Lady Gaga knows how to make a debut. The pop sensation’s first foray into professional acting in American Horror Story: Hotel earned her a Golden Globe win for best performance in a miniseries or television film, proving her theatrics are just as impressive on camera as they are onstage. But it was her role in 2018’s A Star Is Born that really got people talking, earning her Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations, plus plenty of Oscar buzz.

The former American Idol favorite roared into the acting world in Dreamgirls, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.”It was like I had blinders on. I had no time to be scared,” Hudson told The Guardian about stepping onto set with no acting experience. “I didn’t really realize how important my character, Effie, was to the film until it finished, somehow. I just wanted to keep up, make sure I did my best.” In 2015, she made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple.

Best known as the pop queen of the ’80s, Madonna blew away expectations for her role as Eva Perén in 1996’s Evita, taking home the Golden Globe for best actress in a motion picture comedy or musical. She’s had additional successes throughout her career in movie roles, including in Desperately Seeking Susan and A League of Their Own.

The vocal powerhouse first stepped in front of movie cameras for a starring role in The Bodyguard in 1992. The film was a smash at the box office, and the lead single, “I Will Always Love You,” became one of Houston’s most enduring hits. Although critics weren’t as enchanted with Houston’s performance as audiences were, they largely praised her acting in her second feature, Waiting to Exhale.

The rapper and singer garnered attention as an actress during her five years on the sitcom Living Single. In 2002, she earned an Oscar nod for her role in Chicago. In 2016, the Bessie star went head-to-head with Lady Gaga in the Golden Globes best performance in a miniseries or television film race (Gaga won).

Critics may have panned Carey’s performance in 2001’s Glitter, but her acting credentials were redeemed with an unglamorous, spot-on performance in 2009’s Precious. “My character in Precious is the antithesis of me,” she told MTV News. “She is a social worker. She’s very demure. She’s very stoic … And [director Lee Daniels] was like, ‘No makeup. We’re going to put dark stuff under your eyes. Your hair is going to be cut and short and brown. And you’re gonna wear big clothing, and it’s going to be a whole thing.’ “

Although she dabbled in variety shows in the ’70s, the country legend didn’t make her feature film debut until 1980’s 9 to 5. Parton held her own alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the comedy, even scoring a Golden Globe nomination for the role. Since then, she’s owned the screen in movies like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Steel Magnolias.

More than a decade after starring in The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Cher took home the Best Actress Oscar for 1987’s Moonstruck. “I don’t think that this means that I am somebody, but I guess I’m on my way,” she said during her acceptance speech. 

Ross’ film debut as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues was so killer that she received an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for the role. “I never studied acting. I had never read I script before. I made it my story, not Billie Holiday’s story. I made it real for me – as if I was living each of those moments,” she said about her performance. Ross went on to star in Mahogany and The Wiz.

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