Started From The…Well, You Know: Celebs Who Failed Miserably Before Winning Epically

December 14, 2013  |  
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If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again. And you might want to try a new way to reach your goals. That’s exactly what these uber-famous folks did before they finally made it to the top. They were fired from media jobs, kicked out of talent competitions, and denied record deals left and right. Yet and still, they’re Academy Award winners, multi-million making moguls, and the big dogs in Hollywood. Here are 10 celebrities who tried, failed, tried again, and succeeded massively.

Source: WENN

Jennifer Hudson

Talk about the come up of a lifetime! Jennifer Hudson, once a Disney Cruise Lines singer, auditioned for American Idol in 2004. This was the same season that brought us Fantasia Barrino, and while we assumed the two women would be singing against each other in the final two or maybe three, Hudson was voted off seventh, just two weeks after receiving the highest votes for her performance of Elton John’s “The Circle of Life.”

Of course, most American Idol contestants who don’t win are usually rarely heard from again, but Hudson would go on to have the most success of any contestant who didn’t take home the title. She of course won an Academy Award for her work in Dreamgirls, has released two albums and just received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Winning!


Lady Gaga

Before she was one of the biggest pop stars on earth, Lady Gaga was just Stefani Germanotta, trying to get some shine–like most aspiring musicians. In 2006 she reportedly left behind an acclaimed theatre program to focus on music. But after getting signed to Def Jam, she was dropped just three months later, as the record company all of a sudden wasn’t too keen on her odd style.

Of course, this style and her sound would go on to be one of the things we know Gaga for. She would also go on to sign to Interscope, and blow the minds of all her millions of “little monsters.”


Sidney Poitier

One of the greatest actors to ever touch the stage and screen, early in Sidney Poitier’s career (according to CBS News), folks couldn’t see the greatness he had to offer. In his first audition after moving to the U.S. from the Bahamas, he was reportedly told by a casting agent, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” He did go on to dishwash, but he continued to audition for roles at the same time. He went from the stage, to the big screen, going on to be the first African-American man to nominated for and to win an Academy Award.

Credit: WENN

Michael Jordan

Many consider Michael Jordan to be the greatest to have ever picked up a basketball, but early on in his life, he couldn’t even get on his high school basketball team in North Carolina. To be honest though, he did try out in his sophomore year so some might say he was just being a little too ambitious, but is being ambitious every really a bad thing? It’s what helped Jordan go on to be recruited by the University of North Carolina, get picked third in the 1984 NBA draft, win six championships as a Chicago Bull, make shoes that would to this day have people standing in line for them, and well, you know, make history.


K. Michelle

Okay, so K hasn’t been in the game very long, but one can’t deny that her debut album did very well for a singer turned reality star turned singer again. Before she dropped Rebellious Soul (which debuted at number two on the Billboard charts), she was at one time signed to Jive Records (back in ’08) and had a relationship with Jive A&R, Memphitz (who she would go on to date and say had physically abused her). Drama with the label, including her publicly saying “f**k you” to them on numerous occasions, and mismanagement of her recording budget allegedly by Memphitz caused her to not put out a real album and to be dropped from the label. But she went on to do Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, get the exposure she needed, be signed by Warner Bros. and finally drop an album. Homegirl has indeed come a long way.

Source: WENN

Jay Z

For all the success Jay Z has now, early on, the struggle was real in his attempts to get a record deal. Despite his talent, and even his connections with the Notorious B.I.G., labels didn’t want to invest in him or said talents. He made the decision to co-found his own independent record label to distribute his music alongside Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs and they were able to sign with Priority to co-distribute his music. He released Reasonable Doubt in 1996 and the rest is history.

Source: WENN


Anita Baker

Not Anita Baker! But it’s true. She started her singing career with a funk band called Chapter 8 doing “four sets a night,” and performed with the group for five years. Eventually, she saw that things weren’t going anywhere with the group after they dropped an LP that flopped and made the decision to go with her plan B and work as a receptionist in Detroit.  But an independent producer by the name of Otis Smith (who she would fall out with later) offered to match her salary and pay for her living expenses if she came to LA to work on an album with him. Though things didn’t work out between them, the album, Songstress, would put her on the map in the industry and help her get signed to Elektra.

Source: WENN


The Queen of Talk was fired from an earlier TV reporter gig because she was allegedly “unfit for TV.”  At the age of 22, she was co-anchor of the 6 p.m. weekday news in Baltimore. The ratings were low, and because of that, she was terminated from her job. As ambitious as she is, you know it was a big blow for lady O, who stated that it was the worst failure of her TV career. But she was able to make up for that with 25 years of through-the-roof ratings on The Oprah Winfrey Show.


Steven Spielberg

The Academy Award winning director known for some of your favorite movies, including Jurassic Park, E.T., and The Color Purple, couldn’t get love from the film schools back in the day, as he was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television multiple times. He tried over and over, but after three attempts, he gave up and went to California State University. But as luck would have it, he didn’t even get to finish film school because he started getting directing jobs that would help him blow up. However, he returned to school in 2002  after years of making successful movies to finish his film school work and finally earn his BA.

Source: WENN

J. Cole

Jermaine Lamarr Cole was like many young men trying to get a rap career off the ground–but not really. He moved to NYC to study at St. John’s University, majoring in communications and minoring in business before graduating magna cum laude. While doing all that, he was trying to get noticed for his music. He released a mixtape in 2007 called “The Come Up” and was getting buzz. But when he tried to give his demo tape to Jay Z, who he waited for outside of his office building one day, Hov declined it.

But after Jay somehow heard J. Cole’s song “Lights Please,” he wanted to sign him to Roc Nation. Cole World been winning ever since.



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