When it comes to sports and Hollywood, we usually think of male athletes turning their on-the-field success into a film career. But what about female athletes? Over the years, a select few have crossed over and become successful actors in the entertainment industry. Here are the top 10 female athletes who have had successful careers in Hollywood.
1. Ronda Rousey—Mixed Martial Arts Fighter
Ronda Rousey has made a huge impact in both the sports and entertainment worlds. She is a former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo (bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing). After her retirement from MMA in 2016, Rousey moved into acting. She has appeared in films such as The Expendables 3 (2014), Furious 7 (2015), Mile 22 (2018), and the upcoming Marvel film The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. She has also had roles in television shows such as Blindspot (2015-16), 9-1-1 (2017-18), and GLOW (2017-18).
2. Gina Carano—Mixed Martial Artist
Gina Carano was one of the first women to make the transition from professional MMA fighter to actor. Carano was a pioneer in the sport, having competed in the first-ever sanctioned female MMA bout in 2006. She retired from the sport in 2009 and made her acting debut in the 2011 action film Haywire, which earned her critical acclaim. She has also appeared in movies such as Fast & Furious 6 (2013) and Deadpool (2016), and in television shows such as The Mandalorian (2019-present).
3. Danica Patrick—Race Car Driver
Danica Patrick is the considerable successful female race car driver in history. She has competed in the IndyCar series and NASCAR, becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race in 2008. After retiring from racing in 2018, Patrick transitioned to acting. She has appeared in films such as I, Tonya (2018) and has had recurring roles in shows such as The Good Place (2018-19) and The Goldbergs (2019).
4. Laila Ali—Boxer
Laila Ali is a retired professional boxer and the daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. She is the first and only female to hold the WBC, WIBA, and IWBF Super Middleweight titles. Ali retired from the sport in 2007 and has since become an actress and television host. She has appeared in films such as Ali (2001), American Gladiators (2008-09), and Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018). She has also appeared in television shows such as NCIS (2013) and Bizaardvark (2018).
5. Gabrielle Reece—Volleyball Player
Gabrielle Reece is a retired professional beach volleyball player and one of the most popular athletes of the 1990s. She is a three-time MVP of the AVP Tour, a four-time beach volleyball national champion, and an Olympic silver medalist. Following her retirement from volleyball in 2003, Reece began to pursue acting. She has appeared in films such as Into the Blue (2005) and The Game Plan (2007). She has also had recurring roles in television shows such as The Comeback (2005) and 90210 (2008).
6. Michelle Kwan—Figure Skater
Michelle Kwan is a retired figure skater and nine-time U.S. national champion. She is a two-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion. After retiring from figure skating in 2006, Kwan turned to acting. She has appeared in movies such as Blades of Glory (2007) and Ice Princess (2005) and in TV shows such as The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (2006-07) and Just Shoot Me (2003).
7. Summer Sanders—Swimmer
Summer Sanders is a retired swimmer and four-time Olympic medalist. She is the first and only female to succeed in four gold medals in a single Olympics (the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona). After retiring from swimming in 1995, Sanders moved into acting. She has had roles in films such as The Little Rascals (1994) and The Waterboy (1998), and in television shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-97) and The Drew Carey Show (1999).
8. Maria Sharapova—Tennis Player
Maria Sharapova is a retired professional tennis player and five-time Grand Slam champion. She retired from the sport in 2020 and has since become an actress. She has appeared in films such as The Intern (2015) and My Uncle Rafael (2012) and in television shows such as Law & Order: SVU (2016).
9. Mia Hamm—Soccer Player
Mia Hamm is an ex-soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist. She is widely considered the greatest female soccer player of all time. After retiring from soccer in 2004, Hamm moved into acting. She has appeared in films such as The Game Plan (2007) and A League of Their Own (1992) and in television shows such as The Simpsons (2006) and Everybody Loves Raymond (1999).
10. Serena Williams—Tennis Player
Serena Williams is a skilled tennis player and one of the most remarkable athletes of all time. She is a 23-time Grand Slam champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Williams has also ventured into acting, appearing in films such as Pixels (2015) and The House Bunny (2008) and in television shows such as ER (2006) and Law & Order: SVU (2006).
These 10 female athletes have all had successful careers in both sports and entertainment. They have proven that you don’t have to choose between the two and that you can be successful in both. They have all blazed a trail for future athletes looking to make the transition from sports to Hollywood.