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Home  > Article

Unlikely Majors of Well-Known Celebrities

By Mary Lorenz,

Sure, she can baste the pants off of most people in any room, but what can Martha Stewart teach them about ancient Egyptian artifacts? Well, probably more than you think. After all, Stewart holds a bachelor's degree in history and architectural history from Barnard College, a background that doesn't usually guarantee a future as a home design expert, business CEO and reality-television star. But that didn't stop Stewart. Read on for more surprising celebrity majors.

  • To the benefit of many Americans who get their nightly kicks watching "The Daily Show," host Jon Stewart decided against pursuing a career in psychology, his major at William and Mary College.

  • Though sports journalist and "Tuesdays With Morrie" author Mitch Albom holds a master's degree in journalism and business administration from Columbia University, his undergraduate degree is in sociology from Brandeis University.

  • Before he became a recording artist, singer/songwriter John Legend was studying comma splices and misplaced modifiers as an English major at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Perhaps Bart is more enlightened than he lets on: "The Simpsons" creator, Matt Groening, studied philosophy at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington but later traded in Kant for the Kwiki-Mart.

  • After retiring from competitive ice skating at age 20, Vera Wang began studying theater at Sarah Lawrence College, but soon convinced herself that she wouldn't be able to make a career of being an actress. So Wang switched majors, received her bachelor's degree in Art History, and embarked on what would be a successful career... as a fashion designer.

  • Before he made drug-free, silent births a religious experience, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard studied civil engineering for two years at George Washington University's school of engineering.

  • Nigella Lawson read Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford and went on to pursue a successful career in journalism before she became a celebrity chef hosting her own cooking show, "Nigella Bites," and authoring several cookbooks.

    What's the lesson here? Perhaps Martha Stewart just woke up one day and decided she'd much rather study gingerbread houses than Victorian mansions, but she also needed the skills and background to successfully pursue her career in home entertaining and decorating (to put it mildly).

    These celebrities ended up where they are by developing their outside interests and skills over time: Groening's career as a cartoonist began after he developed a cartoon titled "Work is Hell" to communicate his first out-of-college job experience to his friends; Jon Stewart discovered a knack for making people laugh while working an odd job as a puppeteer; and Wang launched her bridal line when she started to design wedding dresses after a long and arduous struggle to find the perfect dress for her own wedding.

    Not to say that your major doesn't matter -- more psychology majors actually work as psychologists than, say, fake newscasters -- but as the above examples prove, it doesn't necessarily have to limit you, either.

    Mary Lorenz is a special contributor to

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