It’s no secret that sexual appeal is one of the keys to Hollywood success. And celebrities often sell it better than anyone else. Usually, this is just a figure of speech. When we say that a celeb is “selling”, we’re almost always speaking figuratively. However, for a small number of celebrities, you can use the phrase literally.
This is a list of celebrities who have made money at some point in their lives in the s*x industry. There are a couple rules to this list. There are a lot of rumors about a number of celebs and former celebs, but this list is limited to people who have discussed their time in the industry in public. Also, this list excludes people who got famous for working in the s*x industry (such as Sasha Grey). It’s meant to be a list of mainstream celebs whose time as s*x workers might surprise their average fans. At least, it would have surprised them, if the celebrities didn’t come out and talk about it.
10. Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum has been more than upfront about his sex-worker past. He turned it into one of his most memorable roles of the last few years, reliving his life as a stripper in the Steven Soderbergh movie Magic Mike. Before he became famous, Tatum danced at a Florida club nuder the name Chan Crawford. Once he started making a name in Hollywood, the actor’s former boss sold videos of one of his performances to US Weekly. The revelation came as a shock at the time, but Tatum took it in stride, telling GQ that he had always wanted to let the public know. “I’m not ashamed of it,” he said bluntly. A few years after his life as a stripper first came public, he was co-producing Magic Mike, forever linking his name with his former career.
9. Margaret Cho
In 2015, comedian Margaret Cho decided to open up about a number of events in her personal life. This included a stint as a s*x worker.
“Sex work is simply work. For me it was honest work. I was a sex worker when I was young. It was hard but well paid. There’s no shame in it,” she Tweeted. Over the next few months, she opened up to a number of media outlets, talking about her days a phone s*x operator and as a dominatrix.
8. Courtney Love
Is it really that surprising to find out that Courtney Love once worked as a stripper? Part of the rocker’s persona is that of an exhibitionist. So it isn’t weird to find out she once took her clothes off for money. The Hole front-woman and the widow of Nirvana star Kurt Cobain, made ends meet at several clubs when she was first starting out in LA in the late 1980’s. The money she earned helped fund her band – it allowed her to buy equipment and a van. The investment eventually paid off. By the early 1990’s, she had married Cobain and Hole had released their debut album, Pretty on the Inside.
7. Chris Pratt
Call it the Magic Mike trend. Like Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt made money early in his life by taking his clothes off for money. The actor, who would eventually make a name for himself on the TV show Parks and Recreation, before breaking really big in blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, doesn’t think much of his life as a dancer. Not that he’s ashamed of it. He just doesn’t think he was very good at it. On the Ellen show, Pratt described himself as a “very very low-rent Magic Mike,” revealing that he danced at a handful of bachelorette parties in his hometown for something like $40 a performance. The gig only lasted three performances before Pratt moved onto other things, eventually landing on Hollywood’s A-list.
6. Diablo Cody
Like many of the other names on this list, Diablo Cody is another celeb who is not ashamed of her former life in the industry. The writer of the Juno and Jennifer’s Body first started dancing at an amateur night. The experience led to a full-time career stripping and working in an adult store. At the same time, she began publishing articles on a blog and in a local paper. Her early writing career eventually culminated in a memoir called Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. Soon after that, she began her Hollywood career, starting with the screenplay for Juno, the Ellen Page comedy about a teenage pregnancy. Since then, she has written Jennifer’s Body and Young Adult, as well as created the TV show United States of Tara.
5. Suzy Favor Hamilton
For most of the people on this list, working in the s*x industry was something they did before becoming famous. Not Suzy Favor Hamilton. While she never became a household name, she was one of the best performers in the world of middle-distance running during the 1990s. She raced in three consecutive Olympics – 1992, 1996 and 2000 – and competed in the finals of the 1500-meter race in her last appearance. After her athletic career ended, Hamilton got involved in prostitution. She became an escort in 2011, despite being married and despite not needing the money. She would later attribute the decision to struggles she has had with mental illness. After a year as an escort, she was outed by a report from The Smoking Gun. The revelation lost her a number of endorsements and other business opportunities.
4. Javier Bardem
Of all the celebs on this list, this entry represents the shortest time spent in the sex industry. But it still counts. For a brief (and let’s assume glorious) day, Javier Bardem was a stripper. Someone saw Bardem dancing as a joke and hired him do a provocative routine for real. The performance, which lasted about 10 minutes, was done to the song “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” a tune that provided the backing track to a striptease scene in the 1986 movie 9½ Weeks. It’s weird enough that the future Oscar winner – star of No Country for Old Men and Skyfall – spent a day as an adult dancer. Weirder still? His mother and his sister were there to give him moral support.
3. Roseanne Barr
Before getting her own hit show in the late 1980s, Roseanne Barr was just a struggling stand-up comedian and waitress. She had a husband and three kids and was having trouble making ends meet. So she turned to prostitution to pay the bills. She discussed that period of her life in a 1994 profile in Vanity Fair, vividly describing “turning tricks in the back seats of cars in the parking lot between comedy gigs.” She eventually left the husband and moved up in the comedy ranks. Roseanne, a sitcom based on her standup persona as a “domestic goddess,” premiered in 1988. It was a hit, running for nine seasons and making Barr a household name.
2. Al Pacino
The definition of sex work can get a little fuzzy. It’s obvious that if a person takes cash in exchange for s*x, then they are involved in s*x work. But what if it isn’t cash?
Famed actor Al Pacino has admitted to using his body to get by. In the 1960s, well before he got famous with his breakout role in The Godfather, Pacino exchanged sexual favors with an older woman in Italy in order to get food and shelter. “At 20, I lived in Sicily by selling the only asset I had – my body. An older woman traded food and housing in return for sex,” he has been quoted as saying. Eventually, he moved back to the U.S. and seriously turned to acting, eventually becoming one of the most recognizable stars in the world.
1. Lady Gaga
Google “Lady Gaga Stripping” and you don’t get a glimpse of her youthful dalliance in the industry. You get a litany of links describing how the singer stripped on stage at one of her performances. And those headlines are from just the last few years (before she started singing with Tony Bennett that is). But while it’s hard to find tales of her professional stripping while wading through her semi-professional extracurricular stripping, Gaga (born Stefani Germanotta) did spend time earning her living from the adult industry. She started stripping at 18, moving out of her parents’ house and refusing to take any help from them. Her act consisted of black leather outfits and a soundtrack of Guns N’ Roses and Black Sabbath. Since then, the songs might have changed, but it sounds like her act might have remained surprisingly similar.