Lifestyles before the riches and fame

It's sometimes hard to believe our favorite stars didn't grow up on the screen or stage. Get to know where these celebrities earned their first pay cheques.

Lady Gaga, once a waitress in a Greek restaurant, has performed over 200 shows worldwide for her The Monster Ball Tour. AFP Photo
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Lady Gaga - Waitress at a Greek restaurant
"I was really good at it," the pop singer told "I always got big tips. I told everybody stories, and for customers on dates, I kept it romantic. It's kind of like performing."

JK Rowling - researcher for Amnesty International, schoolteacher
"Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International's headquarters in London," the Harry Potter author said during a speech at Harvard University. "There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends."

Lucy Liu - Secretary, aerobics instructor, hostess
"I worked seven days a week," the actress told The Seattle Times. "I knew I needed money if I was going into acting because I was probably not going to be making a lot of money off the bat. So I worked five days a week as a secretary and on weekends, during the day, worked as an aerobics instructor and in the evening worked as a hostess in a place called Tennessee Mountain in SoHo [New York]. To me it was gruelling work, but I was excited by the idea about why I was doing the work."

Queen Latifah - Burger flipper
"I worked at Burger King when I was 15. I made burgers, I made drinks. And I had to clean the bathrooms," the regal hip-hop star told Parade magazine. "I must have been crazy for cleaning that for minimum wage. I remember getting my first cheque. I couldn't believe how much taxes were taken out. I think the cheque was, like, 88 bucks. I was like, 'Oh, my God. All that work for 88 bucks.'" The singer-actress ended up getting fired from the job after losing her temper at work.

Kate Winslet - Sandwich maker in a delicatessen
"I was in the middle of making a sandwich - it was a pastrami - when the telephone rang," she told The Sun about landing her first film role in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (1994). "I ran, grabbed the phone, and it was my agent. She said, 'Who's the clever girl there?' I said 'Did I get the part?' 'Yes, you got the part.' I burst into tears and had to leave work because I couldn't cope with the rest of day. I didn't have the money for the bus fare."

Cyndi Lauper - Ear piercer
"I worked in what they used to call a five-and-dime - a small department store where they sold inexpensive things - piercing ears," the pop singer told the Toronto Metro News. "I learnt how to work a crowd there."

Mariah Carey - Hair salon sweeper
"It was the pits working in a salon, sweeping up hair," the pop singer told Cosmopolitan magazine. "What made it worse was that the manager wanted every female working there to have a cute, phoney name, like Foxy or Stormy. He decided I would be Echo. So as I was sweeping up hair, he kept asking me, 'What's your name again?' I told him, 'It's Mariah.' And he said, 'No, no - now it's Echo.' So I said, 'Excuse me, I have to go make a phone call,' and I never went back."

Sandra Bullock - Bartender, cocktail waitress, coat checker
"New York gave me my first bartending job and my first acting job," the actress told Newsday. "I was even mugged here for the first time."

Miley Cyrus - House cleaner
"I had one normal job and I actually liked it," the pop singer told Tyra Banks on The Tyra Show. "I worked at this place called Sparkles Cleaning Service and I cleaned houses, I was like 11. I can clean toilet bowls."

Nicole Kidman - Usherette
"I cleaned toilets when I was an usherette in Sydney," the actress said at a news conference at the Toronto International Film Festival. "My hands got very dirty."


Norah Jones - Waitress

Jennifer Aniston - Waitress

Paula Abdul - Los Angeles Laker Girl

Pamela Anderson - Fitness instructor

Halle Berry - Saleswoman in children's section of a department store

Sheryl Crow - Elementary school teacher

Carmen Electra - Theme park dancer

Calista Flockhart - Aerobics instructor

Jennifer Garner - Restaurant hostess

Whoopi Goldberg - Bricklayer

Madonna - Dunkin' Donuts counter girl

Helen Mirren - Waitress at her aunt's bed and breakfast

Demi Moore - Debt collector

Julia Roberts - Ice cream scooper

Gwen Stefani - Fast food server

Martha Stewart - Birthday party planner

Tina Turner - Maternity ward aid

Tina Fey - Snack bar server at swim club

* Compiled by Audrey Coutinho and Christine Hudson