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The Transformation Of Kristen Bell From Childhood To The Good Place

There's no question that Kristen Bell is America's darling. Nearly every household with children has heard her singing as the awkward, optimistic princess Anna from "Frozen." She also has a cult following as the titular sassy young detective from "Veronica Mars." She's just as well known for her exuberant love for sloths, as she is for being the Arizona ash-hole Eleanor Shellstrop on "The Good Place."

Now, Bell is synonymous with her bright smile and loving marriage to fellow actor Dax Shepard, as well as her title of sexiest vegetarian (thanks, PETA), but she hasn't always been so prominent in pop culture. Before becoming simultaneously a Disney princess and #RelationshipGoals, she was simply a child with a knack for mimicking accents and reciting commercials (via The Guardian).

Here's how Kristen Bell went from playing a humble little banana on stage, to teaching everyone hilarious lessons in ethics on "The Good Place."

Kristen Bell launched her career as a banana

While Kristen Bell now makes headlines for wearing a banana clip in her hair — an '80s accessory that does not look like the fruit — she got her start in acting as a banana (and a tree) in her very first play. She's since updated the look to a polkadot banana dress, as posted on her Instagram, so it's nice to know she hasn't forgotten her roots.

Both Bell and her husband Dax Shepard are from Michigan, where Bell grew up with her mom, a nurse, and her dad, a television executive. They divorced when she was very young, so she grew up going between two houses with several step and half siblings. Bell described it as "just having more people who loved me" in an interview with You Magazine

Bell gave some insight to her childhood, saying she now has a habit of talking in a "nonlinear fashion ... Because I've always been small and didn't get listened to when I was a kid, I struggled with feeling that nothing I said was of value. That's why I have this scattered approach when I talk, because I'm trying to be heard." It was a happy childhood, though, in which she cut her hair to fit in with her all-boys baseball team, modeled for newspaper ads, and did community theater.

From Broadway to Pootie Tang

Instead of booking it straight to Los Angeles, Kristen Bell took to New York for college. She told Saturday Night Magazine in 2007 that she's thankful she didn't get to New York until her college years: "You can call it humble beginnings or coming from a normal upbringing, but I very much appreciate that I was raised outside New York or Los Angeles, and had the chance to already figure out who I was. My parents gave me really good values and taught me to always be grateful for what I have and I think that makes me a much happier person now."

It wasn't easy: She was depressed at the time and has been on antidepressants since, but she was also excited to find the "weirdos." She told The Guardian, "My first memories [of New York] were just being slack-jawed at the amount of stimuli from other people and immediately recognizing that I found my people." She stuck around for a couple years, doing work on Broadway.

Her first credited onscreen role came in 2001, with Chris Rock's comedy "Pootie Tang." In it, she plays a record executive's daughter, and though her one line was cut from the film, her scenes appear later, as the credits roll. In an interview with SNMag conducted a few years into her starring turn on "Veronica Mars," she glowingly reminisced about the role, saying, "Pootie Tang is, and always will be, the height of my work."

Kristen Bell's breakout role was Veronica Mars

After several small acting roles, Kristen Bell got her first big break with "Veronica Mars" in 2004. For three seasons, she played the sarcastic, smart-as-a-whip teenage private detective Veronica until the series was unceremoniously canceled. Then, seven years later, she reprised the role in the "Veronica Mars" movie. Then, five years after that, she came back for the revenant fourth season, before Hulu canceled it once more.

Bell was eager to get the role. "I came prepared as f*** to that audition. I came prepared for the call back. I came prepared for the test. I sat by the phone waiting," she told Refinery29. In fact, she saw some of herself in Veronica, as they both had single-parent homes, and both lost their best friend in their teenage years. She told Pittsburgh Live that her friend's death in a car crash had a lasting impact on her: "Once you learn not to take people for granted, you live a lot happier life."

After starring on her own show, her career broadened. She became the voice of "Gossip Girl," got crackling electrical superpowers on "Heroes," and landed her first big film role as the dumper Sarah Marshall in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Kristen Bell: Sloth Princess

It would not be an exaggeration to divide time into the pre-"Frozen" world and the post-"Frozen" world. Disney's ice princess movie, centering on the bond between sisters Anna and Elsa (Idina Menzel) and featuring one of the greatest bad guy twists of all time, changed the fabric of Disney movies in how it flipped the script on traditional princess stories. It became a massive cultural phenomenon, in no small part because of the awkward, far-from-perfect Princess Anna.

Kristen Bell told Refinery29 that she had a lot of input on Anna. At first, the character was "kind of snooty and very girly," but Bell wanted to see the princess she needed as a kid: one who wasn't prim and proper, who was a little clumsy, and who "led with her heart above anything else and would never question it."

"Frozen" was great, but for many fans, the key Bell moment will always be her going to pieces over having a sloth come to her birthday party. She went on "Ellen" in 2012 — the year before "Frozen" released — and showed a video of her breaking down from excitement over meeting a sloth. After the video went viral, the story came full circle when Bell got to voice the sloth Priscilla in the hilarious DMV scene in Disney's "Zootopia" in 2016. She only had two words, but she jumped at the chance. 

The film's writers told SlashFilm they considered Bell after seeing her on "Ellen."

Eleanor Shellstrop had a little bit of Kristen Bell in her all along

Kristen Bell transitions easily between witty, cult TV and broadly appealing blockbusters. Of her acting roles, she told You Magazine, "One secret is saying yes a lot. When you think things are beneath you, you miss out on a lot of fun." 

Well, "The Good Place" is the unlikely combination of hilarious fun and deep moral philosophy. Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop, a mediocre person who didn't do much good in life, but never, like, murdered anyone. She's accidentally sent to The Good Place in the afterlife, where she decides to try and become good enough to earn her place there.

On the surface, Shellstrop is the opposite of Bell, who's regularly involved with charitable organizations, but they share a similar philosophy. Bell said, "Being good involves practice. If you choose it consistently, it starts to become second nature. I strive to promote happiness and alleviate suffering however I can. How we relate to one another is important."

Bell's career may have taken a leap from a banana to saving the whole of humanity in the afterlife, but some things haven't changed.