These ten famous stars were each on quite different job paths before they got into their performing career.
by Angel Lewis
During awards season every year, we get to see and commemorate artists’ and actors’ achievements from the previous year. It’s always a reminder that there are some very talented (and very rich) individuals in the world. Whether an actress is being nominated for a Golden Globe or a talented singer is winning Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards, award season can make us regular people feel like our lives our never good enough. But stars were all ‘regular people’ at one point too, and many didn’t necessarily begin their adult lives on the path toward being star performers. Here are some celebrities and award winners who pursued different careers before they began acting or singing.
Mike Posner — Business & Sociology Student, Duke University
First on our list of celebrities is pop artist, Mike Posner. You may know him as that guy that took a pill in Ibiza, but before he was being nominated for Song of the Year, did you know he actually attended Duke University and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity? Posner majored in business and sociology and also graduated with a 3.6 GPA, which is pretty impressive considering he was touring on the weekends throughout his senior year. When he spoke at Duke’s DEMAN weekend, the advice he gave students was to always “feel as if you you deserve to be there.” Pretty impressive background if you ask me.
Sterling K. Brown — Business, Stanford University
Remember The People vs. OJ Simpson series and how absolutely incredible it was? Not only did the show clean up at last year’s Emmy’s, but Sterling K. Brown aka Christopher Darden the lawyer won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie and was also nominated for a Golden Globe. He may get more award love next year too for his current role in This is Us. Before his debut in acting, though, Sterling attended Stanford University where he initially intended to go into business. However, during his freshman year, he fell in love with acting and graduated with an acting degree in 1998. He then went on to attend NYU’s Tisch School of Arts where he obtained his MFA. Brown is an example of how a simple college elective can change the course of your life.
Tracee Ellis Ross — Modeling/Fashion Industry; Brown University
The Golden Globe Winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical Comedy, Tracee Ellis Ross (for Black-Ish), had a very interesting, early life before her acting career. In her teen years, Tracee was a model, which helped fund her tuition at Brown University. In college she appeared in a number of different plays and graduated with a theatre degree in 1994. However, after college she didn’t start out acting. She began working in the fashion industry both as a model and a contributing fashion editor to Mirabella and New York Magazine. Her performance in Black-ish was outstanding, but her career before acting tells us that anything is possible.
Sturgill Simpson, nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys, grew up loving music. After spending 3 years in Navy, he took a break from music and decided to focus on building his career at a Salt Lake City railroad freight-shipping yard, which he eventually ended up managing. After playing at a few local open mic nights and gigs, he went back to Sunday Valley, where he formed a bluegrass band in 2004. Sturgill and his band made an album and toured. Although the band fell apart in 2012, Simpson still went on to performing and making music, which led him to a number of awards and nominations. Thanks Sturgill for teaching us that you can always come back to your dream even if you stray away for a little while.
Thandie Newton — Social Anthropology Major; Downing College
Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Thandie Newton is known for her incredible performance in Westworld. After watching a TED conference as a child, she realized she didn’t fit in. Newton was a black, atheist kid in an all white Catholic school run by nuns. It’s safe to say she stood out. As a child she studied dance at the Tring Park School for the Performing arts, but between 1992 and 1995, Thandie studied social anthropology at Downing College in Cambridge. She graduated with upper second-class honors but decided to continue performing in the arts after college.
Bryan Cranston — Police Officer
Bryan Cranston, Walter White from Breaking Bad and the owner of 4 solo Emmys wins and another 6 nominations for his work on Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle, and All the Way, was pursuing a very different career before he took on acting. The award winner was almost a police officer. In his second year at Los Angeles Valley College, while studying police science, Cranston took an acting class for as an elective. He found that the females in the acting class were not only more attractive, but were also more willing to kiss him due to the “acting” part of the class. The revelation of being able to kiss pretty girls for work is what ended his future in law enforcement and truth be told, we can’t thank enough that class – and the girls – for giving us one of the greatest characters and shows. Breaking Bad won a number of awards throughout its span including sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards and two Critic’s Choice Awards. Now Cranston advises teenagers and students to just relax and not even take a major before they need to. He says to just “experience life” and it will come to you. We wish acting and pretty girls could all come to us that easily.
Gerard Butler — Lawyer
Did you know that Gerard Butler, the famous 300 and star, has his law degree? Growing up Gerard lived in a single family home that was just in between the working and middle class in Glasgow, Scotland. He attended the University of Glasgow Law School and said the “chance at a law degree was enticing.” He started his articling period which was a two year commitment but found that he hated every minute of it and that being a lawyer just wasn’t quite for him. Shortly after this realization he pursued an acting career as he found a passion for the performing arts and theatre. Although he didn’t have much formal training, he was hired for a small part in a James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. Although would’ve been a very talented lawyer, we’re thankful this Saturn Award Winner for Best Actor gave up studying cases and decided to bring us some amazing acting, movies, and abs instead.
Ashton Kutcher — Biochemical Engineering; University of Iowa
We all know Ashton Kutcher from That 70’s Show or even as that guy that punk’d every celebrity throughout the 2000s, but he has much more depth than his comedic skills. He actually studied biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa. He never fully graduated though, because during his time at the university he was scouted by a modeling agent who entered him in a modeling contest. Ashton placed first which lead him to his decision to drop out of school and eventually move to LA to pursue his acting career. However, in 2013, Ashton has decided to return to his roots as he accepted a new role as a product engineer for Lenovo. He is living proof that you can have your cake and eat it too.
Hugh Jackman – PE Teacher
Hugh Jackman is best known for playing Wolverine of the XMen (including in his new movie Logan), and won a Golden Globe for Les Miserables in 2014 (and was nominated for the Oscar). But long before that, he was a phys-ed teacher at a boys’ school in England. After that, he decided to go back to college and study communications. He didn’t get involved with acting until one drama class in his final year. In that one class, however, he said he “felt more at home with those people than [he] did in the entire three years [of college].”
Ken Jeong – Doctor
You probably know Ken Jeong as the crazy Mr. Chow in the Hangover movies, or for his roles in Community, Role Models, or his own show Dr. Ken. He has a lot of relevant experience for that last role, because he’s actually a real life doctor. He obtained his medical degree from the University of North Carolina in 1995, and worked as a doctor while pursuing his passion of stand-up comedy on the side. Eventually his comedy turned into some comedic acting roles, and he began doing that full-time.