It wasn’t always bright lights and red carpets for some stars. Actually, we must give credit where credit is due. Even the richest and most beloved Hollywood stars had to grunt through an odd job or two to make rent before becoming wealthy in their own right.
As average Americans, we often wish we could throw caution to the wind and tackle the careers we dreamed of as children. But the vast majority of us never actually take that leap. Our visions of a fruitful life as actors, rock stars, and social influencers get clouded by reality. Bills are like cement cinder blocks tied to our ankles, fear can be paralyzing, and a normal job provides stability.
But these 15 celebrities were willing to take the good with the bad when it came to employment — if it meant funding their path to superstardom. See which of Hollywood’s elite bit the job bullet and stopped at nothing to make their dreams come true.
1. Johnny Depp
Before becoming an international heartthrob, Johnny Depp was a really bad pen salesman. He confessed to selling ballpoint pens to people over the phone by offering them grandfather clocks and trips to tropical resorts (which were embellished lies used to make a sale). But after feeling immoral about his first sale, he confessed the scam to his customer and quit the job.
Next: The celebrity who worked with the dead
2. Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg used to be a mortuary beautician, who only landed the job because of her real-life experience as a licensed beautician for the living. But prior to making the dead look presentable for send-off, she was also a brick layer, biding her time until acting took hold. Later, she won an Oscar for her role as a psychic in the film, Ghost.
Next: See who had a brief career in the pornography industry.
3. Jon Hamm
Jon Hamm went from struggling actor to Mad Men superstar. But to get there, he found plenty of creative ways to make a living, including teaching high school and working as a set dresser for a porn film. Hamm described his work in an interview with The Guardian, “You gotta move cameras around and ashtrays; and continuity is apparently an issue.”
Next: The Grey’s Anatomy star who has a hidden talent
4. Patrick Dempsey
Patrick Dempsey got his first taste of the limelight while in high school as a competitive juggler, and at one point he wanted to go to clown school, according to Wetpaint. He apparently was good, too. He actually came in third place at the National Jugglers Convention.
Next: See who danced their way into Hollywood.
5. Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum worked as a stripper after dropping out of the University of South Florida and being lured into a life of perpetual partying. When he explained his interesting choice of employment to reporters, he highlighted the industry’s potential to make good money. “On a good night, [I made] 150 bucks. On a bad night, 70 bucks — even 50 at times.”
Since then, he’s been so open about his exotic past that he even made a movie — or two — about it. Thanks to Magic Mike, Tatum doesn’t worry about making a living any longer.
Next: This star got creative in order to make a living.
6. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt dropped out of the University of Missouri just shy of a degree to pursue his acting dream. In a feat of financial desperation, Pitt worked a bunch of odd jobs, including driving strippers around in a limo and dressing as a human chicken for El Pollo Loco’s advertising efforts in Los Angeles. Thankfully, it didn’t take him long to go from poultry to People’s Sexiest Man Alive.
Next: Why George Clooney had to make a career change
7. George Clooney
George Clooney tried out for the Cincinnati Reds when he was younger. But when his baseball career didn’t pan out like he’d hoped, he resorted to working in the tobacco fields with his father. He also spent some time as an employee in a women’s shoe store before striking it big in Hollywood.
Next: The Scandal star who worked as a nanny for Connie Britton
8. Katie Lowes
Anyone who’s worked with children knows being a nanny can be a pretty sweet gig, especially when it involves one of Hollywood’s elite. Before Katie Lowes landed her recurring role in ABC’s Scandal, she paid the bills by being a nanny to Connie Britton’s son. Britton told reporters though she runs a tight ship, working as her nanny isn’t nearly as rough as the torture Lowes endures on set when in character.
Next: From slaughterhouse to main stage
9. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne sliced off part of his thumb working as a plumber’s assistant at age 15. Then, he landed a gig killing cows at a slaughterhouse. Years later, he ditched the odd jobs and began slaughtering our eardrums with heavy metal anthems as the front man for Black Sabbath. Maybe it’s his childhood work history that caused him to go vegan for a short time in 2011.
Next: Another singer with a morbid professional history
10. Rod Stewart
Whoopi and Ozzy are not the only celebrities with morbid professional histories. Rod Stewart was employed as a grave digger in a London cemetery before ever becoming the international singing sensation he is today.
Business Insider published a quote from Rod Stewart: The New Biography, claiming he hoped this job would purge his fear of dying. “He had suffered from nightmares about death from a very early age and so thought, as an impressionable teenager, that perhaps getting as close as he could to death, actually digging out holes to be filled by real bodies, he could rid himself of that fear.”
Next: Jerry Springer’s political past
11. Jerry Springer
After meeting New York Sen. Robert Kennedy at a dinner party, Jerry Springer went on to work with Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968. Springer went on to serve two terms as mayor of Cincinnati.
So naturally, after a successful political career, the next plausible course of action was a tabloid talk-show centered on controversial relationship issues: The Jerry Springer Show. But in Springer’s defense, the show originally aired as a politically charged show, featuring high-profile guests talking about key social issues.
Next: Hugh Jackman’s done clowning around.
12. Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman’s path to fame and fortune was not a predictable one. He once worked as a gym teacher who moonlighted as a party clown charging $50 a pop. But his time spent molding the minds of our youth must not have been effective because a former student, who then became a Hollywood reporter, once failed to recognize his former teacher during a red carpet event.
Next: Jennifer Aniston’s lowest moment
13. Jennifer Aniston
Before earning $1 million per episode of Friends, Jennifer Aniston was forced to get a job as a bike messenger in New York City. She told reporters, “I was 19. [My lowest moment was] probably driving into a door that opened. I’m very uncoordinated and extraordinarily klutzy.”
Next: A job offer for Dwayne Wade
14. Dwayne Wade
NBA giant Dwyane Wade once worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken as a teenager. And though a job in the fast food industry is not necessarily odd, the offer to return to his position during the NBA lockout was.
After Wade’s playful Twitter post about needing a job during the lockout, KFC U.S. general manager John Cywinski offered him a job and pledged to donate $250,000 to the company scholarship fund in Wade’s name in a statement on its website: “Our original coach, the legendary Colonel Sanders, knew a thing or two about buckets. And who knows, if you make a KFC-team comeback, we might just share some of his secrets with you.”
Next: A banana costume
15. Megan Fox
Before latching onto the hearts of teenagers in Transformers, Megan Fox dressed in a giant banana suit and stood on the side of the road to advertise a local smoothie shop. She told Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime show this was the only real job she ever had.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.