Celebrities are often associated with being talented artists who can do a number of things really well: sing, dance, act and not much else. The concept of vapid personalities dominating Hollywood has recently come under fire as a growing number of celebrities are seeking professional careers outside of movies, concerts and their talk shows. It is no secret that the world of celebrities has hundreds of artists with Bachelor’s degrees in their craft, whether it be theater, music production, screenwriting or literature. However, there are a select few in the business that have gone above and beyond their comfort zone.
The following list highlights people who have made millions doing what they love, while simultaneously working hard towards advanced degrees, including masters, Ph.Ds. and law degrees from some of the nation’s and world’s top academic institutions. There are superstars such as Ke$ha who excelled in school by scoring a 1500 on her SATs and earning a scholarship to Columbia-affiliated Barnard College to study psychology. However, the celebrities highlighted on this list only includes artists who have completed an advanced degree in their second passion. They are living proof that you can crush it in their public careers while also studying in a private environment that earned them top grades from nerds everywhere.
15 Hill Harper
Hill Harper helped himself by playing a brainy coroner in hit show CSI: NY for nearly a decade, shaping the image of the 50-year-old as an intellectual performer. Harper’s acting career blossomed following his time in his undergrad Brown University, where took theater courses and rocked the stage with a number of stage performances. He received his degree from the Ivy League institution in 1988, garnering the honor of valedictorian as he wore a graduation gown that included magna cum laude honors to it.
14 Greg Graffin
Bad Religion front man Greg Graffin has earned himself a place in punk rock lore as he wrote and performed in some of the genre’s most influential albums, including 1994 classic Stranger than Fiction, which went Gold in the U.S. Outside of his gnarly vocals, catchy guitar riffing and his ability to dance on the piano’s ivories, Graffin’s used his smarts to excel in the study of animals, raking in three degrees in the process.
13 Peter Weller
Peter Weller is a celebrity from a bygone era, rocketing to the peak of stardom in the 1980s before experiencing a steady decline in his timeless career. For those of you too young to remember, he played the titular character in RoboCop and its sequel RoboCop 2, a persona that is constantly being referenced or imitated in subsequent action films that pay homage to the pop culture staple. Some may remember Weller from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a cult classic where he played a super-genius who is a physicist, neurosurgeon, pilot and rock star.
12 Rachel Maddow
MSNBC’s host of The Rachel Maddow Show is a trailblazer in more ways than one, becoming one of the first and most successful female TV hosts in the U.S. Rachel Maddow is also the first openly gay anchor at a major prime-time news program in the country, inspiring millions with her liberal beliefs that offer insight and opinion into some of the biggest topical subjects at any given day. The California-native has won numerous awards for her well-informed content, thoughtful analysts and unapologetic attitude within the industry, including the “Breakout Star of 2008” by The Washington Post in 2008.
11 Ron Jeremy
The name Ron Jeremy is usually linked with his controversial career path of acting in adult entertainment films. Nicknamed “The Hedgehog,” Ron Jeremy is liked by many due to his friendly disposition and openness about the industry he works in, while many others denounce his work and everything it stands for. Whatever your opinion on Jeremy may be, it is hard to argue against his intellectual background as he dedicated the first stage of his professional life towards educating the country’s youth.
10 Dexter Holland
Dexter Holland is best-known as the singer, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter of multi-platinum selling artist The Offspring, and there’s a chance he would’ve been just as successful pursuing his second career. Holland earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from University of South Carolina, following this feat up by getting a master’s in Molecular Biology from the same school. The “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” vocalist could have gotten any job in the industry had he finished his Ph.D in Molecular Biology from the same school. Nevertheless, he could always go back to school or seek employment with his master’s if The Offspring ever call it quits.
9 Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik has won the hearts of nerds everywhere with her role in The Big Bang Theory, where she plays a neuroscientist who is socially awkward, romantically troubled and insecure despite her great intellect. Over the course of the series, she wins the heart of one of the protagonists, advances her career, becomes an integral part of an established social group of nerds and adds a dose of adorable humor as she possesses a great heart. What makes the 40-year-old’s performance more impressive is how close she comes to the mark in portraying a neuroscientist due to the fact that she is a real neuroscientist.
8 Rowan Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson will forever be immortalized in television and film lore for his unique and iconic portrayal of Mr. Bean, the well-intentioned gentleman who is as quiet as he is clumsy. The British star continued his work as a hero to underachievers everywhere in Johnny English Reborn, serving as a tribute and parody to James Bond and other spy films from back in the day. Atkinson is a dying breed, relying on the slapstick humor that became the trademark of some of comedy’s greatest minds, including Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers and the minds behind The Three Stooges. However, the actor is far from being the clown that he pretends to be as he has challenged himself to obtain degrees in some challenging professions that require precision.
7 Miuccia Prada
Born Maria Bianchi, Miuccia Prada is one of the greatest minds in fashion of the 20th and 21st century. She embodies her luxury brand as she is often seen wearing some of her classiest outfits while running a highly successful business. Building an empire like Prada’s does not happen overnight which begs the question of how she pulled it all off.
6 Brian May
Brian May is an absolute legend who was constantly seeking to one-up his peers in Queen by writing bigger and better songs. The Middlesex guitarist penned some of the band’s most successful hits, including “We Will Rock You,” “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “The Show Must Go On.” One has to wonder where the grandiosity of May’s songwriting comes from, but it makes sense when you consider his passion for academia, which have earned him roles in numerous prolific scientific entities including NASA.
5 Ken Jeong
If there is one comedy that has defined the millennial generation, it is probably The Hangover. One of the film’s iconic elements was the character portrayed by Ken Jeong, who was a gangster leader with a Napoleonic complex that makes for comedic gold. Perhaps the only aspect of Jeong that matches the hilarity he is capable of conjuring is his talent as a physician. He got his undergraduate degree from Duke University, followed by an M.D. degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
4 Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren is a force to be reckoned with. The Swedish giant struck fear into the eyes of Americans everywhere in Rocky IV, as he portrayed Soviet boxer Ivan Drago six years before the Soviet Union collapsed. Lundgren proceeded to establish himself as one of the preeminent action stars of Hollywood, including a role in Masters of the Universe and The Expendables movie series. The actor has the chops to match his on-film bravado as he’s a black belt in karate, becoming a European champion in 1981.
3 Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler is one of the top foreign talents that Hollywood has seen over the last two decades. The Scot has had starring roles in 300, P.S. I Love You and RocknRolla, establishing himself as a versatile artist capable of doing action, drama and romance. In addition to his on-film work, the actor has an academic background that almost saw him practicing as a lawyer to pay the bills.
2 Art Garfunkel
Art Garfunkel is known for his feuding with fellow musician Paul Simon as much as he’s known for all the great songs the pair wrote during the years together as Simon & Garfunkel. The pair was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 thanks to composing music that pulls at the heart strings, including “The Sound of Silence,” “Scarborough Fair,” “America” and the iconic song from The Graduate in “Mrs. Robinson.” When taking a closer look at Garfunkel’s life, it becomes clear that he is also a talented athlete and intellectual.
1 Shaquille O’Neal
Perhaps the most surprising entry in this list is Shaquille O’Neal, considered by some to be the greatest center in NBA history. The Lakers and Magic star was an imposing figure of the sport, standing tall at 7’1" and weighing over 300 pounds at times. What he lacked in his free-throwing ability he made up for in court presence and defensive prowess. Shaq’s other careers are well-known to his fans, including a platinum rap album and a brief acting career.
What a lot of people don’t know about the four-time NBA champions is that he’s a savvy businessman, earning an MBA from online institution University of Phoenix. Over the years, Shaq has amassed quite the CV, showing up in commercials, working with law enforcement, trying different sports including wrestling and becoming a spokesperson for Pepsi, Apple, General Electric and other companies. There are plenty of athletes who feel lost in their path once their playing career ends, but Shaq is proof that you can become a multi-talented entrepreneur who constantly revamps his brand if you put the work in.
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