The Road to Stardom:  How Your Favorite Stars “Made It”

(Yes, There Was Actually A Time Before They Were Famous)

MME realizes that no matter how famous, talented, beautiful or inspiring your favorite celebrity may be, each and every one of them started out as average citizens working regular jobs just like the rest of us before they were famous.  Some celebs’ first jobs were waiter, waitress, fast food worker or student while other celebs had truly odd jobs such as grave digger, eyeglass inspector and chicken suit dancer.  That’s about as far removed from being famous and the Hollywood spotlight as you can get.  But as fate would have it, their destiny caught up with them and they became thriving Hollywood actors, actresses, producers, writers or directors.  So, listed below, we have compiled a fun and detailed list of little known (and sometimes strange) facts about the jobs your favorite celebrity held before they were famous.

Favorite Celebrity:  Johnny Depp

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Before the Fame:  Born in Kentucky but raised in Florida, Depp started a short-lived garage band as a teenager.  Later on, believe it or not, Depp took a job as a telemarketer and sold ballpoint pens to make a living. Just think, if Depp had called you while still employed as a phone salesman, you may have hung up on “Jack Sparrow” himself.

Road To Stardom:  On a trip to Los Angeles in the mid 80’s, Depp met actor Nicolas Cage, who talked Depp into pursuing a job as an actor.  Depp took him up on his advice and landed a role in the low-budget and now iconic horror film A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). That jumpstarted (pun intended) his career and after that he landed a role in Platoon (1986). His next big break came when he starred as brooding undercover cop “Tommy Hanson” in the 1987-1990 hit TV series 21 Jump StreetFrom there, his star was not only on the rise but it shot to superstardom range as Depp went on to show his skillful versatility as an actor starring in numerous unforgettable and diverse films such as Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Donnie Brasco (1997), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Pirates of the Caribeean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and most recently Black Mass (2015).  Those are just a few of Depp’s long list of box office successes and currently Depp has films slated for release all the way through 2018.

Favorite Celebrity: Madonna

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Before the Fame: This legendary “Material Girl” is the mother of two and is the third of six children. Maddona was born in Bay City, Michigan in 1958 and displayed her overwhelming desire for perfectionism and achievement at an early age. She was a straight “A” student, garnering a full scholarship to the University of Michigan along with a six-week scholarship to study dance at the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. At the urging of one of the instructors, she dropped out of college after only two semesters and moved to New York to pursue dance full-time.

Road To Stardom: In the Big Apple, Madonna paid her rent by working various jobs, including waitressing at the Russian Tea Room, nude art modeling and working at a Dunkin Donuts in Times Square where she was eventually fired for squirting jelly donut filling onto a customer. She also performed as a showgirl in France where she found her true calling as a dancer and performer. In 1980, Madonna moved back to the States and formed several bands, including “Madonna & The Sky” and “The Millionaires and Emmy”. The bands disbanded and by 1983, Madonna was a rising solo artist. Her song “Holiday” was a megahit and she was moving into her rightful place as the Queen of Pop. Over the years, Madonna’s iconic status has influenced fashion, art, film, and social trends. She won a Golden Globe for her star turn in the musical Evita and the song she sang in the film, You Must Love Me earned an Academy Award for Music, Original Song. Madonna has earned 57 chart hits and 38 top 10s, which is more top 10 hits than any other artist in the history of the Billboard chart; including the Beatles who slide in the number 2 spot with 34 top 10 hits. Madonna has also sold more than 300 million records worldwide making her the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time which solidifies her place in pop music history.

Favorite Celebrity:  Shonda Rhimes

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Before the Fame: She’s a Chicago native who earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and also attended USC where she was ranked at the top of her class, earning the Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship. Rhimes graduated from USC with a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Road To Stardom: Like most college grads, Rhimes was unemployed for a while and worked a variety of odd jobs. She was an office manager and a counselor at a job placement center where she helped homeless and mentally ill people learn job skills. Shortly thereafter, she switched gears and worked as research director on Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, a 1995 award-winning PBS documentary. In 1998, she made her only directing stint to date on Blossoms and Veils, a short film starring Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jeffrey Wright. Momentum was building and Rhimes sold a script to New Line Cinema and was hired by HBO to co-write the historical biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, starring Halle Berry who won an Emmy for the title role. In 2001, Rhimes’ star continued to rise when she was hired to write Crossroads, the debut film of Pop Princess Britney Spears; and in 2004, she wrote the sequel to The Princess Diaries hit film. Rhimes wrote her very first pilot about female war correspondents, but ABC passed on the project. The very next year, they were smart enough to purchase Rhimes’ medical-themed pilot, Grey’s Anatomy. It was a 2005 instant classic and gave Rhimes the distinguished honor of becoming one of the first African American women to show run a hit primetime drama. Her empire continued to expand and in 2012, ABC purchased Private Practice, the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off series. This powerhouse creator and showrunner added two more fan favorite series to her roster of ABC megahits: Scandal starring Kerry Washington and most recently, How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis. Currently, Rhimes is in the process of developing a 2016 pilot for ABC which is sure to be nothing less than another ShondaLand hit series.

Favorite Celebrity: Paul Haggis

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Before the Fame: This Canadian born director, screenwriter, and producer grew up in London, Ontario, Canada. His parents owned The Gallery Theatre in London and Haggis worked there and gained a lot of practical experience as well as a great love of the arts. Early on, Haggis moved to England and tried his hand as a fashion photographer, but soon relinquished that dream and moved back to Canada to pursue a degree in cinematography. But in 1975, Haggis moved to Los Angeles to pursue a writing career and it was then that the trajectory of his life drastically changed.

Road To Stardom: Haggis found great success as a Hollywood writer on numerous iconic television series, such as The Love Boat, One Day At A Time, Who’s The Boss?, Different Strokes, The Facts of Life, L.A. Law, and Thirtysomething, which garnered him two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Drama Series. Aside from honing his craft in dramas and sitcoms, he also illustrated his lighter, funnier and more youthful side in the animated classics Richie Rich and Heathcliff. Additionally, he helped create the popular TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger, Family Law and Due South. From there, Haggis shifted his career into overdrive when he wrote the screenplay for the critically-acclaimed film Million Dollar Baby which received four Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Haggis’ next project was an original story that he wrote and developed into the groundbreaking film Crash. He was also the film’s director and his deft creative vision earned him an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. This gave Haggis the distinct honor of becoming the first person to have written two films that won Academy Awards in the “Best Picture” category for two consecutive years. With no signs of slowing down, Haggis continued to write blockbuster films and perennial favorites, including Flags Of Our Fathers, Casino Royale, In the Valley of Elah, Quantum of Solace, and Terminator Salvation, to name a few. Haggis is a Hollywood powerhouse who continues to push the boundaries of his craft.


Favorite Celebrity: Michael B. Jordan

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Before the Fame: Jordan was born in Santa Ana, California to Michael A. Jordan, a caterer and Donna Jordan, a guidance counselor and art teacher. His parents moved him and his older sister and younger brother to Newark, New Jersey when they were still very young and it was there that his mother encouraged Jordan to follow his creative dreams. Under her guidance, Jordan learned to tap dance, was a child model for Modell’s Sporting Goods and Toys R Us. He even used his literary skills to pen a teen book series called Homeroom Heroes. He also attended Newark Arts High School, a performing arts school where his mother taught art and that also boasts Savion Glover and Tisha Campbell-Martin as alumni.

Road To Stardom: Jordan was only twelve years old when he landed his first acting role as a recurring character on the long-running sitcom Cosby. That same year, he also booked a guest spot on the HBO venerated drama series, The Sopranos. His talent continued to shine and he was cast in numerous high profile roles on popular TV series, including The Wire, All My Children,  CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Burn NoticeLaw & Order: Criminal Intent, and Friday Night Lights, to name a few. But his critically-acclaimed portrayal of Oscar Grant, in the biopic film Fruitvale Station put his name on Hollywood’s “A-List”. From there, he was cast in high profile film roles in Red Tails, Chronic, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and Fantastic Four. Jordan is currently garnering rave reviews for his starring role as “Adonis Creed” in the box office smash Creed, a franchise spin-off of Sylvester Stallone’s beloved boxing classic Rocky. Jordan’s middle initial is “B.” for “Bakari” which is Swahili for “a noble promise” and it would appear that the “promise” equals success.