These celebrities said goodbye to their careers to take on normal jobs
While many young folks dream of bringing in the big bucks with a career on camera as an A-list actor, the fame game is tough to play, and often unreliable. Some celebrity actors and actresses manage to make it work earning a living in Hollywood, while others got out of the acting world to work normal jobs. For some people, the steady salary of a 9-to-5 job is worth more than trying to pursue a superstar salary. As far as risk-benefit analysis is concerned, a career that is not controlled by fame and fads is probably a safer bet.
1. Angelina Pivarnick
After unceremoniously skipping town early in Season 1 of The Jersey Shore for refusing to show up to work at a t-shirt shop, Angelina Pivarnick has a whole new work ethic. While the remaining cast was living by their three-letter life motto, GTL (gym, tan, laundry), Pivarnick is living by three letters of her own: EMT.
The majority of the cast of The Jersey Shore has stayed within the world of reality TV, but Pivarnick’s career is considerably more stable. Without having to rely on ratings or outrageous on-air antics, Pivarnick’s last stint at the shore took her out of the spotlight and into an ambulance, saving lives.
2. Steven Anthony Lawrence
Best known for his Disney Channel career, child star of Even Stevens fame, Steven Anthony Lawrence, didn’t ditch acting right away. After appearing in a number of other kid-friendly shows and some movie roles lately, Lawrence has settled into his life as a teacher.
Instead of falling into the fame trap of constantly seeking the spotlight (and a celeb salary), Lawrence has taken up teaching acting techniques and helping prepare his pupils to handle the business side too — and he absolutely loves it! By teaching all the on-the-rise, starry-eyed actors how to negotiate their salary, Lawrence is paying it forward in a big way.
3. Lisa Whelchel
Lisa Whelchel took the good and the bad from her time as Blair Warner on The Facts of Life and decided to impart the public with some facts of her own. After getting married to associate pastor Steven Cauble, Whelchel walked away from acting, instead, opting to be a stay-at-home mom and author.
The prolific writer has been pulling in the big bucks after publishing ten books on motherhood, religion, and even a memoir. Even after saying goodbye to Blair Warner, Whelchel returned to television on the Season 25 of Survivor: Philippines, winning $100,000 as runner-up and Sprint Player of the Season. Not too shabby!
4. Erik Estrada
His most famous role as California Highway Patrol officer Frank Poncherello on CHiPs must have made a real impression on Erik Estrada, as he became a deputy sheriff for Bedford County, Virginia in 2009. Eventually, Estrada went on to become a reserve police officer in St. Anthony, Idaho — a long way from a Hollywood sound stage.
Turns out pretending to be a police officer wasn’t actually Estrada’s childhood dream — the star had always wanted to serve and protect. The steady paycheck followed by an annual pension makes being a police officer sound pretty good and certainly more stable than playing one on TV.
5. Al Green
This Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soul singer made his mark with smash hits like “Tired of Being Alone,” “Love and Happiness,” and arguably his biggest bop, “Let’s Stay Together” in the early 70s. This was before a life-altering incident that shook the singer’s spirit and sent him on a new path.
After an unfortunate end to his relationship with girlfriend Mary Woodson White, Green got ordained as a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tennessee. While the pay for a pastor is hardly why he turned to religion, Reverend Al Green is lucky enough to have a financial cushion from his singing career while he works for the church.
6. Lauren Conrad
Lauren Conrad first charmed audiences on the reality show about well-off Californians, Laguna Beach, before graduating to the sequel series, The Hills. By the time 2009 came around, Conrad couldn’t see herself taking part in any more reality TV and took her career in a different direction.
Despite being the highest paid cast member on The Hills, career longevity in reality TV is unlikely. Conrad has since gone on to write a successful book series and done quite a bit of designing, most recently launching a swim line at Kohl’s. By taking control of her career, Conrad’s finances weren’t affected by fickle fame.
7. Lisa and Louise Burns
The twins from The Shining made a mark on the memory of everyone who’s ever seen the film. However, one group of people was less than impressed by the pair. That would be the administrators at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, who turned the twosome down from the prestigious drama school in London. Undeterred, Lisa and Louise have gone on to find success in avenues other than acting.
Since sidelining any pursuit of careers as actresses, Lisa has become a successful lawyer and Louise a published scientist. Parlaying childhood stardom into an exciting career in Hollywood is hard — something the Burns sisters haven’t had to stress over. Both Lisa and Louise Burns can boast careers that keep them living comfortably.
8. Taran Noah Smith
After growing up in front of our eyes as the youngest Taylor on the Tim Allen sitcom Home Improvement, Taran Noah Smith knew one thing for sure: He was calling a timeout and trading in his acting career for something else entirely. The former child star has since started producing soy-free vegan cheese in a growing market estimated to reach a value of $4 Billion by 2024.
Smith’s sitcom salary (and those sizeable residuals) has set him up to pursue all of his passion projects, like his vegan food company Playfood. Aside from making vegan cheese, Smith has actually taken a few lessons from his time on Home Improvement to heart, helping rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Harvey.
9. Geoffrey Owens
Geoffrey Owens made national news when the Daily Mail posted a job-shaming article about the former actor and his job as a crew member at Trader Joe’s. Most famous for his role as Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, Owens didn’t decide to quit Hollywood, but he did have to find a way to keep paying the bills.
Owens is still auditioning and acting, but for a while, he earned his money working at the grocery chain. The article sparked the Twitter hashtag #ActorsWithDayJobs, and the response was overwhelming. At the end of the day, no matter what you do, there’s no shame in an honest day’s work.
10. Jeff Cohen
Famed director Steven Spielberg knows how to spot a star and was certainly onto something with the casting of child actor Jeff Cohen as “Chunk” in his comedy classic The Goonies. But Cohen wouldn’t go on to become a star in the acting world; instead, Cohen is a successful attorney.
Even at a young age, Cohen noted that all the bigwigs on the business side of Hollywood held law degrees. Trading in his Hawaiian shirt for a more serious suit may have been the best decision Cohen could have made for his career. Cohen is currently a sought after entertainment lawyer with his own firm in Beverly Hills bringing in the big bucks.
11. Adrian Dantley
Ex-NBA star Adrian Dantley was a sportsman through and through, with 15 seasons as a professional athlete under his belt. The six-time NBA All-Star retired after an exciting career on the court and on the sidelines as a coach. Since then, he has taken up post as a crossing guard in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The National Basketball Association Hall of Fame inductee told reporters that he’s happy with how he’s been spending his time since retiring from sports. “It’s not a big thing to me, I just do it. I have a routine. I exercise, I go to work, I go home… I have a summer off, just like when I was a basketball player.”
12. Angus T. Jones
Another day, another child star eschewing the spotlight. Angus T. Jones is best known as the “half” on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. After growing up on-screen and becoming a man in his own right, Jones was already ready to retire from acting.
Since he was once the highest-paid child star on TV, and because he’s still receiving residuals in his retirement, Jones could start a career from scratch without stressing about breaking the bank. In 2015, Jones announced he’d partnered with Justin Combs (P Diddy’s son) to launch an event planning venture, Tonite. The two are sure to turn Tonite into a money-maker.
13. Gene Hackman
Academy Award-winning actor Gene Hackman didn’t have to retire from Hollywood, He was still heavily sought after as a serious actor when he bid the business goodbye. After taking on his last film role in 2004, Hackman’s had his writing to keep him busy and his bank account balanced.
Hackman’s been focusing on his post-Hollywood career as an author of historical fiction. For Hackman, the business side of acting was actually very stressful, and despite a salary befitting an Oscar winner, he far prefers his new life as an author. Seems like the book business has been good for Hackman, as he’s already written five novels with plans to keep publishing.
14. Mara Wilson
Anyone who grew up in the 90s knows every one of Mara Wilson’s film roles, from sweet Natalie in Mrs. Doubtfire to smart Matilda Wormwood in Matilda. But even as a child star certain to see future success, Wilson instead retired from acting and is instead focusing on writing.
Wilson avoided the pitfalls of peaking young by switching tracks and taking her talent for storytelling to a different medium, one far less focused on fame. The struggle to transition from adorable A-list child star to serious adult auteur can be a challenge for some, but Wilson seems to have made the transition without a hiccup.
15. Ali MacGraw
Ali MacGraw was such a successful actress, that the star was honored with impressions of her footprints and autograph in front of the famed Grauman’s Theater after appearing in only three films. But even the financial security of being one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars wasn’t enough to keep MacGraw in the movie business.
After decades as an actress, Ali MacGraw got into yoga in her 50s, and it changed her whole outlook. No longer concerned with the superficiality and stress that comes with stardom, MacGraw has shifted her focus to teaching yoga. While it may not boast a movie star salary, MacGraw’s spirit is far more serene.
16. Kevin Jonas
As one-third of the singing, teen-pop sensation that was The Jonas Brothers, Kevin Jonas got a taste of stardom while he was quite young. After meeting and marrying his now wife Danielle, the eldest Jonas decided it was time to take care of his family with a more practical and reliable career.
Despite his younger brothers’ separate successes in the spotlight, Joe as the lead singer of DNCE and Nick as a solo artist, Kevin is now a contractor. Based out of his native New Jersey, Kevin’s work as a contractor provides for his young family of four without having to worry about fame to feed his bank account.
17. Mike Vitar
Young star Mike Vitar saw his spot in Hollywood as the go-to guy for sports movies after starring as a tween in The Sandlot and in his teenage years in The Mighty Ducks franchise. Quick to recognize the sometimes sporadic nature of finding film roles, Vitar bid farewell to acting in favor of life as a firefighter.
After graduating from high school, Vitar worked for Gerber Ambulance. His experience in emergency medical services fueled the fires of his desire to depart Hollywood. As a firefighter, Vitar enjoys a steady income and an early retirement in his 50s while retaining the majority of his salary through a pretty solid pension.
18. Vanilla Ice
After breaking onto the Billboard charts with the first ever hip hop single to hit the top, “Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice had a hard time finding similar successes with his later songs. But that’s not an issue for Ice (real name Robert Matthew Van Winkle) who found that the pay is just as good in the property game.
For two decades now, Vanilla Ice has been buying, refurbishing and reselling dilapidated houses. Flipping houses in Florida has been good to Vanilla Ice, who seems pretty happy with his second chance at a career. As he told CNBC, “The great thing is I found another passion that does make money.”
19. Phoebe Cates
After her unforgettable performance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Phoebe Cates could have easily become the next A-list starlet to take Hollywood by storm. Instead, she chose a quiet life. Cates decided to retire her famous Fast Times red bikini and be a stay-at-home mom, at least for a bit.
After marrying award-winning actor Kevin Kline, Cates had the luxury of relying on her husband to be the breadwinner while raising the couple’s kids. But surviving on a single salary can be a struggle (even for celebs), so Cates is currently keeping busy in her New York-based boutique, Blue Tree.
20. Nikki Blonsky
Discovered while working at a Cold Stone Creamery, the Hairspray star seemed poised to make it big. But after struggling to find film opportunities, Nikki Blonsky had to figure out an alternative career. Blonsky earned her license in cosmetology and began working as a hairstylist and makeup artist while she auditioned for future film roles.
Despite attempts at shaming the actress for working in a salon, Blonsky made clear that she was proud to be a stylist. Taking to Twitter, she stated that she was happy to be working and helping to pay the bills. Blonsky is still booking occasional acting gigs, but her cosmetology license is a safe little side career.
21. Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum was spotted by talent agents in the Cleveland Play House children’s theater and was quickly cast as Charlie Bucket in the now cinematic classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – his only film role, ever. While he had a good time on set, Ostrum went the way of Willy Wonka and retired while he was still on top.
Even after being offered a three-year contract after filming wrapped on Willy Wonka, Ostrum opted not to hang around Hollywood and instead groomed his budding interest in horses. While he still receives $8-9 a month in royalty payments from the role, his successful career as a veterinarian was a far more sensible choice.
22. Dylan Sprouse
Getting his start on television when he was just a wee babe, identical twin Dylan Sprouse acted throughout his entire childhood. But after calling it a day on his Disney Channel show The Suite Life on Deck, Dylan and brother Cole enrolled in NYU and pursued interests outside of acting.
In his own words, “I think that if you are an actor…and you don’t invest money in something that is more stable than the commission job that is acting, then you are a fool.” Sprouse opened up a mead brewery based out of Brooklyn, All-Wise Meadery, and the stable paycheck he gets from being his own boss is the best part.
23. Jamie Walters
After Aaron Spelling created a character just for Jamie Walters on Beverly Hills 90210, playing opposite his Spelling’s daughter Tori as her musician boyfriend, Walters lefts after two seasons to pursue his music career. His music career didn’t take off the way he may have hoped so Walters later trained to be a paramedic.
Still living in Los Angeles, Walters works full-time for the Los Angeles City Fire Department as a firefighter and paramedic. While a career in emergency services means anything could happen at any moment, what’s one thing Walters doesn’t have to worry about? He doesn’t have to worry about where he’ll find his next paycheck. The steady salary and comprehensive benefits (the best insurance around) were a smart choice.
24. MC Hammer
Turns out MC Hammer isn’t “2 Legit 2 Quit” his rap career and instead, has decided to hang up his parachute pants to preach after getting ordained in the Chuch of God in Christ. After his music career stalled, and he suffered bankruptcy, MC Hammer has been earning a modest living as a minister. According to PayScale.com, ministers earn around $50,000 per year on average.
Knowing that he’s recognizable from his rap career, MC Hammer, whose MC now stands for “Man of Christ,” prefers to preach from smaller pulpits, “where they don’t expect to see someone famous.” The highs and lows of fame proved to be too much for the “U Can’t Touch This” rapper, who is enjoying his calling and new career.
Pop singing sensation and teen icon Tiffany, whose hit single “I Think We’re Alone Now” catapulted her to stardom in the 80s, took a step away from celebrity and settled into life as a boutique owner in Nashville, Tennessee. The music industry is tough enough and breaking into it while still so young took a toll on Tiffany.
The 80s icon is still recording music, but her shop provides her with a steady paycheck and alleviates the stress of an uncertain career as a singer. As Tiffany told People Magazine, “I’m a real girl. I get it…My styles change,” and added that it was important that her store sell clothes that “don’t cost a fortune.”
26. Jon Gosselin
Reality television may be a method for making a quick buck, but as Jon Gosselin found, once the fascination fades, so does financial security. Given that his livelihood relied on his life being recorded almost 24/7 for years at a time, on Jon & Kate Plus 8, Gosselin became sick of a career in front of the camera.
At the end of a period of time bouncing from job to job, Gosselin seems to have found happiness in a quieter life, away from the prying eyes of the public as a part-time short order cook at the local TGI Friday’s in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. On the side, Gosselin also enjoys booking DJ gigs at bars and clubs in the area.
27. Shirley Temple
The sweet singing and dancing Shirley Temple was an iconic actress, but as she got older, the starlet struggled to find a place in Hollywood as an adult — just like many other child stars. Temple took a step back and decided it was time to retire from acting in 1950.
Her post-Hollywood career had far less toe-tapping, as Temple got involved in politics in the 60s and eventually took up a position as the US Ambassador to Ghana. While work in politics can be as unsure as acting, Temple thrived in her government work and couldn’t have been happier to have had the chance at a second career. Though Temple has since passed away, her legacy is lasting.
28. Rick Moranis
Comedic genius Rick Moranis was one of the most in-demand actors of the 80s and 90s, famous for his pitch-perfect comedic timing in films like Ghostbusters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Spaceballs. Despite all his commercial success, he disappeared from acting seemingly out of nowhere.
After losing his wife to illness, Moranis took his movie money and became a stay-at-home dad. Moranis has also kept busy with writing. As he told an interviewer, “Stuff happens to people all the time, and people make adjustments, change career… Really that’s all I did.” Moranis’ career change worked for a while, although lately, he seems to be eyeing an acting comeback.
29. Susan Boyle
Scottish singer Susan Boyle shocked everyone when she beautifully belted out “I Dreamed a Dream” on the reality competition show Britain’s Got Talent back in 2009. The otherwise shy songstress struggled with all the fame, and in an attempt at normalcy, picked up an application to become a betting store manager.
While managing a store is a perfectly noble way of making money, the lure of a singing career seems to have drawn Susan back in. On January 7, 2019, she debuted on “America’s Got Talent” and blew judges away with her rendition of the Rolling Stones hit “Wild Horses.” Her performance, which earned her a standing ovation, made for a warm welcome back into the spotlight. We’ll have to see how the second place winner of the British version of the show fares in the States.
30. George Foreman
Two-time World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic gold medalist George Foreman suffered his first loss in the ring to none other than Muhammad Ali in “The Rumble in the Jungle,” but a career in boxing takes a toll on a person’s health, and Foreman found another way to earn a living.
George Foreman decided to put his health at the top of his list of priorities after retiring from the ring and became the spokesman for a fat-reducing grill, now famously known as the George Foreman Grill. Selling over 100 million units as of 2009, Foreman’s second career is just as successful as his first.
31. Freddie Prinze Jr.
He was the actor that captured many a teen heart in She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Now, Freddie Prinze Jr. has switched his focus to cooking. Cosmopolitan says that after Prinze worked as a producer and director for WWE, he published a cookbook in 2016.
It’s called Back to the Kitchen: 75 Delicious Real Recipes (and True Stories) from a Food-Obsessed Actor. His Instagram profile also indicates the actor is co-host of a podcast — Prinze and Wolf Podcast — and co-host of a YouTube channel called Gegghead that focuses on “nerdy stuff.” Not everyone gets to publish a cookbook, but lots are doing ‘casts and channels!
32. Charlie Korsmo
Looking at his law professor bio on Cal Western Reserve University’s Law School website, you’d never guess Charlie Korsmo (left) used to be a child star. He’s starred in Men Don’t Leave, Dick Tracy, What About Bob?, and Hook. Recently he’s been more active in law than in acting but was in the movie Chained for Life in 2018, says his IMDb page.
Korsmo got his law degree at Yale University and a BS in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s had a very good career in the field of law so far — before teaching, Korso worked for the EPA, a couple of committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.
33. Danielle Christine Fishel
She’s known best for her role as Topanga in Boy Meets World on ABC but now Danielle Christine Fishel is a writer for PopSugar and its YouTube channel, PopSugar Girls Guide. Imagine: Fishel has probably done so many interviews for her acting endeavors, now SHE is the one doing the interviewing!
Interestingly, there are articles about Fishel herself on PopSugar. Guess you can’t escape the media — even if you work for it! If you’re interested in reading some of her work, visit PopSugar.com. Fishel has entered into other endeavors as well — she’s hosted Style Network’s The Dish and was a spokesperson for Nutrisystem.
34. Geena Davis
She’s known for her roles as empowered women in fan-favorite movies like Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own. “Having been in some roles that really resonated with women, I became hyper-aware of how women are represented in Hollywood,” Geena Davis once told The Guardian. It’s no surprise that she’s now an activist.
She’s done things like sponsoring research that found that women make up just 17 percent of crowd-scenes in movies and founding the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2006 to promote gender balance in the media. It’s hosted things like the Global Symposium on Gender in Media as part of the BFI London film festival.
35. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Like her husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar has stepped into the food industry. Her company, Foodstirs, was founded by her and two other parents Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman. The trio was inspired by how baking helped them connect with their children but felt like there weren’t a lot of products available for kids to explore baking.
Thus came about Foodstirs! The company offers kid-friendly recipes, baking kits, baking equipment, and more. Apparently, starting a new business as a celebrity proved to be a challenge for Gellar at first, she told Forbes. Before running Foodstirs, she was best known for roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All My Children, Cruel Intentions, and more.
36. Karyn Parsons
If you watched the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, you probably remember Karyn Parsons’ role as cousin Hilary Banks. Parsons decided to found Sweet Blackberry Foundation, a production company that educates children about Black history. An example of the kinds of short films Sweet Blackberry Foundation makes is one called “The Journey of Henry Box Brown.”
It tells the unbelievable story of former slave Henry Brown who mailed himself — literally — to freedom in a 3-by-2-by-2-foot wooden crate, from a plantation in Virginia to Philadelphia. Parsons didn’t give up acting despite being busy with Sweet Blackberry. Most recently, she was in the TV series The Job and the short film On Monday Last Week.
37. Josh Saviano
If you’ve seen coming-of-age TV show The Wonder Years, you probably remember young Josh Saviano’s performance as the bespectacled Paul Pfeiffer. He was active in Hollywood until The Wonder Years ended in 1993. Saviano did return to the small screen to appear in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from 2014 to 2016, says his IMDb page.
What was he doing when he wasn’t acting? Well, he was busy attending Yale and becoming a lawyer! After earning his Juris Doctor at Cardozo School of Law, he joined law firm Morrison Cohen LLP, eventually becoming a partner. He left in 2015 and became an entrepreneur in a field that combined his entertainment industry experience with his background in law. He founded Act 3 Advisors and became a partner at BS + Glory, says his LinkedIn page.
38. Jennie Garth
Plenty of Beverly Hills, 90210 fans enjoyed watching actress Jennie Garth portray character Kelly Taylor on the small screen. Other TV appearances included What I Like About You, Dancing with the Stars and her reality show, Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country. She’s remained active in Hollywood, but has forayed into more “normal” ventures.
Garth became a businesswoman with a few collaborations. There’s the Limited Edition Mom Gift Box she worked on with subscription box company TheGiftBox.com. This consists of goodies to pamper and inspire moms like jewelry, face masks, candles, and more. She’s also worked with Dune Jewelry, releasing the Traveling Heart Collection in February 2018.
39. Lark Voorhies
Lark Voorhies (right) is best known for playing Lisa Marie Turtle on the teen comedy Saved by the Bell on NBC. Her other entertainment industry forays include Star Trek, In the House, Robot Chicken, and most recently Closer to God: Jessica’s Journey in 2012, says her IMDb page. Voorhies has taken to book writing outside of acting.
Her books include Trek of the Cheshire, Reciprocity and the extremely long titled True Light: A, superior, take, unto, the, premier, haloing, of, tenuation. Readily, available, True Light, provides, resource, into, time’s, motifed, and, vestuved, authenticate, revelation. The latter has mixed reviews on Amazon but one reviewer says: “I think Lark Voorhees [sic] is way ahead of us.”
40. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Some guys would’ve loved to have the same success level of teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Thomas was best known for his role on Home Improvement, then went on to charm teens in films like Wild America and Man of the House. His swoon-worthy face was plastered over multiple issues of teen magazine Tiger Beat.
Then, that all stopped. JTT moved on to attend high ranking schools like Columbia, Harvard and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. In an interview with PEOPLE, we find out that Jonathan Taylor Thomas has completed his studies and now is focusing on directing and writing scripts. Not exactly a “normal” person job but he gets to dodge the limelight in these new roles.
41. Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz last appeared in 2014’s ‘Annie’ and shortly after, she confirmed that was formally retiring from acting. She is now the author of two health books, ‘The Body Book’ and ‘The Longevity Book’.
She said that she experienced fame at such a young age that she hadn’t really taken the time to have a private life. It was crucial to her that she could take time for herself and one day return to the spotlight after she reorganized her life and if she ever wants to.