While working a job as a teenager may not be the most fun use of time, the values and responsibilities learned through employment at an early age build integrity and an appreciation for workers across all levels of the workforce. Many people believe everyone should be required to work a job in customer service, and these celebrities who worked common jobs as teenagers prior to becoming some of the world’s most famous individuals would agree.
From Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s first gig at 13 as a dishwasher to Eva Longoria, Rachel McAdams, and Gwen Stafani working at fast food restaurants, many of Hollywood’s elite have an appreciation for taking up a job as a teen. In fact, Longoria started working at Wendy’s ahead of her Quinceañera because she wanted to be able to pay for the celebration on her own. Similarly, Savannah Guthrie’s parents expected her to have a part-time job for activities and items she desired as a teen, making it clear that the money for her extracurriculars wouldn’t be coming from them.
It’s not all silver spoons for every celebrity, and these stars have spoken about the gigs they worked to make ends meet before earning more money than they could have ever dreamed of later in their careers. From the job Cardi B worked while balancing high school and community college classes to the highly unique role Taylor Swift fulfilled on her dad’s Christmas tree farm, read on to learn about the first jobs several celebs worked before launching to superstardom.
In an April 2023 segment for TODAY, Savannah Guthrie revealed she started her first job “bussing tables” at 14 years old. She went on to work several jobs as a teen, including a gig as a team member at a cookie store, a sales associate at a skateboard shop, a bookkeeper, and a secretary for a construction company.
Guthrie explained why she was constantly working at least one job as a teen, sharing, “My parents were like, ‘Don’t come looking for money and don’t be asking for an allowance to do things you’re supposed to be doing, like make your bed. If you want money to spend, get a job,'” she recalled them saying.
During her conversation with Savannah Guthrie about working as a teen, Hoda Kotb shared her own first job that she started at 14 years old. “I delivered the Washington Post as my first job at 14,” the news show host said.
Kotb mused about the importance of working as a young person, opining, “I think it teaches you, first of all, discipline. You’ve to get up at the crack of dawn, and after a whole month of delivering the paper, when you showed up to get the pay, they would hand you a buck. And you were, like, ‘A dollar for 30 days?'”
She went on to share that she worked at Ponderosa following her newspaper delivery gig. Kotb asserted that the restaurant job “taught you how to deal when people were unkind or dissatisfied.” She continued, “You just had to make it work. You’re around grown-ups so you learned all that kind of stuff.”
In addition to attending high school and taking classes at a community college after school, Cardi B worked as a grocery store clerk at Amish Market. The award-winning rapper recalled during a 2016 interview with Fader, “I was working all week and I still was making only, like, 250 f—king dollars.” In need of more money, she moved on to work in a strip club before becoming one of the most successful female rappers of all time.
When Eva Longoria was a teenager, she worked at a fast food chain so she could pay for her Quinceañera on her own. In 2016, the actress told Redbook, per People, “I wanted to have a Quinceañera when I was 15 and my family didn’t have the money, so I got a job at Wendy’s and paid for it myself.”
Longoria added, “I couldn’t wait to get to work and make my own money. There was never any resentment, because I saw how hard my mother worked and all she did for my sister [who has special needs], and I wanted to do whatever I could to help,” she said.
In a segment for GQ’s “My First Job,” Matthew McConaughey spoke about his first gig as a sand trap raker at a Texas golf course. “It’s 77 sand traps. First group tees off at like 6:45 in the morning. Especially if they’re going to tee off on the back nine, I’ve gotta have those traps raked by 7:30,” the actor explained, adding, “Work started at about 3:00 am and I’d be out there with a headlamp on, raking those traps.”
McConaughey also shared a unique role he fulfilled for the country club when they were having some issues with local wildlife. He recalled, “It was more fun when the greenskeeper came to me and said, ‘Look, we’re having a problem with some armadillos that are eating the greens. As well as raking the traps, I’d like to hire you for the next two weeks to come out from 10:00 pm to 3:30 am when you start raking the traps, and I’m gonna give you a 22, and you just spotlight them on the green and pick ’em off.'” The star added with a laugh, “That was the most fun part.”
During a 2011 press conference for Horrible Bosses, Jennifer Aniston revealed that she was once a bike message before becoming one of America’s most beloved actresses. “Toughest job I ever had was being a bike messenger in New York City. … I was 19,” she shared.
Responding to Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day saying the thought of her as a bike messenger was “hot,” Aniston quipped, “Not if you saw me riding the bike.” She elaborated, “[My lowest moment was] probably driving into a door that opened. I’m very uncoordinated and extraordinarily klutzy.”
In a personal essay for The New York Times published in 2013, Amy Poehler wrote about the job she held as a 17-year-old. The actress explained that the expectation from her parents was that she work a part-time job, and she “got one, scooping ice cream at Chadwick’s, a local parlor that specialized in sundaes and giant steak fries.”
“Hard and physical, the job consisted of stacking and wiping and scooping and lifting,” Poehler recalled. She unsurprisingly loved the performative aspect of the gig, explaining, “There was a performance element to the job that I found appealing … Every time a customer was celebrating a birthday, an employee had to bang a drum that hung from the ceiling, and play the kazoo, and encourage the entire restaurant to join him or her in a sing-along.”
Poehler shared, “I wasn’t sure yet that I wanted to be an actor. … But when I stood in the dining room and demanded attention I was reminded of things I already secretly knew about myself. I wasn’t shy, I liked to be looked at, and making people laugh released a certain kind of hot lava into my body that made me feel like a queen,” the Saturday Night Live icon wrote.
Prior to her career as another of the most celebrated female rappers in the history of music, Nicki Minaj worked after school as a waitress at Red Lobster. She was actually fired from the restaurant for flipping off a couple who stole her pen — “It was the principle,” she told GQ in 2014. “I like dealing with people, but I don’t really like a lot of bullsh*t, so maybe customer service wasn’t the best job for me,” Minaj reflected.
In November 2015 ahead of the premiere of his episode of Oprah’s Masterclass, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweeted, “First job at 13yrs old washing dishes from 3-1130pm daily. Yup, these days I still wash every dish.”
Taylor Swift had a rather odd job before she launched to superstardom as a teen, and she was much younger than an adolescent when she worked her first gig. During a 2014 conversation with Esquire, the musician shared that she grew up on a Christmas tree farm run by her dad, but everyone in the family had a responsibility to keep up the business.
“We all had jobs,” Swift began. “Mine was picking the praying mantis pods off of the trees, collecting them so that the bugs wouldn’t hatch inside people’s houses.” She added, “[I did that] from five to ten [years old]. The only reason that was my job was because I was too little to help lift trees.”
In 2017, Gwen Stefani told Marie Claire her first job was working at Dairy Queen. She also told the outlet that the best career advice she ever recieved was from music producer Jimmy Iovine, who advised her that when it comes to work, she should always “be open.” Not sure she’d still be open to working at Dairy Queen these days, though!
During a 2015 interview with Paper, Kanye West reminisced on his sales associate job as a teen. “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,” the rapper mused.
Before she started modeling at 17 years old, Cindy Crawford shucked corn for $4 per hour in her hometown of Dekalb, Illinois (via Town & Country).
Rachel McAdams told Glamour in 2012 that she began working at McDonald’s when she turned 16. She funnily recounted, “It was a great place to work, but I had a little bit of an OCD thing with hand washing and just didn’t have time. They were like, ‘Hey, the drive-through’s backing up. Stop washing your hands!'” McAdams admitted, “I was not a great employee; I broke the orange juice machine one day.”