Sometimes the career you start with isn’t the one you want, or even the one you’re good at. This also applies to celebrities. Whether they started as something else and got into acting, or they gave up performing to pursue another dream, here are some really famous people who decided to give something else a try, and did pretty well with it.
One of the top comic actors in the business today, this star of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Hangover” actually started out in a whole other career — he was Dr. Jeong, specializing in internal medicine. He took to standup comedy in his off hours and eventually parlayed that into a Hollywood career; he used his experiences in medicine for his short-lived series “Dr. Ken.” He’s still licensed to practice, in case the day job falls through.
It’s hard to think of her as anything other than the “Barefoot Contessa,” Emmy-winning star of the Food Network. But like her predecessor Julia Child, she too was a self-taught cook that started in government work. Only she was attached to the Office of Management and Budget — the department that holds the purse strings of the White House. She wrote policy and budget analysis for both the Ford and Carter administration, mostly centering on nuclear energy. No wonder she took up cooking instead.
One of the most recognizable names in women’s fashion didn’t start out in that business. She was actually a pairs figure skater, competing on the national level with partner James Stewart, but she quit after they failed to get a spot on the Olympic team and went into fashion design instead. Her evening wear and wedding gowns are legendary, but she still loves skating — she has designed some iconic costumes for Olympic medal winners like Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan.
It’s hard to believe that this comedian has been anywhere else but on television, for Emmy award-winning shows like “Brooklyn 99.” But before he gave us something to laugh about, he was a pro football player giving his opponents something to cry about — he was a defensive tackle. After four years in the pros with four different teams, he hung up his cleats and picked up a microphone and scored a win for comedy.
Not everyone finds their calling early in life, including a calling to the priesthood. The current pontiff, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, started out as a lab technician after graduating college with a degree in chemistry. At night, he was a bouncer for a local bar. A chance encounter with an inspiring priest led him to join the seminary and the rest is literally history.
Now that he’s had six decades in the business, having played some of the most iconic roles imaginable – from Han Solo to Indiana Jones to Jack Ryan – it’s hard to believe that there was a time when he couldn’t get regular work in show business. But his early roles were so few and far between that he took up carpentry to make ends meet and support his family. Then one day he got a job building cabinets for a young filmmaker named George Lucas, who cast him in the film he was working on – first “American Grafitti,” and then “Star Wars,” and then everything else under the sun.
This award winning actor has had a career spanning five decades, but he didn’t quit Hollywood so much as retire. His last film was 2006’s “Mooseport.” After he stepped away from the cameras he started writing historical novels, and though his name got him a publisher, his writing got him a legion of new literary fans.
This child star had one appearance, but what a movie to be both a debut and a finale: he played Charlie in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” opposite Gene Wilder. But one film was enough and he didn’t pursue a career in the arts, choosing instead to go to veterinary school. He lives in upstate New York and is a rural dairy vet, caring for cows, horses and other larger animals.