Careers

Cab driver, cheesecake baker and other day jobs of the rich and famous

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It can be easy to forget that stars were once just like us: They worked regular jobs, worried about money and tried to figure out whether they could achieve their dreams.

New York Magazine has rounded up 25 stories from celebrities and icons about their less-than-glorious pasts. Some are as expected: Comedians Kristen Wiig and Samantha Bee both waited tables; author Toni Morrison worked at Random House. Others are more surprising.

Here are some highlights.

Madeleine Albright
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

The vaunted former Secretary of State, who was the first woman ever to hold the position, honed her diplomacy skills in retail, making under a dollar an hour. "I worked in Jocelyn's Department Store in Denver, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I worked behind the counter, selling bras," she says.

"I learned that you need to be willing to do anything."

Fran Lebowitz

The satirical New York City author and subject of the Martin Scorsese documentary "Public Speaking" drove a yellow cab in the 1970s. Customers offered drugs as a tip, and she declined. She explains: "People would try to tip me in joints. I mean, very frequently. They would put a joint in my hand, I would give it back. I would say: 'Let me explain something to you! I cannot walk into a delicatessen and order a roast beef sandwich and give them this.

"'I am not driving this cab to get high — I am driving this cab to support myself.'"

Overheated market
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Nancy Meyers

The director's movies often resemble cheesecake: Rich, decadent and, wags might add, usually white. As it happens she got her start delivering actual cheesecake that she baked for restaurants using a family recipe.

Mary Karr

The author was never afraid to get her hands dirty. She recalls:

One of the hardest jobs I ever had was trekking crawfish, which I had to do to pay my grad-school tuition. Try to imagine the sucking sounds that a 40-pound bag of crustaceans make or the smell of them as I sat on the side of the road trying to keep them alive in 100 degree heat.

While trying to make it as an actress, Connie Britton taught aerobics, Gina Rodriguez was a "twin-specialist nanny" and Emma Stone worked part-time at a dog bakery. Singer Janelle Monae worked at, and was fired from, Office Depot.

And author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who, as a student, took care of her sister's house and baby, offers great advice for dreamers who are also trying to be practical. She says, "Don't give up your job. Get up earlier, make the space. If it matters to you, make it matter."