15 Most Surprising Celebrity Backup Careers

by Jennifer Lafferty

15 Most Surprising Celebrity Backup Careers

It’s hard to imagine your favorite entertainers in a different line of work, but many celebrities have had other professions, often outside of show business. Of course, struggling actors and musicians have to learn a backup trade in case things don’t work out, but they’re not the only ones. Sometimes established stars will adopt a new profession in order to expand their horizons. Check out these surprising celebrity backup careers.


Mayim Bialik



As backup careers go, Mayim Bialik’s is particularly impressive. Following teen stardom on TV’s Blossom, Bialik went to college and became a neuroscientist, the same profession as her character Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory.


Bradley Cooper



If things had worked out differently for Bradley Cooper, he might have attained fame through journalism instead of acting. Cooper worked as a contributor to the Philadelphia Daily News when he was a senior in high school.


Whoopi Goldberg



Before finding success as a stand-up comic, Oscar-winning actress and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg was once a licensed beautician. She had a job doing hair and makeup for the recently departed at a funeral home!


Lana Del Rey



In 2012, rising music star Lana Del Rey continued with the same babysitting gig that she had prior to becoming famous. She took care of a 10-year-old boy twice a week when she wasn’t traveling or doing PR.


Danny DeVito



When comedy icon Danny DeVito talks about his former career as a hairstylist, you wait for the punchline, but it’s true! DeVito spent 18 months working as a hairstylist at his sister’s salon soon after graduating high school.


Lupita N’yongo



Prior to her meteoric rise to fame after her Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave, Kenyan actress Lupita N’yongo worked as a production assistant on The Constant Gardener shortly after earning her film degree.


Hugh Jackman



In 1987, a teenage Hugh Jackman was already interested in acting, but the Australian native spent his gap year before university as a boy’s gym teacher at a school in England.


Michael Fassbender



A surprising number of celebrities worked as bartenders before they were in the spotlight, including German-born actor Michael Fassbender, who ran a bar just before he started landing acting roles.





Electronic musician Moby cofounded a vegan teahouse in New York City called Teany in 2002. Although the celebrity is no longer involved in that particular business, he recently opened Little Pine, an organic, gourmet, vegan restaurant in L.A.


Bruce Willis



After appearing on TV in the quirky detective comedy Moonlighting and before getting super-stardom with the Die Hard franchise, Bruce Willis dabbled in blues singing. He even recorded a popular debut album called The Return of Bruno.


Rita Wilson



Actress Rita Wilson has tried her hand at many ventures, including singing and producing, but among the most interesting was in 2011 when she was named editor-at-large of a new Huffington Post section aimed at baby boomers.


Jada Pinkett Smith



More than a decade into her acting career, Jada Pinkett Smith founded the metal band Wicked Wisdom. The group, which features Smith as lead singer, was successful enough to join Britney Spears’s Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004.


Tom Selleck



Tom Selleck’s avocado ranch in California has been a source of pride for the actor, but it drew some bad press a few years ago when Selleck and his estate were at the center of an illegal water dispute.





If anyone knows how to shock the public, it’s Madonna. But fans were never more stunned by the Material Girl than when she started writing children’s books. Her first book, published in 2003, was the bestseller The English Roses.


Ken Jeong



It’s unusual for a celebrity’s backup job to play into his showbiz career, but Ken Jeong, who became a licensed physician before launching his acting career, has come full circle, currently starring in the hit ABC sitcom Dr. Ken.