The Surprising Blue-Collar Past of Celebrities

Not everyone is born famous! You might be surprised how many celebrities worked blue-collar jobs before they hit it big!

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated March 12th, 2024

While many celebrities got into their careers with ease – some had to work a whole lot harder. Believe it or not, some of the biggest names in Hollywood started their careers in various trades or vocations.

That’s right, before they were famous, they were just regular folks like you and me, slaving away as plumbers, electricians, and even chimney sweeps. Put down your fancy caviar and pick up your hard hat, because it’s time to take a look at the blue-collar pasts of some of your favorite A-listers.

Whether you decide to go into the trades as a stepping stone to something better, or stick it out for an amazing life-long career, you are in good company. These famous blue collar workers all had to start somewhere, just like everyone else!

But first, a question that many people ask.

Are Actors Blue Collar Workers?

No, actors are not blue collar workers. Blue collar workers typically do some kind of manual labor which include the use of tools or skills to build and create things. Actors do not do any of these.

vintage image of a skilled trade worker

Famous Blue Collar Workers

1. Harrison Ford

Although he did do some work as an actor, Harrison was growing frustrated with the roles he was being offered. So, to support his family he decided to become a carpenter.

Working for various writers helped him escalate his opportunities to land better roles and at that time he left carpentry behind.

2. Michael Caine

Before he became an actor, Caine served in the British Army. Before he became a famous actor he also worked as a plumber’s assistant.

3. Freddie Mercury

Best known as the lead singer of Queen, Mercury worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport in London. He also sold second-hand clothes at Kensington Market in London.

4. Mickey Hargitay

Many of you may know the name Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order, but her dad Mickey was equally famous back in the 50’s. The former Mr. Universe also worked as a an actor, but prior to his success he was a plumber and carpenter.

5. Ozzy Osbourne

Before becoming the “Prince of Darkness”, Ozzy worked a variety of skilled trade jobs. Leaving high school at 15 because of bullying left him with few options.

But he went on to work construction, as a plumber apprentice, as a toolmaker apprentice, and even as a horn tuner in a car factory.

6. Steve Buscemi

Prior to his jump into the world of acting, Buscemi worked as a firefighter in New York City for four years. After September 11th – he returned to the firehouse he worked at to help volunteer.

steve buscemi firefighter

7. Ben Affleck

Before he became an actor, Affleck admitted to working in construction and that it “almost broke him”. He worked with friend Matt Damon at a construction both during high school and a short time after.

8. Madonna

The singer worked at Dunkin’ Donuts while attending dance school after moving to the East Village.

9. Jim Carrey

Carrey was made to work at a tire factory in return for the family family being able to live in a home across the street. He would work as a security guard and janitor at the factory.

Related: Rosie The Riveter – The Ultimate Icon

10. Danny DeVito

This one may be surprising! Devito, after graduating school, worked as a beautician at a salon his sister owned before starting his acting career. It was his search for a professional makeup instructor that he would lead him on his path to fame.

11. Jean-Claude Van Damme

Before becoming an actor and martial artist, Van Damme worked as a carpet layer.

12. Matt LeBlanc

Most famous for playing Joey on Friends, Matt comes from a family of blue-collar workers and assumed that was his path. He enrolled in a carpentry apprentice program and worked as a carpenter before his big break.

He said in an interview that one of his proudest moments was when he built an entire kitchen from scratch.

13. George Foreman

The former heavyweight boxing champion and of course creator of the George Foreman grill was not only a high school dropout – he was on a path of criminal activity.

To turn things around he decided to sign up for the Job Corps. There he received a GED and trained to become a carpenter and bricklayer which he did until he decided to get into boxing.

View our list of trades and vocations if you are looking for a new career!

14. Whoopi Goldberg

Before becoming an actress and comedian, Goldberg worked as a bricklayer and a mortuary cosmetologist.

In an interview with Telegraph she was quoted saying “Well I needed money and I needed to work, so I figured I would rather lay bricks than men for money.’ Not a reason we come across that often to go into bricklaying but each to their own.”

15. Liam Neelson

Even in high school and college he had the bug for acting, but before fame he had bills to pay. So, Neelson worked as a forklift operator and a truck driver while working towards landing his chance at fame.

16. Charles Bronson

At just 10 years old, Bronson went to work in the coal industry. During his younger ages he would work in the office, then as he got older he went to work in the mines. He then went on to join the US Air Force after being the first in his family to graduate high school.

charles bronson coal mine worker
Charles Bronson as a child in the coal mine.

17. Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson struggled early in his acting career because he seemed to have troubles remembering his lines! But, his career did eventually take off. Before he was able to make it big he worked as an aircraft mechanic for the United States Navy.

After being discharged, he worked odd jobs including as a truck driver, before landing his first real acting job.

18. Ellen Degeneres

Before this funny woman became a household name, she actually worked in a variety of blue collar jobs. Some of her jobs included oyster shucker, bartender, and even a house painter just to get those bills paid.

We are sure there are former blue collar celebrities out there. This is just a small sampling of them – but we hope it inspires you to give it a try, even if it is just a stepping stone in your life.

19. Sean Connery

Before he was ‘James Bond”, Sean Connery worked several blue-collar jobs including bricklayer, lifeguard, and even a coffin polisher. It was when he started helping out in a local theater that he was able to leave his trade past behind.

20. Clint Eastwood

Never one to really enjoy school, Eastwood transferred to Oakland Technical High School where he took auto mechanics and aircraft maintenance classes. Teachers encouraged him to take drama, but he resisted. He would join the US Army and later work summers as a lifeguard, manager for an apartment house, and gas station attendant. It was a chance meeting a few years later that would start his career as an actor.

21. Warren Beatty

While a passion for acting started at a very young age, to make it in NYC Warren Beatty had to take some blue-collar jobs. During his time studying acting in the big city, Beatty worked as a construction worker, bricklayer, and even worked underground as what is called a “sandhog“.

Celebrities That Went To Job Corps

Seems like a lot of people want to know what famous people were a part of the Job Corps! Below are all the celebrities that we could find that went through the program.

  • George Foreman (Professional Boxer)
  • Mike Epps (Comedian)
  • Charles Bradley (Singer)

There are others as well like Judges and other high profile people, but they are not of the same fame as the above.

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.