Many of the most successful people in entertainment and business got their start working at Starbucks and fast food chains.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — one of the richest billionaires in the world — worked at McDonald’s when he was in high school, and he’s definitely not the only success to come from humble beginnings.
Click through to find out about more people who worked in service and learn how you can parlay the right job into an early retirement.
Last Updated July 2018
Andrew Garfield: Starbucks
Before “Spider-Man” actor Andrew Garfield got his big break, he was just another Starbucks barista.
“Starbucks was my first job in London,” he said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2015. “It arrived in London and I thought, well that’s the John Hughes movie I’ve been waiting to live within, with multiple girls reading literature with black-rimmed glasses, and I’m going to be the barista that woos them all.”
Although he didn’t end up finding love in Starbucks, he made the most of his time serving up lattes. “I really actually liked working in Starbucks,” he said.
Even if you’re just working at Starbucks to supplement your income, make sure you’re saving enough for retirement.
Lady Gaga: Starbucks
Lady Gaga tried her hand at being a Starbucks barista in June 2017, long after her star had risen. But the singer put on the signature green apron for a good cause: Gaga was there to promote her line of Cup of Kindness drinks. Starbucks donated 25 cents from each purchase of a drink from the beverage collection to her Born This Way Foundation, which launches youth programs.
Tyler, The Creator: Starbucks
Tyler, The Creator worked at Starbucks for two-and-a-half years before his rapping career took off. And he made the most of his time there.
“Starbucks was cool because I stole cheese danishes every day,” he said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2015.
Although he ended up getting fired because he didn’t get along well with his manager, he said he was actually good at the customer service aspects of the job.
“I was nice, I was cool with people, I like talking to people,” he said.
Madonna: Dunkin' Donuts
She might be the Queen of Pop now, but back when Madonna was Madonna Louise Ciccone, she worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts in New York City’s Times Square. “I was sacked for squirting the donut jelly all over the customers,” she reportedly said. Fortunately, that firing didn’t make a dent in Madonna’s impressive lifetime earnings.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: McDonald's
An investment in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicals would be a wise investment indeed. The “Hamilton” creator got his start working at McDonald’s when he was 14 years old, both behind the counter and as a delivery person.
“It was my first paying job,” he said at the 2016 Chicago Humanities Festival. “I had several shifts. I did the counter from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so I was the one you yelled at when you were too late for breakfast… [The counter] really gave me anxiety… the anxiety of just getting it wrong, and having your register not add up at the end of the day… that’s stressful. But delivery was free. Delivery you’re walking around… That was the freeing part of the job.”
And there was another perk to this aspect of the job. “With delivery, you make tips. And when you’re making $4.25 an hour, tips are huge.”
Pharrell Williams: McDonald's
Pharrell Williams helped create the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” theme song, but way before that, he actually worked at the fast-food chain — and was fired from it.
“I got fired from McDonald’s three times, not just once,” he said on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” in 2015. “I was lazy. I was very lazy. The problem is I would get caught up in the music, because they would play music out in the dining area. At a certain point they realized I was no help.”
Rachel McAdams: McDonald's
Rachel McAdams stole America’s heart in “The Notebook,” but back when she was a teenager, she worked at a McDonald’s for three years.
“It was a great place to work, but I had a little bit of an OCD thing with hand washing and just didn’t have time,” she told Glamour in 2012. “They were like, ‘Hey, the drive-through’s backing up. Stop washing your hands!’ I was not a great employee; I broke the orange juice machine one day.”
Barack Obama: Baskin-Robbins
Scooping ice cream might not be the most exciting job, but former President Barack Obama said working at Baskin-Robbins taught him valuable lessons.
“As a teenager working behind the counter at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu, I was less interested in what the job meant for my future and more concerned about what it meant for my jump shot,” he wrote in a blog post for LinkedIn. “My first summer job wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it taught me some valuable lessons. Responsibility. Hard work. Balancing a job with friends, family and school.”
Brad Pitt: El Pollo Loco
Brad Pitt arrived in Los Angeles fresh out of college with $325 to his name. To make ends meet, the actor took a series of odd jobs, including one that involved dressing up as a chicken and standing outside the fast-food chain El Pollo Loco, Rolling Stone reported.
Amy Adams: Hooters
Amy Adams leads the much-buzzed-about HBO show “Sharp Objects” now, but it took her time to find success as an actress. When she was 18, Adams worked at Hooters to help pay for school.
“It was a great job out of high school,” she told Entertainment Tonight in 2015. “I was a hostess at first, and then I waited tables for a while, and it was great. It was a great way for me to earn money for college.”
Gwen Stefani: Dairy Queen
Gwen Stefani is known just as much for her rock-hard abs as she is for her singing, but she wasn’t quite so in shape when she was working her first job at Dairy Queen.
“When I started there, I fit in my outfit,” she said in a 2014 video segment on “The Voice.” “When I ended there, I did not fit in my outfit.”
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.