Zac Efron's Epic Dating History: From a High School Romance to a Picture Perfect Relationship

These days the High School Musical alum is appearing in pictures with Australian model Vanessa Valladares, but he's left a long trail of former costars in his wake.

By Sarah Grossbart Oct 18, 2020 2:00 PMTags
Watch: Happy Birthday Zac Efron: Live from E! Rewind

As his 30th birthday edged into view, Zac Efron was ready to get serious—ideally with a woman adept at being her authentic self. 

Despite more than a handful of relationships in his periphery, "I didn't think much about settling down until recently," he admitted to Cosmopolitan in 2017. "Now that I'm getting closer to my 30s, I'm around some great relationships and I've seen expert couples at work. I'm realizing that you have to find your own happiness before you can make somebody else happy." 

Having experienced a healthy mix of couplings both long-term (hello, Zanessa!) and of the decidedly casual variety (who can forget his spell of summer lovin' with Michelle Rodriguez?) he had a solid-ish idea of what he was looking for. "I think the most important thing for me in a relationship is honesty," he noted to Glamour. "In the beginning, sometimes girls don't show their genuine personalities." 

Zac Efron's Shirtless Pics

Other than a healthy dose of candor and a lack of gameplay, he just felt he'd know when the right girl entered his universe. Asked to describe his dream woman while promoting his buddy comedy That Awkward Moment with Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan in 2014, he told E! News, "I have an open mind. You don't know, there's one out there that you meet, you don't know why, but they're perfect." 

And as he celebrates his 33rd birthday today, he may have just stumbled upon his ideal woman. The star of Netflix's globe-trotting romp Down to Earth had popped into Byron Bay General Store & Cafe this June when he left with more than a bite to eat. "Zac met Ness earlier in the summer," a source told People of his new flame, Australian model Vanessa Valladares. "He started seeing her in July and they have been together ever since," an insider told E! News. "She spends the night at his rental house all the time. They have fun together."

That much was apparent when the two ventured out for a casual oceanfront lunch Sept. 4 hand-in-hand. 


Should the union pan out, it'd be a bit of a change of pace for Efron who's made a bit of a habit out of romancing his costars. (Which is hard to find fault with considering how else does Zac Efron meet an eligible partner? The one time he tried his hand at Tinder, "nobody swiped me!" he admitted to The Sunday Times. "They thought it was fake.")

In fact, it's become so expected that his chemistry with leading ladies might turn out to be of the method-acting variety that everyone from Emily Ratajkowski to Taylor Swift has had to dispel the notion that they were a thing. He and the 10-time Grammy winner only voiced parts in the 2012's computer-animated musical fantasy The Lorax and still Swift had to tell Ellen DeGeneres, "He's awesome, but we are not a couple." 

However, plenty of other coworkers have found themselves transfixed with the California native's seemingly painted-on abs, piercingly blue eyes, perfectly swept locks—and did we mention his abs? Here's your comprehensive guide to all of the ladies who have fallen under Efron's spell. 

Vanessa Hudgens

Save for a high school girlfriend Efron briefly mentioned in a 2014 interview with E! News, his onscreen High School Musical paramour was his first love. Just 16 (her) and 17 (him) when they met on the set of the beloved Disney hit in 2005, the teenage sweethearts unbelievably seemed primed to truly make a go of it, enjoying five idyllic years of red carpets, Coachella music festivals and even an appearance at that ultimate Hollywood prom: the Oscars. 

Having a partner at her side made navigating her meteoric rise to fame a little easier to handle, Hudgens would later admit. "The relationship kept me grounded," the 31-year-old told Shape, "and because I was with someone who knew me so well, I didn't need to try to be someone I'm not."

Sadly, two years after the HSM crew graduated from school in 2008, the couple called a wrap on their young love. "They were together for so long," an insider told E! News at the time. "It just ran its course." Hudgens was more apt to blame their suddenly conflicting schedules, telling Shape in that 2011 chat, "Long-distance relationships are hard no matter what. When you don't have face-to-face time, it's just different. Having an iPhone helped, but it just wasn't the same." (And of course text-based communications come with their own set of pitfalls.) 

But while there may have been no hard feelings, there's also little nostalgia between the pair. Asked if they'd kept in touch Hudgens told Access Hollywood, "I completely lost contact with him."

Lily Collins

Long before they filmed their Ted Bundy flick Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, Efron and the 31-year-old Brit enjoyed a largely unconfirmed romance, spotted on a series of dates in 2012 and 2013 including an outing to Disneyland that saw the pair walking hand-in-hand. (As one does in the happiest place on earth.) Though the chemistry ultimately fizzled, their friendship remained, thankfully making it not awkward at all for them to play at being lovers in the Netflix biopic. 

"I used to do reporting for Nickelodeon, so I literally interviewed him at an orange carpet event years ago," Collins told E! News of filming alongside Efron. "We've been friends ever since, so we finally got to work together."

In fact, Efron credits the actress, who stars as Bundy's longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, with boosting his portrayal of the psychopathic serial killer. "I remember a few days into filming, I just came to work to watch on set because [Lily] was having scenes with Haley Joel Osment, and I was watching her performance and I was blown away," Efron recalled to E! News. "She was bringing it, and this was, like, the fourth of fifth day of filming. I was like, I really need to step up my game. Lily is killing it."

Halston Sage

Much like with Collins, Efron never confirmed he was seeing his comely Neighbors costar (naturally the two played a couple in the frat boy flick), but a source told E! News they got quite close while working on the comedy in 2013. 

"They are definitely an item," the source said in April 2014. "They were seeing each other a bit during filming of their movie together. Her friends love him and say he is so sweet. He's really good to her."

Alas, by that summer, he and the 27-year-old had separated, making way for his fling with Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez

That's amore? The unlikely pair shocked fans when photographs were released of them indulging in a steamy make out session during a July 2014 vacation on the Italian island of Sardinia. But insiders swore the coupling wasn't all that surprising. Having been introduced to the Fast & Furious franchise star, 42, two years earlier by mutual pal Mohammed Al Turki, "Zac has always been attracted to her," an insider told E! News at the time. "She's one of those people that everyone likes, she just gets on with all kinds of people and doesn't take the fame thing too seriously. Zac likes the fact that she is laid-back and he can relate to her. They understand one another."

As it turns out, though, a shared outlook does not necessarily make for lasting romance. By the next month, the duo's fling was all washed up. "It had just been a casual hookup for Zac and Michelle," noted an insider. "They were having fun."

Longevity was never the goal, Rodriguez hinted to Interview magazine the following January, telling Milla Jovovich, "I'm a lone wolf. I run by myself on most things. I've got lots of really great friends, but the thought of being in a long-lasting relationship? Psh, I couldn't last more than six months with somebody."

Sami Miró

For Efron, the end of the 2014 summer season brought with it a hot new romance. For Miró, a former Junior Olympic gymnast who worked as a marketing exec before landing her first modeling contract, the sudden onslaught of public scrutiny was an adjustment.

"Um, it's definitely different. I think that you have to take that [kind of attention] with a grain of salt, and put yourself in other people's positions," she told Elle in March 2015. "It kind of just comes with the territory, and I know there's no really changing that, so you have to just embrace it...I'm not trying to hide anything in my life. If I was dating someone who wasn't in the limelight, I might have more photos on [Instagram] of our relationship, but I do think it's important. I mean, it's what is going on in my life, and I think that my social media can still represent that."

As such, the twosome didn't make efforts to hide their union, acknowledging their September anniversary on Instagram in 2015. But by the following April, "the spark had died," one insider told E! News at the time, explaining why Efron decided to end things with the 32-year-old. "It wasn't an easy breakup. Distance and work schedules got in the way with their relationship and Zac wanted to focus on his career."

Alexandra Daddario

Not long after Efron declared his intentions to get serious about his dating life in an interview with Cosmopolitan, fans began speculating he'd already settled on his next mate: True Detective alum Daddario, his costar in 2017's sudsy Baywatch remake. 

The 34-year-old sorta kinda shot down the rumors while speaking to E! News' Jason Kennedy at the Billboard Music Awards, saying, "We work together closely; he's my love interest in the film. I understand why people would go crazy over something like that, but Zac and I are very good friends."

But the fact that she couldn't resist adding, "We would have very blue-eyed children, wouldn't we?" coupled with their continued Instagram flirting ("Two hot bitches," Efron commented on a post of Daddario with pooch Levon, actually a male terrier) kept the chatter alive. 

Sarah Bro

For a minute it seemed the star of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile just might go the distance with the professional swimmer. Just one night after he and the L.A.-based athlete—the 24-year-old competed in the 4x100 meter relay for her native Denmark at the 2016 Olympics—posted separate Instagram photos of themselves at a March 2019 L.A. Kings hockey game, they turned up at the UFC 235 fight in Las Vegas. 

Arriving together, they "looked like they were having a great time," an onlooker told E! News, adding that while they weren't overly affectionate with one another, they left the arena as a pair. But by January 2020, their relationship wasn't holding water, Us Weekly reporting it "just wasn't working out. She came back to L.A., and it never got going again."

Remembering Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens' Romance

As for he and Valladares, while the two share a love of nature, a passion for travel and an affinity for work in front of the camera, it remains to be seen if she has passed Efron's toughest test: the approval of his 28-year-old equally-easy-on-the-eyes sibling Dylan Efron

"If I'm dating someone, one of the few people I need to weigh in on the situation is my brother," the actor explained to Cosmo. "We live together, and we're different in a lot of ways, but he's really grounded. He lived a more normal life than I did growing up, so he's a great barometer for me. He'll be like, 'Are you sure you're happy? Is this what you really want?' Having my little brother around is a really great thing."

Hopefully Valladares will agree. 

(Originally published March 21, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)