Arnold Glasgow once said, “Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” He never mentioned anything about A grades at school! We bet your parents told you many times when you were growing up that in order to do well in life you need to do well at school first. To which some of the most famous and successful people nowadays would only answer with “Bull!”
We all know the inspiring stories of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg - how they dropped out of university (to the disappointment of their parents), only to become the legendary figures they are today. But we are not going to talk about university drop-outs here.
Kids, many of the actors you admire and the models you fantasize about left school at a very young age, barely literate, in order to pursue their dream careers. They couldn’t care less about getting a high-school diploma or, God forbid, a university degree. However, with the years passing, some of them realized education was kind of important.
In June 2013, Mark Wahlberg graduated from high school at the age of… 42! He was proud of this belated achievement. “I did it for all the teens and adults who have inspired me with their commitment to graduate," he said. And yet, he didn’t need any kind of diploma when he started his career at the age of 13 as one of the original members of the very successful boy band New Kids on the Block!
Scroll down to see how schooling didn’t matter much for ten hugely successful people, and five more for whom it messed up their lives…
15 Gisele Bündchen - Succeeded
The Brazilian supermodel is more than a clotheshorse. Today, her own line of lingerie and skincare makes her one of fashion’s top earners. Additionally, she makes money from million-dollar contracts with Chanel and Carolina Herrera (in addition to the other 20 fashion brands she endorses) for advertising their fragrances and beauty products. Her net worth as of this year is $360 million.
She was born in 1980, in the Brazilian town of Tres de Maio, to German immigrants. Her father is a university teacher, and her mom - a bank cashier. Gisele dropped out of school at the age of 14. She was spotted by an Elite modelling scout while on a school trip in Sao Paolo. After this encounter, it became clear that her schooling was pretty much over because, obviously, her talents were not in the sphere of the exact sciences.
14 Charlie Sheen - Succeeded
If you were expecting anyone, in particular, to appear on this list, you would have guessed right if you thought of Charlie Sheen. One of the baddest boys in Hollywood was only a few weeks away from graduation from Santa Monica High School when he was expelled for poor grades and attendance. But it was just a matter of time for this to happen. The kid showed no interest whatsoever in academic matters. Instead, he was interested only in two things: acting and baseball.
Together with his buddies, among whom were Rob Lowe and Sean Penn, he produced and starred in several amateur Super-8 movies. And he was quite a good shortstop and pitcher on the Vikings baseball team. His personal record as a pitcher was 40-15! Logically, his success on the field did not transfer to the classroom, and he struggled to keep his grades up. As if we now care if he was an A-student, or not…
13 Robert Downey Jr. - Succeeded
What we should not admire this man for is for doing well in life despite dropping out of school at 13, but because he succeeded in turning his life around from prison and drugs. And for entertaining us big time! If we jumped on a time machine and went back to 1971, we’d meet a 7-year-old Bobby. The kid had made an appearance in his dad’s movie Pound, in which he was playing the role of a… puppy. Seven years later, Robert’s parents got divorced and he went to California to live with his father. Downey Jr. left school in the pursuit of а professional acting career. At this time he was already struggling with his drug addiction! In 1982, he dropped out of Santa Monica High School and moved back to New York to become a full-time actor.
12 Lil' Kim - Failed
As a child, Lil' Kim, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, went to Queen of All Saints Elementary School in Brooklyn. When she was 9, her parents separated, and she was raised by her father, with whom she didn’t have the best of relationship. She was kicked out of the house by her dad, dropped out of high school, and started living on the streets.
In 2005, she was imprisoned on the charge of conspiracy and perjury. During her year as a jailbird, she wrote more than 200 songs. Currently, Lil' Kim seems to be more dedicated to plastic surgery than to her music. Her name appears in the headlines mostly in connection with public feuds and quarrels she engages herself in. She’s been on bad terms with her once high school friend Foxy Brown, with rapper Shyne, and Nicky Minaj.
11 Eminem - Succeeded
The most successful white rapper never made it past the ninth grade. Eminem spent most of his childhood moving back and forth between Saint Joseph and suburban Detroit. He finally settled on the Eastside of Detroit when he was 12. The rapper, born Marshall Bruce Mathers, often switched schools every two or three months. It was difficult for him to make friends and stay out of trouble. And in ninth grade, he failed THREE times until he finally gave up and dropped out. He wasn’t stupid, or anything, he claimed, he just didn’t fit in. Marshall was just not interested in school because all he wanted was to rap. He began rapping at the age of four and started pursuing career seriously at the age of 14. So, he got what he wanted, for which, of course, we are all grateful.
10 Johnny Depp - Succeeded
We love Johnny Depp no matter if he entertains us, or brings us sorrow. Few people can be mad at Johnny for more than 20 seconds. The actor’s life story is filled with equally unexpected twists and turns as are the plots of most of his movies. Depp’s parents divorced when he was fifteen. The very same year, he dropped out of school to pursue a musical career. And he did make it to L.A. where he became a member of Six Gun Method - a hugely unsuccessful band which never made it to the big stage. Johnny alone, however, was lucky and got signed as a part of another band, Rocky City Angels. But fate had bigger plans for the aspiring musician. Depp’s first acting role was in the 1984 cult horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. And the rest, as they say, is history.
9 Drew Barrymore - Succeeded
Being a child star in Hollywood is a burden very few actors have been able to carry without crashing down under its weight. Drew Barrymore is no exception to the rule. She was sucked into the show business being just three years old, and by her 14th birthday, she had already made her first visit to rehab. She was smoking cigarettes at the age of nine, drinking alcohol at eleven, and moved on to marijuana at the age of twelve. She made a suicide attempt when she was 14, and this brought her back to rehab.
Education had little place in the young actress’s turbulent childhood, and she dropped out of school at 13. However, Barrymore managed to pull herself together, and in 1995, she founded Flower Films, the production company responsible for such projects as Charlie’s Angels. Besides an actress, she is now Ambassador Against Hunger for UN and a very well-paid model.
8 Cameron Diaz - Succeeded
Diaz walked the typical path of a Hollywood star whose career was skyrocketed by provocative modeling and soft porn appearances.
She grew up in Southern California and studied at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. But school was too confining for a girl with her looks and ambitions. She dropped out before graduating, but never regretted it as she instantly signed a contract with Elite Model Management and started working for Calvin Klein and Levi’s. Her first role was in the 30-minute soft porn She’s No Angel (1992). Her breakthrough in Hollywood came with her role as Tina in the hit superhero fantasy film The Mask (1994). Now, she is an A-list Hollywood diva and a charity worker. Diaz is involved with one of the largest non-profit organizations for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
7 Hilary Swank - Succeeded
You will never guess the reason why the Academy and Golden Globe-winning actress had to drop school at 15! While she was attending South Pasadena High School, the teachers constantly complained about her incessant talking. Later, it became clear the girl had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which also came along with a lack of interest in studying. Swank felt like an outsider the whole time. The teachers’ negative attitude towards her was the last drop, and she left school. “As a kid, Swank remembers, I felt that I belonged only when I read a book or saw a movie, and could get involved with the character. It was natural that I became an actor because I longed so much to be those other people, or at least to play them.”
6 Brooke Hogan - Failed
She is the daughter of THE Hulk Hogan, and is herself a wrestler… among other things. In fact, almost everything she took up - from reality TV to making music - failed big time. Her real name is Brooke Ellen Bollea. Yet, it comes as no surprise that, being a person with no outstanding personal qualities but great appetites for a glamorous career, she took her famous father’s name as her stage name. In high school, Brooke took dance classes, voice lessons, and gymnastics, while geography, English, and biology were subjects of no interest to her. She joined the cheerleading team at her school in Clearwater, Florida. But she stayed at the school only for the first half of the freshman year. So far, the only crime Brooke has committed has been the crime against good taste and fashion. She always appears in public wearing awful and hideous outfits. Some people say it’s a matter of time she gets caught in doing something illegal. We guess, it runs in the family.
5 Al Pacino - Succeeded
You have to be a complete fool to willingly decide to leave NYC’s High School of Performing Arts. Because this is not just any school, but THE school that inspired the cult musical drama Fame (1980). But this is exactly what Al Pacino did when he was 17. His mother disagreed with his decision, and after a heated argument, the rebellious boy left home. The years that followed couldn’t be any harder. Pacino took low-paying jobs as busboy, janitor, and post clerk. In this period, he was often unemployed and even homeless but he never gave up his dream of becoming an actor. From today’s perspective, things look much more different. He’s had a phenomenal career spanning over five decades, during which he received numerous prestigious awards and the admiration of the moviegoers from all over the world.
4 O.J. Simpson - Failed
Once a popular and respected figure with the U.S. public, now O.J. Simpson is mostly known as an armed robber, kidnapper, and murderer.
In his teenage years, the future pro football player joined a notorious street gang from San Francisco. Many people, including his future wife, would describe the then Simpson as “an awful person.” This “awful person”, however, was willing to reform, and enrolled at Galileo High School, where he played for the school football team. However, his grades were so bad that they prevented him from attracting the interest of the college recruiters. Since October 1, O.J. Simple has been a free man again, as he was released from prison after being sentenced to 33 years imprisonment in 2008.
3 Quentin Tarantino - Succeeded
The genius director left school somewhere towards the beginning of ninth grade. Tarantino studied at Fleming Junior High School, where he took up drama classes. Later, he transferred to Narbonne High School, but he dropped out at the age of 15 in order to attend full-time James Best Company and do community theatre. The guy, however, didn’t prove to be very consistent in any of his endeavors and left the Company after two years. His meeting with Lawrence Bender was a game changer. Bender encouraged him to write his first screenplay, which Tarantino did and called it My Best Friend’s Birthday. This screenplay never turned into a movie but formed the basis for one of his early masterpieces, True Romance.
2 Katie Price a.k.a Jordan - Failed
This silicone bombshell of a woman attended Blatchington Mill School in Brighton, England, where she excelled only at swimming! During her very active childhood, the future model, singer, and designer was not at all keen on science and math, but instead developed a passion for horses and horse-riding. What happened in Katie’s adult years was that she also developed an unhealthy passion for hard-partying. From oversized breast implants to having numerous children, Jordan’s done it all. However, her foolish behavior resulted in her using her second marriage as cheap food for the paparazzi’s hunger. At some point, she even had the intention to sell her implants for one million.
1 Lily Allen - Succeeded (Sort Of)
The Grammy-nominated Smile singer has been a handful from a very early age. As a child, she attended thirteen schools (!), and was expelled from several of them for smoking, drinking, and performing intimate services to boys. The little rascal got lucky when, at the age of 11, a talent scout overheard her singing Wonderwall by Oasis in the playground, and started giving her singing lessons. But the record of Allen’s criminal offences was just starting to get impressive: At the age of 15, she was arrested for dealing ecstasy. She spent four weeks at a health facility after attempting suicide. Despite her talent, Allen got notoriously famous mostly for her blabbering mouth. The targets of her insults include George Bush, the late Amy Winehouse, and Kylie Minogue. What’s the point of being so talented if you are such an obnoxious person, anyway?