It’s hard to believe that some of our favorite celebrities weren’t always the celebs we know now. Some celebrities were in the public eye from day one, but others have a totally-hidden early life, lightyears from where they are now. Either way, these celeb career changes show us just how multitalented these stars truly are — making 180s on their professional lives to thrive completely.
Whether they’re a singer-turned-actor, a model-turned-mogul, or a stripper-turned-movie star — they’ve all shown us that it’s never too late to start fresh and find a new hustle.
19. Jared Leto
When it comes to celebrity career-changes, few people have done it as successfully as Jared Leto. Early in his career, Leto got his initial entrance into the spotlight with a few minor acting gigs and supporting roles. You may recognize him from his appearances in Fight Club (1999) and American Psycho (2000). Just as his acting career was picking up, Leto became the frontman to the popular alternative-rock group Thirty Seconds to Mars. While their first album did just-okay commercially, their second album launched them into rock and roll fame. Not only is the band still active, Leto’s stage career has never been more successful, such as his award-winning role in Dallas Buyers Club.
18. Ariana Grande
You know her now as the girl with most powerful pipes of our generation, but Ariana Grande came from a much different beginning. It was all thanks to Nickelodeon that this songstress got her big break. Starring as Cat on the show Victorious, and a later spinoff Sam & Cat, Grande was a well-known actress amongst tweens nationwide. During the filming of Victorious, die-hard fans took notice of Ariana’s singing abilities from the YouTube videos she began uploading. After Victorious wrapped, she released her debut single, “The Way,” which became an instant hit &mdashs; making Ariana an international pop star, and the poster child for celebrity career changes.
17. Ellen DeGeneres
We all know and love Ellen DeGeneres as one of the friendliest faces of daytime talk shows. However, Ellen is also known for pulling one of the most well-documented celebrity career changes. Although not far from her original gig as an actress/comedian, Ellen’s status as a household name and world-famous television personality was somewhat unlikely. While her ’90s sitcom, Ellen was popular, it was her public coming-out and vocalness on LGBTQ issues that made her famous in her own right.
16. Ina Garten
This is one of the most drastic celebrity career changes of all time, TBH. You may now know her as the Barefoot Contessa — professional Food Network chef and loving wife of Jeffrey. However, Ina Garten’s status as a celebrity chef is a far cry from her original career in politics. That’s right, Ina got her start as a staff member of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Before writing cookbooks, she was in charge of writing the budget for nuclear energy and policy papers. Her training in the world of food was totally informal and self-motivated. She eventually left the stress of government work to open The Barefoot Contessa, thus marking the beginning of her culinary career.
15. Tyra Banks
We all know Tyra was a model, but us millennials know Tyra Banks mostly as the face of her popular reality shows, such as America’s Next Top Model and her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show. However, all of this was long after Tyra pulled one of the most well-known celebrity career changes. In the early ’90s, at the age of 15, Banks took the world of modeling by storm. She appeared in some of the most influential fashion magazines, runway shows, ad campaigns and perhaps most notably — she became a Victoria’s Secret angel. This allowed her to get small TV and commercial appearances that contributed to her later success.
14. Cara DeLevingne
In another of the modeling world’s most successful celebrity career changes, we have Cara DeLevingne. Known for her bold brows and badass vibes, Cara became an internationally-known model seemingly overnight. In 2012, after winning “Model of the Year” at the British Fashion Awards, she could be seen in the pages of nearly every fashion magazine. However, her unique look made her a social media icon, and It-Girl for teens everywhere. After a few minor acting gigs, Taylor Swift took notice, and added her to the star-studded cast of the “Bad Blood” video. Since then, DeLevingne has appeared in countless films such as Paper Towns and Suicide Squad, to name a few.
13. Channing Tatum
While he’s well-known now for his acting skills and an unbelievably good body — Channing Tatum has come a long way from his earlier career. After the immense success of his debut film, Step Up, Tatum continued his acting career in box office hits such as G.I. Joe, 22 Jump Street, She’s the Man and Magic Mike. However, when it comes to celebrity career changes, his was definitely one of the more ~scandalous~ ones.
If you didn’t already know, Tatum had a brief stint as a male stripper at a local nightclub. It was these dancing skills and outgoing personality that landed him a few music video spots, eventually leading to his career in acting.
12. Hannibal Buress
No other job seems to pump out more successful celebrity career changes than writing for Saturday Night Live. While he’s now an extremely successful comedian in his own right, Hannibal Buress got his start behind the scenes. He actually was a writer for SNL. Although Hannibal had been performing stand up for years, it wasn’t until after his stint as a writer that his act began gaining popularity. Now, you can catch him on popular shows like Broad City and The Eric Andre Show.
11. Conan O’Brien
Speaking of SNL success stories, we had to mention one of the undisputed kings of late night, Conan O’Brien. Unlike Hannibal, Conan’s writing career was a bit more extensive. He wrote quite a few successful sketches for Saturday Night Live from 1987-1991, and even appeared in a few sketches.
After that, he wrote for The Simpsons from 1991-1993. In 1993, he got his start as a late night comedy host with Late Night With Conan O’Brien. The show nearly flopped, receiving poor critical responses. However, the show quickly found its pace and became a huge success. Later in 2009, Conan took over for Jay Leno’s coveted spot on The Tonight Show. Now, you can catch him on his own TBS show, Conan.
10. Kylie Jenner
As if Kim wasn’t enough, Kylie Jenner is further proof that momager Kris Kardashian is the queen of orchestrating celebrity career changes. As Kim’s fame grew through the reality show that followed her family’s wild antics, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, you could catch a 10 year-old Kylie in the background of the show. Little did we know then, but Kylie would quickly take after her older sisters — becoming an overnight fashion icon and social media star. The public couldn’t get enough of her Snapchats and Insta posts. She capitalized on this attention in a big way — launching Kylie Cosmetics, making her a hugely successful makeup mogul on the way to billionaire status.
9. Victoria Beckham
As one of the OG queens of celebrity career changes, Victoria Beckham has come a long way from her days in the Spice Girls. Known as the soft-spoken but totally sophisticated Posh Spice, Victoria got her claim to fame as a British pop sensation. When the Spice Girls’ legendary reign came to an end and her marriage to soccer star David Beckham became official, Victoria’s love for fashion took off. After a few modeling gigs and ad campaigns, she launched her extremely successful eponymous label in 2008, marking her official start as a fashion icon.
8. Chrissy Teigen
It’s hard to think of Chrissy Teigen as anything other than the internet’s favorite mom, celebrity chef and wife to singer, John Legend. But with looks like that, it’s no surprise that Chrissy’s celeb status originated from a hugely-successful modeling career. Represented by IMG models, Chrissy appeared on Deal or No Deal, a Maxim Calendar, various commercial campaigns, and eventually a few hosting gigs for E!, TMZ and MTV — to name a few.
After marrying John Legend in 2013, the internet was obsessed with the pair as the ultimate #CoupleGoals. Now, Teigen can be seen pretty much everywhere in the entertainment world but dedicated most of her time to writing cookbooks and being a kickass mommy and social media star. In terms of celebrity career changes, Teigen seems to be doing it right.
You know him now as the rap world’s most iconic sensi-boy, but Drake got his start in a wildly different industry. Before he was rubbing elbows with the likes of Nicki and Rihanna, Drake finessed one of the most unexpected celebrity career changes of all time. For those of us who were well-versed in Canadian soap operas, we remember Drake as Jimmy on Degrassi: The Next Generation. This super-corny, over-the-top teen drama turned out to be Drake’s claim to fame, somehow launching him into his famous rap career. Talk about starting from the bottom.
6. Jennifer Hudson
While not the most drastic of celeb career changes, Jennifer Hudson’s start as a finalist on season 3 of American Idol brought her farther than anyone expected. It was no secret that Hudson had one of the most remarkable voices in Idol history, and her elimination came as a shock to many. However, her undeniable talent landed her a starring role in the 2006 musical, Dreamgirls. Her breathtaking performance as Effie White landed her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award and a SAG Award — and launched her into the world of acting. It turns out that getting the boot from American Idol was the best thing that ever happened to Jennifer’s career.
With a name like Ice-T, it’s not hard to imagine where this now-actor got his start. Nowadays, you can watch Ice playing Detective Odafin Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where he helps solve New York’s most heinous crimes. Ice-T’s transformation into a TV cop is definitely one of the most ironic celebrity career changes of all time. That’s because Ice began his entertainment career as a rapper in the 1980s into the early 90s. In 1991, he released a highly-controversial rap, entitled — wait for it — “Cop Killer,” a song about killing police officers.
4. Justin Timberlake
When you think about multitalented celebs, you most likely think about Justin Timberlake. No one could have guessed that the goofy boy band singer with curly, frosted tips would become one of today’s most legendary entertainers. After his days on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and as a member of *NSYNC, JT became a master of celebrity career changes. While had a few successful musical endeavors in between, it was his 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds that solidified his position as an pop legend and A-list celeb — plus we all have seen him on SNL and Jimmy Fallon and know him to be somewhat of a comedian as well..
3. Will Smith
Any kid who grew up in the 1990s remembers Will Smith as the favorite goofy, neon-clad sitcom star on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This of course, only came after his days as a member of the rap duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Their hits like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” were just like the Prince himself — fun-loving, laid-back and silly. That’s why Will Smith’s professional acting career came as one of the most surprising celebrity career changes of all time. Who would have thought that the Fresh Prince rapper would become a world-famous, award-winning actor and of course — a responsible family man.
2. Kim Kardashian
Yes, many people like to joke that Kim Kardashian became famous for her ~infamous~ tape with her scrub of an ex, Ray-J. However, Kim actually got her launch into stardom by being a part of world-famous heiress, Paris Hilton’s entourage. In fact, Kardashian was her stylist. By being constantly photographed with Hilton, Kim was basically famous for being a party girl and socialite — and also a celebrity closet organizer. (Yes.) In one of the most iconic celebrity career-changes, the Kardashians were able to capitalize on all of her attention, making Kim a world famous TV personality, businesswoman, model and social media star.
1. Angelina Jolie
Last on our list of celebrity career changes, we have Angelina Jolie. Angelina’s career change was not only one of the most unexpected, but one of the most impactful of all time. Starting in her childhood, Angelina has become one of the most successful actresses of her generation. She starred in films such as Girl, Interrupted, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Maleficent. Her various roles have left her with countless awards and recognition.
However, after filming Lara Croft in Cambodia, Jolie became passionate about humanitarian work. Fast forward to now, she has worked as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, a Guterres and UNHCR diplomat, conservationist and lobbyist — which is just a fraction of her philanthropic resume.