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Jobs Before They Were Famous

Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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We’re bombarded with images of today’s celebs, but did you ever wonder what they were doing before their faces were splashed across the tabloids, television and Internet?

Whether just trying to pay the bills or taking that first step on the ladder of success, these celebrities all had modest starts far-cries from the uber-celebrity, paparazzi-bait they are today. Here are some of the jobs your favorite celebrities held long before super-stardom.

George Clooney
Today’s hunkiest of movie heartthrobs held a smattering of odd jobs to get to where he is today. In his native Kentucky, Clooney sold men's suits and shoes and worked in department store stockrooms. He also cut tobacco earning $3 an hour. Upon arriving in L.A., he did odd jobs for his aunt, actress Rosemary Clooney, worked construction and cleaned a theater to pay for acting lessons.

Katie Couric
CBS’ perky evening anchor landed her first job as a desk assistant at ABC, where she worked for veteran news anchor Sam Donaldson.

Simon Cowell
After quitting school at the age of 16, Cowell held a series of odd jobs before landing a job in the mail room at EMI Records. “I understood instinctively that this wasn't something where you were going to get handouts. This was a job where you could fail or succeed based on your own instincts, your tenacity,” Cowell said on CNN. “So I would just drive everybody crazy from the minute I was delivering mail because I would walk into everyone's offices and tell them they should give me a better job.”

Ellen Degeneres
“I actually liked my first job. I was driving cars out of a car wash, you know, once the car comes out, you get in and you wipe it. That was exciting to me to drive the nice cars and wipe down the [dashboard] with Emerald,” Degeneres said on Larry King Live. “The worst job I ever had -- and I lasted a half a day -- was I worked in a glove factory in Atlanta, Texas. It was horrible. I was checking for too many fingers or a hole or something and gloves would just go by ... Everything I did that was a nine-to-five job I hated ... I worked in a law firm. I was a court runner. I just hated being in an office.”

Nina Garcia
Week-to-week, this regular judge and critic on television hit “Project Runway” helps decide which fashion designers are in and which are out. The Colombia native started her career in the public relations department of Perry Ellis and its then-designer Marc Jacobs. She moved on to Mirabella magazine and worked her way up the ranks until she became fashion director of Elle magazine, which is still her day job.

Faith Hill
Way before she was Mrs. Tim McGraw, selling more than 30 million records and earning countless awards, Faith Hill was trying to make it big in Nashville. Hill sold t-shirts at the renowned country music event Fan Fair, worked as a receptionist at a music-publishing company, and packaged fan merchandise for country legend Reba McEntire.

John Krasinski
Before he was making us wish he worked in our office, John Krasinski was a script intern on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Oprah
The media mogul and philanthropist began her broadcasting career while still in high school. Winfrey was an announcer at WVOL radio in Nashville.

Brad Pitt
"My first job was on the corner of LaBrea Boulevard and Sunset. I stood there wearing a chicken costume to advertise for this fast-food place," Pitt once said. He also played chauffeur to strippers. "I'd catch their clothes, so the guys wouldn't steal them," he said. "It wasn't a bad job."

Emeril Lagasse
Lagasse’s roots in the culinary arts started way before he coined the terms “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!” As a teenager, he recognized his hunger for cooking at a local Portuguese bakery in Fall River, Mass.

Ralph Lauren
He’s this year’s No. 13 on the Vanity Fair 100 list but the founder of Polo Ralph Lauren started his preppy empire with a stint in retail sales. Lauren’s first foray into apparel was working as a salesclerk at Brooks Brothers.

Jay Leno
Upon arriving in Los Angeles after graduation, the late-night funnyman wrote for the TV show “Good Times” and performed a warm-up act for singers Johnny Mathis and Tom Jones.

George Lopez
Before he played a guy working in an aircraft-parts factory, he was the guy working in an aircraft-parts factory. While trying to launch his comedy career, Lopez worked at two Van Nuys aircraft-parts plants. "I was an expediter. That was the politically acceptable term for ‘gofer,' " Lopez told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Vince Vaughn
If Vaughn ever decides to change careers, he could probably be pretty successful going back to his first job. Before he was a “Swinger” or “Wedding Crasher,” the actor who’s known for his quick-and-slick talking performances, worked as a telemarketer in Waukegan, Ill.

Denzel Washington
Washington's mother helped him get his very first job at a local barbershop called Modernistic when he was just 11 years old. “I learned about business … Just about the value of a dollar,” Washington said on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “I was brushing collars. I think my base salary was $11. And I could turn that into 50 if I was good.”


Sources: Biography.com, Chicago Sun-Times, CMT.com, CNN, The Larry King Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Orlando Sentinel, Playboy.com, San Diego Union-Tribune, Women’s Health.


Last Updated: 17/12/2007 - 4:56 PM


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