Career

11 Celebrities Whose Pre-Fame Jobs Will Make You Feel Better About Yours

Rachel McAdams worked at McDonalds for three years. Ashton Kutcher swept cereal dust at a factory to help pay for his living expenses. Jim Carrey worked as a janitor before pursuing his comedy career. So it’s true when they say that overnight success very rarely happens.

It’s nice sometimes to take solace in the fact that some of your favourite and most successful celebrities started at the bottom too and worked their way to the top – and boy did they start low. Here’s some inspiring stories we hope will help you get through your monotonous day job.

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Danny DeVito

After leaving high school, Danny Devito had no intention of going to university, so he decided to follow in his sister’s footsteps and attend beauty school in New Jersey. Danny worked as a licensed hairstylist in his sister’s beauty parlour where he learned to do shampoos and sets; on occasion he was even invited to do the hair of corpses before funerals. The now 71-year-old actor looks back on those days with rose-tinted glasses, telling The Guardian in 2012 that he “seriously enjoyed it” and that “it all worked out” in the end.

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Harrison Ford

Before he became badass archeologist Indiana Jones and droid-fighting pilot Han Solo, Harrison Ford worked summers at a boy scout adventure camp – quite fittingly, Harrison was a counsellor for the prestigious reptile merit badge. He also worked as a sports commentator before becoming a carpenter and building custom furniture.

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Amy Poehler

Known for her work on Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation, comedian Amy Poehler wrote about one of her first part-time jobs in her autobiography Yes Please. Amy worked at a old-timey ice creamery in the summer of 1989, right before she went off to college. She described the job as “hard and physical” as she often spent her days “stacking and wiping and scooping and lifting”. She quit at the end of the summer because, as she puts it, she’d forgotten to charge for whipped cream and a customer once told her she banged the commemorative party drum a little too hard. Luckily it all turned around for Amy once she started improv.

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Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken was a circus lion tamer as a teenager. Let me just repeat that: Christopher Walken was a circus lion tamer. Could that guy be any cooler?

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Chris Pratt

Star of Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt’s career didn’t start off so flash – he was once a door-to-door coupon salesman in a multi-level marketing scheme. Relaying his story to Conan O’Brien, Chris says he enticed his future work pals by putting an ad in the paper that read: “Do you like rock’n’roll music? Do you want to make money? Call me.” Bravo, buddy.

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Nicki Minaj

As a teenager, rapper Nicki Minaj slummed it like the rest of us and picked up a casual job at a fast-food joint. Her teenage years were spent working at American chain Red Lobster, but legend has it she was fired for being rude to customers.

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Tim Allen

Probably the craziest pre-fame career choice by far, actor Tim Allen held many jobs before his Home Improvement days, including running a student radio station and selling sporting goods. But probably his most iconic job was that of a drug dealer. Yes, no joke, Tim Allen was arrested in 1978 at the Kalamazoo International Airport with over 600 grams of cocaine. After serving time, Tim decided to pursue a career in comedy – proving, really, you can overcome any obstacle.

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Rod Stewart

Proving that there is benefit in dropping out of school early in favour of the school of life, so to speak, singer Rod Stewart actually dropped out of high school at the age of 15. He then went on to hold various jobs before breaking into the music industry, including being a silk screen printer and a grave digger. Oooh.

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Kanye West

In the song ‘Spaceship’ from Kanye’s breakout record The College Dropout, Kanye recalls one of his first paid jobs: “Let’s go back, back to the Gap, look at my check, wasn’t no scratch. So if I stole, wasn’t my fault. Yeah I stole, never got caught. They take me to the back and pat me, askin’ me about some khakis”. Oof buddy – admitting you stole from the Gap? Bold move, but not out of character at all.

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Debbie Harry

Bad jobs are part and parcel of growing up – no one knows this more than Blondie leader Debbie Harry who spent a stint of her life as a secretary and waitress at the Playboy Club in New York City. Heart of glass, for sure.

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Johnny Depp

Get this: Johnny Depp, star of Pirates of the Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands, was once a telemarketer. Johnny spent the early part of his career calling around asking if people wanted to buy personalised ballpoint pens. Now that’s a tough gig.


h/t Rookie Mag

Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.

Lead image: The Odyssey Online