The Surprising Blue-Collar Past of 17 Celebrities

By: Jill Caren / Updated:

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


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

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

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.

Jean-Claude Van Damme

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

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.

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!

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jill Caren
Jill Caren
View all posts by Jill Caren

Jill Caren is a self-taught web developer and SEO strategist with a passion for helping kids figure out a career plan. As a "lost" teen who found her way later in life, she hopes to help other teens know the many options that are out there for them! Jill can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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