Before she was Miss Americana, superstar Taylor Swift helped her family out by tending to the Christmas tree farm she was raised on. Swift told Esquire that from ages 5 to 10 her “job” was to pick the praying-mantis pods off of the trees so that they wouldn’t hatch inside people’s homes.
Her first foray into the working world is quite different from the line of work she has now, but Swift is far from the only star who held a less-than-glamorous job before making it big.
Last updated: Feb. 20, 2020
Tim Allen: Drug Dealer
Tim Allen has portrayed the typical all-American dad on shows like “Home Improvement” and “Last Man Standing,” but his own background isn’t so clean-cut. Allen was arrested for drug trafficking in 1978 and spent over two years in federal prison, Closer Weekly reported.
Jennifer Aniston: Bike Messenger
It’s hard to imagine Jennifer Aniston pedaling around New York City for work, but that’s what she did for a living in her pre-A-list celebrity days.
“[The] toughest job I ever had was being a bike messenger in New York City,” Aniston said during a 2011 press conference, Movieline reported. “I was 19.”
Cardi B: Amish Market Cashier
Stripper-turned-rapper Cardi B worked at an Amish market as a teen, The Fader reported. Cardi got fired from the job because she gave a co-worker too much of a discount, and one of the managers advised that she apply to be a stripper at the club across the street. The rest is history.
Steve Buscemi: Firefighter
“Boardwalk Empire” star Steve Buscemi worked as a New York City firefighter for four years beginning when he was 22 years old, The Hollywood Reporter reported. He even returned to the firehouse as a volunteer after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Jim Carrey: Janitor
When he was 14 years old, Jim Carrey and his brothers got jobs at the tire factory where their father worked. They worked eight-hour shifts after school as janitors and security guards, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
Bradley Cooper: Doorman
While he was getting his MFA at NYU, Bradley Cooper worked as a doorman at the Morgan Hotel in New York City, he told David Letterman on his late-night talk show.
“There were three candles in the lobby and they said, ‘Always keep them lit,’” he said. “But the door would open and they would go out, so I spent most of my time trying to relight those candles.”
Cindy Crawford: Corn Shucker
Supermodel Cindy Crawford truly came for humble beginnings. One of her first summer jobs was shucking corn for $4 an hour, Town & Country reported.
Miley Cyrus: Stage Cleaner
Miley Cyrus often went on tour with her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, and it was her job to go on stage after the show to collect all the bras and underwear that had been thrown onto it, she told Rolling Stone. Billy Ray paid her $10 for the gig.
Johnny Depp: Pen Salesman
Johnny Depp sold pens as a telemarketer, which he said actually helped him hone his acting skills.
“The beauty of the gig was that you had to call these strangers and say, ‘Hi, how ya doing?’ You made up a name, like, ‘Hey, it’s Edward Quartermaine from California. You’re eligible to receive this grandfather clock or a trip to Tahiti,'” he told Interview Magazine. “You promise them all these things if they buy a gross of pens. It was just awful. But I actually think that was the first experience I had with acting.”
Danny DeVito: Beautician
Danny DeVito worked at his sister’s hair salon for two years and was on track to become a certified makeup artist. While he was studying makeup at Manhattan’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, he began taking some acting classes and got hooked, he told the New York Post.
Harrison Ford: Carpenter
Harrison Ford said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything that when he was cast as Han Solo in the original “Star Wars” film, his main job at the time was working as a carpenter.
See What They’re Up To: Former Celebrities Who Have Normal Jobs Now
Megan Fox: Banana Mascot
Megan Fox told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that she only had one real job before she made it big as an actress: working at a smoothie shop in Florida. Although Fox mainly worked behind the counter, once a week she had to dress up as a giant banana and stand by the highway to try to get customers to come to the shop.
Whoopi Goldberg: Mortuary Makeup Artist
Whoopi Goldberg had plenty of experience with dead people before starring in the movie “Ghost.”
“I did hair and makeup on dead people,” she said on “Oprah’s Master Class.” “There was an ad in the paper. And I’m a licensed beautician as well, because I went to beauty school.”
Jon Hamm: Set Dresser for Porn Movies
Jon Hamm broke into the entertainment industry in an unconventional way. In a Vanity Fair interview, he revealed that he worked as a set dresser for Cinemax soft-core-porn movies in the ’90s.
“It was soul-crushing,” he said.
Justin Hartley: Lawn Mower
“This Is Us” star Justin Hartley used to make money mowing lawns for $20 a pop.
“[It] doesn’t sound like much, but it turned into quite a business,” he told Business Insider. “My brother and I had about 10 a week that we would do.”
Taraji P. Henson: Cruise Ship Entertainer
We all know that Taraji P. Henson can act, but she can apparently sing too. In her memoir, “Around the Way Girl,” Henson said that she worked night shifts as a Tina Turner impersonator on a Potomac River cruise ship when she was working to pay off student loans.
Jennifer Hudson: Burger Flipper
Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson worked at a Burger King in Chicago when she was 16. Hudson reportedly sang throughout her shift while working at the drive-thru and flipping burgers, according to TMZ.
Hugh Jackman: Gym Teacher
Prior to his movie stardom, Hugh Jackman worked as a boys’ gym teacher at England’s Uppingham School, CBS News reported.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson: Dishwasher
Dwayne Johnson was the highest-paid actor of 2019, according to Forbes, but his first job’s pay was a far cry from the millions he brings in today. Johnson tweeted that he got his first job at 13 years old, working night shifts as a dishwasher.
“These days I still wash every dish,” he said.
Nicole Kidman: Massage Therapist
Your masseuse could end up being the next Nicole Kidman. The actress confirmed to The Daily Beast that she once worked as a massage therapist to help support her family.
“My mother had breast cancer, and so when you go through radiation you get terrible seizure of the muscles, so I took the massage course and then I liked doing it, so I started to go around to people’s houses and do massages,” she told the site.
Beyoncé Knowles: Hair Salon Sweeper
Before she became famous enough to go by one name, Beyoncé Knowles worked at her mother’s hair salon.
“I helped sweep hair off the floor for tips to pay for my season pass to Six Flags,” she told Essence.
Ashton Kutcher: Cereal Sweeper
While he was a biomedical engineering student at the University of Iowa, Ashton Kutcher worked at the General Mills plant. He swept cereal dust off the floor for $12 an hour, People reported.
Eva Longoria: Wendy's Employee
Like Jennifer Hudson, Eva Longoria flipped burgers before she made it big. She worked at Wendy’s to make money to pay for her quinceanera and still remembers the chain’s tricks to make the perfect burger.
“What we learned at Wendy’s was mayonnaise goes on the bun first, to seal the bun, so the bun stays nice,” she said on “The Rachael Ray Show.” “Then you put the ketchup. And [then] mustard goes on the meat because it brings out the flavor of meat.”
Madonna: Dunkin Donuts Sales Associate
Madonna worked several part-time jobs in New York City before she became the Queen of Pop, including a short stint at a Dunkin Donuts on 57th Street. She was fired after squirting filling all over a customer, according to a biography of the singer written by Mary Cross.
Meghan Markle: Calligrapher
It’s common knowledge that Meghan Markle worked as an actress before marrying into the British royal family, but she held another job before getting her big break on “Suits”: calligrapher. According to People, Markle worked at a Paper Source in Beverly Hills, California, as a calligraphy instructor, and also worked as a freelance calligrapher on the side. One of her gigs was writing the invitations for Robin Thicke and Paula Patton’s 2005 wedding.
Rachel McAdams: McDonald's Drive-Thru Worker
Rachel McAdams worked at McDonald’s for three years when she was a teenager, but told Glamour that she wasn’t a very good employee.
“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 said. “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.”
Melissa McCarthy: Starbucks Barista
Melissa McCarthy worked as a Starbucks barista when she first moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. She told Conan O’Brien on his late-night talk show that she once even served Chris Farley, who was a comedy idol for her.
“At one point, I got so overwhelmed because he was right there, that I started crying,” she said.
Matthew McConaughey: Armadillo Killer
Before he was the king of rom-coms, Matthew McConaughey worked at the Oak Forest Country Club in Texas. He told GQ that the responsibilities of his first job shifted from day to night: During the day he raked the sand traps, and at night he would shoot the armadillos that wandered onto the golf course.
Nicki Minaj: Customer-Service Representative
It’s hard to imagine fiery rapper Nicki Minaj working as a customer service representative, but it was one of the odd jobs she held after graduating high school.
“I like dealing with people, but I don’t really like a lot of bull—-, so maybe customer service wasn’t the best job for me,” she told GQ. She also worked as a Red Lobster server, but was fired from that job after chasing a couple into the parking lot for stealing her pen.
Barack Obama: Baskin-Robbins Employee
Former President Barack Obama worked at Baskin-Robbins as a teenager when he was growing up in Honolulu, he shared on a LinkedIn blog.
“My first summer job wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it taught me some valuable lessons,” he wrote. “Responsibility. Hard work. Balancing a job with friends, family and school.”
Brad Pitt: Chicken Mascot
Back when he was a struggling actor, Brad Pitt worked as a mascot advertising the opening of an El Pollo Loco in Los Angeles. As part of the job, Pitt had to wear a yellow-feathered chicken suit and wave a sign. He told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that he has “no shame” about his early gig.
Amy Poehler: Ice Cream Scooper
It’s not just the former president who got their start at an ice cream shop. Comedian Amy Poehler worked at a local ice cream parlor during the summer before she went to college. She penned an essay about her experience for The New Yorker, noting that it wasn’t your typical “romantic” summer job: “Hard and physical, the job consisted of stacking and wiping and scooping and lifting.”
Rihanna: Army Cadet
Singer and entrepreneur Rihanna was an army cadet in a sub-military program in her native Barbados before making it big as a pop star, Vogue reported.
Naya Rivera: Hooters Waitress
“Glee” star Naya Rivera wrote in her book that she worked at Hooters in her early 20s. She also worked at Abercrombie & Fitch.
Gabourey Sidibe: Phone Sex Operator
After dropping out of college, “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe worked as a phone sex operator in her early 20s, she revealed in her memoir, “This Is Just My Face.”
“I was actually pretty good at it,” she told People. “I did it for two months before I was promoted.”
Gwen Stefani: Dairy Queen Employee
In a 2017 interview with Marie Claire, Gwen Stefani said that she made her first dollar working at Dairy Queen.
Harry Styles: Bakery Worker
When he was 14, Harry Styles worked at a local bakery for 6 pounds ($7.80) an hour, The Daily Mail reported. He quit the job to audition for “X Factor.”
Christoper Walken: Lion Tamer
Christopher Walken’s first entertainment job was with a traveling circus. He told Vanity Fair that he worked as a lion tamer, getting a lion named Sheba to do tricks.
“She was very sweet,” he said. “Like a dog, really. I would wave the whip, and she would run and sit up and roll over and do things.”
Fetty Wap: FedEx Employee
Fetty Wap has found major success as a rapper, but hadn’t had much success in the traditional working world before breaking out onto the music scene.
“I’ve had two jobs my whole life,” he said in an Interview Magazine profile. “I worked at FedEx for, like, two days, and I worked at Popeye’s for a week. I just needed a check.”
Kanye West: Retail Employee at the Gap
Kanye West has worked in fashion since a very early age — when he was a high school student, he worked part time at the Gap.
“When I was working at the Gap at 15, I don’t think I had any desire to actually make clothes, but I always felt like that’s what I wanted to be around,” he told Paper magazine. “I loved the fabrics, I loved the colors, I loved the proportions.”
West hasn’t forgotten his roots with the retailer, and in fact, has said that he aspires to be the creative director for Gap one day.
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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.