Singing At A Gas Station? The Stories Behind How The Stars Got Their Big Break

September 4, 2015  |  
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They say that when hard work meets luck, lightning strikes and big things happen. These celebrities were minding their own business when opportunity came knocking. Read on for lots of inspiring reasons to keep hustling so you’ll be ready when your time comes.

Ellen Pompeo

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo was working as a bartender in NYC when a random casting agent spotted her and told her she’d be perfect for commercials. Pompeo went out, tried out, and got her first gig the very next day!

Charlize Theron

The next time someone tells you to watch your temper, remind them of Charlize Theron’s story. She was a high school dropout and struggling model — until one day she cursed out a bank teller who wouldn’t let her cash her last out-of-state check. Theron later told Oprah, “If I didn’t cash that check, I wouldn’t have had a place to sleep that night.”

After losing her cool on the bank teller, a talent director tapped her on the shoulder and slipped her the business card that would launch her acting career.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford had given up on his acting dream and picked up carpentry so he could support his family. Then he was called out to George Lucas’ home to build some cabinets. Lucas not only paid him, but he also offered Ford a role in his next feature film, American Grafitti. And the rest is history.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey’s lucky break came when she was chosen to be in a local radio-sponsored beauty pageant when she was 17.

“I was the only Negro in a pageant of all red-haired girls, and it’s the ‘Miss Fire Prevention’ contest. So the Lord knows, I’m not going to win. So I was very relaxed about it.”

But when the teenage beauty queen told the judges that she wanted to be a broadcast journalist, her surprisingly ambitious answer turned her fate around. Not only did she win the title, but the radio station also offered her the job that helped start her on the path to becoming the big “O.”

Will Smith

Will Smith might have given up on his career as a rapper if he hadn’t asked for directions when he was lost in L.A. one day. As luck would have it, the person he asked to show him the way was famous Warner Brothers VP Benny Medina. Mr. Medina recognized Smith and thought he’d be perfect for a new show based on the VP’s life: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Rosario Dawson

A 15-year-old Rosario Dawson was hanging out on a friend’s stoop when a random screenwriter saw her and told her she’d be perfect for his new film. That film was Kids, which introduced Dawson to acting and launched her film career.

Before then, Dawson said she never considered acting: “I was going to finish high school. I wanted to study engineering or marine biology. That was my plan. Kids was a fluke. It’s only in the past couple of years that I haven’t been waiting for the hook that will pull me off the stage.”

Pamela Anderson

Why should you always make sure you look your best? Because you never know who’s watching.

Pamela Anderson was at a BC Lions football game when the Jumbotron caught a glimpse of her wearing a cut-off Labatt Blue T-shirt. The beer company got so many phone calls inquiring about who she was that they hired her as their spokesmodel!

Luther Vandross

You should always perform like someone important is watching. Singing legend Luther Vandross was struggling as a jingle writer and backup singer. Then one night, David Bowie overheard him working on a song. Bowie was so impressed that he invited Vandross to work on his Young Americans album. It was Vandross’ first big recording break.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum had lost his football scholarship, dropped out of college and even taken up only to eventually quit stripping.

As he wandered the streets of Miami, reconsidering his career choices, a modeling agent discovered him on the street. Tatum ended up doing shoots for Abercrombie & Fitch, Pepsi, and Vogue before finally breaking into acting.

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes let one of her neighbors take a few shots of her for his photography portfolio. When his agent saw the photos, he asked for Mendes’ contact info and helped her nab the acting roles that would launch her career.

Jennifer Lawrence

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence was discovered during her first-ever trip to New York City when a random talent agent told her she could be famous.

Lawrence said, “I didn’t know that kind of thing was creepy.” Luckily the agent was on the up and up and the meeting with him helped to jumpstart her career.

Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton was singing to herself at an Amoco station in Annapolis, Md. when a record producer overheard her and invited her to record a demo at his studio. Braxton said, “I don’t know what made me go, but I took my girlfriend in case he was crazy, but he turned out to be legit.”

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp was just hanging out with a friend who had an audition to attend. Ironically, it was Depp who caught a casting director’s eye and unintentionally landed the part of Glen Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The actor’s career got rolling just like that.

David Boreanaz

How did David Boreanaz land his first acting gig? He was just out walking his dog when a talent scout spotted him and thought he would be the perfect guy to play vampire bad boy Angel on the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Danny Trejo

After years spent in and out of jail, actor Danny Trejo finally sobered up and became a drug counselor. He was on set helping a mentee avoid relapse when a casting director spotted him and gave him a role in Runaway Train, the acting role that launched his career.


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