When it comes to today’s biggest celebrities, it can be hard to picture them not famous. Try to imagine an A-list movie star as your babysitter or a reality TV queen organizing your closet—it just seems wrong. But, like the rest of us, some of the top stars in Hollywood had normal—or at least sort of normal—jobs before they became famous. Some celebrities even worked for other celebrities before making it big on their own.
Some pre-fame jobs make sense for the career those future stars were after. For instance, a number of comic actors interned for a major name in late night TV before getting their big breaks. But some are more unexpected. Did you know that Harrison Ford was a carpenter to some well-known folks before he became an action star? Or that Meghan Markle was a calligrapher to a couple of celebrities before becoming an actor and then a duchess? Read on for even more future stars who were employed by big names.
One of the most famous instances of one celebrity working for another is Kim Kardashian working for Paris Hilton. Before she became extremely famous from her reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kardashian worked as a closet organizer, including for her friend Hilton. Kardashian would help people declutter their closets and sell what they no longer wanted on eBay. And she didn’t just work for the socialite. In an old video, Kardashian says she also worked with Serena Williams, rob Lowe, Brandy, Kenny G, and Cindy Crawford, among other stars.
Mindy Kaling is now a very successful actor, writer, and TV series creator, known for The Office, The Mindy Project, and Never Have I Ever. But, she got her start working for Conan O’Brien. When Kaling was a student at Dartmouth University, she interned at Late Night with Conan O’Brien. During an interview with O’Brien in 2012, Kaling said she was a huge fan of him and explained, “I was the worst intern that’s ever worked on the program. I wanted to work there not to learn to photocopy things, but to watch you.” She added, “I wouldn’t do my things I was hired to do. I would just kind of follow you around.” Kaling went on to write a movie all about talk shows, called Late Night.
Before she came to fame on The Real Housewives of New York City, Bethenny Frankel was a babysitter for another star who has already appeared on this list: Paris Hilton. Frankel helped take care of Hilton and her sister, Nicky Hilton, when they were kids. She was hired by their mom, Kathy Hilton, through her friendship with Kathy’s sister, Kyle Richards. Coincidentally, Richards also later became a reality star on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
You may already know that, before he became an actor, Harrison Ford was a carpenter. But you may not have known that he worked on a project at the home of writer Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne. “I had a young family, and I became their carpenter for the same reason I became their friend,” Ford said in the documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. “I was out of my depth. I didn’t know where I was going. But they always made me feel welcome.” He also worked on a carpentry job for Francis Ford Coppola, and was working regularly as a carpenter when he got his big break as Han Solo in Star Wars.
You’ll soon notice a trend here… Ellie Kemper, who played Erin on The Office and starred in the Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, also interned for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. She even appeared on the show during her 2005 internship in a sketch about debunking late night myths. Kemper met her husband, Michael Koman, through the show when he was one of its writers.
Jennifer Garner was once a babysitter for Stephen Colbert and his wife Evelyn McGee-Colbert. When Garner appeared on The Late Show in 2017, she and Colbert reminisced about her former job. They explained that they met when they had small parts on an episode of Spin City in 1996. When the episode wrapped, Garner took on the job of babysitting Colbert’s daughter Madeline until she got a new agent and moved to Los Angeles. Colbert was later shocked to see Garner on billboards and the cover of TV guide when she began starring on Alias.
Yet another The Office star who worked on Late Night with Conan O’Brien is John Krasinski. When he appeared as a guest on the show in 2005, he reminisced about his internship and shared that one of his jobs was getting to hear the monologue jokes ahead of time, so O’Brien could see how well they went over. “I had a blast,” Krasinski said.
Allison Williams is now known for starring on the HBO show Girls and in the horror hit Get Out, but before she hit it big as an actor, she worked for Tina Fey. “I sort of worked on a combination of Baby Mama and 30 Rock,” Williams told Glamour. “I was her second assistant. She knew me when I was desperate for anything that was about to come out of her mouth, any pearl of wisdom.” According to an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Williams admits that her father Brian Williams‘ connections helped her in landing the job.
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Angela Kinsey is the final Office star on our list. While the actor was an intern at Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1994, she actually worked specifically for bandleader Max Weinberg. When she was a guest on the show in 2006, she brought on her journal from the time of her internship, which included cards from friends and family in Texas wishing her well in New York and an account of the time she had her first bagel.
Before she became a member of the British royal family and before she had a regular part on Suits, Meghan Markle was a working actor, going to auditions and looking for her next gig. To make money, she did calligraphy, including for some famous clients. “I didn’t wait tables. I did calligraphy for the invitations for, like, robin Thicke and Paula Patton‘s wedding,” she told Esquire
D’Arcy Carden was the nanny for a famous funny actor before she had her breakout role as Janet on The Good Place. Carden took care of Bill Hader‘s children with his then-wife Maggie Carey. “I was his nanny for their oldest two daughters and that was my full-time job,” Carden said on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “I was with them everyday. I still am really close with them.” She and Hader are now both on the show Barry, which he co-created.
We now reach the backup dancer portion of this list. Kevin Federline became famous for his marriage to Britney Spears and being the father of their two children, but he was also a professional dancer. Federline danced for Michael Jackson, Destiny’s Child, Pink, and even Spears’ ex-boyfriend justin Timberlake in the video for his song “Like I Love You.” In 2015, Federline told Entertainment Tonight that he had formed a friendship with Timberlake. “My best friend is his choreographer so we have mutual friends, and I mean, we’ve gone out golfing, we’ve hung out,” he said. “You get older, you grow up, and you realize that was just a time in your life.”
Before Heather Morris played Brittany on Glee, she was in the employ of Beyoncé. Morris was a backup dancer for the singer during The Beyoncé Experience tour in 2007 and for several TV show and award show performances of her hit song “Single Ladies”. During an appearance on KTLA Morris said of Beyoncé, “She’s an incredible boss. She knows what she wants right off the bat. That whole experience when I was 19 to 22… it was amazing.”
Dancer and actor Jenna Dewan got her start as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. In 2017, Jackson reunited with a bunch of her past dancers at her show at the Hollywood Bowl. Dewan posted of the event on Instagram, “Generations of Janet kids brought together. Dancing for her was always way more than a job, it was being part of a legacy. I have been pinching myself all day being in a room years later dancing with these legends.” Dewan was also a dancer for Pink, Missy Elliott, Kelly Clarkson, and justin Timberlake, before crossing over into acting with the movie Step Up.
It wasn’t just Kim who worked for another celebrity, one of her sisters did, too. Khloé Kardashian was briefly Nicole Richie‘s assistant. “I went to school with her,” the reality star said on the podcast Emergency Contact (via People). “She was one of my best friends growing up, and we were just really, really close and then when she started doing Simple Life—I think it was after Simple Life—she just needed some help and I just needed a job.”
Before Kanye West was a world-famous rapper—and the husband of Kim Kardashian and a presidential hopeful—he was known as a producer. West was hired as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, which was co-founded by Jay-Z, meaning that West technically worked for the rapper and with him. West’s major breakthrough was being one of the producers for Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint. Years later, they put out an album featuring them both rapping, 2011’s Watch the Throne.