8 Celebrities Doing Better in Hollywood than Record Labels
By: Jordan Hicks
A short survey of mini bios on several celebrities that got their start in music and later transitioned to film industry.
When we consider celebrities, we often categorize them into subsets: actors, models, musicians, etc. Some however, cross into several categories and we sometimes seek to further define where it is their focus lays. Here, we’ve chosen a number of well known celebrities in the actor category which started their careers in the music industry. Some you may have known about, others may be somewhat of a surprise.
1. Will Smith
Net Worth: $250 Million
You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard the name Will Smith. He got his start in music as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jaff and The Fresh Prince taking home the first Grammy ever awarded in the Rap category in 1988. By 1990, Smith had bankrupted on fast living and settled into signing a contract with NBC for the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air kicking off his acting career. Though hits like “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It” and “Miami” secured his fans in the music realm, they were little in comparison to the number of fans he pick up in his acting career with films like Bad Boys, Men in Black, and Wild Wild West. From there, he starred in Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness, each securing him with nominations for Best Actor awards. Forbes Magazine calls him one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. And just this year, his portrayal of Deadshot in the blockbuster Suicide Squad, secured his place in comic book history. While Smith continues to dabble in the music industry, he has certainly made a name for himself as a Hollywood mainstay.
2. Justin Timberlake
Net Worth: $230 Million
Justin Timberlake continues to be the outbreak star of the boy band era. While he started his acting career young on The All New Mickey Mouse Club, he first started out in search of a music career, appearing on the show Star Search in 1983. While he didn’t win there, he did meet one of his future band mates, J.C. Chasez on the Mickey Mouse show and start up the band NSYNC not long after. The group released their first album in 1998 and did well, but by 2002, Justin was ready to go solo with his first album, Justified, featuring sands “Like I Love You,” “Cry Me A River,” and “Rock Your Body.” Fast forward a few years and he’s on the move again, taking on roles in films like the direct-to-video Edison Force as well as Alpha Dog and Southland Tales. He continued to produce music, usually in conjunction with other artists, but his acting career didn’t really take off until he settled down with his music career. He began to show his real acting shops taking on roles in the Mike Myer’s film The Love Guru and the Mike Meredith drama The Open Road, which in time landed him the starring role of Sean Parker in the outbreak film The Social Network. This role was quickly followed by Friends with Benefits in 2011 and Trouble with the Curve in 2012. Safe to say his career is in full swing whether you measure by music or film, but we’re pretty sure his acting career is his bread and butter while his music career is more like sweet dessert.
3. Mark Wahlberg
Net Worth: $225 Million
Its easy to forget such an affluent actor got his start in music, while we all know him as Mark Wahlberg, many have forgot he started his career as Marky Mark in Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch with his debut album Music for the People. Wahlberg made his film debut in the made for TV movie The Substitute and subsequently dropped his rap moniker. His big screen debut followed shortly after with his role in Renaissance Man, followed by his role alongside Leonardo Dicaprio in The Basketball Diaries. Those who still remained disbelievers that Wahlberg couldn’t hold his own in the acting business soon lost that bet as he transformed into every father’s worst nightmare for the film Fear released in 1996. His acting career exploded into critical acclaim with praise for his acting in Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, Three Kings, The Italian Job, and Four Brothers. Wahlberg began to hone in on those choice roles, landing Academy Award nominations for his part in the Martin Scorsese film, The Departed, and The Fighter. While some questioned his choice to star in the Transformers film recently, we tell them to consider that he’s a father of four. And to those who question his part in the Ted comedies, to remember his upbringing in a house with 11 siblings, the humor is not lost on us. He’s even taken to the role of producer with three TV series under his belt, Boardwalk Empire, In Treatment, and the highly successful Entourage, partly based on his own experience of Hollywood. Its clear to see he’s left his troubled bad boy rapper days in the music industry far behind him.
4. Ice Cube
Net Worth: $140 Million
Ice Cube first came to public notice with the controversial band N.W.A. with the album “Straight Outta Compton” featuring “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Express Yourself.” He left the band over business differences and began his solo career with albums AmerKKKa’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate. Since then, he’s dropped 6 more solo albums and worked with countless other artists including Coolio, Dr. Dre, and Cypress Hill, not to mention discovered artists who’ve now made names for themselves including Yoyo, Del, K-Dee, and Mack 10. It may be difficult to imagine that he’s made as big a name in the film industry has he did in music, but its true none the less. His debut in Boyz n the Hood in 1991 led to more roles in successful films such as Trespass, Dangerous Ground, and Anaconda. He soon made his screenwriting debut with the film Friday. Since, he’s had success with several films and subsequent sequals including the Barbershop series, the Are We There Yet? series, the 21 Jump Street series, and the Ride Along series, not to mention one off films such as xXx: State of the Union, Lottery Ticket, and his voice-acting role in The Book of Life. His future projects include the films Humbug and Fist Fight, which he will produce. We expect nothing but more acclaim and success for his future releases.
5. Queen Latifah
Net Worth: $60 Million
Dana Elaine Owens, better known as Queen Latifah, began her career as a rapper and beat boxer with the hip-hop group Ladies Fresh. She went on the make her mark on the music industry covering feminist topics, and it wasn’t long before she landed a role staring, writing, and performing the music for the FOX sitcom, Living Single. In 1999, she got a role for her first big screen hit The Bone Collector, alongside Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie which won her critical acclaim. Not long after, her Academy Award winning role in the musical film Chicago won her commercial acclaim as well, not to mention a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the years that followed, her roles became quite varied, including her comedic action opposite Steve Martin in Bringing Down the House and her Golden Globe award winning role in Life Support. Other successful and acclaimed roles include her vocal performance as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, her touching role as August Boatwright in The Secret Life of Bees, and her comedic voice acting as Ellie in the Ice Age series films. While she is by some considered the queen of hip hop or hip hop’s first lady, the woman behind the moniker has certainly earned the title being one of the most prominent female hip hop artists of the last three decades. She is still active in the music industry alongside her business partner Shakim Compere running their artist management company, Flavor Unit, and you can expect to see her continuing her acting career with soon to be released films such as Girls Trip and Star.
6. Jared Leto
Net Worth: $40 Million
Many know his name and face even if they struggle quite to remember what he’s starred in. This may be due in part to his cameleon-like way of adapting to and shining through the characters he selects to play, for he is incredibly selective about the roles he chooses. He first went to LA with the intention of making it big in music, while possibly working in film on the side. He certainly did that as he is well known as the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for the band 30 Seconds to Mars, founded in 1998. While he started in acting, and took to the screen first in small roles for TV shows Camp Wilder (1992), Almost Home (1993), and Rebel Highway (1994), he didn’t make much of a splash with his acting career at first. His next role would be what changed everything for him in acting, a casting on the show My So-Called Life as handsome slacker Jordan Catalano, even contributing to the soundtrack for the film. His next roles were in How to Make an American Quilt, and the flop The Last of the High Kings, and finally his first leading role in Prefontaine. While financially a flop, it received high praise from critics. He wouldn’t star in a successful film until 1998 when he starred in the horror film Urban Legend. Later that year he would take a supporting role in the film The Thin Red Line which was nominated for seven Oscars. This role was followed in quick succession with what are likely his more known roles in Girl, Interrupted and as Angel Face in Fight Club opposite Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Leto wanted yet more controversial roles and started reaching for them. He landed a place in American Psycho in 2000 opposite Christian Bale. In that same year he played arguably his most disturbing role in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. Both were massive successes, even if they were controversially received. He has since starred and taken minor roles in films such as Panic Room, Alexander, Lord of War, Lonely Hearts, and Chapter 27 as the infamous murder of John Lennon. Unfortunately, Chapter 27 was a financial and critical flop and Leto returned his focus to the band for the next three years. The release of Mr. Nobody in 2009 marked his return to film. His most recent success, which will be sure to mark his name in comic book infamy is his portrayal of the super villain, Joker in Suicide Squad. Leto is considered a method actor, known for his devotion and research to the roles he plays, often remaining completely in character for the duration of filming. One can only imagine what its been like to be around him during the filming of Suicide Squad.
7. Harry Connick Jr.
Net Worth: $35 Million
Its no wonder Harry Connick Jr. had his start in music when he was born and raised in the heart of New Orleans. He took up jazz young, won piano competitions while playing shows in the French Quarter and soon attended the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. At 19 he released his first album with Columbia records and began an extended run at the Algonquin’s Oak Room. His first step into film was via his music, scoring and singing several songs for the film, When Harry Met Sally… in 1989. His music has collected several awards over the years including a gold album, four platinum albums, and three multi-platinum albums as well as two Grammies. He took his first acting role a year later as tail-gunner Clay Busby in Memphis Belle. A few years later in 1995 he was bit by the acting bug again choosing to play mass-murderer Daryll Lee Cullum in the film Copycat and a year later as Captain Jimmy Wilder in Independence Day coining the iconic line, “Let’s kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!” He’s since starred in two dozen films and several television shows including such titles as Hope Floats (1998), P.S. I Love You (2007), and the Dolphin Tale films (2011 and 2014), as well as appearances in shows Will & Grace and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Since beginning his acting career, Connick Jr. has managed to come out with either a new film or a new album every year, and we expect nothing less than stunners in the future.
Net Worth: $25 Million
Chris Bridges made his name in infamy under the moniker Ludacris, but he is a rarity on our list as he lived an entirely normal life and completed his entire education up to the college level before entering the music industry. He finished his degree in Music Management at Georgia State University before landing his first job in the music industry as Chris Lova Lova for the radio station Hot 107.9. In 2000 he launched the label Disturbing that Peace and made his musical debut with his first triple platinum album, “Back for the First Time.” Each of his albums since has reached double or triple platinum in sales. He almost doesn’t belong on our list except that he’s done just as well since his transition to acting in 2003 with his first appearance in 2 Fast 2 Furious, a massive success. His next two roles in Crash in 2004 and Hustle & Flow in 2005 wowed critics and fans alike. Those roles were followed by minor parts in several television shows and a number of performances in films, such as Max Payne and Gamer, which gained little more than shrugs from critics. Bridges has taken to film production alongside his acting, he’s also appeared in each of the sequels for the Fast and Furious films, as well as a number of voice acting roles including narrating Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow. Upcoming films will include Ride and Fast 8 as well as Show Dogs where he will voice Max. Its difficult to say if he’s doing better with his film outlets or his music outlets when so much of his work overlaps both fields, but we wish him nothing but luck with all his endeavors.