A Grown-Up’s Guide to Teen Celebrities

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The Teen Choice Awards will air this Sunday on Fox, and — hey, wait. Where are you going? Listen, we know you’re sick of awards shows, and that a celebration of teenyboppers’ favorite pinups probably isn’t going to prevent you from watching True Blood and Breaking Bad. That’s totally fine. But does anything make you feel older than scrolling through a list of the telecast’s nominees and presenters and finding that you’ve never ever heard many of the names on the list? Oh, sure, there are the big stars who get nominated for everything. And you know Justin Bieber and the Twilight kids now, and how could you have made it halfway through 2012 without encountering Carly Rae Jepsen? Still, a slew of Disney and MTV and ABC Family and teen movie stars remain, so you may as well memorize who they are in case you find yourself in conversation with a 12-year-old One Direction superfan. After the jump, we’ve compiled a guide to the massively famous (but only to people under 18) TCA nominees you should know, if only to avoid the dreaded teenage eye-roll (but also because some of them are talented actors and musicians who will likely break through to the grown-up mainstream in the years to come).

Josh Hutcherson

Nominated for: Choice Actor: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Choice Movie Liplock (yes, that’s a Teen Choice Awards category)

Who is he? Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games. Yes, adults saw this movie, most of us were too preoccupied by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (a name we already knew from her Academy Award-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone) or familiar faces like Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland to investigate the sweet baker boy who would do anything to save Katniss. But wouldn’t you know it, the 19-year-old actor’s existence has not escaped the notice of teenage girls, who have become very fond of Hutcherson indeed. This may partially have to do with his pre-Hunger Games work, in such kids’ films as The Polar Express, Zathura, and Bridge to Terabithia. Meanwhile, if you thought Peeta looked a bit familiar, you may have encountered him — with his natural hair color — as Mia Wasikowska’s little brother in The Kids Are All Right.

Talking point: Hutcherson is slated to appear in no fewer than five movies this year, including a long-delayed remake of 1984 war movie Red Dawn and the Spanish-language anthology film 7 Days in Havana.

Vanessa Hudgens

Nominated for: Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Who is she? This year the 23-year-old actress got a Teen Choice Awards nod for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (which also starred Hutcherson), a film that — despite the fact that it earned $326 million worldwide — no one seems to have seen or developed an opinion on. But that is not why everyone under the age of 18 knows who she is; it’s because she appeared in all three High School Musical movies as well as several popular Disney Channel shows. Hudgens is also also a pop singer. Her 2006 debut album, V, went gold, and she followed it up with Identified in 2008. She was also a tabloid favorite a few years back, when nude and topless photos of her appeared online and caused piles of legal drama.

Talking point: Clearly looking to break the Disney mold, Hudgens will appear alongside James Franco (as well as fellow teen stars Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson) in Harmony Korine’s forthcoming movie, Spring Breakers. Yes, people old enough to have seen Kids when it was originally released, that Harmony Korine.

Lucy Hale

Nominated for: Choice Summer TV Star: Female

Who is she? As you can see, Lucy Hale is one of those spooky young women who simultaneously manages to look like she’s 16 and 30. In fact, the 23-year-old actress is one of four lead cast members on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, where she is the funkiest fashionista of the bunch and also the one in a forbidden relationship with her English teacher. Before PLL, she was on NBC’s 2007 Bionic Woman reboot and then The CW’s short-lived teen drama Privileged. If you saw Scream 4, you may have spotted her as a small part of that ensemble cast. But most of all, she’s now part of ABC Family’s core troupe of young stars, a group that’s becoming comparable to Disney (if for a slightly older audience). Recently, they’ve been hyping her music career; Hale is signed with Hollywood Records, and her first album is due out next year.

Talking point: Hale originally came to the public eye in 2003 via American Juniors, an American Idol spin-off with kid contestants that only lasted one season. Here’s the top-five finisher performing Blondie’s “Call Me.”

The Wanted

Nominated for: Choice Music Group, Choice Summer Song, Choice Summer Music Star: Group (yes, this seems a bit redundant to us, too), Choice Music: Breakout Group

Who are they? If the last group of strapping young pop-star lads who caught your attention were the Backstreet Boys (or New Kids on the Block! Or Menudo!), it’s time you found out that as of 2012, boy bands are back in a big way. British-Irish quintet The Wanted are at the forefront of this new wave, and although they’ve put out two albums and been huge in the UK since 2010, this has been their breakout year in America. Their Choice Summer Song nomination is for “Glad You Came,” the lightly soulful party track that is their biggest US hit to date (and whose title kind of squicks us out, sorry).

Talking point: Should you happen to fall in love with The Wanted, you can get a daily dose of the boys in their #WantedWednesday YouTube series.

One Direction

Nominated for: Choice Love Song, Choice Summer Music Star: Group, Choice Music: Breakout Group

Who are they? One Direction are the other British-Irish boy band that all the tween girls love. What makes them different from The Wanted is that they rose to fame after the group came in third on the UK X Factor and have been even more successful in the US — their debut album, Up All Night, made it all the way to #1 on the Billboard 200 when it was released here this March. “What Makes You Beautiful,” the bouncy nice-guy appeal that calls back to Grease‘s “Summer Nights” and earned the group their Choice Love Song nomination, has sold nearly three million copies in America. Another single that went over big here was “One Thing.” Also, if you couldn’t tell from the picture, One Direction are slightly younger than The Wanted, with all but one of their five members still under 20. Don’t worry if that makes you feel old; we’re right there with you.

Talking point: One Direction began recording their second album in May, and are determined to participate in the songwriting process — namely, they have written some songs about their girlfriends. The record should come out late this year, in advance of a massive world tour in 2013.

Selena Gomez

Nominated for: Choice Music Group (Selena Gomez & the Scene), Choice Single by a Group, Choice Female Hottie

Who is she? Basically the center of the universe for the pre-high-school set. Part of Disney’s stable of teen stars, she made her name as the main character on their original series Wizards of Waverly Place, which premiered in 2007, just wrapped early this year, and spotlighted the adventures of three magical siblings. On the big screen, she played Beezus in the film adaptation of Beezus and Ramona, and co-starred alongside Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy in last year’s slightly more grown-up Monte Carlo. Gomez also has one of the most successful music careers of the acting-singing/Disney/ABC Family bunch. Her band, Selena Gomez & the Scene, has released three gold albums since 2009. You’ve probably heard “Love You Like a Love Song,” the blissful dance-pop hit from their most recent full-length, When the Sun Goes Down, which was inescapable for a few months last year. The band’s nomination, meanwhile, is for the pulsing “Hit the Lights,” a more recent single from the same album. Oh, also? Don’t you dare start a conversation about Gomez without knowing she’s Justin Bieber’s girlfriend — a role that has earned her no shortage of Internet torment at the hands of jealous Beliebers.

Talking point: Selena Gomez will turn 20 the same night the Teen Choice Awards air, this Sunday.

Demi Lovato

Nominated for: Choice Summer Song, Choice Love Song, Choice Summer Music Star: Female, Choice Twit

Who is she? If you’re a childless adult who knows Demi Lovato, it’s probably for one of two reasons: 1. She recently signed on to be a judge for the second season of The X Factor, alongside Britney Spears, Simon Cowell, and L.A. Reid. 2. Lovato was all over the tabloids in late 2010, when she left a Jonas Brother tour to enter rehab for drugs, alcohol, bulimia, and self-harm. The 19-year-old actress and singer has actually been in the entertainment industry for over a decade, since she was cast on Barney at the age of seven. She became a big teen star in 2008, when she co-starred with the Jonas Brother in the wildly popular Camp Rock, before going on to leading roles in two more Disney Channel movies, Princess Protection Program and Camp Rock 2. Like Hale, Gomez, Hudgens, Miley Cyrus, and apparently every other female teen TV star, Lovato also has a trio of albums under her belt. Her most recent, last year’s Unbroken, takes inspiration from her struggles and recovery. Both the Choice Summer Song and Choice Love Song nominations are for the anthemic “Give Your Heart a Break.”

Talking point: Although they briefly feuded, Lovato and Selena Gomez have been close friends since they appeared together on Barney as kids.

Tyler Posey

Nominated for: Choice Summer TV Star: Male

Who is he? He’s the star of Teen Wolf — which, in case you haven’t been paying much attention to Jersey Shore-era MTV, is the network’s version of the 1985 movie in which Michael J. Fox so famously played the same role. (Frown all you want about this, but it’s actually one of the few decent shows on MTV right now.) The 20-year-old actor has been in the business since elementary school; back in 2002, you might have spotted him as Jennifer Lopez’s son in Maid in Manhattan. Before Teen Wolf, now in its second season, he also had a recurring role as Gabriel Whedon on the first season of Brothers and Sisters. The 20-year-old actor also plays guitar in a pop-punk band called Lost in Kostko.

Talking point: Not only does Posey have his own SoCal band, but he co-stars alongside Chloë Moretz, Alia Shawkat, and Donald Glover in the excellent Best Coast video “Our Secret,” directed by Drew Barrymore.

Ashley Rickards

Nominated for: Choice Summer TV Star: Female

Who is she? We just mentioned that Teen Wolf is actually not bad, but we’ll go further in our endorsement of Awkward. We like it a lot. It deserves a far better compliment than “best show on MTV,” although it definitely is that. Ashley Rickards plays the dark comedy’s protagonist, Jenna Hamilton, a high school nobody who’s thrown into the spotlight when her ridiculously unlikely accident is misunderstood as a suicide attempt. One Tree Hill fans may remember her from a recurring stint in which she played Sam Walker, a few seasons back, while American Horror Story viewers should dimly recall that she appeared on a few episodes as Chloe, one of Tate’s ghostly victims. And of all the names on this list, we’d put our money on Rickards as the one you’ll be hearing the most about in the future — she’s a great actress who balances intelligence, awkwardness, and charm in much the same way Emma Stone does. It would not surprise us to see her break out in an Easy A of her own. Still don’t believe us? Check her out in Fly Away, the 2010 where she played an autistic girl plagued by horrific panic attacks.

Talking point: Not only is Rickards a talented actress, but she’s also a genius — quantifiably, even! The 20-year-old graduated from high school at 15 and is a member of MENSA.