Well-known people from the past and present may have found fortune and fame - but they didn't always follow a straight road to success. Many of them did a career 180, abandoning one professional pathway for another.
Some famous people, like Ronald Reagan, made a change by using their star power as a springboard for a new career. Others, like Bob Ross, became well known for pursuing things that had nothing to do with their original profession. But, no matter which direction they took, they all had one thing in common: They found new ways to shape the world, for better or for worse.
Just as unlikely friendships throughout history reframe historical figures in new ways, this list of famous people who did a career 180 is a reminder that life is full of surprises.
- Photo: The Joy of Painting / PBS1777 VOTES
Bob Ross inspired generations of Americans to start painting through his popular PBS show The Joy of Painting.
Though a master of the brush, Ross's career as an artist marked a wildly different professional pathway from what he previously had been doing: He was a sergeant in the Air Force. Ross described his military work to the Orlando Sentinel:
I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away for it, it wasn't going to be that way any more.
Painting offered Ross a way to de-stress and get back in touch with beauty and happiness, rather than barking orders at people all day.
From precocious Matilda and compassionate Miss Honey to James and his giant peach, Roald Dahl created some of the most beloved characters in children's literature. However, although Dahl wrote for young audiences, his previous work wasn't exactly kid-friendly.
During WWII, Roald Dahl was an intelligence agent for a branch of MI6 and was based in the United States. He rubbed elbows with some of highest-level officials in the country, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and passed along intel he uncovered to the British government.
Dahl may have even embarked on affairs with high-society women - including writer and diplomat Clare Booth Luce - to get close to them and gain more information.
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Julia Child introduced American audiences to French food through her popular cookbook and PBS cooking show. But her previous career had nothing to do with the kitchen.
During WWII, Child worked for the US federal government's Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later turned into the CIA. Part of her work involved trying to develop a way to repel sharks from naval mines in the sea.
Her time with the OSS eventually introduced her to Paul Child, who would become her husband. Together, they went to France, where Paul had been sent for work, and Julia fell in love again - this time, with French cuisine.
- Photo: The Hangover / Warner Bros. Pictures
Ken Jeong had the kind of career that anyone would covet before he decided to take a different path. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Jeong was a physician.
But no matter how successful his career was, he couldn't quite shake his desire to perform. As he told Business Insider:
All I knew was I just had a deep, deep love of performing. I felt like I had an aptitude for it, but more importantly, I had a passion for it. I had a very complicated life, you know, or at least in my head I did, where I was in medicine, on a medical track, and it was a very, very heavy time because I had two loves and two passions and how to reconcile that?
Though Jeong began acting while he was still working full-time as a doctor, he quit practicing medicine to devote himself to the performing arts.