Before They Were Famous | Careers

Published July 30, 2008

Posted July 21, 2008 -- 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.

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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.

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.”

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.

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."

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.

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.”

Written by BET-Staff

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