Before they were rocking red carpets and followed by millions on social media, celebrities were just normal people like us. Although some stars complain about the dark side of fame, there is definitely a part of all of us that is intrigued by the glitz and glam of it all. That said, some horror stories make us thankful we’re living average lives.
But that doesn’t mean stardom is waiting for you right around the corner! In fact, celebrity status can happen any time, any place. Just take it from these 17 celebrities who got discovered in the most unexpected ways!
17. Justin Bieber
Back before he rose to fame (or infamy, depending on who you ask), Justin Bieber was an average pre-teen who enjoyed singing, skateboarding and the internet. Bieber often posted videos of him singing covers to his YouTube account, and music industry exec Scooter Braun soon took notice and loved what they saw. Eventually, he was flown out to Atlanta to meet with Usher. Fun fact: before officially signing with Usher at Island Def Jam Records, Justin Timberlake was also interested in taking the Biebs under his wing, but Usher ended up winning their bidding war.
16. Charlize Theron
A then-18-year-old Charlize Theron was discovered while depositing a check at a bank. Well, more accurately, while she was shouting at a bank teller in Los Angeles after her paycheck was rejected. Luckily for her, a talent agent named John Crosby was standing in line behind her and thought she had some potential in the acting industry. He passed an angry Charlize his business card and she’s gone on to star in movies like Monster, Atomic Blonde, and Sweet November. John Crosby’s got a good eye!
15. Ashley Tisdale
Imagine a manager approaching you and your toddler during a shopping trip and telling you that your daughter should be a model. It sounds like a dream, but that’s what happened to Ashley Tisdale’s mom. The High School Musical star was discovered at her local mall when she was just three years old, and she still uses the same manager who spotted her all those years ago. She was then signed to Ford Models alongside Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton (small world!). Before starring in The Suite Life With Zack and Cody, she held small modeling roles. But Disney was her big break!
14. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is one of our favorite actresses for many reasons, but after hearing how she was discovered, we love her even more. The Oscar-winning actress was first discovered at 11 years old by a Revlon modeling agent while chowing down on a slice of pizza in a Long Island pizza shop. And they say models don’t eat pizza! She originally started off with commercial shoots, but Natalie wanted to expand her talents and decided to pursue acting instead, and we’re so glad she did!
13. Will Smith
Will Smith was discovered while asking for directions. The to-be Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was in a car with his friend when he decided to pull over and ask someone for directions to a local arena – and he just so happened to pull into a Universal Studios parking lot. The person he ended up stopping was Benny Medina (aka the real-life Fresh Prince of Bel Air), who thought Smith’s energy would be perfect for a sitcom. Soon, the hit TV show was born, and we count our blessings for it every day.
12. Mandy Moore
Mandy Moore was discovered by a FedEx driver who walked by the studio she was singing at (Mandy had rented some studio space for the summer so she could practice at only 14 years old). The delivery man knew a friend of a friend who was a music exec at Epic Records. On the same day as her homecoming game, a high school freshman Mandy had her first meeting at Epic Records. Soon after came her hit, “Candy.”
11. Sofia Vergara
Sofia Vergara was at a beach in Colombia when she was approached by a photographer who asked to take her photo. Some might find that creepy, but Sofia agreed. Soon after, she was offered a modeling contract and small television gigs. She made her first appearance at age 17 in a Pepsi commercial that aired in Latin America. Who knew going to the beach can lead to getting famous? Of course, she’s most well known for her role on Modern Family and as the woman who wooed Joe Manganiello.
10. Jennifer Aniston
According to a memoir by former NBC President Warren Littlefield, Jennifer Aniston ran into the television exec at a gas station on Sunset Boulevard. After failed acting gigs in the past, Jen apparently said to Littlefield: “Will it ever happen for me?” while pumping gas. Nowadays she’s one of the biggest TV sitcom stars turned romantic comedy actress.
9. Nick Jonas
Plot twist: Nick Jonas was discovered way before his brothers while accompanying his mom for her haircut. He passed the time by singing outside the salon, which is what he was doing when he was discovered at 7 years old. Right place; right time; right? He soon made his Broadway debut and held roles in shows Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast, and more. He went on to sign a solo record in 2004, before heading to Disney and creating The Jonas Brothers with his older brothers.
8. Ellen Pompeo
Before she was Meredith Grey, Ellen Pompeo was a bartender in SoHo, NYC. While she was working her shift, a casting director came in, saw her and then booked her on a L’Oreal commercial shortly after their bizarre run-in. Next thing you know, she is Ms. Grey’s Anatomy and making $20 million a year. Yes, really. If only all bartenders got that lucky!
7. Pamela Anderson
Another discovery story straight out of a movie, Pamela Anderson was discovered after being shown on a Jumbotron camera at a sports game in Canada. When she appeared on the screen, people started cheering and she was eventually brought to the stage, and just like that, an (iconic) star was born! Now you’ll really remember to dress to the nines when attending an NHL game next season!
6. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar was discovered by an agent when she was eating at a restaurant in LA… when she was just four years old! Before starring on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sarah was working it as a commercial star throughout her childhood and even appeared on soap operas. Who knew the adorable, talented tot would grow up to play one of our favorite characters of all time?
5. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson is a true New Yorker! The actress was literally discovered while hanging out on her front stoop by a photographer Larry Clark and director Harmony Korine. Korine immediately thought that Dawson was perfect for a part he’d written for her in his new screenplay, which ended up being the controversial film Kids, in which she starred.
4. Christie Brinkley
Christie Brinkley’s “discovered” story is literally straight out of a movie. The then-unknown supermodel was living in Paris studying art and working as an illustrator (legit a fairytale, right?) when she stopped into a post office and her life changed. At the post office, she was discovered by an American photographer who took her photos and introduced her to an exec at Elite Model Management. Can you say #goals?!
3. Eva Mendes
Eva Mendes totally stole her neighbor’s thunder after he took a photo of her and showed it to a local agent as part of his portfolio. Unfortunately for the neighbor (and fortunately for the rest of us), the agent was immediately drawn to Eva and as a result, she ended up being cast in a few small roles. Those small parts grew into big ones, and now she’s known as the lead actress in movies like Hitch, Ghost Rider, and Girl in Progress.
2. Channing Tatum
After a failed college football career, Channing Tatum moved to Miami to get a fresh start. He also worked as a stripper while in Miami (which inspired Magic Mike), but it wasn’t in the club where he was discovered. Instead, he was walking down the city street when he was spotted by a model talent scout. Before he knew it, he was off to work for American Eagle Outfitters, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and more. Enough people liked what they saw that he was eventually given a part on an episode of CSI: Miami. Two years later he got his big break in She’s the Man.
1. Harrison Ford
It’s hard to believe, but before he stole our hearts as Han Solo, Harrison Ford was a carpenter with some pretty high-profile clients. His friend, producer Fred Roos, encouraged Harrison to start acting again (he had tried before, failed, and went to carpentry school). Eventually, Roos sent Ford to George Lucas’s studio to build a door. It just so happened that Lucas was holding an open casting call for Star Wars in the same studio. The two got to chatting… and the one and only Han Solo was found!