Hollywood’s all about reinvention.
Before Ken Jeong was a stand-up comedian and actor known for his comedic work in Community, The Hangover franchise, and Crazy Rich Asians…
…he was a doctor who specialized in internal medicine. Jeong told NPR, “During the day, I was a doctor. At night, you know, I was a comic. And it was really just to let off some steam. It just became my golf, you know, in many ways. Most doctors have golf as a hobby. Mine was doing comedy.” He added that he was “so super serious as a doctor,” and that his profession wasn’t a “fluke,” but something he “worked hard” to become.
Jeong credits his wife (and fellow doctor), Tran Jeong Ho, with encouraging him to become a full-time entertainer.
After Shirley Temple established herself as perhaps the most iconic child star of all time with performances in movies like Bright Eyes, The Little Colonel, and Heidi…
…she retired from acting at the age of 22 and dedicated herself to a career in public service and diplomacy. Temple, whose married name was Shirley Temple Black, served as the US ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia. Before she was granted her ambassadorships, she was a “U.S. delegate to the United Nations.”
Temple Black even attempted to run for Congress, but her 1967 run for a seat in the House of Representatives proved unsuccessful.
Before Wanda Sykes was a stand-up comedian and actor with roles in shows like The Other Two and Curb Your Enthusiasm…
Sykes even had a top-secret security clearance during her time there.
After Kal Penn became instantly recognizable for his roles in House, M.D. and the Harold & Kumar franchise…
…he left Hollywood to work in the Obama administration as the associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Penn previously worked on Obama’s campaign, an experience that “rekindled” his passion for politics. After Penn accepted the job offer, his House character, Dr. Lawrence Kutner, was killed off.
However, Penn didn’t entirely leave acting behind, and he has since been seen in TV shows such as Designated Survivor and the NBC sitcom Sunnyside, which Penn co-created with Matt Murray.
Before Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal were famous YouTubers and the hosts of Good Mythical Morning…
…they were engineers. The pair attended North Carolina State University together, with Rhett majoring in civil engineering and Link in industrial engineering. According to NC State’s College of Engineering News, Rhett and Link “worked in their respective fields for a few years before deciding to pursue entertainment full time.”
During a Q&A with current students in 2018, Rhett said he and Link still work through problems in a “very technical way,” despite the fact that their work now is “very creative.”
After Charlie Korsmo established a career as a child star in films like Hook, Dick Tracy, and Can’t Hardly Wait…
…he quit the business as a high school student, went to law school, and ultimately became a professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Law. While enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a physics major, Korsmo did one last film, Can’t Hardly Wait. But even though he told Case Western Reserve University’s The Daily that he enjoyed making that film most of all, it still ended up being his last, because acting just wasn’t his calling.
Korsmo said, “I think I managed the trick of leaving voluntarily just about the time I would have been thrown out anyway.”
Before celebrity chef Carla Hall was a Top Chef finalist and a co-host of the daytime cooking program The Chew…
…she was an accountant. Hall told NPR that she majored in accounting at Howard University, after first considering, then rejecting, an acting major, since she’s “so darned practical.” Hall didn’t enjoy being an accountant, so she decided to quit and pursue modeling. After working on runways in both Europe and the US, Hall “literally fell into food.”
Hall said, “I was searching for falling in love with a job. My biggest fear was hating my job at 40.”
After Dolores Hart became a rising star in Hollywood and acted opposite none other than Elvis Presley in two films…
…she left it all behind at the age of 24 to become a nun. While she was still an actor, Hart started going to retreats at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut to address her exhaustion. Following the abrupt end of her engagement, brought about when her fiancé repeatedly asked her if she loved him and then decided her answer “didn’t sound right,” Hart decided to make the transition to monastery life permanent.
Months prior to Hart’s choice to embrace her religious vocation, a voice spoke to her while she looked in the mirror. It said, “You’re really enjoying this, but you’re not going to do this much longer.”
Before Michelle Wolf was a stand-up comedian who once hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and Netflix’s The Break With Michelle Wolf…
…she worked in finance on Wall Street. During an appearance on NPR’s Ask Me Another, Wolf said that her first job was at Bear Stearns, a firm that fell apart during the 2008 financial crisis. While that was happening, she went to a Saturday Night Live taping, “which inspired her to try her hand at comedy.”
During the show, Wolf said, “Fun fact about Wall Street is they love people who are just competitive and will do anything to win.” Therefore, the fact that Wolf was a college athlete made her a competitive applicant, despite the fact that she had “never taken a business class.”
…he became the nation’s most in-demand interior designer. Alas, the decision to leave Hollywood wasn’t entirely Haines’ to make. While he undoubtedly landed on his feet, Haines — the “first openly gay Hollywood star” — was forced out of the business when he was told he wouldn’t work again unless he broke up with his beloved partner, Jimmie Shields, and got married to a woman who the film studio MGM chose for him.
Haines chose Jimmie, and soon enough, he was decorating the homes of people like Joan Crawford and the Reagans. Billy and Jimmie remained together until Billy’s death in 1973.
Before Ina Garten was a celebrity chef better known by her alias the Barefoot Contessa…
So Garten took a chance on buying a food store called The Barefoot Contessa, a decision that led to her publishing her bestselling cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. The book “put her on the radar of The Food Network,” and while Garten was doubtful at first that “anybody would want to see me on TV,” she ultimately decided to work with them. Her show, Barefoot Contessa, premiered in 2002 and has been airing ever since.
Before Adam Driver was an actor who counts Marriage Story, Star Wars, and Girls amongst his impressive list of credits…
Driver was inspired to join the military following 9/11, which filled him with an “overwhelming sense of duty.”
After Dan Lloyd played Danny Torrance in The Shining at the age of 5…
…he stopped acting when he was in high school, worked on a pig farm during college, and now teaches high school biology. Lloyd told the Daily News that he tried to keep acting at first, but quit around the age of 14 because he couldn’t get any parts.
Lloyd said, “I’m glad I was in The Shining. It was not a bad experience for me. It just wasn’t something that panned out and I decided to go back to being a regular kid.” He joked, “A Hollywood life probably wouldn’t have been for me, anyway. I’m proud to come from the Midwest and that’s where I’m comfortable at.”
Before Jason Statham was an action star well known for his work in The Expendables and Fast & Furious franchises, as well as stand-alone films like Spy…
…he was a competitive diver who represented England in the Commonwealth Games. At a film premiere in 2016, Statham said, “It’s a bit of a sore point I never got to the Olympics. They got seven million for the diving per year. They deserve it. The divers now are just terrific.”
He added, “I started too late. It probably wasn’t my thing. I should have done a different sport.”
Before Vera Wang was a fashion designer best known for her iconic wedding dresses…
…she was a competitive figure skater who very nearly represented the United States at the Winter Olympics. Speaking to the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine, Wang said, “I was devastated when I did not qualify for the Olympic team.”
However, Wang was able to find a way to channel her passion for skating into her work as a fashion designer. She’s designed costumes for renowned skaters like Michelle Kwan and Nancy Kerrigan. Wang told People, “It’s not for the faint of heart. If one strap were to break, or if the beading on the sleeve gets caught when they turn, their whole Olympics is over. That is how serious it is. It’s absolutely nightmarish!”
After Grace Kelly won an Academy Award in 1954 and established her place as a reigning member of Hollywood royalty…
…she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco and became actual royalty. Kelly gave up her acting career to fulfill her royal duties as the Princess of Monaco, though at first, she planned on continuing to perform.
Kelly paid a “$2 million dowry (roughly $20 million today)” to the Prince’s family, a literally princely sum that combined “her acting fortune with her family inheritance.”
Before Julia Child published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, starred in WGBH’s The French Chef, and along the way forever changed the way that Americans approach food…
…she worked as a spy for the American government during World War II. Child was too tall to join the military; she worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the modern-day Central Intelligence Agency. She travelled to Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) and China while working for the intelligence agency.
During her time with the OSS, Child invented a new type of shark repellant for military use.
Before Tan France was the style expert of the Fab Five in Netflix’s Queer Eye…
…he was a flight attendant on Britannia Airways. But only for two months, when he was 19 years old. In his memoir, Naturally Tan, France wrote that the gig was more difficult than he expected, and that he faced racism from passengers who “had no qualms about openly referring to my people as terrorists.”
France quit after “rowdy people [who] were being aggressive” on a flight from Spain to England pushed him too far. They yelled at him, France yelled back, and then he quit mid-flight.
After Peter Ostrum played Charlie Bucket in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…
…he said no to a three-picture deal and became a “vet specializing in dairy cattle and horses.” During an appearance on Today, Ostrum said, “Everybody could be so lucky to have an experience like this and then to go in a completely different direction.”
The film was shot in Munich, Germany, and soon after they returned home, Ostrum’s family bought a horse. Witnessing the passion of his pet’s veterinarian inspired Ostrum to explore the field.
Before Greg Davies was a stand-up comedian and the host of Taskmaster…
…he worked as a high school drama teacher for 13 years. He told BusinessLive, “I can’t believe I lasted for as long as I did. All I ever wanted to do was to make people laugh, so I was a tragic attention seeker as a teacher.”
Davies went on, “I made the classic mistake very early on of thinking I could be mates with the kids, and got my fingers burned. … I learned that if you are going to survive that job, things have to be done on your terms, so I became much stricter.”
After Rick Moranis achieved comedic legend status with his roles in Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids…
…he left Hollywood to become a stay-at-home parent to his two children following the death of his wife, Anne, in 1991. In 2005, Moranis told USA Today, “I pulled out of making movies in about ’96 or ’97. I’m a single parent, and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.”
He went on, “In the last few years I’ve been offered a number of parts in movies, and I’ve just turned them down. I don’t know whether I’ll go back to it or not.”
And finally: After Jennifer Stone starred on Wizards of Waverly Place as Harper Finkle…
…she became a nurse. Stone announced on Instagram in April 2020 that she was joining “the amazing healthcare providers on the front lines” of the fight against COVID-19.
In the same post, Stone wrote, “A very good friend of mine (@maiarawalsh) pointed out to me that today is #worldhealthday. It is also the day I went from a volunteer, then a student nurse, and now an RN resident.” (Maiara Walsh is a fellow alum of the Disney Child Star Cinematic Universe.)