These days, a high school diploma is the absolute least thing you need in order to get a decent job. Most people have to do some kind of post-secondary school if they want to ever get beyond dead end, minimum wage jobs. But celebrities aren’t most people. Some people are born to be stars, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology or business administration is just a waste of their time and talent.
While a lot of stars skipped college, there are some that didn’t even finish high school. Moving to L.A and becoming famous was inevitable anyway, so they figured why bother struggling through this calculus class? Dropping out of high school may have seemed like a big risk at the time, but it hasn’t hurt these 10 celebrity’s success or earning potential in the long run. It just serves to emphasize that formal education isn’t for everyone.
Just remember that for the handful of people who are successful despite not finishing high school, there are thousands who live in poverty, and wish they could go back and graduate. High school might seem like an eternity when you’re there, but it ends just like everything else does. No one will ever regret sticking it out long enough to graduate, because you never know what could happen later. Here are 10 celebrities who beat the odds and were successful in spite of dropping out of high school.
Mark Wahlberg grew up in Boston, and was an original member of the New Kids on the Block. He went on to find success as Marky Mark of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, a Calvin Klein underwear model, and an actor and producer. But at the age of 13, Wahlberg dropped out of high school and turned to a life of crime and drug dealing.
At the age of 17, he plead guilty to assault, and ended up serving a 45-day prison sentence. He vowed to stay away from crime and at 19, the song “Good Vibrations” launched his career. Roles in films like The Basketball Diaries, Fear, and Boogie Nights made him a household name. Wahlberg finally completed his high school diploma in 2013, because he wanted to set a good example for his four children.
Canadian actor, Jim Carrey, got his start as a young comedian at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto. His talent was in imitations and he eventually caught the eye of Rodney Dangerfield before hitting it big in Hollywood with movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Cable Guy.
But Carrey was lucky he was born with natural comedic talent, because he was forced to drop out of high school when he was 15 to help his family out financially. His father lost his job, and his mother suffered from severe chronic illness, so Carrey got a full time job as a janitor to pitch in. He has said if his show biz career hadn’t panned out he probably would have ended up another factory worker.
Christina Applegate made her film debut at the age of 7, and never looked back. She has stardom in her blood since her father is a record producer, and her mother is an actress. She dropped out of high school in her junior year and when she was 16, she was cast as Kelly Bundy in the popular sitcom Married… With Children.
Even though Applegate has said she will “always regret leaving school in the 11th grade and getting [her] GED”, she has had continued success in Hollywood with guest-starring roles in Friends and films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
Cameron Diaz dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to pursue a modelling career after she landed a contract with Elite Model Management. Her first film role was as the female lead opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask, which she landed with no acting experience whatsoever.
She said that school just wasn’t something she was very good at. She is now ranked as one of the richest women in entertainment, so she is clearly one of those people who knew early on that school wasn’t for her.
The Academy Award nominated star of films like Zero Dark Thirty and Interstellar does not seem like the type that would be a high school drop out. But Jessica Chastain admitted to Entertainment Tonight recently that she was a “terrible student” and she never graduated because she skipped class too much. She ended up getting her adult diploma later on which allowed her to attend Julliard on a scholarship.
She said she felt like her poor performance in school made her think she wasn’t an intelligent person, but added “there are kids out there that aren’t doing well in school and I hope they never think it means they’re stupid. It’s all about finding where your interest lies and finding what you’re good at.’
Hilary Swank, a two-time Oscar winner has said, “I ended up dropping out of high school I’m a high school dropout, which I’m not proud to say. But I had teachers who I could tell didn’t want to be there. And I just couldn’t get inspired by someone who didn’t want to be there.”
While she was promoting her film Freedom Writers, in which she plays a high school teacher, Swank talked about her high school experience. She said her biggest problem with school was all the rules, and that she talked too much. But she also said, “I think school is really, really important and we have an education problem in this country and it’s a shame. It’s a shame for any kid to feel hopeless about their future.”
Daniel Radcliffe may be most well known for his role in Harry Potter, which takes predominantly in high school (albeit wizard high school), but he never finished high school himself. He started filming when he was only 10 years old, and his busy schedule and growing fame got in the way of his studies. He told GQ not all his classmates seemed all that happy for him for his early success either.
His co-star Emma Watson is a college graduate, but Radcliffe just never had the desire to finished school. He dropped out when he was 17, and hasn’t looked back since, and who would, if they were worth over $100 million when they were 25 years old?
As a child, Ryan Gosling moved around a lot because of his father’s job. He says he was bullied as a child, and was suspended in grade one for bringing steak knifes to school and throwing them around at recess. He had a hard time learning how to read, and after being diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin, his mother decided to home school him.
He joined the Mickey Mouse Club when he was 12, and lived with fellow club member, Justin Timberlake for awhile. When the Mickey Mouse Club was cancelled, he returned to Canada and continued to act in shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Breaker High. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 to pursue more serious acting opportunities.
One of Seth Rogen‘s first roles was the high school stoner, Ken, in Judd Apatow‘s Freaks and Geeks. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be in show business and has said, “as soon as I realized you could be funny as a job, that was the job I wanted.”
He co-wrote the original script for Superbad with his friend, Evan Goldberg, when they were only 13 years old. Rogen won the Vancouver Amateur Comedy Contest at age 16, and dropped out of school not long after. Both his parents lost their jobs around the same time, and through his comedy career, he became the main wage earner in their household.
Keanu Reeves grew up all over the world, having lived in Lebanon, Australia, New York, and eventually Toronto. He said he was expelled from the Etobicoke School of Arts because he was “just a little too rambunctious and shot [his] mouth off once too often. [He] was not generally the most well-oiled machine in the school.” He struggled with dyslexia, and preferred to focus more on playing hockey.
He attended 5 different high schools before finally dropped out at 17 to pursue acting full time. His first big role was in the critically acclaimed River’s Edge, but his breakthrough was the 1989 film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
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