Celebrities Who Said Goodbye to Hollywood for New Careers

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:28:39 PM ET
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The Hollywood dream sounds like a fairy tale to most people, but the road to fame can come with many pitfalls. While some A-list actors choose to have lifelong careers in front of the camera, many other celebrities decide to trade the limelight for new opportunities.

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The lure of a slower pace and less public scrutiny with more job stability is more than enough to make some celebrities decide to trade fame for a calmer life outside the Hollywood glare. Not surprisingly, their fame often gives them the advantage they need to kick start their thriving new careers. Let’s take a look at some popular celebrities who gave Hollywood the boot.

Jersey Shore: Angelina Pivarnick

Angelina Pivarnick endured plenty of drama during Season 1 of Jersey Shore. After not showing up for her shift at the T-shirt shop, she was evicted and left town. During Season 2, she returned but was evicted from the house (and show) again after a confrontation with the cast. The show continued for another five seasons, but Pivarnick wisely chose to pursue a career outside reality television.

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Photo Courtesy: Jim Spellman/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Now an EMT with the New York Fire Department, Pivarnick spends her days saving lives. Although she mostly stays away from the limelight, she still dabbles in reality television, making appearances on Jersey Shore Family Vacation.

Even Stevens: Steven Anthony Lawrence

Steven Anthony Lawrence is a well-known former child actor with acting credits that ranged from Cheaper by the Dozen to The Cat in the Hat, but he is probably best known for his role on Even Stevens. Fortunately, he avoided the curse that seems to plague so many child stars.

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Although acting is still a passion project for Lawrence, his main career now is teacher. Lawrence loves to share his experience and passion for acting with potential new rising stars. He also teaches his students how to navigate the business side of being an actor and how to be prepared for the pitfalls of fame.

The Facts of Life: Lisa Whelchel

As the funny and fabulous Blair Warner on The Facts of Life, Lisa Whelchel won the hearts of audiences everywhere. After her time in Hollywood, she married associate pastor Steven Cauble and became a stay-at-home mother. She is also a successful author, writing more than nine books on motherhood and religion and a memoir based on her relationship with God.

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Although Whelchel is no longer an actress, she made a brief return to TV on Season 25 of Survivor: Philippines. She rocked the competition, winning $100,000 as the runner-up and becoming the Sprint Player of the Season.

Chips: Erik Estrada

In a perfect case of life imitating art, Erik Estrada — best known for playing California Highway Patrol officer Frank Poncherello on CHIPs — is now a real-life cop. Estrada left Hollywood and became a sheriff for Bedford County, Virginia, in 2009. Later, he became a reserve police officer in St. Anthony, Idaho.

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Being an actor was never on his radar, so once he was finished with Hollywood, Estrada fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. Having the opportunity to protect and to serve in real life has made Estrada a very happy public servant.

Music Legend: Al Green

Famous for his songs "Let's Stay Together" and "Love and Happiness," this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soul singer is recognizable for his deep and passionate vocals. As fate would have it, music wasn’t his only passion, and after a transformative moment, he started down a new path and became a pastor.

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The end of his relationship with girlfriend Mary Woodson White was the catalyst for his new career. Green is the pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tennessee, where he fulfills his purpose of preaching and sharing his faith while living comfortably off his music residuals.

The Hills: Lauren Conrad

Lauren Conrad escaped the curse of the reality TV star and made a name for herself in the publishing and fashion worlds. Initially known for the MTV reality shows Laguna Beach and its spinoff The Hills, Conrad is now more famous for her California fashion and lifestyle publications.

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After leaving Hollywood in 2009, she started her fashion line, which is sold at Kohl’s, and founded the non-profit handmade goods line known as The Little Market. Conrad is also the author of the New York Times Best Selling Books Style and Celebrate. A mother of two, she is married and has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

The Shining: Lisa and Louise Burns

The horror film classic The Shining is full of memorable lines and terrifying moments, and the creepy twin Grady girls — played by Lisa and Louise Burns — are among the best of them. They went above and beyond to terrorize and haunt the patrons of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film.

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The twins tried to continue their acting career but were turned down by the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. They ultimately moved on to other jobs, with Lisa becoming a successful lawyer and Louise becoming a published scientist. The sisters continue to be fan favorites at festivals like Comic-Con.

Home Improvement: Taran Noah Smith

As the youngest son of Tim Allen on the popular sitcom Home Improvement, Taran Noah Smith enjoyed a steady career as a child actor. After the show ended, Smith said goodbye to the television world and became an entrepreneur. Thanks to his television salary and the ample residuals from the show, he was able to pursue his passion for producing soy-free vegan cheese. This niche market is estimated to reach a value of $4 billion by 2024.

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Along with his passion for the vegan lifestyle, Smith also focuses some of his time on philanthropy. Recently, he helped rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Cosby Show: Geoffrey Owens

After playing Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, Geoffrey Owens continued to work sporadically as an actor. He made international news after the Daily Mail posted an article shaming the actor for working at Trader Joe's. Owens stood tall and pointed out there was no shame in trying to earn a living between gigs.

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The Twitter hashtag #ActorsWithDayJobs became a trending topic, and thanks to his honesty, Owens got the attention of Hollywood for a second time. The entire episode proved that even working actors may need second steady careers to pay their bills — particularly in outrageously overpriced California and New York.

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The Goonies: Jeff Cohen

Widely recognized as "Chunk" from the cult classic The Goonies by Steven Spielberg, Jeff Cohen found a way to combine his passion for movies with a profitable career in law. After wrapping up his successful career as a child actor, he studied Business Law at UCLA.

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Cohen graduated and established his own entertainment law firm, Cohen and Gardner Law, which is one of the most sought firms in Hollywood. He’s also a popular speaker and author of The Dealmaker's Ten Commandments (2015). He has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, CNBC and Huffington Post.

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NBA Star: Adrian Dantley

As a six-time NBA All-Star, Adrian Dantley was known for his professionalism on the court during more than 15 years of play. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and served as head coach of the Denver Nuggets from 2009 to 2010.

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Photo Courtesy: Karl Gehring/The Denver Post/Getty Images

These days, Dantley has settled down as a referee for high school games in the D.C area. He also works as a crossing guard in Silver Spring, Maryland. The steady job provides Dantley with medical insurance and stability. He has been quoted as saying, "I have the summer off, just like when I was a basketball player."

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Two and a Half Men: Angus T. Jones

Known to the public as the "half" on the infamous sitcom Two and a Half Men, Angus T. Jones played Jake Harper for 12 seasons. A sitcom star throughout his childhood, he left Hollywood for good after the show was canceled in 2015 (and barely appeared for several years before that). During his time on the show, Jones was the highest-paid child star on TV.

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With his earnings and subsequent residuals, Jones started his next career in the music industry from scratch. He also formed the event planning venture Tonite with P. Diddy's son, Justin Combs.

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Academy Award Winner: Gene Hackman

Since retiring in 2004, two-time Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman has traded in his illustrious 60-year acting career for famed novelist. He was an A-list actor at the height of his career when he said goodbye to Hollywood, but the long hours on set and the business side of filmmaking had taken its toll on him.

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With a focus on historical fiction, Hackman has written five novels, ranging from Westerns to thrillers. He has said that his acting career inspired his characters and he enjoys the peace that comes with being a novelist.

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Mrs. Doubtfire: Mara Wilson

One of the most famous child stars of the 90s, Mara Wilson is widely recognized for her role as Matilda Wormwood in Matilda and as Robin Williams’ adorable daughter Natalie in Mrs. Doubtfire. Even though her star was rising, Wilson decided to retire in 2000 from acting and focus her career on writing.

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She graduated from New York University's famed Tisch School of the Arts, where she produced and wrote the one women show Weren't You That Girl? Recently, Wilson wrote the memoir Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame recounting stories from her time on Hollywood sets.

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Love Story: Ali MacGraw

Best known for her heartbreaking role in Love Story with Ryan O'Neal, Ali MacGraw left quite an impression on fans around the world. She is also widely known for her passionate affair and marriage to Steve McQueen, her costar in The Getaway. Their affair made headlines all over the globe and soured MacGraw on fame.

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After struggling for decades as an actress and enduring a fire at her house in 1993, MacGraw retreated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and focused on her other passion — yoga. In 2007, she produced the fitness video Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind and Body with Yoga Master Erich Schiffmann.

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The Jonas Brothers: Kevin Jonas

A pop sensation with his brothers from a young age, Kevin Jonas never lost sight of life outside the spotlight. He sang, played guitar and wrote music along with his brothers, Nick and Joe Jonas. The band broke up in 2013 due to creative differences.

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After marrying his wife, Danielle, Kevin found stability as a contractor. He went on to found JonasWerner, a real-estate development and construction company that was featured on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. While he still operates his company, Jonas reunited with his brothers in 2019 to make a new album and launch a world tour.

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Hip Hop Star: Vanilla Ice

His first hip hop single "Ice Ice Baby" broke several Billboard chart records, and the album "To The Extreme" became the fastest-selling hip hop album of all time. His success was fleeting and left Ice (whose real name is Robert Matthew Van Winkle) touring and trying to recapture that initial fame.

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He ultimately found a more stable and fulfilling career after moving into the property and real estate industry. Ice became well known in Florida for his real estate flipping skills. In 2009, he started production on The Vanilla Ice Project, showcasing his skills at buying, restoring and flipping older houses.

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Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Phoebe Cates

From her famous entrance in a red bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to her unforgettable performance in the horror classic Gremlins, Phoebe Cates was a prime starlet of the '80s. She could have had her pick of roles, but she left Hollywood instead to become a stay-at-home mother.

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Living the quiet life with her award-winning husband, Kevin Kline, has been her preference since moving to New York City in the early '90s and having the couple’s two daughters. Although Cates stepped out of the spotlight, she didn't forgo a career. She now runs a New York-based boutique called Blue Tree on Madison Avenue.

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A-List Star: Cameron Diaz

In one of the most notable retirements of any A-list superstar, Cameron Diaz left the world of stardom to write self-help books. Although she was an Academy Award-nominated actress and one of the highest-paid actresses of her generation at one point, she preferred to refocus her energy on education.

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In her two New York Times Bestselling Books, The Body Book and The Longevity Book, Diaz educates women on how to empower themselves through healthy choices and learn about the aging body. The books also encourage readers to forgo fad diets and learn to love how their bodies work.

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Willy Wonka: Peter Ostrum

For his only film role, Peter Ostrum couldn’t have done better than Charlie Bucket in the classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He became an instant star and was offered a three-year contract to film more movies, but he decided that his time as a child actor was over at the young age of 12. Ostrum understood that his true calling was with horses, well beyond the bright lights of Hollywood.

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He studied Veterinary Medicine and practices his specialty in Lowville, New York, where he lives with his wife and children. He works with horses and cows and rarely speaks of his time in the spotlight.

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Disney Star: Dylan Sprouse

Identical twins, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, began their careers on the show Grace Under Fire at the age of one. Of course, they are best known for their roles in the Disney series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, followed by The Suite Life on Deck.

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After the brothers finished their time on Disney, they both enrolled in New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Dylan graduated with a degree in video game design. Following his dream to become an entrepreneur, he opened his own mead brewery, All-Wise Meadery, in Brooklyn. Dylan still acts occasionally, but he believes that having diversity in your career and income is essential.

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Beverly Hills 90210: Jamie Walters

Jamie Walters is best known as Ray, the bad news boyfriend of Donna on the hit show Beverly Hills 90210. Although the part was specifically written for him by producer Aaron Spelling, he left after two seasons to pursue his music career and capitalize on the success of his #1 song "How Do You Talk to an Angel."

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Unfortunately, his music dreams never materialized, so Walters trained to be a paramedic and now works with the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Although his acting days are behind him, he recently filmed a guest spot as Ray in the 2019 reboot BH90210.

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Grammy Winner: MC Hammer

Known around the world for his #1 hits "U Can't Touch This" and "2 Legit 2 Quit," MC Hammer also created iconic dance moves. Fame and fortune came at a cost, however, and he ultimately decided to focus on a higher goal.

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Hammer became ordained in The Church of God in Christ and is now known for his sermons as much as his music. He now refers to his MC moniker as "Man of Christ," and he shares his faith with people all over the country. In 2019, he toured again for his music, but he filled his act with high-powered songs of God and faith.

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1980's Pop Star: Tiffany

In the '80s, pop singing starlet Tiffany enchanted audiences with her hit single "I Think We're Alone Now." The '80s icon is still recording music, but her clothing shop provides her with a steady paycheck and alleviates the stress of an uncertain career as a singer.

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As Tiffany told People Magazine, "I’m a real girl. I get it…My styles change," adding that it was important that her store sells clothes that "don’t cost a fortune." In 2019, Tiffany toured with The Backstreet Boys on The MixTape Tour with fellow ‘80's music sensations Debbie Gibson and Salt-N-Pepa.

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Reality Dad: Jon Gosselin

Jon Gosselin became famous with his former wife, Kate, on Jon & Kate Plus 8, a reality show focused on their lives raising their eight children. The show put pressure on an already strained marriage and led to a contentious divorce. After struggles related to 24/7 public exposure, tabloid gossip and court battles with Kate, Gosselin retreated from public life.

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For a time, he had a hard time securing a steady job, but he recently became a DJ, playing at private gigs and clubs around the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, area. He has also worked as a part-time short-order cook at the local TGI Fridays.

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Hollywood Legend: Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple danced and sang her way into the hearts of millions when she was only five years old. Her tap dancing and adorable giggle captivated viewers in Heidi and Captain January. Unfortunately, growing up and maintaining a career in Hollywood proved a struggle for Temple, and she officially retired from acting in 1950.

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In the '60s, she moved her career in an entirely different direction and entered politics, becoming the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. Eventually, she was just as famous for her political career as she was for her childhood stardom. Honored as a true Hollywood legend, Temple passed away in 2014.

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Ghostbusters: Rick Moranis

Rick Moranis is known for his hilarious roles in Ghostbusters, Spaceballs and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. He was an in-demand A-list comedian and actor in the '80s and '90s before he left Hollywood.

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Moranis chose to care for his ailing wife instead of remaining in the spotlight. After his wife died from cancer, he became a stay-at-home dad to his two children. Years later, Moranis occasionally does voice work or other roles. Ever humble, he has said, "Stuff happens to people all the time, and people make adjustments, change careers… Really, that’s all I did."

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America's Got Talent: Susan Boyle

When Scottish singer Susan Boyle stepped onto Britain's Got Talent stage in 2009, no one was expecting her to belt out a stunning version of the ballad "I Dreamed a Dream." She made it to the finals and became an overnight success but then retreated from the spotlight at the height of her career.

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Boyle found peace as the manager of a small store in her hometown. She gave her singing career one more shot with a return to reality television in 2019. She competed on America's Got Talent and wowed audiences with her rendition of the Rolling Stones' famous song "Wild Horses."

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Heavyweight Champion: George Foreman

George Foreman famously suffered his first boxing loss to Muhammad Ali in the match known worldwide as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Regardless, Foreman finished his successful career in boxing with two World Heavyweight Championships and an Olympic Gold medal.

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After years in the ring, Foreman's health began to suffer, and he retired from boxing in 1997. His next successful career came in the form of an at-home grill sensation. Selling more than 100 million units since its launch in 2009, the George Foreman Grill is now as famous as the illustrious boxer.

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Teen Heartthrob: Freddie Prinze Jr.

A teenage girl's dream in the '90s, Freddy Prinze Jr. starred in She's All That, Scooby-Doo and I Know What You Did Last Summer. He married fellow IKWYDLS and Scooby-Doo costar, Sarah Michelle Gellar. His career was going strong, but he decided to focus on his passion for cooking and the WWE.

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After a brief stint writing and producing for the WWE, Prinze wrote a cookbook. Back to the Kitchen: 75 Delicious Real Recipes (and True Stories) from a Food-Obsessed Actor is on shelves now. A multi-talented entrepreneur, he is also the co-host of the Prinze and The Wolf Podcast.

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