When we see beautiful and successful celebrities attending red carpets and looking flawless, it seems like they were born into a life of fame and fortune. However, most of the time, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most of these famous faces had to work hard to make it in such a cut-throat industry. Most of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars had to face rejection and put on greasy aprons while they were trying to make their dreams come true.
It’s never easy to take your passion and build a career out of it. It’s always more stable and reliable to work a steady 9-5 job, but that’s not possible when you’re an aspiring actor or singer. You need to be ready at any moment for gigs and auditions, so an office job isn’t the most suitable option. Here are some of your favorite celebrities who spent time working at McDonald’s before making it in showbiz!
Check out these stars who were flipping burgers before gracing our screens.
Believe it or not, before Rachel McAdams was the queen of The Plastics, she was an ordinary girl trying to make it in a tough industry. Before she got her big break, she had to find a different way to pay the bills. McAdams told the New York Times, “I worked at the local McDonald’s for three years.”
She went on to explain: “I’m not sure why they kept me: I am something of a daydreamer and a dawdler, so they would only let me be the ‘friendly voice’ that greeted you when you entered the restaurant. I was slow – I would be organizing the sweet-and-sour packets in the customer’s takeout bag while the line snaked out.” Needless to say, she wasn’t the best at her job.
Before he was a late-night host, Jay Leno was flipping burgers at McDonald’s. That’s right; back in the early 70s, Leno was a regular guy trying to make ends meet. This experience taught Leno that you have to work hard to succeed, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t take advantage of his job a little.
Whenever his friends would come into the McDonalds in Andover, Massachusetts, Leno would charge them just one dollar for 15 hamburgers and ten orders of fries. That’s a pretty sweet deal! I’m sure his manager wasn’t too happy about it, but hey, what’s the point of working at a restaurant if you can’t hook your friends up?
Sharon Stone is so beautiful, you probably think she came out of the womb modeling. As it turns out, this stunner had to work hard to make it, just like everyone else. There was a time before she was a successful actress. Before she made a name for herself, the aspiring model picked up a part-time job working behind the counter at McDonald’s.
However, it clearly didn’t take long for the girl to get noticed. She no longer had to work as a counter girl, and instead, she was modeling for Ford. She quickly transitioned into acting and landed some major roles in films such as Total Recall and Basic Instinct.
Nowadays, Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men on the planet, but he had to start somewhere. When he was just 16-years-old, way before he was the famous founder of Amazon, Bezos picked up a job at McDonald’s. Working at the fast-food joint certainly paid off for Bezos, considering it was a stop on the road of becoming a billionaire.
The Amazon CEO spoke to Fast Company about his position at McDonald’s when he was a high schooler: “One of the great gifts I got from a job is that I can crack eggs with one hand. My favorite shift was Saturday morning. I would get a bowl and crack 300 eggs in it.” Very important life skills!
Seal is another famous name that spent some time working at McDonald’s but saying he didn’t enjoy it is an understatement. For many stars, McDonald’s was an experience that taught them important life lessons such as working hard to succeed. It’s not the most exciting job in the world, but Seal absolutely despised it.
The British singer spoke to the Paper about his time working at the Golden Arches: “The worst job I ever had was in McDonald’s in Kentish Town. I was 16, and they gave me a brown uniform that was two sizes too small. I stayed for two weeks until I got my first paycheck, then I was outta there.”
Macy Gray is another starlet that used to work at McDonald’s. In Macy’s case, McDonald’s may have helped her get her big break. Sure, she was burger stacking before she made it in the industry, but your big break can come from anywhere at any time. Unlike Seal, this musician loved working with the fast-food company and even appeared in one of their commercials.
In a Press Release, Macy admitted: “I worked as a McDonald’s crew person, and there is so much more to working at McDonald’s than people know. The action, the fun, the people, the sense of accomplishment – it truly was my first big break.” It’s beautiful when huge stars remember and appreciate their humble beginnings.
The talented country musician didn’t have the easiest road to success. Clearly, Shania Twain was born with unbelievable talent, but there were a lot of personal struggles that stalled her career. She didn’t have the easiest childhood. The country crooner opened up to Us Weekly about how she balanced everything: “I worked at a McDonald’s for several years as a teenager after school while singing in bars at night.”
After her parents passed away, the aspiring musician needed to take care of her younger siblings. She was only 18 and was forced to halt her music career. Thankfully, the determined singer didn’t let a few setbacks hold her back. She has since become extremely successful in the country music world.
After dropping out of college and moving to LA to pursue an acting career, James Franco picked up a job working the late shift at the McDonald’s drive-thru. He quickly moved to daytime hours and worked at the counter. Many people don’t enjoy flipping burgers, but James Franco is forever grateful that he got that job. The beloved star hadn’t forgotten who was there before he made it big.
Franco wrote an article for The Washington Post and expressed his appreciation for the establishment: “All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me – when no one else was.” The actor has had a soft spot for the Golden Arches ever since.
Keenen Ivory Wayans
Nowadays, Keenen Ivory Wayans is known for his role in White Chicks.’ But before that, he was starring as a manager at Mickey D’s. That’s right; this guy worked his way up to manager before his high school graduation. It clearly taught him how to work his way up in the entertainment industry as well.
However, his part-time high school job flipping burgers wasn’t to help him pursue an acting career. At the time, Wayans struggled to work 70 hours a week so that he could support his family. Sure, he was just a kid, but he had to help support his parents and his nine siblings. You heard that right; 10 kids!
It’s clear that Pink is a strong independent woman, and she has always been that way. Her parents wanted her to learn the value of a dollar and that you need to work hard to succeed. The pop star told Food & Wine, “It was important to my family that I make my own money. I was a drive-through girl at McDonald’s. I had a Janet Jackson microphone – I had power.”
Even though it sounds like she had her moments where she enjoyed it, Pink revealed how she truly feels to Bosh: “Sometimes I dream I am back there, broke and working at McDonald’s. It’s like, the worst nightmare because I never want to be back there. I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”
Before composing, writing, and starring in the extremely impressive Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel was a struggling artist trying to make it. The now-beloved composer also spent some time working behind the McDonald’s register. Sometimes, you need to pick up jobs that you don’t like to pay the bills. These days, he no longer needs to flip burgers, but he appreciates his experience there.
The Playwright posted on Twitter: “My first job was working the cash registers and deliveries for McDonald’s.” He then shared a song that was inspired by his time working at the fast-food joint. I guess the Golden Arches were his muse. The actor even got some admiration from the McDonald’s Twitter account.
This is a pretty cool story. Like many other aspiring artists, Ferrell Williams was trying to make ends meet before making it in the music world. He picked up a job at McDonald’s; the only problem was he didn’t really like to work. The singer wasn’t very “Happy” when he was fired from the fast-food restaurant – three times!
During an interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Williams said, “I was lazy. I was very lazy.” He went on to explain that the only thing he was good for there was eating all the McNuggets. In a strange twist of events, years later, Farrell Williams ended up co-wring the jingle, “I’m Lovin’ It.”
Carl Lewis is an incredibly talented athlete and won 10 Olympic medals in track and field. Lewis learned the importance of working fast when he took on a job at McDonald’s when he was 16-years-old. He told Fox News, “Time is very important… you couldn’t let the fries get cold. If I was 10 seconds off, I’d have no gold medal.”
People who look at everything in life as a learning experience seem to go on to become successful. The athlete later starred in an advertisement for the McDonald’s company. In the ad, he said that his job at the Golden Arches was his “first race against the clock.”
D.L. Hughley has had a successful profession as a radio host, but the stand-up comedian kicked off his career as a janitor for Mickey D’s. The Dancing with the Stars alum revealed that he used to clean the McDonald’s lobby to pay the bills. If McDonald’s didn’t give him a job, he might not have been able to cover his bills and become the success story he is today.
Although he worked there for a little while, D.L. Hughley doesn’t seem to have the same core values as the fast-food chain. The actor once tweeted: “It’s funny that McDonald’s uses a heart in their commercials when you consider how many hearts their food has stopped!” Yikes! But he’s not wrong…
Singers and actors aren’t the only famous faces that worked at McDonald’s while they were waiting for their big break. Aspiring politicians also needed a way to cover the bills. Chief of Staff under George W. Bush, Andrew Card, is most notably remembered as the guy who whispered the news of the 9/11 attack in the former president’s ear. As it turns out, in 1967, he also worked at a McDonald’s in South Carolina.
According to Bloomberg, Andrew Card once said: “I remember thinking that McDonald’s was unique as a great equalizer. Wealthy and poor, black and white all came to McDonald’s and stood in the same lines and sat at the same booths.”
Most of us recognize Andie MacDowell as Rita from Groundhog Day. In addition to being an actress, she’s also a fashion model. However, she didn’t make it in Hollywood over-night; this star had to work hard to get where she is. Before she was rocking the runway, she was serving fries.
Like many other celebrities on this list, Andie MacDowell needed to cover the bills before she got her big break. She worked part-time at McDonald’s in South Carolina and referred to the job as being “a great environment to work in with lots of camaraderie and teamwork.” She also spent some time working at Pizza Hut. Do you think she prefers pizza or patties?
Andy Grammer is another hard worker who didn’t have his career handed to him on a silver platter. Instead, he was the one carrying the platters. He may be a famous country singer now, but there’s a chance he served you your McNuggets back in the day. Working at the fast-food chain was his first-ever job.
But the singer didn’t have the greatest experience there. In an interview with US Weekly, he said: My first job was McDonald’s – terrible! Lucky for him, I don’t think he has to go back to flipping burgers anytime soon. He has made it in the music business, and his first job was just a stepping stone to get there.
Aspiring actors and singers aren’t the only ones who need to pick up a part-time job before making their dreams come true. Athletes also struggle before making it to the big leagues. Former professional baseball player Chris Sabo also took on a job working at the McDonald’s counter in Tampa.
He was still playing for the little leagues at the time and needed to make ends meet. To support himself while still following his passion, McDonald’s seemed to be the perfect option. His talent didn’t go unrecognized, and he was able to make a career for himself in the sport. Although it was a temporary job, it certainly helped him get where he is today.
When he was just 16 years old, Paul Ryan was flipping burgers at Mickey D’s. That’s right. Even the former speaker of the house landed a job at the Golden Arches, but he knew bigger things were coming. It was just a stepping stone on his road to success, as he stated in a speech he gave at a campaign rally.
“When I was flipping burgers at McDonald’s, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I thought to myself, ‘I’m the American Dream on a path and journey so that I can find happiness however I can find it myself.’” He even once Tweeted, “If you work at McDonald’s, someday you can be Speaker of House.”
Star Jones is mostly known for her time co-hosting The View. But before she was expressing her opinions to the people of the world, she was handing them their order of fries. This talk-show host had no idea what she wanted to with her life when she was working as a French fries fryer at McDonald’s.
She started working there while she was in high school, but she made quite an impression on her managers. She was soon promoted to cashier and didn’t have to get her hands greasy, making French fries anymore. Jones shared a Twitter post, saying: “Being a fry girl for McDonald’s started me on my professional path! It taught me responsibility.”
Like many other musicians, Fred Durst had to work hard to make it in a cut-throat industry. Music is a very competitive career field, and it’s pretty rare to become a famous singer. Well, Fred Durst did whatever he needed to do, and it seemed to work out pretty well for him.
Sure, nowadays, he is known for being the lead singer of the 90’s rock band Limp Bizkit, but like all the best things in life, it came with blood, sweat, and tears. Durst even took on the morning shift in a McDonald’s in Florida so that he can follow his dreams – and accomplish them. It seems like working at the fast-food chain is the first step to a music career.
You most likely recognize this dashing British fella from his roles on Homeland or Dunkirk. Although his good looks make it seem like his face was destined to be on screen, he wasn’t always working as an actor. Before this guy got his acting career on track, he picked up some fast food skills at McDonald’s.
However, D’Arcy was faced with a pretty scary situation while he worked there. He told Metro that once he was working the register at night when someone pulled a gun on him. He quit his job there shortly after the life-threatening incident. Thankfully, he is on a whole new career path now, and that terrifying experience is in the past.
Mark Hamill has been a pretty big deal in Hollywood since his incredibly famous role as Luke Skywalker. But before his successful career took off, Hamill was flipping burgers at Mickey D’s. It was actually his first job… well, sort of. He shared his experience of working at the fast-food chain on Twitter:
“If you don’t count paperboy, the time I was hired to play Santa’s helper in a department store or the countless backyard puppet/magic/ventriloquist shows I did… My 1st real job WAS at McDonald’s in Annandale, Virginia, when I was 16.” I don’t know about you, but I consider all of those other things jobs. But either way, McDonald’s helped teach him the value of a dollar.
Judge Greg Mathis
There was a time before Judge Greg Mathis was an attorney and starring on Judge Mathis. Back in his college days, Mathis took on a job at McDonald’s to help him get through school. During the day, he was leading a voting registration campaign on his college campus (which doesn’t come as a surprise at all).
At night, he was working as a shift manager at the Golden Arches. He may have been struggling then, but it all paid off in the long run. Not only did he get through school, but he also achieved his dreams of becoming a judge. He has had an impressive professional career, and his job at McDonald’s may have had something to do with that.
Boris Berian has made a name for himself as a talented Olympic runner. The athlete dropped out of school in Colorado Springs, and that’s when he started taking on shifts at McDonald’s. He was crashing at a friend’s house and took the train at night, according to The New York Times. His mom was mortified and not happy with the situation at all.
His mom was disappointed because she wanted to see her son doing something he was passionate about. At first, she really thought he would be working there forever, but he eventually qualified for the Rio Olympics less than one year later. These days, his mother looks at her son and is proud of his success.
Scott Walker had political dreams, and he made it when he was elected governor of Wisconsin in 2011. But like everyone else on this list, he needed to support himself while he was working his way up the political ladder. He now has a successful career and an impressive resume, but it started off at McDonald’s.
Even the former governor of Wisconsin flipped burgers at the fast-food chain. After his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Walker stopped by at the old McDonald’s restaurant he used to work at Delavan, Wisconsin. He even turned at the drive-thru window, for memories. We should all be nicer to the employees at McDonald’s. We never know who they will end up becoming.
Amy Van Dyken
Amy Van Dyken made a name for herself as an Olympic swimmer and later became a radio personality. But did you know that the charming national radio sports talk show co-host got her start working at Mickey D’s? Before she was swimming for medals, she was swimming in grease.
According to the Chuck Edwards Group – which supervises operations for the franchise – the former Olympic swimmer took a job at the fast-food chain before making a name for herself. Amy thinks that her experience there really helped her in her professional career. She explained how working at McDonald’s taught her teamwork, which is obviously important when it comes to sports.
It’s not just aspiring actors and singers who need to hustle to accomplish their passions. Even the most glamourous people need to make some cash. Take former Miss America, for example. Debbye Turner is determined and hard-working, but the pageant beauty isn’t all glitz and makeup; she knows how to get her hands dirty.
The beauty queen wrote on her website: “When I reached ‘real’ working age, I marched right down to McDonald’s and got a job serving burgers (do you want fries with that!).” It taught her the importance of hard work. You never know, if it wasn’t for her job at Mickey D’s, she might have never had the work ethic to become Miss America.
Daniel Johnston is known as being an alternative rock musician. I can’t picture him doing anything else. Well, as you probably guessed, he worked at McDonald’s before he made it in the music world. However, this guy had a clever way of using his job flipping burgers to support his singing career.
During his shifts, Johnston would pass out his music recordings. He would greet his hungry customers saying, “Hi, how are you? I’m Daniel Johnston, and I’m gonna be famous,” according to Texas Monthly. That’s pretty confident, but he wasn’t wrong. I wonder if any of his customers believed him and held on to his recordings… just in case.
Anthony Wayne Stewart, otherwise known as Smoke, made a name for himself as a race car driver and NASCAR team owner. He took his love for driving and made an incredibly impressive career for himself. The former professional racer is yet another famous face who might have given you your McDonald’s order.
According to the Chuck Edwards Group, who supervises the fast-food’s business operations, stated that Tony actually worked with the burger franchise back when he was a teenager. Years later, an ESPN Tony Stewart Racing toy came in McDonald’s happy meals. How ironic? I guess everything comes full circle at the end. He went from flipping the burgers, to being a famous face on the company’s toys.
T-Pain is the only one on this list who didn’t technically work at McDonald’s. However, in an interview with the day, he admitted that he was pretty close to taking a job at the Golden Arches. The singer revealed, “The most horrible time was the day that Akon called me. He called me right when I went to get my application from McDonald’s.”
That right. The Buy U a Drank singer was about to apply for a job at McDonald’s when he got interrupted by none other than Akon. T-pain obviously went on to become an extremely popular and successful singer. He no longer needs the job flipping burgers, but like everyone else, he needed to make the bills before he could make money off of his talent.
Leroy Joey is an incredibly intelligent Chinese-American engineer. The entrepreneur and motivational speaker made a name for himself as a former NASA astronaut. But he too needed to work a couple of odd jobs before landing his dream job. Believe it or not, 16-year-old Leroy worked at a McDonald’s in California’s Walnut Creek.
In an interview with Teets for ‘Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers That’s Began at McDonald’s,’ Chiao said: “My experiences at McDonald’s have translated me into almost anything I’ve done.” I have personally always wanted to be an astronaut. I probably should have taken a job in McDonald’s to make that happen. It certainly worked out well for Leroy.
Michael Collins Ajereh used that name back when he was a teenager applying for a job at Mickey D’s. However, you probably know him by his stage name, Don Jazzy. The Nigerian singer, producer, and rapper also spent some time smelling like grease and French fries before his big break.
Like everyone else on this list, this talented musician had to hustle! Not only did 18-year-old Jazzy take on a job flipping burgers, but he also worked as a bodyguard. Nowadays, he has his own bodyguards and can afford to eat at expensive restaurants; but I’m sure he gets a McNugget fix every once in a while.
Willard Scott is a talented actor and comedian who will forever be known as “The Weatherman.” There are plenty of weather reporters out there, but Willard Scott is arguably the most famous. However, this guy wasn’t always on The Today Show reporting the temperatures.
Before he was an iconic weatherman, Scott spent time working at McDonald’s, but he wasn’t flipping burgers. Scott didn’t do the typical over the counter job at the fast-food franchise. Instead, he was the first-ever person to portray the beloved (yet creepy) Ronald McDonald on TV commercials. Sure, he was wearing a clown costume covering his face, but it was a stepping stone to his successful career.
Laurieann Gibson is one of the most talented choreographers in the industry. She worked with huge names, including Lady Gaga and P. Diddy. But before that, she worked with Ronald McDonald. Back in 1983, this aspiring and talented dancer was waiting for her time to shine; meanwhile, she needed to make ends meet.
Gibson ended using the money she made at the fast food joint to buy a ticket to New York City. She told Teets for ‘Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers That Began at McDonald’s,’ “For a long time no one ever knew about my humble beginnings. Now it’s something I like to tell people. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere. Might as well be proud of how far you’ve come.