Many people give fame a try for 15 minutes or so and decide to take a hard pass. After realizing life in the spotlight isn’t their true calling, some go on to pursue surprisingly normal careers.
It’s possible you’ll even cross paths with some of them — who are now your peers — because these 29 celebrities found their niche in normalcy.
Last updated: Sep. 1, 2020
In 2018, a Trader Joe’s customer snapped a series of photos of former “The Cosby Show” star Geoffrey Owens bagging groceries at a Clifton, New Jersey, location of the grocery chain. Owens — who had continued to land small parts since his time on the show ended in 1992 — told “Good Morning America” that he was not ashamed of his side job. “There’s no job better than another…every job is worthwhile,” he said.
His resurgence in the press ended up being a boon for Owens’ previously dormant acting career. Owens has since scored parts on Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots” and the ABC sitcom “Bless This Mess.”
Along with his twin brother, Cole, Dylan Sprouse started acting when he was just 8 months old. Best known for their hit television series, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” the brothers also shared the role of Julian McGrath in “Big Daddy.”
He hasn’t completely turned his back on acting, but these days, Dylan is more focused on brewing. As America’s youngest master brewer — according to Interview magazine — Sprouse co-founded All-Wise Meadery in Brooklyn, New York, where he serves as CEO and head mazer.
Phoebe Cates Kline
Fondly remembered as Linda Barrett in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Phoebe Cates had a busy acting career in the ’80s and early ’90s that also included starring roles in “Gremlins” and the cult classic “Drop Dead Fred.” She married fellow thespian Kevin Kline in 1989 and essentially retired from acting to focus on raising their two children.
She’s now living a quiet life in New York City as a boutique owner. Her Blue Tree shop, which opened in 2005, is located in the city’s Carnegie Hill neighborhood, in Manhattan’s prestigious Upper East Side.
Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron has swapped his focus from sports to business. He’s now a franchisee with several chain locations under his belt, including Church’s Chicken, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Krispy Kreme, Entrepreneur reported.
Actor Rick Moranis was in his heyday throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, starring in big hits like “Ghostbusters” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Then, tragedy struck and his wife, Ann, died of breast cancer in 1997.
Moranis stepped away from the cameras and focused his life on being a stay-at-home dad after the tragic passing of his wife — with some voice work thrown into the mix, The Hollywood Reporter reported. An acting comeback could be on the horizon for Moranis, who starts in “Shrunk” a forthcoming reboot of the ’89 family hit “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.”
Lisa Whelchel starred as Blair Warner on “The Facts of Life” from 1979 to 1988. She got married a few months after the show ended, and decided to leave the entertainment industry to be a stay-at-home wife, mom and author. She’s written more than 10 books and founded the MomTime Ministries. In recent years, she’s taken on a few acting jobs — primarily TV movies — but also serves as a speaker and life coach.
Actor Gene Hackman had 100 acting credits to his name when he said during a 2004 interview with Larry King that his acting career was over. The star of such films as “The French Connection,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Poseidon Adventure” was instead focusing on his new career as a novelist. Hackman has co-authored three books, including the chilling thriller “Pursuit.”
In 1990, Vanilla Ice — aka Robert Van Winkle — tore up the charts with his hit song “Ice Ice Baby.” When his music career hit a pause in the mid-’90s, he got into the real estate business.
A skilled flipper, remodeler and builder, Van Winkle’s work earned him the DIY Network television series “The Vanilla Ice Project.” The show started in 2010 and is currently in its 10th season.
Seasoned actor Erik Estrada has nearly 150 credits to his name, but acting isn’t his only focus. He famously played Officer Frank Poncherello in the television series “CHiPs” in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but that clearly left him wanting more.
Fiction met reality in July 2016, when Estrada was sworn in as a police reserve officer in St. Anthony, Idaho. Since joining the force, he’s helped the department get a police dog and works to protect children from online predators. He previously served as a reserve officer in Muncie, Indiana.
Original “Jersey Shore” cast member Angelina Pivarnick was involved in plenty of drama during her two partial seasons on the hit reality show. In an interview with Hollywood Life, she admits to having regrets about leaving the show but is grateful her departure allowed her to pursue a career helping others.
Pivarnick now works as an EMT for the FDNY. In 2018 and 2019, she did manage to take a few days off from saving lives to make an appearance on “Jersey Shore Family Vacation,” and she’s set to return on the upcoming season.
As a child actor, Macaulay Culkin racked up a resume that catapulted him to worldwide fame. Most notably, he was Kevin McCallister in the “Home Alone” movies, but he also starred in films like “My Girl” and “Richie Rich.”
These days, Culkin rarely acts, but he’s still entertaining fans with his Bunny Ears satirical lifestyle blog. This is accompanied by a weekly Bunny Ears podcast, hosted by Culkin (credited as “Mack” Culkin on the podcast’s website) and, until June 2020, his friend Matt Cohen.
He soared to fame on “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” but Jon Gosselin is now living a different reality. When he and ex-wife Kate divorced in 2009, their hit show was retooled as “Kate Plus 8,” leaving him out of a job.
Determined to make ends meet the old-fashioned way, Gosselin returned to work. Over the years, he’s held a variety of jobs, including waiter, DJ and a cook at TGI Fridays. He’s currently working as an IT specialist, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Angus T. Jones
After starring on “Two and a Half Men” for more than a decade, Angus T. Jones took a step out of the Hollywood limelight. He enrolled in college at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and as of a 2016 interview with People, Jones was working as president of entertainment for Tonite, an events company founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ son Justin.
He’s had eight top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, but Al Green is more than just a musician. The “Let’s Stay Together” singer has been the pastor at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, Tennesee, for more than 40 years.
Neither the church nor Green appears to have a website. However, several recent TripAdvisor reviews rave about hearing the 11-time Grammy winner preach. His strong faith was evident in a 2016 interview with the news site Commercial Appeal when he revealed he has regular conversations with God.
Lauren (Lo) Bosworth
MTV viewers watched Lauren “Lo” Bosworth grow up in front of the camera. She starred as herself on the MTV hit series “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” until 2005, then appeared on “The Hills” from 2007 to 2010.
These days, she’s traded in reality television to be a serious girl boss. Bosworth founded personal care brand Love Wellness, runs lifestyle site TheLoDown and co-hosts the weekly podcast “Lady Lovin’.”
During the ’90s, Andrew Shue starred as Billy Campbell on “Melrose Place.” Despite his successful career, he decided he didn’t want to be an actor.
Already an entrepreneur — he co-founded DoSomething.org in 1993 — Shue used his business instincts to co-found Club Mom, an offline shopping club. This led to the co-founding of social networking site CafeMom and the subsequent CafeMedia, a digital media giant that reaches 102 million monthly unique visitors and 417 million social followers, according to its LinkedIn profile.
As a child actor, Jeff Cohen rose to fame as Chunk in the “Goonies.” He continued acting until 1991, right before he started college.
Now a lawyer, he co-founded the firm Cohen Gardner LLP in 2002. Located in Beverly Hills, California, the firm represents clients in the entertainment, media and technology industries. As an author, his book “The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments” was published by the American Bar Association.
In 2001, Willa Ford’s hit song “I Wanna Be Bad” peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. When her second single failed to take off after its release on Sept. 11, 2001, she decided to step back from the music industry.
Ford occasionally dabbles in acting, but she works full time as an interior designer. The founder and head designer of Los Angeles-based WFord Interiors now channels her creative energy into creating beautiful spaces for her clients.
Josh Saviano starred as Paul Pfeiffer on the late ’80s and early ’90s smash hit “The Wonder Years.” After that, he left acting behind, with the exception of a recurring guest stint on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” in recent years.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he spent nearly 12 years as a lawyer at New York City-based Morrison Cohen LLP, where he made partner. Saviano left the firm in 2015 and founded Act 3 Advisors, which provides strategic advice and consulting to clients looking to form a brand. He’s also a founder of Spotlight Advisory Group, designed to support creatives.
He captured hearts as Jake Ryan in the 1984 cult classic “Sixteen Candles,” but Michael Schoeffling wasn’t into acting for the long haul. He retired from show business after appearing in “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” in 1991 and completely disappeared from the public eye.
In a 1990 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Schoeffling revealed he lived near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and ran a successful furniture-making business from his home. Reporters have tried to track him down since, but their attempts have been unsuccessful.
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An accomplished actress, Karyn Parsons starred as Hilary Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in the 1990s. By 2002, she took a 16-year break from acting — she returned to television in the series “Fly” in 2018 — which gave her time to focus on other passions.
Parsons established the Sweet Blackberry Foundation and currently serves as president of the nonprofit, which strives to bring untold stories of African-American achievements to a child audience.
Peter Ostrum played the lucky boy who found the last golden ticket in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Despite having the starring role of Charlie in the popular film, Ostrum never acted again. He now works as a veterinarian on dairy farms in upstate New York.
Mike Vitar starred in some of the most popular kids’ movies of the ’90s: “The Sandlot,” “D2: Mighty Ducks” and “D3: The Mighty Ducks.” But his acting career was short-lived, spanning from just 1991 to 1997. As of 2018, Vitar was working as a firefighter in the Los Angeles area, Popsugar reported.
Taran Noah Smith
“Home Improvement” star Taran Noah Smith played the youngest brother, Mark, from 1991 to 1999. Smith stopped acting after the show and went on to launch a line of vegan cheese called Playfood. It seems the cheese line is no more — based on the brand’s now-defunct website — and Smith now lives on a sailboat in Sausalito, California, Entertainment Tonight reported.
It seems his time working on a home improvement show did rub off on his real life, though. In 2017, Smith spent two months volunteering in Corpus Christi, Texas, repairing and clearing buildings that had been damaged by Hurricane Harvey, Inside Edition reported.
Amanda Bynes showed off her precocious comedic chops as a cast member on “All That” from 1996 to 2002, and landed her own spin-off show, “The Amanda Show.” She also starred in a number of films throughout the 2000s, including “Hairspray,” “What a Girl Wants” and “She’s the Man.” Her last acting credit is 2010’s “Easy A.”
Since then, Bynes has had a tumultuous time outside of the spotlight, telling Paper that she struggled with drug addiction. Despite her issues, Bynes has been focused on being a normal college student. She graduated from Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 2019.
Although she was one of the biggest movie stars of the ’90s and 2000s, Cameron Diaz has since left the acting world behind. Her last role was 2014’s “Annie,” and she told Entertainment Weekly in 2018 that she was “actually retired.”
Diaz’s current focus is on being a stay-at-home mom. People reported that she and husband Benji Madden would not be hiring a nanny and that Diaz “wants to spend every second with the baby.”
Charlie Korsmo got his big break in 1991 as Jackie in “Hook.” He went on to star in “Can’t Hardly Wait” in 1998 and made a brief return to acting 20 years later in the 2018 film “Chained for Life.” However, nowadays his main focus is working as a law professor. He currently teaches at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
As a child actor, Danny Lloyd starred alongside Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” in 1980. Although Lloyd had a bit part in the film “Doctor Sleep” in 2019, he’s mostly shied away from acting since the film that made him famous. According to his Twitter bio, Lloyd is now a teacher and farmer.
As a child, Mara Wilson stole hearts on the silver screen, starring in the 1994 reboot of “Miracle on 34th Street” as well as in “Matilda” in 1996. In adolescence, Wilson seemingly disappeared from Hollywood, leading many to wonder what happened to her. Wilson, who decided to focus on writing stories instead of starring in movies, cheekily titled her 2016 memoir “Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.” A vocal presence on Twitter, Wilson is a mental health advocate, challenging stigmas around OCD and anxiety.
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