November 3rd, 2010
In today's world, most professionals don't stay in the same job — or even same career — that they started in right after college. And that trend isn't just true for people who haven't found success in their field. These celebrities enjoyed fame, success, and plenty of money but have chosen to pursue other careers, too. Here are 15 former celebrities and their surprising second career choices.
- Vanilla Ice: The Texas rapper who made it okay for white boys to beat launched a total pop culture phenomenon with Ice, Ice Baby, and break danced his way through the early 90s. By the 2000s, it seemed like Vanilla Ice was relegated to performing at college campuses for orientation weekends, but this fall, he started a surprising new partnership, with HGTV. The channel that's home to Property Virgins and Divine Design now welcomes host Vanilla Ice for his own show, The Vanilla Ice Project, in which he and his contractors renovate a different room in his 7,000-square-foot home.
- Michael Schoeffling: Dreamy Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles and Joe from Mermaids had a surprisingly short film career, making his last movie in 1991. He married, had two daughters and now lives in Pennsylvania, making handcrafted furniture.
- Courteney Cox, house flipping: Courteney Cox is still a celebrity, but she's fostered a second career outside of acting for several years: house flipping. With separated husband David Arquette, Cox earned big profits on houses that she bought, renovated and resold.
- Kirk Cameron: Kirk Cameron made such a cute angsty teenager on Growing Pains, but now he's famous for his Christian book series Left Behind. Cameron had an enlightening experience when he was a young man and devoted his life — and career — to Christian values. Besides the extremely popular Left Behind books, Cameron starred in the movie Fireproof and produces and co-hosts the evangelical TV show The Way of the Master.
- Mickey Rourke: Mickey Rourke's sort of on his third career right now, after making it big as an actor in the 1990s, but then leaving Hollywood to become a boxer. He felt like he was a terrible actor, and beat out his frustration around the world, suffering many injuries along the way. In 2008, Rourke — whose plastic surgery left him virtually unrecognizable — became the comeback kid of the year (at least) with his Academy Award-nominated performance in The Wrestler.
- Soleil Moon Frye: The former Punky Brewster actress has continued in the entertainment industry in the form of cameos and guest starring roles, and even as the voice of an animated TV character on Bratz. But after college, Frye started directing, and she's now a veritable documentary film maker. Her 2004 film, Sonny Boy, is about her father's bout with Alzheimer's, and won Best Documentary at the San Diego Film Festival.
- George Foreman: If you ask anyone under the age of 20 — and under 30 in some cases — what George Foreman is famous for, they'll tell you he's that guy on the infomercials selling the George Foreman grill. But besides his exceedingly successful sales career, Foreman is a two-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and has an Olympic gold medal. He boxed on and off during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, during which time he also experienced a spiritual rebirth and became a Baptist minister. Today, though, Foreman mostly focuses on his entrepreneurial career and occasionally serves as a boxing analyst for matches.
- Hank Aaron: Baseball legend Hank Aaron started out playing for the Negro American League in 1954 but ended his career with seasons with the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, plus an MLB record for most career home runs. Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and has also served as senior vice president assistant to the president for the Atlanta Braves. Beyond baseball, Aaron is quite a businessman, too. He's corporate vice president of community relations for TBS and owns a BMW dealership in south Atlanta.
- Rita Wilson: Rita Wilson enjoyed a rising acting career in the 1980s and 90s, appearing in TV shows like Happy Days and Three's Company before starring and co-starring in films like Sleepless in Seattle. After starting a family with husband Tom Hanks, Wilson's movie and TV roles came along less often, but she still makes appearances on the red carpet and in movies alongside Hollywood friends, as in Meryl Streep's It's Complicated. But one of Wilson's more regular gigs these days is as a contributing writer to Harper's Bazaar. She often pens self-deprecating articles and essays about figuring out personal style, attempting to embody the European way of life, and getting older without giving up on fashion.
- Jesse Ventura: Professional wrestler turned governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura was one of the first entertainers to turn to American politics in recent years (Ronald Reagan not included). Formerly known as "The Body" Ventura usually played the villain in wrestling matches, but also copied evangelical preacher Billy Graham's stylistic movements and speech. Ventura retired in the 80s and served as mayor of Brooklyn Park, MN, from 1991-1995, defeating the incumbent mayor, who had served for 25 years. Elected to governor of the state in 1998, Ventura surprised many outside of Minnesota, but proved to be a popular, productive governor. He's now moved on again, hosting an investigative TV show about popular conspiracy theories.
- Greg Graffin: Bad Religion punk musician Greg Graffin took quite a surprising turn in his career, now focusing much of his time teaching science courses at UCLA, during the cold weather semesters (when he escapes from his upstate New York home). But Graffin has been interested in science, especially evolutionary biology and zoology, for a long time, and has earned higher degrees even while performing with the band.
- Paul Newman: Legendary actor Paul Newman continued to act even in his old age, but in the early 80s, Newman started another business, which he like to call "the joke that got out of control." He went into the food business, and now, Newman's Own makes salad dressing, frozen pizza, popcorn, marinades, salsa and even wines. The company has given over $295 million to charity, a tradition that the entrepreneurial, philanthropic Newman started himself.
- Al Franken: Another Minnesota politician on our list is Al Franken, an outspoken U.S. senator who's also an actor and comedian. A Minnesota native, Franken moved to New York after graduating high school — declining acceptance at Harvard — and was soon hired by Saturday Night Live as a writer. He eventually went back to Harvard and graduated with 1973, and then continued with SNL as a writer and performer. Franken, who has also written five books and hosted a radio show, was sworn into the U.S. senate in July 2009.
- Fred Savage: One of the most popular child stars of his time, Fred Savage took a generation through middle school and high school in The Wonder Years. Since then, he's appeared on teen and children's TV shows, and has thankfully avoided the MTV reality show route. But we were surprised — pleasantly — to find out that Savage is one of the witty geniuses behind the irreverent It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: he's a contributing producer for the TV show.
- Rick Schroder: Another adorable child star — Rick played Ricky Stratton on Silver Spoons — Ricky Schroder enjoyed a successful career in acting even as a young man, co-starring in Lonesome Dove. But as an adult, besides a couple of seasons on NYPD Blue and one on 24, Schroder seemed content to sit out of the limelight. It turns out that he's still in the entertainment business, though, as a country music video director. He's won two awards at the CMT Music Awards: Collaborative Video of the Year and Director of the Year for "Whiskey Lullaby", by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.