Ken Jeong and Other Stars Who Would Be Rich, Even If They Weren’t Famous
Actor Ken Jeong recently shocked fans as he dove to save a seizing audience member during a comedy performance in Arizona. The doctor-turned comedian, who is well-known for his role as Mr. Chow in The Hangover trilogy, gave up his practice long ago to pursue his dream of acting.
Jeong isn’t the only celebrity who could have made a hefty salary had acting failed him. These eight television personalities have Ph.D.s, multiple degrees, and activist experience that would have set them up for life.
1. Emma Watson
The Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast star has an approximate net worth of $70 million and is one of the highest-paid actresses in the world. However, we think she would have done just fine had she solely relied on her bachelor’s degree from Brown University.
Watson graduated from Brown with a degree in English literature and also became a certified yoga and meditation instructor during her university years. She launched HeforShe at the U.N. in 2014 and continues her activist work on gender equality to this day.
Next: He took four times the normal course load while filming blockbuster hits.
2. James Franco
One of the University of California, Los Angeles’ notable alumni, the elder Franco brother isn’t known to stand still. He re-enrolled at UCLA in 2006 and got permission to take up to 62 credits each semester (compared to the standard 12). Franco graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a 4.0 GPA.
He didn’t stop with his bachelor’s degree. Franco moved to New York and simultaneously attended Columbia’s MFA writing program and NYU’s art school’s filmmaking program. He’s currently a Ph.D. student at Yale University and also attended RISD for a period of time. Franco has taught film classes at USC, UCLA, and NYU, among other institutions.
Next: Her education clearly contributed to her successful career.
3. Rachel Maddow
The MSNBC television host had a number of degrees before she had The Rachel Maddow Show. In 1994 she graduated from Stanford University with a degree in public policy and earned the John Gardner Fellowship for leadership and public service.
She was awarded two scholarships for postgrad study — the Rhodes Scholarship and Marshall Scholarship — and attended the University of Oxford where she graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in politics.
Next: One of acting’s bad boys was almost a lawyer.
4. Gerard Butler
The Scottish actor had a rough relationship with his family but excelled in school nonetheless. He was head boy at his high school, attended University of Glasgow School of Law, and was president of the university’s law society.
He worked as a trainee lawyer in Edinburgh but couldn’t shake the feeling he wanted to pursue the acting passion he began as a teenager in the Scottish Youth Theatre. “When I started out, I’m not sure I was actually in it for the right reasons,” Butler admitted. “I wanted very much to be famous.”
Next: This actress probably didn’t have to reach far to channel her genius character.
5. Mayim Bialik
The Big Bang Theory actress is more similar to her character Dr. Amy Farrrah Fowler than most people know: She too has a neuroscience degree. Bialik was accepted at UCLA, Harvard, and Yale, and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience with Hebrew and Jewish studies minors at UCLA.
She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2007 and completed her dissertation on patients with Prader-Willi syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Next: Bohemian Rhapsody and an astrophysics degree actually go hand-in-hand.
6. Brian May
Queen’s lead guitarist received his BSc Honors degree in physics and a Ph.D. in astrophysics at Imperial College in London. Superfans know of his love of science and technology … they need only look at the electric guitar he designed in the 60’s to elicit his signature sound.
May is a visiting researcher at his alma mater and co-authored two studies on the Big Bang. “I have no doubt that Brian May would have had a brilliant career in science had he completed his Ph.D. in 1971,” astrophysicist Dr. Garik Israelian said. “Nevertheless, as a fan of Queen, I am glad that he left science temporarily.”
Next: His medical background came in handy during a live performance.
7. Ken Jeong
The lead actor, creator, writer, and producer of Dr. Ken brought his character’s career to life using his own medical background to help a seizing fan during one of his sets. Jeong assisted and stayed with the woman until an ambulance came, then proceeded to finish his comedy show.
Jeong received his bachelor’s degree from Duke University. He went on to get his M.D. at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Ochsner Medical Center while simultaneously working on his stand-up comedy routines. He became licensed to practice in California but gave up a medical career to act.
Next: She may play the ditzy ‘Friend,’ but this actress is seriously smart.
8. Lisa Kudrow
Her Friends character Phoebe Buffay may appear a crayon short of a box, but actress Lisa Kudrow has a smart head on her shoulders. She received a B.A. in biology from Vassar College with the intention of following in her father’s footsteps. (Dr. Lee Kudrow is a world-renowned headache specialist.)
Kudrow worked with her father for eight years and earned research credit on a study on left-handed individuals developing migraines.
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