Actress Hilarie Burton launched herself out of obscurity and into celebrity by winning a national competition. In 2000 — as a student at Fordham University, a Jesuit college in New York — Burton signed up for a Total Request Live contest to interview celebs at the annual MTV Music Video Awards. Because that position reportedly brought with it some disparaging treatment at the hands of obnoxious celebrities, it toughened Burton up; that spunk, when coupled with Burton’s genial on-camera presence and photogenic qualities, paved the way for an acting career, doubtless made possible by the exposure of the MTV gig.
The WB’s popular drama series One Tree Hill marked Burton’s most first major endeavor; she played Peyton Sawyer, a gorgeous teenager who is attracted to the lower-middle-class but warm-hearted local boy Lucas (Chad Michael Murray). Meanwhile, the actress also managed to branch off into films as well, starting with a plum role in Cameron Watson’s beautifully crafted, small-town Miramax drama Our Very Own (2005). Burton later worked for Beth Schacter in that director’s teen-oriented comedy Normal Adolescent Behavior (2007) and for Blair Witch helmer Daniel Myrick in his supernatural thriller Solstice. In 2008, Burton scored her first major Hollywood film role, playing Deborah Owens, opposite Dakota Fanning and others, in the high-profile movie adaptation The Secret Life of Bees, based on the best-selling Sue Monk Kidd novel.