Many of us have had the not-so-pleasurable experience of working our first job in fast food. Whether it’s McDonald’s, Subway, or Taco Bell, a lot of us had to grind through the grease and deal with crazy customers to land our first paychecks. The fast food industry is one of the largest in America with over 3.8 million fast food workers today. So, it’s no surprise that some of the biggest celebrities also had to work their fair share of days in a fast food restaurant.
Knowing that someone like Brad Pitt landed their first paycheck as a fast food mascot can make the dirty first job a little more bearable. Check out all the celebrities who started their careers in fast food.
Rachel McAdams Spent Three Years At McD’s
The Mean Girls actress worked at a local McDonald’s for three years when she was in high school. Even though the gig gave her a financial start to her dreams, McAdams admitted to Glamour magazine that she wasn’t exactly the best employee.
She told Glamour that she didn’t pay much attention and even “broke the orange juice machine one day.” Yep, sounds like a stereotypical teenager fast food worker to me!
Jay Leno Learned A Lesson About Business At McDonald’s
The legendary talk show host worked for two years at a McDonald’s in Massachusetts from 1966 to 1968. That was “back in the good old days when they still had roast beef and strawberry shortcake.” How many of us can remember those McDonald’s menu items?
Leno worked preparing the chain’s famous fries and one day, a worker had changed out of their uniform and left their underwear on a pile of potatoes. The manager threw out the whole pile and Leno said it was a lesson in success — you can never go too far for a good product.
James Franco Worked The Drive-Thru After Dropping Out
Before landing his breakout role on Freaks and Greeks, Franco was stuck working the late-night shift at the drive-thru in Los Angeles. He had just dropped out of college to pursue an acting career but when he arrived in L.A., like many aspiring actors, there was no work to be found.
Franco said he practiced his accents on the customers in the drive-thru and would eat food on the job to survive.
Madonna Got Fired From Dunkin’ Donuts
When Madonna dropped out of college to pursue a singing and dancing career in New York City, she had a pretty rough time. Her big break took longer than she thought so she was forced to take a job at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Times Square.
According to the “Material Girl” singer, she didn’t even last a day. She managed to squirt jelly filling all over a customer and her manager promptly fired her.
Before she began modeling and acting, Sharon Stone worked the register at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania. She worked there until she finally landed her first modeling contract at the age of 19. She must have some serious self-control because while she was working at the golden arches, she was starting out in beauty pageants.
Stone was also considered academically gifted as a child, which goes to show working in fast food can be a job for anyone.
Pharrell Was Fired From McDonald’s…THREE Times
Pharrell Williams might be a musical genius but he couldn’t figure out how to keep a job as a teenager. He worked at three different McDonald’s growing up and got fired from every single one. When asked about it, Pharrell totally admitted her was just plain lazy.
During an interview with Seth Meyers, the “Happy” singer said the only thing he was ever good at while working there “was eating Chicken McNuggets.” Same, Pharrell. Same.
Lin-Manuel Miranda Has A Big Mac Past
The Hamilton actor and ultra-talented musician got his start at the front register at a McDonald’s in New York City. He shared the tidbit in a tweet about his first seven jobs. Other first jobs for Lin-Manuel included running the Slushee machine at his aunt’s store and writing for his community’s paper.
Miranda also said he liked to write and sing jingles as a kid, so who knows what kind of performance customers got when he served up their Big Macs.
Shania Twain Had To Work At McDonald’s To Survive
The Canadian country singer knows what it means to have to work and grind just to survive. Both of Twain’s parents died in a tragic car accident when she was only 22 years old. While all her friends were going to university, she had the new responsibility of taking care of her younger brothers.
That meant working at McDonald’s in her small Ontario, Canada town every night after school. She then went and tended bar, then went back to McD’s in the morning for breakfast.
Jeff Bezos Was A McDonald’s "Grill Man"
As a teenager growing up in Miami, Amazon founder and the richest person in modern history worked the fryer at McDonald’s. Like most fast food workers, Bezos originally had his eye on the easier job of working the register but that idea got canned.
According to Bezos, he was an acne-afflicted teenager and his manager thought he wasn’t exactly the right face for McDonald’s. I wonder if that manager knew he’d one day be the face of Amazon?
Queen Latifah Learned a Lot From Her First Job
Growing up in New Jersey, Queen Latifah and her brother were raised to know that if they wanted anything in life, they had to go out and work to get it. That’s why she went out and got her first job when she was 15 years old at Burger King.
The money Latifah earned worked in her favor, and by the age of 18 she released her first single, “Wrath of My Madness.”
Paul Ryan Used His Fast Food Experience On The Campaign Trail
Long before Mr. Two-First-Names was running for vice-president or became Speaker of the House, he was flipping burger at McDonald’s in his sophomore year of high school. He’s used the experience on the campaign trail, even tweeting out things like, “If you work at McDonald’s, someday you too can be Speaker of the House.”
In actuality, Ryan played up the working class image from a young age despite coming from one of the most prominent and wealthy families in Wisconsin.
Brad Pitt Was A Fast Food Mascot
When it comes to the hierarchy of fast food positions, working the front register is the top spot, then there’s working the cook line. The final, and worst, possible fast food job is being the mascot who has to attract customers. And that’s what Brad Pitt had to do.
Pitt’s first employer was El Pollo Loco, and according to the actor, he had to dress up as a chicken and hand out flyers to people on the street.
Eva Longoria Flipped Burgers At Wendy’s
Even though the Desperate Housewife came from a military family, they were strapped for cash growing up. It forced Longoria to take on any job she could get. In order to pay for school, Longoria changed oil at a mechanic shop, taught aerobics, and flipped burgers at a Corpus Christi Wendy’s.
She eventually paid off her student loans and became a huge actress but Longoria still advocates for small businesses because she knows how important they were to her success.
Gwen Stefani Met Her Bandmates At Dairy Queen
Long before she was meeting her hubby Blake Shelton while judging on The Voice, No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani was serving up soft-serve at her local Dairy Queen. Gwen, her younger brother Eric, and bandmate John Spence all met while working at the ice cream joint.
The three spent most of their shifts talking about music and eventually formed No Doubt. Sadly, Eric left the new band and Spence committed suicide before No Doubt ever made it big.
Megan Fox Had The Same Awful Job As Brad Pitt
During an appearance on Ellen, Megan Fox said that the only normal job she’s ever had was when she worked at a Florida smoothie shop. Most shifts she got to work the register but every Friday, she had to dress up in a giant banana costume and stand out by the highway.
Who would have ever thought two of the most popular (and best looking) actors in Hollywood would both spend their early years covering up their million-dollar looks with cheesy costumes?
Keenen Ivory Wayans Supported His Family With His McDonald’s Job
The Wayans family are now comedic royalty in Hollywood but in the 1990s, not so much. Long before Keenen Wayans became the host and creator of In Living Color, he was working as a manager at McDonald’s. Wayans worked 70 hours a week to support his parents and siblings.
Eventually, he earned a scholarship to an engineering institute. By that time, his family could sustain themselves and he decided to follow his passion and turn to comedy.
Barack Obama Knows How To Scoop Ice Cream
Yes, the former President of the United States once worked at a Baskin-Robbins. At the time, the job was just a job and Obama admits he was much more concerned with perfecting his jump shot. Still, he said it taught him “valuable lessons about responsibility, hard work, and how to balance a job.”
Obama also reminded us all that scooping rows of hard ice cream “can be brutal on the wrists.” We hear you! Early onset arthritis is not a joke.
Pink Worked Several Fast Food Jobs
Pink began performing as a singer in Philadelphia clubs when she was only 14 years old but unfortunately, that didn’t exactly pay the bills. In between performances, Pink worked at multiple fast food restaurants including Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s.
She kept up the multiple gigs while joining different girl bands. Finally, when she was 19, she landed a solo record contract and released her debut album which let her drop the fast food work.
Jennifer Hudson Now Has Free Burger King For Life
Both J-Hud and her younger sister worked together at a Burger King in Chicago for their first jobs. Hudson went on to find fame on American Idol and then as an actress but her Burger King past never went away.
After winning an Oscar, American Idol judge Simon Cowell called her out for not thanking the show. She fired back and asked if she should thank Burger King too? The fast food joint loved the free publicity and offered her free burgers for life.
Working In Fast Food Didn’t Inspire Russell Simmons
The CEO of Rush Communications and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings found his first job at Orange Julius. Simmons made $2.25 an hour working behind the counter but he absolutely hated it.
Simmons told Forbes that the job was a good learning experience, but that he was “fired after a month.” He said the job taught him to be inspired by work or you’ll never be happy at your job.
Star Jones Credits McDonald’s For Her Work Ethic
The famous prosecutor turned talk show host often talks about how her start in fast food gave her the work ethic she needed to become a lawyer. Jones began as a fry cook and was quickly promoted to cashier. She’s publicly tweeted that McDonald’s taught her responsibility.
Jones’s love for her first job even inspired her to invite McDonald’s as her guest to professional speaking events, like the National Association of Professional Women summit in 2015.
Nick Cannon’s Mom Forced Him Into Fast Food
Born in San Diego, Cannon grew up in the Lincoln Park housing projects on the southeast side of the city. The area was known for its gang problems and Cannon admits that as a teenager, he was affiliated with the Lincoln Park Bloods.
After finding out about his gang connections, Cannon’s mother forced him to get a job to keep him off the streets. He ended up working the drive-thru window at a Wienerschnitzel.
Bobby Flay Was Serving Up Fast Food Perfection
These days, Bobby Flay is a famous Food Network chef known for his flavor combinations. That passion was clear at a young age when he worked his first job at a Baskin-Robbins. Flay said he worked at the ice cream parlor on the East Side of Manhattan and he was obsessed with creating the perfect sundae.
Flay even admitted that he “used to go a little crazy with the sundae toppings.”
Seal Absolutely HATED Working At McDonald’s
Most of the celebrities on this list look back fondly on their time working in fast food. For many of them, it was a time to grow up, learn responsibility, and enjoy a normal job while they still can. For the legendary British musician Seal, not so much.
When asked about his first job, Seal said he worked at McDonald’s and absolutely “hated it.” Unsurprisingly, the gig only last two weeks.
Fred Durst Has A Long Past Before Being A Musician
The Limp Bizkit frontman had a string of different jobs before turning to music. Born in North Carolina, Durst was first drawn to hip hop and breakdancing. While he was trying to make a career out of that as a teenager, Durst worked flipping burgers at McDonald’s to pay the bills.
He eventually went on to serve two years in the Navy before leaving and focusing entirely on making rap-inspired rock music.
Jason Lee Used Taco Bell As A Backup
Before he became an actor, Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder who founded his own company, Stereo Skateboards. Like many other companies, it wasn’t immediately successful. While Lee was waiting for his company to get off the ground, he had to take up a job at Taco Bell.
Finally, in 2003, Lee and a fellow skateboarder Chris “Dune” Pastras revived the company and Lee could quit his fast food job.
Amy Adams Was A Hooters Waitress
It’s not your typical fast food restaurant but it was enough to get Amy Adams through college. The American Hustle actress has no shame talking about her past life as a Hooters waitress. When asked about it by ET, she said it was a “great job out of high school” and a great way to “earn money for college.”
If you’re wondering if she was shy showing off her body, Adams also said, “I was like 18, so everybody has the body at 18.”
Amy Poehler Scooped Ice Cream For A Summer
The summer before the comedian went off to college, she scooped ice cream at an ice cream parlor called Chadwick’s, which she described as “one of those fake old-timey restaurants.”
Poehler said at first, she loved the “performance aspect” of the job but by the end of the summer, her heart wasn’t in it. She stopped charging extra for whipped cream and failed to use the ice cream scoop properly. Eventually, she just quit.
Nicki Minaj Didn’t Last Long At Red Lobster
The powerful female rapper was born in Trinidad and Tobago but immigrated to The Bronx when she was five. Despite having dreams of becoming an actress, her family didn’t have much money and she had to work to make a living.
One of her first jobs was at Red Lobster, but she was fired for running after a customer and “flipping the bird” to them in the parking lot. Unsurprisingly, she told GQ she was fired from “at least 15 jobs” for a similar reason.
D.L. Hughley Hates His First Employer Now
The actor and comedian admitted that his teenage years were pretty troubled. He was born in Los Angeles and ran in the streets as a member of the Bloods until he decided to turn his around. Hughley went back to school and got a job at McDonald’s to pay the bills.
Even though it was the job that got him back on his feet, Hughley has criticized the fast food chain for their unhealthy options.