The life of an A-lister seems, to put it extremely lightly, like a breeze. Of course, we aren’t discrediting lengthy, grueling stretches spent on set. But once those are a wrap, it’s a smooth ride toward never-ending Hulk-sized paychecks and a pied-a-terre in the Hollywood Hills.
But before your favorite celebs entered a life of unmitigated leisure, they had to pay their dues, just like everybody else. And we’re not talking about any old job here—celebs have held every odd job from oyster shucker and pen salesmen to chicken coop scooper and coffin cleaner to make ends meet. Herein, we’ve gathered the 30 absolute worst. Honestly, even if the end result was a life of irrevocable status, these gigs might not be worth it. So read on and cringe. And for great Hollywood coverage, don’t miss the 50 Crazy Celebrity Facts You Won’t Believe Are True.
Nicki Minaj was a waitress at Red Lobster
Before rapper Nicki Minaj was dominating music charts, she was probably serving you seafood at Red Lobster in New York City. Before she was Nicki (or any of the other various stage names), Onika Maraj was just another disgruntled employee working for the man. Reflecting on her time as a waitress, Nicki admits that she wasn’t the most gracious employee, as she was always looking for a way out. And for more celebrity odd-jobs, check out these 30 Celebrities Who Now Hold Regular Jobs.
Fetty Wap was wrapping packages at Fed-Ex
Like many other celebrities on the list, Fetty Wap needed a quick buck here and there to achieve his dreams of success. This desire landed the rapper a job at Fed-Ex…wrapping packages. Though—the gig only lasted two days before he had moved on to the next equally charming one—as a cashier at Popeye’s. And for more 30 Celebrities Who Are Amazing Artists on the Side
Miley Cyrus picked up bras and panties thrown at her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus
The “Achy Breaky Heart” singer paid his adolescent daughter to remove underwear thrown at the star after his tour performances each night. “I’d get a really big [pair of underwear] and be like, ‘Dad! I found your biggest fan,'” says Cyrus. According to Miley, this job served as a way for her father to teach Miley about the perils of the entertainment industry—a lesson in which she (obviously) failed to recognize.
Channing Tatum was a stripper
It’s no wonder that the Magic Mike star looked so believable on camera—it’s all because he had plenty of experience before the cameras even started rolling. The actor dropped out of the University of South Florida and began stripping at 19. For Tatum, however, this lifestyle became quickly dangerous as he turned to drugs and alcohol to make it through, particularly tough shifts.
Gabourey Sidibe worked for a phone-sex hotline
Prior to scoring her breakthrough role as “Precious,” Gabourey Sidibe worked at a phone-sex company. According to Sidibe, this gig provided the acting lessons that made it possible for her to move on to bigger and better things. “I knew that when people were asking me, ‘So have you had any acting training?’ my acting school was on the phone, pretending to be some super-young 21-year-old college girl named Melody. I know that was my acting,” says Sidibe.
Rachel McAdams worked at McDonald’s
Before hitting the big screen, Rachel McAdams was hitting up the soft serve machine at McDonald’s. According to the actress, she was far from the model employee, taking more time out of her shift to wash her hands than to serve customers.
Meghan Markle wrote wedding invitations
This irony is lost on no one. The royal newlywed taught calligraphy, gift-wrapping, and book-binding classes at Paper Source while pursuing an acting career in Beverly Hills. She also worked as a freelance calligrapher (who knew that was even a thing?) and ended up hand-writing wedding invitations for Robin Thicke and Paula Patton’s wedding in 2005. For her own wedding, while the royal family didn’t leave much room for colorful deviance, Markle was able to inject a few flourishes of her own design into the invitations. However, we’re suspecting that the thank you notes will probably be handwritten by the Duchess. And for more on the newly minted princess, don’t miss The Message Behind Meghan Markle’s Bold Move for Her Walk Down the Aisle.
Beyonce worked in a hair salon
Growing up, Queen B swept up hair in her mother, Tina Knowles,’ hair salon. She was probably still rocking it, though.
Johnny Depp was a pen salesman
Similar to fellow actor Gabourey Sidibe, Johnny Depp honed in on his acting talents as a salesman—of pens. ”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,” he says.
Naya Rivera was a waitress at Hooters
The Glee star is used to sex appeal on the job site, as she often had to do this as a waitress at Hooters. According to the actress, she hated the way the uniform made her feel about her body—and we’re sure that anyone else parading around in Spanx in an overcrowded restaurant probably share.
Tom Cruise was a bell hop
Before Tom Cruise was capturing the affection of a nation in Jerry Maguire, he was carrying guests luggage as a bellhop at a hotel. It seems this hospitality didn’t last very long—just ask Matt Lauer.
Chace Crawford was a shirtless salesman at Abercrombie and Fitch
We’re all sorry we missed that day at the mall. As it turns out, Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford put those cheekbones (and washboard abs) to good use long before his days on the big screen as a shirtless host at an Abercrombie and Fitch.
Megan Fox wore a banana suit to promote a smoothie shop
Before Megan Fox was spending long hours on movie sets, she had another grueling role to play: a banana. That’s right: the Jennifer’s Body star used her talents to don a big yellow fruit suit as a means of promoting a local smoothie shop. “Once a week, usually on Fridays, someone had to dress up as a piece of fruit and go stand out by the highway. I was a banana, a giant banana,” she told Ellen DeGeneres.
Brad Pitt dressed as a chicken to promote El Pollo Loco in Los Angeles
Even the world’s biggest stars start small. Case in point: long before Brad Pitt was a huge box office draw, he was just trying to get them to eat chicken. That’s right: the Academy Award-nominated actor once donned a chicken costume for the El Pollo Loco chain.
Eva Mendes served hot dogs at a food court
Eva Mendes’ life wasn’t always full of red carpets and Ryan Gosling. Before Hollywood came calling, Mendes was working at the Glendale Galleria, serving hot dogs at Hot Dog on a Stick.
Gwen Stefani worked at Dairy Queen
Today, she’s known for her singing career, but once upon a time, Gwen Stefani’s biggest claim to fame was making Blizzards. In an interview with Marie Claire, the No Doubt frontwoman admitted that the very first paycheck she ever earned was for her work at a Dairy Queen.
Hugh Jackman was a P.E. Teacher
Hugh Jackman’s commitment to being buff started long before he landed the role of Wolverine. In fact, before making it big in the entertainment industry, Jackman worked as P.E. teacher. In fact, he even notably ran into one of his former students at the Zurich Film Festival—and remembered him by name—at the Zurich Film Festival in 2013.
Jon Hamm was a set dresser for adult films
When a young Jon Hamm was between jobs and down on his luck, a friend introduced him to the epitome of an odd job. “My friend said, ‘You can have my job. I’m doing set dressing,’” Hamm recalled to Esquire. “I said, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ She says, ‘They’ll hire anybody… It’s for these Skinemax … movies.’ Thankfully, Hamm eventually landed his breakout role as Don Draper in Mad Men, and the rest is history.
Madonna was a Dunkin’ Donuts cashier
Every Material Girl needs a side hustle! After dropping out of college and moving to New York in search of stardom, Madonna took up a job as a cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts—though it didn’t last long. The superstar was fired in just one day after squirt a jelly-filled donut all over a customer. At least now that customer has quite the story to tell.
John Legend was an accountant
Sexy, talented, and smart?! There’s seriously no way John Legend is real, but alas. The “All Of Me” singer graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and proceeded to work at the Boston Consulting Group for three years. Legend could never stop thinking about his passion for music, though, and eventually he put the number crunching aside in favor of serenading millions of girls worldwide.
Queen Latifah worked at Burger King
As a celebrity, Queen Latifah knows how to keep her cool and put on a game face, but that wasn’t always the case. The actress revealed to Contactmusic that in another life, she was fired from her job at Burger King for losing her temper. “A lot of homeless people used to come in, so there would be a lot around to clean,” Latifah said. “I was like, ‘You can’t talk to me that way after I just cleaned the bathroom.’ I just lost it.” Funnily enough, Latifah returned to the Burger King to confront the manager that let her go, but he had unfortunately quit.
Rihanna was an army cadet in Barbados
Rihanna is quite the appropriate nickname for this Barbados beauty’s fanbase. According to Vogue, the “Diamonds” singer once served as an army cadet in a sub-military program in Barbados—under the guidance of singer-songwriter Shontelle, ironically. No wonder she wears camouflage so well.
Victoria Beckham was a dancing sperm performer on roller skates for BBC
For a 1986 BBC sex-ed show, Body Matters, Victoria Beckham née Posh Spice dressed up as a human-sized sperm—and twirled around on roller skates.
Barack Obama was a Baskin Robbins ice cream scooper
As President Barack Obama wrote in a since-deleted LinkedIn post—noted by The Dallas Morning News and confirmed by Politifact and ABC News—he used to scoop ice cream at a Honolulu Baskin Robbins in the mid ’70s. Purportedly, the job made him so sick of ice cream, he gave up the stuff for good.
Ellen DeGeneres was an oyster shucker
Before she got her big break in 1986, as the first female comedian to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Ellen DeGeneres worked a series of random gigs, including as a house painter, a vacuum salesperson, and—in a gig truly bringing the “odd” to “odd job”—an oyster shucker.
Matthew McConaughey was a chicken coop cleaner
During a semester spent abroad in Australia—yes, Matthew McConaughey was one of those guys—the erstwhile Texan cleaned chicken coops for some spare scratch. Not all right, not all right, not all right…
Sean Connery was a coffin cleaner
Long before he was James Bond, Connery held a number of decidedly unglamorous jobs, such as milkman, a lorry driver, a lifeguard at Portobello swimming baths, a laborer, an artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art, and, yep, a coffin polisher. According to one article, he bleached mahogany coffins to make them look like oak, and worked for a Mr. Stark, whom Connery said had “an uncanny ability to visually size-up clients for their coffins.” One popular rumor claims he even once slept in a coffin overnight for a bet!
Geena Davis worked as a mannequin
Before she had her first role in Tootsie, Davis used to pay her rent by modeling clothing alongside the mannequins at Ann Taylor. According to Davis, she got the job as such: “One time there was a window display where the mannequins were sitting at a table eating plastic food. There was one empty chair, and I kept looking at the window.” Against the advice of her co-workers at the retail store, she went and sat in the empty chair. “Somebody saw me do that, and then he stopped to see what was now going to happen. But I just froze…I didn’t know, but I had an uncanny ability to be still.” Eventually, a crowd gathered, trying to figure out if the stunning actress was real or not. “When I felt like their attention was drifting, I would move kind of like a robot. But then somebody said, ‘Well, that’s not an electric mannequin because it’s not plugged in.’ ” So the next time she sat at the mannequin table, she attached a little wire down her leg to make the ruse more convincing. Brilliant!
George Clooney was an insurance salesman
After dropping out of college and moving to Los Angles to pursue a career in acting, Clooney took up a number of odd jobs, including cutting tobacco, working at a ladies shoe store, and selling insurance door to door. He got fired pretty quickly from the last one. “”I had a lot of rotten jobs,” he told Letterman. “I sold insurance door-to-door, but it didn’t work out well. The first day I sold one (policy) and the guy died.”
Warren Beatty worked as a rat catcher in Washington D.C.
The legendary womanizer once had what sounds like the worst job of all time. At 17, he used to wander the alleys surrounding the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., catching rats. For money, of course, not fun. And for more great celebrity coverage, don’t miss these The 30 Funniest Celebrity Photoshop Fails.
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