Working shifts at McDonald’s isn't an obvious route to fortune, fame, and success. However, when you dig deep into the career paths of some celebrities, it turns out that in some cases, they started their professional lives working at none other than a McDonald’s joint!
Inspiring to the max, these true-life stories of people going from burger flipping to stardom and professional success indicate that humble beginnings aren't a barrier to greatness. Working the night shift at the drive-through may not be the standard first step to killing it professionally, but for these stars, it definitely didn't hold them back from pursuing their dreams. In fact, in some cases, it propelled them.
Interestingly, looking back on their days at work at McDonald’s, these 20 celebrities all have different memories of the experience. While some hated it, others look back and remember lovin' it!
What's also interesting are the takeaways that some of these stars and high achievers have from their Mickey D shift time. In some cases, the insights gained formed lifelong values, which these celebs still hold today. In other,s the takeaway was to get as far away from the fryer as possible. Other stars who worked at MacDonald’s simply remember it as a random part-time job they had before their real career started.
And in one or two other instances, working at MacDonald’s played a role in entering them into their future of fame and success.
Intrigued to know which celebs launched into working life behind the counter, grill, fryer or drive-through window? Let’s take a look.
Pink’s parents, an emergency nurse and an insurance salesman, wanted her to experience earning her own money at a young age, which led to Pink working the drive-through at the local McDonald’s while developing her songwriting and performing on the side.
Pink doesn't look back on this experience too fondly. She's referred to this as one of the worst times of her life and has said that she's had nightmares where she's back at McDonald’s.
On the upside, she did get to wield a Janet Jackson microphone…
And fortunately for her, Pink was allegedly fired for eating burgers on shift... a girl after our own hearts. This freed her up she, and as you all know, she went on to kill it on the music scene.
19 Jeff Bezos
The world’s wealthiest person, Jeff Bezos, began his road to entrepreneurial stardom and immense success with his very first job working the grill at McDonald’s when he was 16. This menial summer job turned out to have a far-reaching effect on his business ethos and taught him some useful skills.
According to Jeff, working at McDonald’s gave him an early understanding of customer service, ignited an obsession in him for automation, and illustrated the importance of good management. His manager made a success of the team by keeping everyone focused yet having fun at the same—a perfect technique for managing employees, especially teens.
No wonder he went on to found Amazon, a veritable automated customer-service shopping machine!
18 Shania Twain
Shania Twain is another incredibly hardworking individual. Starting her music career at age 8 performing in clubs, this didn't stop her from putting in a stint at McDonald’s as well. As a teen, Shania used to put in shifts after school from 4 to 7 pm and then perform from 9 pm until 1 am. At other times, she'd pull all-nighters, working until 4 am and picking up a Mickey D’s breakfast from her place of work to fortify her through school.
When confronted with questions about it, Shania responded that she enjoyed working at McDonald’s, that it was a great job, that she still loves the fries, and that she frequents McDonald’s to pick up the supersize option.
17 Pharrell Williams
Pharrell also did his ‘time,’ so to speak, at Mickey D’s. Before he made it big on the music scene, Pharrell Williams was earning his dough in high school by working shifts at McDonald’s. He admitted on ‘Late Night With Seth Meyers’ that his heart wasn't in it. When meant to be mopping, he would end up singing along and dancing out in the dining area where the music was.
This kind of stuff caused him to be fired from three different McDonald’s, and upon applying for work at the fourth, the previous three phoned in to warn the fourth branch not to hire him. “He burns the burgers and steals the nuggets.’ Who doesn’t steal the nuggets, we wonder...
Incidentally, Pharrell wrote “I'm Luvin It’ for Justin Timberlake, which subsequently got used by McDonald’s for their jingle!
16 Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams also put in a stint working at McDonald’s when in college. According to her, for a couple of reasons, she wasn't a great employee. She got flustered when things got busy, spent too much time washing her hands, and wasn't great at task prioritizing. And one busy morning, she broke the orange juice machine by pouring the orange juice down the back of it. This caused nobody being able to order orange juice that day, and the customers were up in arms.
Fortunately for her, Rachel McAdams's sister was the manager, so she wasn’t fired and instead got placed on greeting duty where she couldn’t do to much damage.
15 Lin-Manuel Miranda
At 14, Lin-Manuel Miranda took a job at McDonald’s to earn some cash. His bane was the 10 am to 2 pm shift, where he said he was the guy everybody hated because they arrived too late for breakfast and couldn’t serve them what they wanted. That was the case the days before McDonald’s figured out to serve breakfast all day long.
While the counter shifts filled Lin-Manuel with anxiety, because he worked at a branch that offered delivery, he got to do some of these shifts as well and enjoyed the freedom of delivery trips and the tips!
Fun fact: during a dreaded counter shift, Lin-Manuel Miranda happened to catch a counterfeiter who was trying to pay with a forged note.
14 Sharon Stone
Before hitting the modeling scene, which was the start to her walk to fame, Sharon Stone, like many other teens out there and celebs on this list, worked at McDonald’s. She worked part-time in the role of counter girl to earn extra money.
It didn't take that many years because, at the age of 19, Sharon Stone was ‘discovered’ and thus began her modeling career and later acting career. No more fry sneaking! Sharon Stone says that her diet has changed a lot since those early days and now consists of foods like quinoa, lentils, and vegetables. While we can get behind that, we also feel relieved that as foodies, it's our duty to test fries and burgers!
13 Fred Durst
The lead singer of Limp Bizkit, Fred Durst, supported his growth as a rocker by doing odd jobs. One of these was a job at McDonald’s. He does not have much to say about the experience, so we're assuming his other part-time jobs of landscaping and tattoo artistry kept him too busy to think too deeply about the fryer.
The name "Limp Bizkit" was created with the aim in mind to ‘put off’ listeners, so we get the feeling that Fred Durst wasn't big on customer service and serving up crispy fries.
Not too long after this period of part-time pursuits, Limp Bizkit became a household name, and the world forgot that Fred Durst, at one point, worked at his local McDonald’s.
12 James Franco
Unlike Pharrell, James Franco holds fond memories of his time working at McDonald’s. After dropping out of university to take acting classes—to the chagrin of his parents— James Franco did late night and then day shifts at McDonald’s to support himself.
He used his time at the drive-through section to practice accents on customers. He ate burgers that were going to be trashed to save money, snagged frozen apple bars, stole fries from the hoppers and over-salted them for customers—because that's the way he likes them.
His overarching pronouncement on that period was that McDonald's was there for him when no one else was—which wasn't for very long, as after three months, he managed to support himself through acting. To this day, he still enjoys salty fries.
11 Star Jones
A well-known face from various TV shows, Star Jones is another celeb who worked at McDonald’s for a period. Before she enrolled in law school, Star Jones worked as a fry cook at a local branch. She was later promoted to cashier.
After enrolling at an American university, Star Jones no longer worked at McDonald’s, but she did eat there. According to her, she and her friend were incredibly broke during university, to the point where all the money that they had was only enough for two burgers. No fries, no soda. Ouch, we can relate!
Fortunately for Star, she went on to ‘make good’ and become the household name she is today—one who can order all the fries she wants.
10 Jay Leno
The much-loved Jay Leno is another celeb who kicked off his career working at a McDonald’s in Andover, Massachusetts. Jay Leno worked there for two years, and at that time, according to him, McDonald’s served things like strawberry cheesecake and roast beef and had super high standards of quality.
In fact, there was a time when his manager directed him to throw away a whole sack of potatoes because someone had laid underpants (don’t ask) on top of it in the storeroom. This attention to quality inspired Leno and drove him all his life to perfect the quality of the content for his shows.
Which may have something to do with why Jay Leno, who used to slice hundreds of French fries, now is the owner of over a hundred vehicles!
9 Andie MacDowell
The striking model turned actress Andie MacDowell worked alongside her mother at McDonald's when she was 16. Unfortunately, the circumstances that brought this on weren't rosy. Andie Macdowell’s mother, a former music teacher, had some troubles, which led to both mother and daughter working shifts at McDonald’s, a job which her mother subsequently lost but Andie kept in order to support them.
Fortunately, these situations didn't dampen Andie Macdowell’s spirit. At 20, she left her hometown and headed to New York with $2,000 to her name. From there, she landed modeling gigs and acting roles and made her own way to fame.
8 James D’Arcy
After leaving drama school, Britain-born actor James D’Arcy spent the lesser part of a year role hunting. During this time, he cleaned streets and worked at McDonald’s. He says that the street cleaning was his worst job. But Mcdonald’s doesn't offer him the fondest memories either.
We don’t really blame him, as he had the pleasure on one shift of having a customer brandish a gun at him. That’s enough to take anyone off his or her order game for the day! After this, McDonald’s awarded James D’Arcy with a pay rise of 1 penny per hour. However, James left soon after to pursue his acting career full time.
7 Aaron McCargo Jr
Noticed how few of these well-known people who started their careers at McDonald’s are chefs? Maybe the chefs are too busy at culinary school, but here's one television star chef who did do a stint at Mickey D’s.
Encouraged from a young age to pursue his culinary interest, Aaron McCargo Jr started culinary school with $300 savings and a job at McDonald’s. Being the baby of the family, he has said that he was always looking to snag someone's leftovers at home. We’ll take a safe bet that he, too, was a frequenter of the fry basket!
After other jobs in the restaurant industry, Aaron went on to open his own restaurant called "McCargo's Creative Cuisine."
6 Andy Grammer
Andy Grammer started out his music career busking in Santa Monica. To supplement this and pay the bills, he worked at McDonald’s for a time. That was before "Keep Your Head Up" burnt up the charts and launched him into star status.
Subsequent hits like “Fireflies” ensured that he need never do grill duty or counter manning again—which is probably a good thing, as he described his stint at McDonald’s with the word "terrible." We're not sure if he meant the wage, the work, or the food—but whatever it is, he seems happier as a rock star.
5 Macy Gray
In contrast to Fred Durst's, Macy Gracy's hours that she put in at McDonald’s paid off in a big way. As a teen of 14, she worked at an outlet in her home state of Ohio. From McDonald’s Macy Grey went on to work a number of other part-time jobs. She states, “I couldn't keep any of those jobs because I was awful at them. Success, to me, is freedom.”
At the time of releasing her first album, Macy Gray was on $10-a-day pay and was supporting her kids on that. After the good reception of her first album, her $10-a-day pay went out the window, and Macy Gray went on from strength to strength. After making it big, she ‘worked’ for McDonald’s again, but this time, in a different capacity: by starring in a commercial for them.
4 Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan did his bit of fry cooking for McDonald’s while in high school. According to him, the manager said that Ryan didn't have the social skills to work the counter.
Paul Ryan used his experience from McDonald’s to work part-time at restaurants around Capitol Hill to earn extra money. Maybe he's not a full-on foodie because, with time, he transitioned his part-time work over to fitness coaching, which was his side passion.
Paul Ryan has been called out for overly frequently mentioning his burger-flipping stint in speeches. But what we want to know is, did he steal fries? Jame Franco says everybody does...
3 Waris Dirie
A lesser known figure, Waris Dirie was born into a nomadic family in Somalia's desert. Waris ran away, crossing the desert and surviving to make it to the capital. From there, she grasped an opportunity which took her to London and, once there, managed to get work at McDonald’s. Here, she was discovered by a photographer, which launched her into an international modeling career where she appeared on the runways of London, Milan, Paris, and New York.
In 1997, she became a UN Special Ambassador, and she's now an activist for women’s and children’s rights in Somalia.
It's quite incredible to think of the role that her humble McDonald’s job played in this amazing story.
2 Andrew Dornenburg
A talented cookbook-publishing foodie, Andrew Dornenburg is another successful individual who started his road to success in a McDonald’s. During his time there, he worked at the fry station, the grill station, and the shake station.
This job experience set him up for more work in the industry, either waiting tables or cooking meals for groups. This, in turn, took him to New York, where he landed a scholarship to the School for American Chefs.
In collaboration with his wife, Andrew Dornenburg has since published a number of cookbooks, which he's most famous for. We wish he'd publish one on how to copycat our favorite McDonald’s meals!
1 Andrew Card
Andrew Card is another successful person who started out his working life flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
And it wasn’t just a summer job back in high school. Andrew Card worked at McDonald’s over the course of a few years while he was in college. His summer job was with garbage collection. Considering this diligence and hard-working attitude, it makes sense that Andrew Card ended up managing important affairs.
According to Andrew Card, his time working at the franchise caused him to see McDonald’s as an ‘equalizer,’ a place which was frequented by people of all types of ethnicities, ages, and levels of income.