How These Celebrities Spent Their First Big Paychecks

Celebrities are no strangers to making extravagant purchases. When they decide to give a gift, for instance, it's always with lavish taste that involves a whole load of Benjamins. Rapper Tyga splashed $320,000 on a Ferrari 482 Italia for "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star Kylie Jenner's 18th birthday. In a similar fashion, the long list of gifts Migos rapper Offset and 'Bodak Yellow" song sensation Cardi B have publicly exchanged in the past includes a jaw-dropping $2 million in cash.

Gifting aside, public figures sometimes spend, simply because they can. The grapevine has it that Irish singer-songwriter Bono allegedly used $1,500 to airlift his favorite cap on a British Airways airplane back in 2003. With the same spirit, there's nothing simple about "The Simple Life" star Paris Hilton's dog mansion that features proper air conditioning and luxury brand furnishing.

For a number of celebrities, however, splurging wasn't an option until they got hold of their very first paychecks. Even then, the likes of young soccer icon Kylian Mbappé had to pinch every penny until they were sure their money wouldn't run out. In Hollywood, "That's So Raven" lead Raven Symoné still hasn't made use of her "The Cosby Show" earnings. In case you've ever wondered what celebrities did when their first big buck checked in, let's take a deep dive!

Taylor Swift acquired a Mean Girls-inspired car

Taylor Swift has been vocal about the distress she experienced in high school at the hands of bullies. To the "Bad Blood" singer, the flick "Mean Girls" has a real-life occurrence attached to it, and one whose memories is nothing short of daunting. Swift's most-liked "Mean Girls" catchphrase, "I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip-flops. So I bought army pants and flip-flops," set the tone for her first car purchase, a Lexus SC430 convertible synonymous with The Plastics chieftain Regina George (Rachel McAdams).

"All the girls who were mean to me in middle school, like, idolized The Plastics. I think I chose that car as a kind of rebellion against that type of girl." Swift said in an interview with The Guardian. "Instead of going to parties I've been writing songs and playing shows and getting these really small paychecks that have added up and now I get to buy a car — and guess which one I'm going to buy? The one that the girl you idolize has."

George Clooney got his friend's grandmother a TV set

There's no doubt that "Ticket to Paradise" actor George Clooney has a generous streak that goes a long way. Long before Clooney gave fourteen of his friends a piece of paradise in the form of $1 million in cash each, he was just as generous with his first major pay. Clooney lived in a friend's closet in his early days as an actor. The friend's grandmother was his roommate. This was revealed in a PopSugar chat with his "Tickets to Paradise" co-star Julia Roberts, whose first pay went into the purchase of a boombox.

How did Clooney spend his first paycheck, you may ask? "I bought [my buddy's grandmother] a TV with a remote," Clooney revealed. "She would always have to get up and go change the channel, so my first check I bought her a TV," he continued to explain while Roberts gushed over his giving spirit. "See. Living in a closet. Getting a remote for grandma. Not even his grandma," she remarked.

Kelly Rowland bought high-cost groceries

Former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland didn't stop at nothing when her big payday came about. "I went to the grocery store and bought almost everything that my mom used to tell me was too expensive," Rowland disclosed in a conversation with InStyle. The "Motivation" hitmaker further threw a party which she told the publication was memorable. Still, she was yet to fully experience the joy of having too much money at her disposal. 

Having hit the million-dollar mark at the tender age of 20, Rowland unlocked the key to the fast life. No coin was spared in an effort to keep her hair and dressing up to standard. International trips, she said, became a ritual. "I remember just going completely nuts on trips to Paris and Italy, blowing like 30 grand in 30 minutes at Bergdorf Goodman," Rowland shared. 

To crown it all, she acquired a piece of property to match her newfound status. "I was, like, 21 years old with five bedrooms and 5,000 square feet to myself," Rowland gave away. As she would later learn, money runs out faster than it comes, and her AmEx bill was all the proof she needed.

Jennifer Lopez traded a Honda Hatchback for a Mercedes

When Jennifer Lopez turned fifty in 2019, her then-fiancé Alex Rodriguez presented her with a Porsche 911 GTS convertible. "That is beautiful," Lopez raved at her surprise, "I've never driven a car like that!" The gift, whose 2023 retail price is somewhere in the neighborhood of $140,000, was way above the price range of a Honda Hatchback she drove while on "In Living Color." It was handed down to her by the show's creator, Keenen Ivory Wayans.

In a 2016 roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Lopez, who was conversing with her industry peers, divulged that the car had seen her through a number of casting calls. When her first mammoth paycheck kicked in, she had to let it go. "I think I just got a regular series, I think. And I bought a car. I bought a Mercedes. And it was a big, huge deal ... It was exciting at the time!" she narrated. Lopez's massive purchase coincided with the end of a decade-long relationship. The tears she shed on the day were therefore bittersweet.

Jalen Hurts made huge charity donations

When he got his first NFL million, the Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts' first order of business was to hit the mall, where he bought a $13 Larry's cheesesteak and several bomber jackets. "All the Philadelphia gear I got probably added up to like $1,000," Hurts revealed in an interview with GQ Sports. Hurts also acquired a handful of authentic accessories and footwear, amounting to $30,000.

A good chunk of his first seven-figure income went into philanthropy. In collaboration with the Philadelphia-based charity Alex's Lemonade Stand, Hurts made a $30,000 contribution toward a young cancer survivor's family home. "For charities and giving back in my rookie year, $60k. It's what matters the most." Hurts declared in his GQ Sports conversation.

Of course, he had to budget for utilities, which set him back to the tune of $30,000. Hurts opted out of purchasing major real estate at the time. Instead, he got an apartment to keep him going for a while. To secure the services of his business associates, Hurts spent $20,000, and an additional $10,000 to keep his body fit. $15,000 was put toward revamping his parents' house, and his brother received a $1,000 wedding gift. The rest went into savings, with a promise of more help for his family.

Henry Cavill upgraded his car

Way before he was advocating for bio conservation by using an electricity-powered Audi or hailing praises at the cozy toughness of a Bentley, former "The Witcher" actor Henry Cavill was driving a Peugeot 206. It was his very first car, Cavill shared on "The Graham Norton Show." The French hatchback was however giving him a rough time, it had to go. "This thing struggles uphill at this stage," Cavill narrated. At his father's suggestion, he went to a dealership with his dad in tow.

"There was a number of nice cars there," Cavill recounted, adding that it was love at first sight when he lay his eyes on the Audi R8.Unfortunately for him, his dad had quite an exquisite taste that he ended up bowing to. Cavill left with an Aston Martin DBS, synonymous with the James Bond role. Safe to say, his old man made good use of the purchase, to the point of earning himself a restriction.

Kerry Washington got herself a laptop

Kerry Washington made her screen debut in the 1994 ABC Afterschool Special "Magical Make-Over," and it wasn't until seven years later that she found a financial break as the single mom Chenille Reynolds in "Save the Last Dance." "'Save the Last Dance' was my first big studio film," Washington recalled in a shoot with Parade. "It was my first time that I had a trailer and a per diem and hair and makeup."

Washington stacked up her daily allowances to buy herself a personal computer, as she shared on The Hollywood Reporter's actors roundtable. "I couldn't believe somebody was handing me cash," she expressed in awe. "Coming from where I came from, I actually literally used to hide the cash under my mattress for the whole movie ... At the end of it, I used all the cash collected from the three months and bought my first laptop."

Washington's first computer is long gone, she revealed, but her career has obviously stood the test of time, owing to the barrier-breaking role of Olivia Pope in the Shondaland hit show "Scandal."

Tom Cruise paid his sibling's tuition fees

In 2022, it was estimated that Tom Cruise's all-time career revenue had reached the billion-dollar mark. Cruise's role as Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in the year's box office hit "Top Gun: Maverick" established him as acting royalty, commanding over an astounding $100 million during its opening week. He had an expected way of celebrating his big win.

Clearly, Cruise was smiling his way to the bank just as he did when he got his first big payout, which was spent on his sibling. "I actually paid for my sister's college education," Cruise disclosed on The Graham Norton Show" when asked about his first splurge. "Next one I bought my other sister a car," he added.

Not that Cruise hasn't spent any money on himself over the years. If anything, he brings a new meaning to the phrase "Go big or go home." If the term big is a code word for the moon, then Cruise has a piece of it. Lunar Embassy owner Dennis Hope is a California-based businessman who has been making a living off of selling land on the moon, and Tom Cruise is allegedly one of his buyers.

Oprah Winfrey spent lavishly on designer towels

In 1980, former talk show host Oprah Winfrey tried to negotiate a pay raise that matched that of her co-anchor. When her boss refused to budge on the grounds that she had little to no responsibility, Winfrey retreated. Deep down, she knew what she brought to the table. "They did not understand my value," Winfrey said when accepting The Hollywood Reporter's Empowerment Award.

She worked her way into making her first million, and the course of action that struck her mind at first was to photograph the moment. "So, there's a picture of me holding the check for a million dollars," the media mogul revealed on Oprah Daily's "My Best Life" segment.

 As far as spending goes, Winfrey wanted a comfortable bath time. "The thing that I splurged on was really good fluffy [Ralph Lauren] towels," the "A Wrinkle in Time" actor said. "I love great towels. Towels that are so big and fluffy you can wrap your whole self, your whole body in."

Olivia Holt spent $200 on a pet fish

Although she rose to fame as the black belt Kim Crawford who gave her male Wasabi Dojo counterparts a run for their money in the Disney series "Kickin' It," acting wasn't Olivia Holt's first choice. "Music was originally what I wanted to do," Holt revealed on "The Zach Sang Show." Her Mississippi childhood, she recalled, was filled with tunes that created an almost innate passion. In 2019, the actor disclosed that she'd be hanging her acting boots in pursuit of a singing career.

A few years before the bombshell drop, Holt had taken a trip down memory lane to her very first paycheck in a conversation with People. "When I was eight or nine, I did a commercial or something," the "Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast" star shared with the publication. "My parents gave me $200 from it and I took that $200 to Petco and I bought a Betta fish."

Matt LeBlanc simply needed a meal

Decades ago when "Friends" actor Matt LeBlanc went to try out for the role of Joey Tribbiani, he was flat broke. LeBlanc was left with a little over $10 to help him get by and had finally come to the realization that acting might not cut it. He had to leave the starving artist lifestyle and make a living working an actual job. All along, LeBlanc had held onto the hunch that Lady Luck was nearby.  At his breaking point, she showed up and would keep sending big checks his way over "Friends" reign, estimated to be worth $136 million before tax.

To answer the big question, LeBlanc just wanted to eat when he got his first pay. "I was so broke. I needed the job really bad. And the first thing I bought was dinner," he revealed when he appeared alongside his costars on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." 

Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, purchased a Mercedes. Courteney Cox set her sights on a Porsche, and much like her character Phoebe Buffay who tends to think outside the box, Lisa Kudrow acquired an Acura Legend.

Will Smith shut down the Gucci store

In February 1988, Will Smith and DJ. Jazzy Jeff released the hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand" off of the duo's sophomore album "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" which went platinum thrice. Smith was swimming in hard cash and won a Grammy, as he narrated on his YouTube channel.  Whilst basking full throttle in his ego, Smith had a proposal for the luxury brand, Gucci. "I call the Gucci store in Atlanta and I was like, 'Hey, will ya'll close it down if I bring my friends,'" he recounted.

It didn't take long for Smith to find out what a dangerous road he was treading. The pair's next album failed to rake in good sales. In Smith's own words, "It was a tragedy. It went, like, double plastic." His reckless spending had caught up with him, and soon enough, the IRS came knocking. Smith hadn't kept up with Uncle Sam as much as he did the fast lane. "The IRS took all that stuff [cars, motorcycles] so I was like, broke, broke, broke." he told his YouTube audience.

Shaquille O'Neal blew $1 million in a day

Soon after Shaquille O'Neal made $1 million from an endorsement before his entry into the NBA, he spent it in one day. O'Neal received $600,000 after deductions and made his way into a Mercedes dealership. "I go buy a $150,000 car. No negotiations," he chronicled on "In Depth with Graham Bensinger."

When he got home, O'Neal's father asked, "Where's mine?" Like a good son, appreciative of his dad's efforts in raising him, he returned to the same car dealer. "There goes $300,000 right there," O'Neal shared. He bought his father the same Mercedes model. At the end of the day, O'Neal purchased a car for his mom too, and made adjustments to suit his recently discovered status.

"A couple of days later I get a call from the bank," O'Neal said. He'd ran up a $80,000 overdraft. Luckily for him, there was more money coming his way. The bank manager, who was affiliated with his family, offered the ex-athlete a solid piece of advice. "Son, I watched you play here in high school. You're bright. You're a smart young man. I don't want you to be like all these other athletes." The last line became a memorable one that continued to echo throughout O'Neal's NBA career.

Steve Harvey whitened his teeth

On the game show "Family Feud," renowned comedian Steve Harvey gave his audience a foolproof technique of joining the millionaires' club. "It's a really simple way," he said," And it's so true, it's very simple. You just have to understand that it's possible for you. What stops most people from becoming successful is you have something in you that tells you it's not for you."

In the same breath, Steve's first purchases when he became a millionaire were a part of "Family Feud," in which he has served as host since 2010. First on his list of splurges were real estate and a Bentley. Years after he'd made more money than he could count, Steve's wife Marjorie Harvey would gift him the same car model for his 59th birthday. Next on Steve's checklist was a purple suit and a private yacht. To crown it all, he gave himself a sparkling smile by buying teeth whitener.