You might not believe me if you read gossip blogs and magazines, but most celebrities were once regular people. (In fact, many still are.) Although we might think our favorite superstars were born as teeny, tiny stars with sunglasses, designer diapers and one name, they weren’t. Before they became tabloid fodder, they were our friends and neighbors just trying to earn a little cash.
We’ve put together a list of famous names who had humble beginnings that weren’t that different from most of ours. They might be worth millions or billions now, but not too long ago they might’ve been the cashier at your grocery store.
Here is what six celebrities did before they were famous:
Evangeline Lilly — “Lost” is nothing if not a good excuse to be afraid of flying. The entire show is based on a single event: People get on a plane, experience a little turbulence, the plane crashes on an island and they’re stranded with a smoke monster. Luckily for Lily, who plays Kate on the show, she got the acting gig after her stint as a flight attendant. The Canadian actress wanted to travel the world, so she became a flight attendant, which she ended up hating and left after a month.
Kathy Griffin — The idea of Kathy Griffin holding down a job might seem strange, seeing as she makes a living off of riffing on celebrities she encounters. However, her acerbic wit didn’t pay the bills early on, so before Griffin became the stand-up star she is today, she worked as a temp to pay the bills.
Oprah Winfrey — Before she was the megawatt personality who can go by just one name, Winfrey was a quiet grocery store worker. As a teenager, she landed her first job at a local market and she was forbidden from chatting with customers, a cruel restriction for a woman who eventually became a media icon by hosting a talk show.
Sofia Vergara — In TV land, the fall of 2009 will be remembered as the season when sitcoms made a comeback, and one of the biggest hits was “Modern Family.” Although Colombian actress Vergara had done some Hollywood work prior to the show, her portrayal of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett has made her a household name. If she hadn’t gone into the industry, she probably would’ve become a dentist. Before she began modeling, Vergara was nearly finished with dental school and was on the path to a life of dental care.
Whoopi Goldberg — She’s won an Oscar, a Tony and a slew of other awards, and now you’re most likely to see her discussing political topics of the day on “The View.” Before she goes on national TV five days a week, she probably has a makeup artist to make her features pop on camera. Back in the day, however, Goldberg was a makeup artist — for deceased people. She was a mortuary beautician who applied makeup to people before their funerals.
Zachary Levi — Now he’s the heartthrob on the comedy series “Chuck,” but he wasn’t always in front of the camera. In fact, before he landed acting gigs, he worked at a car wash. He soaped up the cars and dried them off — and he fully admits he couldn’t resist singing the 1976 hit song “Car Wash” on the job sometimes.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/abalderrama.