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Meryl Streep Young: See How Much the Actress Has Changed Over the Years

From hit TV shows, to blockbuster movies this actress has done it all! 

Meryl Streep, a name synonymous with excellence in acting, has captivated audiences worldwide with her unparalleled talent and versatility. She’s led a long and interesting life and is very grateful for all the opportunities she’s had. Streep told the The Washington Post, “Your happiness is sitting in the room with you if you choose to see it there. If you don’t, it’s invisible and not there. You can locate it if you choose to, the happiness you already have.”

She’s been nominated for 21 Academy Award nominations, and appeared in over 50 movies. Robert De Niro has said she is his favorite actress to work with.

Streep young in 1976
Meryl Streep in 1976 Jack Mitchell / Contributor/Getty

She’s balanced career and motherhood and has said, “There is no road map for life. You don’t know who’s going to get sick, who’ll be born with the thing that needs to be dealt with. All you can do is live inside your own life. In my life I’m grateful to have as much as I’ve had.”

Born Mary Louise Streep on June 22, 1949, in Summit, New Jersey, she emerged as a beacon of cinematic brilliance from an early age. Raised in Bernardsville, New Jersey, by her parents, Mary Wilkinson Streep and Harry William Streep Jr., Streep’s upbringing laid the foundation for her future stardom. Her mother was an artist and her father, a pharmaceutical executive, instilled in her a strong work ethic and a passion for the arts.

Early life and education

Early life and education
Meryl Streep in 1970 Art Zelin / Contributor/Getty

From her formative years, Streep showed a keen interest in performing arts. She attended Bernards High School, where her talent was on display in various school productions. Streep’s dedication and natural talent earned her a scholarship to Vassar College, where she continued to hone her acting skills. Later, she pursued a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale School of Drama, solidifying her commitment to a career in acting.

The spark of stardom

The spark of stardom
Meryl Streep at a photoshoot in 1979 Jack Mitchell / Contributor/Getty

Streep’s journey to stardom began with her debut on the New York stage. She garnered critical acclaim for her performances in numerous theater productions, displaying a remarkable range that caught the attention of casting directors and filmmakers. Streep’s breakthrough in cinema came with her role in the 1977 film Julia, where she showcased her ability to embody complex characters with depth and authenticity.

Meryl Streep young And Dustin Hoffman at the Oscars in 1979
Meryl Streep And Dustin Hoffman at the Oscars in 1979 Bertrand Rindoff Petroff / Contributor/Getty

In 1979, she was nominated for her first Golden Globe and Academy Award for her performance in The Deer Hunter. While she didn’t win either, she established herself as a superstar to watch.

Meryl Streep young

Meryl Streep young January 1978
Meryl Streep in January 1978Jack Mitchell / Contributor/Getty

In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Streep’s career soared to new heights with a string of iconic performances. Her portrayal of Joanna Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, marking the beginning of her illustrious journey as one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actresses.

Meryl Streep young in 1988
Meryl Streep in 1988Images Press / Contributor/Getty

Streep’s unmatched talent and dedication to her craft propelled her to become a sought-after leading lady, gracing the silver screen with memorable performances like in 1981’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman in which she won a Golden Globe award. She continued the streak with her Golden Globe win in Sophie’s Choice, where she played a mother who had to decide which of her children would be killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Meryl Streep young (Meryl Streep Young) 1980s
Meryl Streep gets her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1998) Frank Trapper / Contributor/Getty; Frank Trapper / Contributor/Getty

Next, Streep played real-life whistleblower and activist Karen Silkwood in 1983’s Silkwood and was nominated for another Golden Globe. Two years later she was nominated again for her role in Out of Africa, in which she played Karen von Blixen opposite Robert Redford. The end of the 80s saw Streep nominated for yet another Golden Globe for the 1988 movie A Cry in the Dark. In that film, she played the wife of a pastor who is charged with the murder of her infant daughter. Her chilling performance was even more captivating because the movie was based on the true story of Lindy Chamberlain.

Meryl Streep continues her success

Throughout the 1990s, and into the 21st century, Meryl Streep continued to deliver stellar performances across a diverse range of roles. In 1995 she played an Iowa woman who has an affair with a National Geographic photographer in the hit movie The Bridges of Madison County. Then in 2002, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the The Hours, (but lost out to costar Nicole Kidman). In 2006 she played one of her most iconic roles, that of ice-cold fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly, in the movie Devil Wears Prada.

Meryl Streep continues her success  2006
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Ironically, Streep almost didn’t land the part because people considered her more of a dramatic actress. The movie’s producer, Wendy Finerman, told the Hollywood Gold podcast that, “People thought we were crazy. I mean, I had people call me up and say, ‘Are you out of your mind? She’s never been funny a day in her life.’” However, Finerman persisted and was glad she did. “I think that casting Streep was part of the fun of the unexpected.” Of course, Streep’s performance made the movie a run-away hit.

 young in 1983
Meryl Streep in 1983Barry King / Contributor/Getty

In 2008 she played the fun-loving mother preparing to send her daughter down the aisle while dancing to ABBA songs in the hit Mamma Mia! (which garnered her another Golden Globe nomination).  She quickly became a fan favorite for her role in Big Little Lies, in which she starred opposite Nicole Kidman. Most recently, Streep could be seen in 2023’s Only Murders in the Building, in which she plays murder suspect Loretta Durkin. She received a Golden Globe nomination for that role, which added up to 33 Golden Globe nominations in her career. The most of any actors in the industry. Which is not surprising to her fans.

Meryl Streep’s private life

private life Don Gummer
Meryl Streep and Don Gummer in 2018 Kevin Mazur / Contributor/Getty

Meryl Streep married Don Gummer in 1978 and together they raised four children: Henry, Mamie, Grace and Louisa. In 2023, Gummer and Streep made the surprising announcement that they were separating after 45 years of marriage.

When asked by The Washington Post which is harder, being a mom or being an actor, Streep said, “Mothering. Definitely. Acting — that’s praise, money, fulfillment. Mothering — they don’t even say, Thank you. They don’t even clear the table unless you say, Excuuuse me . . .Real life, there’s no comparison to acting. I can’t really call acting work, since it’s secretly so fun.”

Read on for more about your favorite actresses!

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