Before their record deals, major motion pictures, and prestigious awards, celebrities needed to find inventive ways to earn some extra cash while pursuing their dreams. Though many took more traditional side jobs, like serving in restaurants or working in retail, a select few fought to make it in show business however they could. From writers to reality stars to actors to musicians, you’ll never believe this list of celebrities who were strippers. Which superstar’s past transgression surprised you the most?
1. Brad Pitt
Before he was “Brad Pitt,” he was just one of seven guys who made up Dancing Bares, the stripping troupe at the University of Missouri. No, it wasn’t exactly his first role, but perhaps it was his introduction to entertainment. We can guess that it certainly got him attention from the sorority sisters.
2. Lady Gaga
The born-to-shine pop star made ends meet by stripping in downtown New York City clubs before making it to the big leagues. According to Gaga, dancing in clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was more lucrative than waitressing at the time. She later revealed in an interview that her father did not approve.
3. Chris Pratt
One of the more shocking celebs on this list is the Star-Lord himself. Pratt worked briefly as a stripper for “casual gigs.” The star was never able to land a spot in a real club, which he claims is because of his lack of dance moves. Don’t worry, Chris: You had better things coming your way!
4. Kathleen Hanna
We wouldn’t have guessed that the founder of the 90s riot grrrl movement — and a punk revolutionist — started out as a stripper, but hey, everyone starts somewhere. Unlike some on this list who have spoken positively about their stripping career, Hanna claims that right behind her stint working at McDonald’s, stripping was the absolute worst job she ever had.
5. Channing Tatum
Formerly known by his stripper name, Chan Crawford, Tatum stripped in Tampa, Florida and says there was nothing glamorous about it. Um, Channing? Are you forgetting about the fact that Magic Mike — you know, that major movie that you were the star of — was based on your former alter ego? We certainly haven’t.
6. Amber Rose
Kanye West’s opinionated ex, who became a political activist, has proudly spoken about her past career as a stripper. Rose danced in clubs from the ages of 18 to 25. She surprisingly speaks joyfully about the experience, explaining that the job was fun and freeing, and it allowed her to make lifelong friends.
7. Cardi B
You’ve likely heard the rapper sing about her past stripping days. Before she was selling out stadiums, attending the Met Gala, and rocking the stage on SNL, Cardi B was a stripper. The hip-hop star began dancing onstage in strip clubs at the age of 18, and retired at 23 when she became a social media personality. There’s no shame in her past game — just look where it has brought her!
8. Anna Nicole Smith
Pre Playboy, Smith worked as a stripper in Houston, Texas. At the time, the single mom was tired of waitressing at Red Lobster and found that stripping at Gigi’s was more fun. Her mother was outwardly disapproving of her decision, but Smith ended up meeting her first husband, oil tycoon Howard Marshall, on the job.
9. Blac Chyna
Next on our list is the ever-provocative Blac Chyna. Rob Kardashian’s ex has openly discussed her previous career as a stripper at King of Diamonds, Miami’s famous gentlemen’s club. In response to a fan question on Facebook, Chyna wrote that if she hadn’t gotten famous, she’d likely still be stripping.
10. Diablo Cody
The writer of beloved films like Juno and Jennifer’s Body started out as — yep, you guessed it — a stripper. Cody has explained that being a writer has left her, at times, feeling far more naked and vulnerable than stripping ever did. And get this: Diablo was her stripper name, and she ultimately ended up keeping it! (Her birth name is Brook Busey-Maurio.)
11. Courtney Love
For the love of music, Kurt Cobain’s widow used stripping to help launch her creative career. Love explained that the money she made helped her buy the van and audio equipment for her band, Hole. To be an artist is to often sacrifice, and Love’s career move was an example of just that.
12. Azealia Banks
Pre-stardom, Banks worked in the gift shop of a jazz club, and as a stripper. Her memories, like several other celebrities’ on this list, are happy ones. Banks says she still visits strip clubs and follows strippers on Instagram because she loves the culture of nightlife.
13. Carmen Electra
Before she was every man’s on-screen fantasy, the Baywatch star made a living as a stripper. Electra, however, didn’t leave her past behind. The star moved her former career right into the spotlight by creating and selling her very own signature brand of stripping poles.
Back in her younger days, when she was 18, the hip-hop artist and actress worked as a stripper. Though it was not a happy time in her life, the star says the stint lasted only a month. Ultimately, she says the experience helped her find herself, and Eve — her real name is Eve Jihan Jeffers-Cooper — became more serious about what she truly wanted to pursue.
15. Mark Consuelos
The former soap opera star — and handsome hubby to everyone’s favorite morning host, Kelly Ripa — worked as a dancer in a strip club in South Florida. Consuelos admitted that he took the gig to get his name out. Back in 2012, Ripa claimed that she still had an old calendar pin-up from his stripper days. Never forget where you started!
16. Javier Bardem
Not only did Bardem strip, but he did it in front of his mom and sister! What began as a joke in a bar one night turned into an actual gig. However, it didn’t last long. The movie star claims he wasn’t very good, even with his family rooting him on.
17. Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino
When the Jersey Shore star was fired from his job as an assistant manager at a gym, he decided to begin a career in modeling. His impressive physique gave him the idea to try stripping on the side in order to make some extra cash. He later revealed, in an interview with Jay Leno, that he wasn’t a big fan of the job because of the ridiculous costumes they made him wear.
18. Catherine Zeta-Jones
Now she’s a mother and an Oscar-winning actress, but before all that jazz, she reportedly worked as an exotic dancer. Rumor has it that the star believed she would never make it in Hollywood without a nose job, and took to stripping in order to pay for the costly procedure.
19. Kendra Wilkinson
The reality star recently admitted that she was discovered by Hugh Hefner — her late, former boyfriend — while working as a stripper. Wilkinson was hired to perform as a painted dancer at Hefner’s 78th birthday party, and from there she began dating Hefner before ultimately moving into the Playboy Mansion. Aside from the happy ending, Wilkinson doesn’t recount her former days of stripping fondly.