It’s easy to idealize the life of Hollywood actresses. They seem to have it all and it seems almost hard to believe that anyone would choose to leave fame behind. Yet, there are a handful of our favorite stars from the past that stepped out of the spotlight and into a regular job. Some of these ladies quit acting to raise their children while others discovered a new passion that led them to a different career.
Then there are the women who beat the odds and broke free from a life of poverty to one of fame. These actresses came from impoverished backgrounds and know firsthand what it’s like to be poor. From being homeless and not knowing where their next meal would come from, these stars know a thing or two about life outside of the Hollywood bubble.
Either way, it’s fascinating to learn about the personal lives of these rich and famous women. We can look at their backgrounds, both wealthy and poor, to see that none of these ladies are afraid of hard work. Please enjoy this list of 10 celebs who went from riches to regular jobs (+ 10 stars who went from rags to riches).
20 Riches To Normie: Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates was best known as Linda Barrett in the film Fast Times At Ridgemont High. After marrying Kevin Kline, she gave up acting to be a full-time mom. She now owns a boutique in Manhattan called Blue Tree.
Cates spoke to USA Today about what inspired her to open the gift shop. "I always wanted to have a general store," she said. "If I could have had a photo booth and sold candy, I would have." She shared that customers often recognize her. "Or if they don't, they tell me I look like Phoebe Cates, and I say, 'I get that a lot.'"
19 Rags To Riches: Halle Berry
Halle Berry may be an Oscar-winning actress but she once lived in a homeless shelter. She sat with People Magazine and opened up about that chapter of her life. “That was rough,” Berry said. “Some fine hours.”
She had just moved to New York City when she ran out of money. “I mean three months later, I was out of my cash,” she explained. She called her mom who refused to help her out. “That’s probably one of the best things she did for me … She said, ‘If you want to be there, then you work it out.’ And I had to work it out.”
18 Riches To Normie: Ariana Richards
Ariana Richards found fame when she starred in the film Jurassic Park. The actress left Hollywood to become an artist in Oregon. According to IMDb, "Ariana completed a BS Degree from Skidmore College, New York, where she graduated with honors in Drama and Art. She has since become one of the most celebrated young portrait artists of our time.”
When asked if she would ever return to acting, Ariana said, "I find art to be incredibly challenging, but rewarding. But if Steven does one day decide to write me a role, it would be an even greater challenge to turn that down."
17 Rags To Riches: Demi Moore
Demi Moore found her place as one of Hollywood’s hottest actresses in the 1980s but many people might not know that she actually grew up in poverty. She was raised in a trailer park in Roswell, New Mexico. Her mom had addiction issues and a difficult relationship with Moore’s stepfather.
According to Woman’s Day, her parents moved her often until she dropped out of high school to become a model. She finally had a breakthrough when she was cast for a role on the soap opera General Hospital. Although she doesn’t act much these days, her net worth is $75,000,000.
16 Riches To Normie: Nikki Blonsky
Nikki Blonsky came onto the scene when she starred in the 2007 film Hairspray. The actress has stepped out of the limelight and is now working at a salon in Long Island, New York. Blonsky confirmed the news on social media.
"It's true I'm working @ Superstar Salon as a makeup artist & more. I'm proud 2 b workin & helpin pay bills BUT I'll NEVER lose sight of my dream," Blonsky wrote. "Just cause I'm part time working doesn't mean I'm gonna give up on my dreams n don't give up on yours. I might book something big soon. Keep positive."
15 Rags To Riches: Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez may be a superstar but the singer and actress had a humble beginning as she grew up in the Bronx. She’s been very open about her poor childhood and it’s made her appreciate her fame even more.
She spoke with The Daily Mail about her childhood. “I watched my parents. My dad worked nights, and I was aware of how much he was doing for us,” she said. “My mom was a Tupperware lady and also worked at the school. I always felt that I couldn’t let them down. And I had a natural discipline from early on. I was always training for something.”
14 Rags To Riches: Danica McKellar
Danica McKellar played Winnie Cooper on the television series The Wonder Years. She gave up acting when she found a love for math and even became an author of numerous books. According to Forbes Magazine, she realized her passion while she was a film student at UCLA.
“ I took a math class because I thought my brain was getting mushy,” she said. “I did well, better than expected. This guy tapped me on the shoulder one day in class and said, 'Excuse me, aren’t you the girl...' and that question always ended with, 'from TV.' But he finished with, '...who got the highest score on the midterm?'”
13 Rags To Riches: Shania Twain
Shania Twain had a tumultuous upbringing before she became a singing sensation. She grew up in a household wrought with conflict and lived in poverty with her family. She discussed her difficult childhood in her memoir, From This Moment On.
"It's very hard to concentrate when your stomach's rumbling," she wrote, admitting that she felt jealous of the other kids' lunches but never told anyone.
"I would certainly never have [chastened] myself enough to reach out and ask for help and say, 'You know, I'm hungry. Can I have that apple that you're not going to eat?'" she said. "I didn't have the courage to do that."
12 Riches To Normie: Andrea Elson
Andrea Elson is best known for her role as Lynn Tanner in the series ALF. She dropped out of Hollywood to become a yoga instructor in California at a studio called Yoga Village. Elson specializes in beach yoga and welcomes people at all levels of skills in the practice.
The website states, "At Yoga Village, we realize that everybody is unique, with varied needs, and our certified, experienced instructors are there to guide you through your practice with personalized consideration. Come as you are, leave feeling relaxed and restored.”
11 Rags To Riches: Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez may be a superstar now but the singer spent her childhood living in poverty with her single mom. She opened up to Elle Magazine about what it was like to grow up poor. “I can remember about seven times when our car got stuck on the highway because we’d run out of gas money,” Gomez confessed.
Her mom worked hard and was determined to give her an enriching life, despite their financial struggles. “She saved up to take me to concerts. She took me to museums, aquariums, to teach me about the world, about what’s real,” Selena added.
10 Riches To Normie: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Fans may remember Sarah Michelle Gellar from her lead role in the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. They may be surprised to know that she is now a baker and co-founder of Foodstirs, an organic baking line. Forbes reported that Gellar started the company when her show The Crazy Ones was canceled.
“It’s always [worrying] when you step out of your comfort zone, but as the saying goes, great risk brings great rewards,” Gellar said. “I have always liked to challenge myself, and this seemed like the logical next step to tackle. I am not a spokesperson for the company. I have the same accountability and responsibilities as any other co-founder.”
9 Rags To Riches: Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson sang her way into our hearts when she won the first American Idol. She’s now a huge success and one of the most famous singers of her generation. But she didn’t have an easy road on her journey to fame.
Her family lived on the edge for most of her young life. Her humble beginnings only make her appreciate what she’s earned even more. According to CBS News, Clarkson grew up with plenty of hardships.
"We lived, like, pre-paycheck to pre-paycheck. I definitely had this whole mentality. I was like, 'Whatever I'm going to do, I just don't want to have to worry about that,'" she said.
8 Riches To Normie: Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson was the adorable little girl in the film Mrs. Doubtfire. The actress left Hollywood and is now an author. She wrote the book, Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame in which she discussed why she stepped out of the spotlight. Wilson realized that she had to escape the toxic beauty standards that came with fame.
“I realized, ‘I don’t fit their idea of what a Hollywood actress looks like, so there’s no room for me here,’” Wilson told People. “It’s hard to come out of that sane and without some serious doubts about yourself.”
7 Rags To Riches: Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis rose to fame on That '70s Show and lives a lavish lifestyle with her husband, Ashton Kutcher. Yet, she wasn’t raised with a silver spoon in her mouth. The actress was raised by poor immigrants of Ukraine and she believes that her impoverished upbringing gave her a thick skin that prepared her for Hollywood.
According to CTV News, she said, "You build it up. My dad always said I have a really good backbone. I grew up in L.A., I didn't grow up wealthy or even middle class, we were pretty poor and you learn how life works very quickly."
6 Riches To Normie: Jennie Garth
Jennie Garth played the role of Kelly Taylor on the series Beverly Hills, 90210. She took a break from acting after becoming a mom to her three daughters. It wasn’t until her divorce from ex-husband Peter Facinelli that she started acting in Hallmark movies. She is also the curator of a subscription box company.
Per the website, Jennie said, “Welcome to my Mom Gift Box – I’m so excited to share some of my favorite things with you! I put a lot of effort into hand selecting these treasures and hope you love every one of them as much as I do!"
5 Rags To Riches: Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker may be rich and famous now but she had an impoverished childhood. The actress grew up in a family of eight children in Ohio and her parents struggled to make ends meet. Although, she looks back on that time fondly, confessing that it made her hungry for success.
"As a child I was lucky to get any attention, let alone be spoiled," she told the Sunday Mirror. "My father was a poet. My mom was busy with eight children and my step-dad was a truck driver. I’m grateful for all that now. It gave me a good work ethic."
4 Riches To Normie: Alicia Silverstone
Alicia Silverstone found fame when she took on the role of Cher in the film Clueless. Although she may have stepped out of the spotlight to raise her son, she’s been busy following other passions. She’s a vegan and animal rights activist who's written several books and started an eco-lifestyle subscription box.
She told The Guardian that she left acting to focus on making the world a better place. "I decided I would use this spotlight for something that is very meaningful to me," Silverstone said. "I went on a quest to change the world, to make things better—for children, for the earth, for animals."
3 Rags To Riches: Mariah Carey
Mariah may be a total diva now but the singer didn’t grow up in a wealthy household. She talked about her childhood during a clip of her show, Mariah’s World. Despite sitting down for the interview while on a yacht, the singer confessed that she understood what it was like to grow up with “literally nothing.”
Carey credits her mother for encouraging her to follow her dreams, despite living in poverty. "I lived, like, on a mattress on the floor. I was writing my songs and being a horrible waitress. My demo tape ended up at Sony and they signed it away,” she said.
2 Riches To Normie: Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes was once a successful actress but had a public breakdown and quit acting. She opened up to Paper Magazine about what pushed her to leave Hollywood and it was the way she looked in the film Easy A.
"I literally couldn't stand my appearance in that movie and I didn't like my performance," she admitted. "I was absolutely convinced I needed to stop acting after seeing it."
The former star is rebuilding her life and getting a fashion design degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. She hopes to one day return to acting.
1 Rags To Riches: Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is the most successful woman of color and just so happens to be a self-made millionaire. The former talk show host has been very open about her difficult childhood. She survived poverty and maltreatment to overcome the odds and become who she is today.
The Guardian reported on her early years and it shows just how far she’s come in life. “Oprah spent her first years with her grandmother, often wearing hessian overalls made from potato sacks that earned her the cruel nickname 'Sack Girl.' She had pet cockroaches and a doll made from a dried corn cob.”
References: USA Today, People, Daily Mail, Elle, The Guardian