Jobs Held By Celebrities While In High School

Contrary to spectator scuttlebutt, celebrities haven't been anointed by some mythical god to lord their videogenic powers over the rest of us. Believe it or not, most celebs during their high school years were just like us — they too likely thought that prospects of fame and fortune were passing fancies at best while experiencing the teenage rite of passage of landing their first critical job. Like most of us, the rush of financial empowerment was intoxicating — and, let's face it, often connected to our social cred. Having some cash meant that things like cars, cute clothes, or adventures around the country were finally a real possibility. And let's be real, even the most low-key of dates with our crushes required some extra cuts of beef from the ol' cash cow. 

In fact, several celebs had mundane occupations growing up. James Franco, Shania Twain, and Sharon Stone all earned early paychecks at McDonald's, while Andrew Garfield and Tyler, the Creator once made their coin at Starbucks. While more fashion-conscious celebs worked shifts at clothing retailers, others took on jobs so far off the beaten path they might be embarrassed to relate those experiences to inquisitive minds now that they're rich and famous. 

What's reassuring is that this cross-section of celebs who juggled jobs in their teen years encountered the same struggles that the rest of America's youth have had to face, before taking on the challenges that the real world would throw at them. 

Megan Fox went bananas for a smoothie cafe

During her career, Megan Fox has made a living fostering reptilian relationships with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and has contended with metal-morphing monsters in "Transformers." But prior to such big screen endeavors, she had an equally strange role involving tropical fruit. In 2009, she fessed up about the first paying job she had as a high school student in Port St. Lucie, roughly two hours north of Miami.  "I worked at a Tropical Smoothie Café in Florida when I was 15," she said to Bang Media (per Digital Spy). "I would have to go out in the street wearing a gigantic banana costume and dance to try to get customers to come in. There was no anonymity, the costume had a big hole cut out so that everyone would see your face."

Fox was quick to point out that donning the outfit wasn't her full-time gig at the eatery. "I worked mostly behind the register, but once a week, usually on Fridays, someone had to dress up as a piece of fruit and go out and stand by the highway," she said on an episode of "The Ellen Show." Fox never indicated why she chose a banana costume, but if anyone got a kick out of her getup, it was usually her pals who went to great lengths to embarrass her. "My friends from school would drive back and forth and yell all kinds of awesome obscenities at me!" Fox told Bang Media.

Bill Gates spent one summer in Congress

To become one of the world's richest people, Bill Gates needed an incredible amount of natural genius — but he also had a lot of privilege to ensure a decent head start in life. One such advantage took place in the summer of 1972, during his senior year at the extremely exclusive Lakeside High School when he landed a summer job as a Congressional page in Washington D.C. 

At the time, Gates was considering a law and political career, but his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives convinced him otherwise. "I understood about contracts and things," Gates said to CNBC. "I was interested in the business world, reading about it all the time." That same year, he had already formed a company that created software tracking automobile traffic patterns. Three years later, Gates would drop out of Harvard to form Microsoft.

But his brief brush with politics likely readied him for an environment he'd later experience. In 1998, lawmakers brought the billionaire to a Congressional hearing to determine whether Microsoft was engaging in monopolistic business practices within the software market (Gates denied the accusations but a judge ruled in favor of the government, per New York magazine). Being a page may have triggered Gates to engage in other activities later in life, according to Inc. writer Bill Murphy Jr. "It would seem to have much to do with starting Microsoft," he mused to Insider. "[But] it could have sparked an interest in public policy that led him to launch the Gates Foundation."

Kim Kardashian did counter shifts at a clothing store

Truthfully, some celebrities have had it easier than others. And while privilege might seem to be a handy excuse to avoid working, that apparently wasn't the case with Kim Kardashian. Her business success in the clothing and cosmetics industry goes back to her high school years when the first dollar she ever earned was while working at a trendy, Los Angeles-based wardrobe retailer called Body. "I worked at a clothing store for four years," Kim said to Variety. "I loved it. When I turned 16, my dad made me sign a contract — he made us sign contracts for everything — that if I hit my car, I would be responsible for paying for it." 

At the time, her father, Robert Kardashian was making headlines of his own as part of O.J. Simpson's legal team during his murder trial. When Kim was involved in a minor fender bender, that association with her famous father worked against her with the plaintiff successfully suing her for a sizeable sum. Working at Body paid off the suit, and she managed to buy clothes with the rest. 

Growing up, the "SKIMS" co-founder was constantly made aware by her parents that the family's opulence didn't happen by accident. If she wanted something, she had to work to get it. "I always was working," she told Teen Vogue. "I never asked people for money. That was never really my thing. I always just figured it out."

Rachel McAdams worked at McDonald's for 3 years

While growing up in London, Ontario, acting was clearly in Rachel McAdams' blood. One summer, she was directing theater for children but needed to supplement the gig with something offering more cash. Enter her sister, who managed a McDonald's restaurant that also employed her brother. The gig gave her three years of steady employment while going to high school. "It was a great place to work, but I had a little bit of an OCD thing with handwashing and just didn't have time," she said to Glamour. "They were like, 'Hey, the drive-through's backing up. Stop washing your hands!' I was not a great employee — I broke the orange juice machine one day."

McDonald's may not have directly played a part in her acting development but the "Mean Girls" and "The Notebook" star said she nonetheless learned a few things during her tenure at the eatery. "It taught me hard work, and I was kind of a bit of a germaphobe when I started working at McDonald's and then I kind of got over that," she said on "CBS Sunday Morning." Today, she still retains an appetite for McDonald's cuisine, especially when she's eating for two. "When I was pregnant I said to my partner when we came out of a movie here in LA, it was like 11 o'clock at night, and I was like 'Take me to the first McDonald's. I want a fish fillet and a chocolate milkshake.'"

Barack Obama scooped ice cream for Hawaiian patrons

Imagine all the difficult decisions that Barack Obama had to make during his tenure in the White House. But when he was a kid in Hawaii, the man who would become the 44th President of the United States had 31 options at his disposal during his day job. Well, 31 flavors, that is — ones that he offered to customers at a Baskin-Robbins outlet. "Scooping ice cream is tougher than it looks," Obama noted in a since-deactivated 2016 LinkedIn post. "Rows and rows of rock-hard ice cream can be brutal on the wrists. As a teenager working behind the counter at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu, I was less interested in what the job meant for my future and more concerned about what it meant for my jump shot."

Obama wasn't merely waxing nostalgic in his post. He was using his past to highlight his Summer Opportunity Project initiative to help youths get greater access to critical first jobs and to develop the financial moxie needed to succeed in the U.S. Interestingly, the former president also hinted that his Baskin-Robbins gig was his first exposure to the business world and a crucial initial step on his way to the Oval Office. "While I may have lost my taste for ice cream after one too many free scoops, I'll never forget that job — or the people who gave me that opportunity — and how they helped me get to where I am today."

Gwen Stefani served Blizzards at Dairy Queen

It's hard to swallow the irony that a trio of kids working at an eatery specializing in cold treats would wind up forming one of the hottest bands of the '90s. Singer Gwen Stefani has acknowledged that during her high school years in Fullerton, California, she worked at Dairy Queen alongside her brother and another bandmate who would eventually kick-start the ska sensations No Doubt. "I just worked at the cash register and I got to make all of the ice cream," she said during an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" about her first job. Stefani dropped hints that she might have sampled a few DQ treats too many during her time at the store. And honestly, who can blame her? "When I started there, I fit in my outfit," she said in a special video segment that launched the 2014 season of NBC talent competition "The Voice" (per US Magazine). "When I ended there, I did not fit in my outfit."

She ditched the daily Blizzards once No Doubt hit the charts with offerings from "Just A Girl" and "It's My Life" and hasn't looked back since, thanks to a lucrative solo career and a romance with country twanger, Blake Shelton. When prodded by Stern that Stefani could have wound up managing that DQ joint if her music career didn't pan out, she quickly protested the likelihood of that career path. "No way, I'm not a manager type at all. I'm unorganized and am a procrastinator," she told him. 

Harry Styles watched his bread rise at a bakery

The effect of Brit boy band One Direction on this pop culture planet is undeniable, with the act having sold more than 50 million albums worldwide to an obsessive fan base fully versed in the intimate details of each member. In the case of Harry Styles — easily One Direction's most popular personality — even his stomping grounds have become tourist attractions. That includes the W. Mandeville Bakery, where he had previously worked while growing up and attending school in the picturesque Cheshire village of Holmes Chapel. The establishment has become such a draw that the business proudly sports a sign, boasting, "People come from miles and miles for craft baking and Harry Styles."

For more than two years, the pop star did everything from operating the cash register to sweeping floors at the bakery, starting when he was 14. According to his boss, Simon Wakefield, the star was a model employee. "He was the most polite member of staff we've ever had," he told the Metro. "Customers really took a shine to him." Evidently, they still did five years later when Styles returned for a photo-op shift at the bakery in 2013 as part of One Direction's "This Is Us" documentary. "You know, you meet a lot of people who kind of see, like a media perception of you," said Styles while working at the counter. "And it's just nice coming here and spending a bit of time with people who know me."

Carrie Underwood worked in a very spooky hotel

Carrie Underwood has become one of the most successful winners of "American Idol" in the show's lengthy history, after landing the title in 2005. But before she made her mark with country hits like "Before He Cheats" and "Jesus, Take the Wheel," the Oklahoma songstress worked a series of odd jobs while at school. She admitted to having a lot of fun at her first gig at a gas station, but couldn't say the same about another job at a nearby hotel. "It was very much like empty, like creepy empty, like 'The Shining,'" she said on Sirius XM. "My second day there, the girl that was training me just didn't come in. She was like 'Forget this, I'm out of here.' So I was in charge on my second day and I didn't know how to work anything or do anything."

Adding to the creepiness was Underwood having to contend with a boss who told patrons that the teen was his daughter. Understandably unimpressed with the atmosphere at the establishment, Underwood quit a month later. Years later, she's made it obvious she doesn't miss those old paid gigs. "My best job is definitely what I do now," she said in a statement provided by her label to I Heart Country. "I really like being on stage. I really like performing for people and just having fun and singing, because that's what I feel like I was born to do."

Christopher Walken became a lion tamer one summer

What made Christopher Walken so brilliant as a villain in movies like "True Romance," "A View To A Kill," and "Batman Returns" was the steely, clinical detachment he brought to his antagonist roles. Credit his acting chops for that kind of discipline, but it's fun to speculate that some of that coolness he developed might have been due to a summer job he scored when he was still in high school. For one month when he was 16, Walken was a lion tamer trainee at a traveling circus where he was in charge of a gigantic feline named Sheba. "The main guy went in with all the cats, and then he chased them all out at the end but left one in there, and I'd go in," Walken told "Everyday," while promoting the movie "Seven Psychopaths" in 2012.

It turned out that the gig wasn't as dangerous as the optics would indicate otherwise. "I would come into the cage and wave my whip, and she'd lazily get up and sit like a dog and maybe give a little roar," he said to The Guardian. "I like cats a lot. I've always liked cats. They're great company." Sheba was one cat he loved developing a rapport with, but that personal attachment apparently wasn't enough to divert him from pursuing an acting career. "Acting is really what I love," Walken told the outlet. "I don't really like to go out of the house unless I'm working."

Ye fell into The Gap

It's hard to believe that controversial hip-hop superstar Ye, formerly known as Kanye West and Yeezy, worked at The Gap during his younger years. "It's funny that I worked at the Gap in high school because in my past 15 years, it seems like that's the place I stood in my creative path — to be the gap, the bridge," West wrote for Paper in 2020 (via Business Insider). "When I was working at the Gap at 15, I don't think I had any desire to actually make clothes, but I always felt like that's what I wanted to be around. I loved the fabrics, I loved the colors, I loved the proportions." Back then, the teen worked part-time, excluding him from any staff discounts. However, if his tune "Spaceship" is to be believed then he apparently remedied that situation by offering himself a four-finger discount at the store, instead. 

Regardless, The Gap was still eager to team up with Ye to create a clothing line, only to become nervous about the rapper's edgy ideas. "Look man, I'm an innovator," Ye protested to Fox News. "And I'm not here to sit up and apologize about my ideas. That's exactly what the media tries to do. Make us apologize for any idea that doesn't fall under exactly the way they want us to think." In September 2022, Ye terminated his agreement with The Gap, citing a breach of contract and claiming the store had failed to open specific Yeezy stores, as previously agreed, per The New York Times.