Kicking off his career as a model at the age of 10, Somerhalder has managed to maintain stardom status over three decades later. The American model turned TV star is popularly known for the bad boy character in 'The Vampire Diaries' and his love for conservation, environment and animals. Interestingly, his childhood interests were initially in outdoor activities such as horse riding and swimming and he never thought he would turn out to be a showbiz star.
Ian Joseph Somerhalder was born in Covington, Louisiana. His mother Edna was a massage therapist while his father Robert Somerhalder worked as an independent contractor. Robert was of French and English descent whereas Edna’s ancestry was more of Irish and Choctaw. Somerhalder is the second born in his family of three children: elder brother Robert, also known as Bob, and younger sister Robyn. His brother is a woodworker but Robyn found her passion in journalism. Sadly his parents divorced when Ian was 13 years old and Edna took over the responsibility of raising her three children. Her mother was an organic foods dieter and she influenced Somerhalder’s decision to maintain a strict and healthy diet to date.
As a young boy, his main interests revolved outdoor activities that included boating, swimming, horse riding and fishing. In fact, Somerhalder confesses that, if by all means he never turned out an actor, he would be a professional in biology, writing or advertising.
Somerhalder and his siblings were raised strict Catholics and he went ahead to attend St. Pauls’ School, a private Catholic school in the neighborhood. Ian later joined Mandeville High School in Louisiana. In school, Ian developed appreciation for theater and he joined the drama class. He also went ahead and joined the local community theatre group.
Given his perfect body statue and handsome face, Somerhalder’s mother encouraged him to take up modeling. Luck was surely on his side after he signed a contract with Ford Agency at a tender age of 10. After the agreement, he started landing modeling jobs that required him to travel to New York every summer.
Several companies were thrilled by Somerhalder’s prowess in modeling and he soon started receiving invitations to jobs that required him to travel to Paris, Milan and London. Some of the labels Ian was honored to work with include Calvin Klein, Gucci, American Eagle Outfitters, Versace and Guess and many more. Despite the success he was getting from the modeling jobs, Somerhalder decided to pause his contracts when he was in junior high school in order to concentrate more on academics and sporting activities in school.
After a while, Somerhalder started appreciating his stage performances with the local theatre group more than his teen modeling career. To him, acting explored his inner motivations and feelings, creating great opportunities to become a sought after star. There and then, he realized that his future no longer lied in modeling but acting. At the age of 17, he enrolled for an acting course in New York. Ian was very much committed to the acting craft especially because his coach, William Esper, believed in him.
Somerhalder’s acting career officially kicked off in 1999 when he worked as an extra in the film Black & White. The club scene of this film had more than 400 people, but when a talent manager came visiting a client on the set, he quickly spotted Somerhalder. The manager soon met with Ian, and he not only signed the aspiring actor to a contract but also helped him land a role in the TV series Now and Again.
In 2000, Somerhalder landed a role in Young Americans, a WB series spinned-off from Dawson’s Creek. Ian played character Hamilton Fleming, a student and also the son of the dean at New Rawley Academy who is attracted to Jake. Unfortunately, the series was short lived and Ian had to look for other acting jobs in order to survive in the competitive industry. Luckily, he was immediately hired for guest roles in small screen productions that included Smallville, Life As A House, Anatomy of a Hate Crime, Changing Hearts and Law and Order.
In 2002, he was cast in The Rules of Attraction where he played the bisexual character Paul Denton alongside James Van Der Beek who played as Sean. The film was initially a satirical black comedy novel that focused on rowdy and spoiled college students in college. The story was then made into a film and directed by Roder Avary and it indeed turned to be a great success.
Despite the various supporting and guest roles he had landed so far, none of them elevated him to stardom. His breakthrough nonetheless came in 2004 after he featured in the hit TV drama series Lost where he played Boone Carlyle, chief operating officer of a wedding planning company and a plane crash survivor who falls in love with his spoiled step sister. Ian appeared in 28 episodes of the film and his character was positively reviewed across the board. He was also nominated by Teen Choice Awards in the Choice TV Breakout Performance category as well as an award for Outstanding Performance by Ensemble in a Drama Series category from Screen Actors Guild Award.
Somerhalder returned to film in 2009 with a role in The Tournament where he portrayed an assassin who participates in a lethal competition with other assassins.
That same year, he landed a regular acting job in the television drama series The Vampire Diaries which was with no doubt his key to commercial success. He has since then been playing character Damon Salvatore, who started out as an evil vampire falling in love with Elena, his brother’s girlfriend but has since transformed to a more caring character. Ian’s character, bad boy style and nonchalant attitude has received very positive reviews and won the hearts of his female fans across the globe. Since the series premiered on CW in 2009, it has attracted high ratings and this has been followed with Somerhalder receiving several awards and nominations from Teen Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Young Hollywood Awards, Genesis Awards, Environment Awards, International Green Awards, Do Something Awards and Fright Night Awards.
While filming The Vampire Diaries, Somerhalder was also lucky to work as a director in three of its episodes. These include the 2015 episode, The Downward Spiral, The 2016 Days of Future Past and the 2017 We Have History Together.
Although the series is set to end in March 2017, there is no doubt that the 8 years it has been on air will be greatly missed.
In 2010, Ian starred in the American comedy film How To Make Love to a Woman where he played character Daniel Meltzer. Later he landed roles in Time Framed, Caught on Tape and the 2014 film The Anomaly.
In 2014, Somerhalder featured in his debut American documentary television series Years of Living Dangerously which mainly focused on global warming.
Somerhalder is a philanthropist who routinely donates money to humanitarian causes. Some of the foundations and charity groups he supports include, UNEP, Teen Cancer America, The Humane Society and Teen Cancer America.
Somerhalder is an avid conservationist and he founded the Ian Somerhalder Foundation on his 32nd birthday with three goals to fulfill: habit conservation, species protection and green energy initiatives. He also urged his fans to come together and raise funds to support projects that support the environmental welfare.
His drive for environment was also witnessed in July 2011 after he went before the Congress and pleaded for the passing of Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act.
He believes in keeping the environment clean and in April 2010, he was involved in the cleanup after the oil drilling disaster of the Deepwater Horizon. During the welfare, Somerhalder urged the public to help in cleaning the oiled wildlife.
The pretty actor is also an animal rights advocate and this can be testified by his daily tweets that mostly revolve around animals and activism. He supports the St. Tammany Humane Society whose main aim is to provide animals with shelter and other basic needs. He is also a supporter of several animal humanitarian foundations such as Animals Asia, Helen Woodward Animal Centre, Best Friends Animal Centre and Alzheimer’s Association.
It is his love for animals that makes him rescue pets and currently, he has 6 dogs and 2 cats that he cares for in his home. He also has an adopted horse he named Eagle and he calls himself a dad to the adorable animal.
Somerhalder is a supporter of the LGBT movement and the It Gets Better Project which aims at eradicating suicidal cases among gays and lesbians due to discrimination. The project has also been supported by his co stars in The Vampire Diaries as well as The Trevor Project.
Considering that he was raised by a mother who advocated for organic foods, Somerhalder opposes GMO foods and factory farming and instead urges the public to embrace healthy eating.
Somerhalder is also a campaigner for the Los Angeles based media company, RYOT. The company looks into the world’s key global and social issues creating a virtual reality experience for viewers.
Politically, Somerhalder is a liberal democrat. One of the most controversial post that he tweeted during Obama’s re election campaign was ;
“Just read a scary report: Romney was ahead of Obama by 2%. Whatever u believe, trust me this is extremely bad news for our environment & country”
The tweet didn’t go well with some people, most of them stating that he was involving himself in petty politics.
Given his charming looks, Somerhalder has been stealing hearts of many women for over a decade now since he rose to fame. He has been racked to plenty of rumored relationships but he has confirmed a few to be real.
Ian’s love affairs came to the limelight in 2002 after it was rumored that he dated Kate Bosworth. The two co-starred in Young Americans and Rules of Attraction and were alleged to have dated for a few months before splitting up. Immediately after the break up, rumors had it that Ian briefly dated Nicky Hilton from 2003 to 2004.
In 2006 when Somerhalder was filming Lost, he met Maggie Grace in the cast as she played Shannon. The two were said to be dating but none of them confirmed the true copy of the story. However, Maggie once stated that she adored Ian as he was a great person.
It was alleged that in 2009, Somerhalder was briefly involved with Twilight star Ashley Greene after the two were spotted kissing and holding hands during a concert.
In 2010, Somerhalder started dating Nina Dobrev, his The Vampire Diaries co star. Although the two made efforts to take their love life away from the screen, they both confirmed the relationship in 2011. Sadly, the two broke up in 2014.
Next on the line up was actress Nikki Reed. Ian and Nicki started dating in mid 2014 and come February 2015, they announced their engagement. In April the same year, the two wedded in a small but intimate ceremony held at Malibu, California.
In regards to religion, Ian was brought up in a strict Catholic household and also went ahead to attend a Catholic school. However, the TV star has since then diverged his spiritual believes. His role as a blood sucker in The Vampire Diaries is quite controversial with anyone who believes in Christianity.
Besides filming and showbiz, Somerhalder is an investor and entrepreneur. Together with his brother Bob Somerhalder, they opened a furniture shop and named it ‘Built of Barnwood.’ The shop opened its doors in April 2012 and has since been quite profitable.
As a pizza lover, he also co-owns a pizza parlor with his siblings in Idaho which goes by the name McClain’s Pizzeria. To further express his love for the delicacy, he spends some of his time at McClain’s Pizzeria baking pies and greeting his fans.
Written by: Peris Ngaruiya