There are very few celebrities out there who go from being aspiring actors or singers or talk show hosts or whatever it is they want to be, to being immediately successful. Most have to pay their dues, spend a few years taking on small roles before getting their big break. Or, also likely, many celebrities don’t quite realize that being in the entertainment industry is their dream until a little bit later in life — so they have a few years in the workforce first. Either way, most celebrities have had a few odd jobs before they became superstars who received super-sized pay checks — and they weren’t all just waitresses or bartenders. Some celebs have had truly bizarre jobs that we can’t quite picture how they got into. Although, hey — you’ve got to pay the bills, and props to them for doing so in a more creative way than just serving up lattes.
Here are 15 celebrities that had truly bizarre jobs before they became famous. You never know when your past experiences may come in handy, and at least one of the celebrities on this list has already gotten some inspiration from his past job experience. In Hollywood, it pays to be interesting.
15. Jon Hamm (set dresser for explicit films)
Now, let’s just get this out of the way — no, Jon Hamm didn’t actually perform in any way or star in any adult films. However, he definitely got an up close and personal look at that industry. Apparently, one of his first jobs in the entertainment industry was to design sets for soft-core adult films. As he describes it, “essentially, I had to move furniture around sweaty, naked people. It wasn’t a great job but the money was useful. I had to get by — I wanted to be an actor.” Luckily, his life on set is a whole lot more glam now — and filled with a lot less naked people.
14. Hugh Jackman (children’s party clown)
Hugh Jackman is probably best known for playing the character of Wolverine in several films over the years — but he played an entirely different kind of creature back when he was just getting started. Apparently, Jackman spent three years working as a clown who came to spread joy at kids’ parties. And while some stars may be embarrassed by having such a gig in their past, Jackman embraces his silly side gig. “I just love making a fool out of myself,” Jackman said about the job. “I was Coco the Clown and I had no magic tricks and I remember a six-year-old standing up at a party saying ‘Mummy this clown is terrible.” He definitely commands a higher salary now than he did as Coco, that’s for sure!
13. Matthew McConaughey (chicken coop cleaner)
McConaughey is such a unique guy that it’s pretty easy to imagine him working in any number of weird jobs. However, a gig he got while he was living as an exchange student in Australia definitely takes the cake — and no, it wasn’t as a surf shack employee or anything to do with being on the beach, as you might assume. It turns out, McConaughey earned a few extra bucks by cleaning chicken coops. It definitely goes to show that not all celebrities grew up with a silver spoon and lived ultra glam lives — sometimes, you had to get a little dirty to make a few bucks.
12. Channing Tatum (exotic dancer)
Okay, this one is pretty well known at this point, but it’s still a pretty interesting job to have under your belt. Before he got into modeling, which eventually led him into acting, Hollywood hunk Channing Tatum worked for about a year as a stripper in order to pay the bills. No wonder his dance skills are so insane! Tatum describes his time in the role as “one complete year of down-the-rabbit-hole crazy.” However, it came in handy as the inspiration behind the hugely successful Magic Mike franchise. You just never know which one of those seemingly temporary jobs will have a lasting impact!
11. Victoria Beckham (dancing sperm)
Victoria Beckham is known for being, well, posh — from her role in the Spice Girls as the elegant fashionista to her current role as a literal fashion designer, Beckham is all about being chic. However, it wasn’t always that way. Back in 1986, before she became a pop superstar and before she became a fashion icon, Beckham was just another young girl trying to make it in the entertainment industry — so she took a gig in a BBC show called Body Matters, in which she played a huge sperm on roller skates. Yep, you heard that right. We’re betting she wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit now.
10. Brad Pitt (chicken mascot)
Brad Pitt seems like he was born with a silver spoon, thanks to those golden boy good looks, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The heartthrob is from the midwest, as many actors are, and dropped out of the University of Missouri when he decided he wanted to pursue acting seriously. After dropping out, before he started snagging roles on the regular, he needed to make rent — so he got a job with El Pollo Loco, dancing in the chicken suit to try to entice customers. We’re not sure why the owners didn’t realize what a babe they had on their hands, and insist that he just advertise for the fast food spot shirtless, but hey — missed opportunities, right?
9. Christopher Walken (assistant lion tamer)
Yes, we are 100% serious. We swear, aside from having one of the most iconic voices in the industry, Christopher Walken probably has one of the most interesting lives. Before he really thought of pursuing acting as a career, Walken was bit by the entertainment big in a different format — the circus! When he was just a kid, Walken made a bit of pocket change by taking on the role of assistant lion tamer in a traveling circus tent. The actual tamer did the majority of the hard work, and Walken has described his own role as being pretty low key, but still — not many people can say they’ve been up close and personal with a lion!
8. Johnny Depp (ballpoint pen salesman)
When you think about what types of jobs Johnny Depp may have had before becoming a celebrity, chances are, you think of him doing something super cool. Bartending on a tropical island, working as a helicopter pilot, something that has a little bit of an edge to it. However, it turns out, Depp actually had a pretty boring (and super retro) job back in the day — selling ballpoint pens. Apparently, he used his acting skills to sell the products, promising big prizes to potential clients if they made a purchase. Now, with his super-sized salary, he can afford to buy any luxury pen that comes on the market.
7. Whoopi Goldberg (mortuary make-up artist)
Nowadays, everyone knows Whoopi Goldberg for her role in the comedy scene, and as one of the hosts on The View. However, back when she was still an aspiring comedian, she paid the bills by working as a make-up artist at a mortuary. Not exactly the same amount of glam as working as a make-up artist to the stars! And, apparently, Goldberg had a pretty insane boss who would hide in drawers where the bodies usually were stored, and slowly slide out to surprise his employee. No wonder she eventually left to pursue a different career path! That sounds absolutely traumatizing.
6. Jon Stewart (puppeteer)
For years and years on end, Jon Stewart won our hearts with his goofy demeanour and comedic chops, displayed every night on The Daily Show. Hosting your own late-night show is definitely a prime gig for any comedian, but now that he’s stepped down from the hosting chair, perhaps he’ll find time to indulge in some other skills — like the ones he picked up when he worked as a puppeteer. Apparently, back in the day, Stewart worked for the state and went to schools, putting on puppet shows to help make kids more aware of and sensitive to those with disabilities. What a good guy! He probably honed his performance skills with that gig as well.
5. Connie Britton (aerobics instructor)
Britton, who won our hearts playing characters on hit television shows like Friday Night Lights and Nashville, didn’t reach superstardom until she was a bit older — which meant many years of life as a struggling actress, working odd jobs to pay the rent. The actress did the regular retail gigs, but she also had a bit of a weirder job — teaching aerobics classes. Now, Britton wasn’t an instructor during the chic Soul Cycle era. She rocked sweat bands, leg warmers, and bandanas. Um, we would give just about anything to be taught aerobics by a totally ‘80s Connie Britton. Given her bubbly personality, we imagine she must have been a phenomenal instructor.
4. Geena Davis (live mannequin)
The tall, statuesque Geena Davis got her start as a model before entering the world of acting, which shouldn’t be too surprising given her physique. However, even before she started modeling, she was just an Ann Taylor sales clerk. One day, she snagged a promotion in the store that allowed her to model the merchandise in the store window on Saturdays — and Davis ran with that opportunity. She posed her butt off in that store window, and in doing so, managed to catch the eye of an agent walking by — and the rest, as they say, is history. She began booking more modeling gigs, then acting gigs, and now she’s an entertainment industry veteran.
3. Ellen DeGeneres (oyster shucker)
Nowadays, Ellen is a television icon, someone who brings joy to audiences around the world day in and day out on her talk show. However, back in the day, she was just a southern girl working in the food preparation world. And no, she wasn’t flipping burgers or serving up ice cream cones, like many celebrities did in their younger days — in true New Orleans style, she was shucking oysters to add a few bucks to her bank account. We’re not sure the vegan celebrity would ever tackle such a job now, but back in the day, she did what she had to.
2. Patrick Dempsey (juggler)
When you look at Patrick Dempsey and try to envision what type of job he would have had if he didn’t become an actor, we’re betting juggler isn’t the first thing that comes to mind — but it turns out, the dreamboat has serious skills. When Dempsey was just a teenager, he competed at the International Jugglers Association convention, and came in just second. He lost out to a guy who now works with Cirque du Soleil, so who knows — if the whole acting thing wasn’t meant to be, perhaps Dempsey would have joined the circus and entertained audiences in a whole different way.
1. Orlando Bloom (clay trapper)
We know, we know — what on earth is a clay trapper? The word brings to mind visions of a young Orlando Bloom digging in mountains of clay, covered in dirt, but that’s not quite what this job entails. It turns out, a clay trapper is the individual responsible for loading and aiming clay discs at pigeon shooting ranges, so that the shooters have a target to aim for. Bloom got his taste of the work force when he was just 13, loading up those discs and making sure everyone at the range was having a good time. Talk about a unique job!
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