extreme version of the face everyone sees in the mirror when sick with flu. The realism of the look is part of what makes her illness scenes so chilling in the movie.

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