Insurance is a vast industry that offers a myriad of opportunities for those wanting a gainful and meaningful career. That’s why it isn’t surprising that many celebrities got their humble beginnings within the sector.
In this article, Insurance Business reveals some of the biggest celebrities who took insurance jobs before they were famous. Some embraced their careers and stayed. Others treated their jobs as a stepping stone to bigger opportunities. Find out the story behind these prominent figures’ stints in the industry in our version of “celebrity jobs before they were famous” – the insurance sector edition.
While some of these personalities just passed through the profession, some left their marks and contributed immensely to the industry. Here are 15 celebrities who spent a portion (and for some the entirety) of their careers in insurance.
Mark Burnett is well known as the brains behind multi-awarded reality TV shows “Survivor”, “The Apprentice”, “The Voice”, and “Shark Tank”. Before becoming a television mogul, London-born Burnett, who had just immigrated to the US, worked as a nanny in an affluent California neighborhood. This led to a sales job in the insurance firm owned by the father of one of the children he was caring for.
Two years later, he took a weekend gig selling t-shirts along Venice Beach in Los Angeles. Realizing that he earned more selling shirts than he would selling policies, he left his insurance job. This marked the end of his career in the industry.
Unlike many celebrities on the list who dabbled in insurance jobs before they were famous, renowned novelist Tom Clancy took his insurance career seriously. Married to an insurance agency manager, the best-selling author followed suit by working at his wife’s grandparents’ insurance company, O.F. Bowen Agency.
Clancy excelled at his job and ended up buying the firm, which wrote auto, fire, and casualty insurance. Being the manager of his own company gave him more control of his time, allowing Clancy to work on his novels during his spare time. Eventually, he finished his first book “The Hunt for Red October”, which began a string of his best-selling works.
Before snagging Oscars and garnering worldwide admiration for his suave looks, actor-producer-director George Clooney held a string of humble jobs. This included a short stint as a door-to-door life insurance agent.
In a 2006 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Clooney explained the difficulties he experienced in his fleeting insurance career.
“I was a horrible insurance salesman,” Clooney said. “The selling part I could do but then they wanted you to always tack on a little something extra. We'd take it from a whole life insurance to term life insurance and put some money away in an annuity for them or in an IRA but maybe you could use a little other insurance as well…You felt like you were pulling their leg then.”
Reality TV fanatics would probably remember Vicki Gunvalson for her cat fights with some of her castmates in the Real Housewives series. But there’s so much more to Gunvalson than her reality TV persona.
Gunvalson is the founder and president of Coto Insurance, a life insurer and financial services provider based in Irvine, California. Gunvalson demonstrates her industry savvy by writing LinkedIn articles on various insurance-related topics. In the video below, she shares tips on how to successfully close an insurance sale.
Steve Harvey is one of the entertainment industry’s most accomplished hosts. But before making it big, he struggled in life, which included periods of homelessness. It was during these times that he admitted to taking jobs that he disliked just to get by. One of these is selling life insurance policies.
In an interview with the New York Times, the “Family Feud” host told the story of how he didn’t like some aspects of the job.
“I was a good closer, but my follow-up stunk,” he said. “When the policy came to the office, I didn't like going back to their house and delivering it.”
Dreaming of making it big as a stand-up comic, he decided to quit his insurance job, but not without resistance from his former boss.
Harvey recalled the conversation: “Steve, you haven't said anything funny in all the time I've known you. Your family's going to starve. Don't quit. And you know what? I almost said, ‘You know, man, you're right.’ But then I thought, who is this guy? So, I walked out and never looked back.”
Charles Ives is one of the first American composers to achieve international acclaim. The Britannica describes Ives as a “modernist composer who is known for a number of innovations that anticipated most of the later musical developments of the 20th century.”
His insurance résumé is similarly impressive.
Ives started his insurance career in 1899 with an agency named Charles H. Raymond & Co. When the company folded in 1907, he and close friend Julian Myrick established their own agency, Ives & Myrick. There, Ives served as a company executive until he retired. He was responsible for coming up with innovative ways to structure life insurance packages for high-net-worth individuals. This laid the foundation for estate planning.
Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) was considered an American hero for winning a gold medal for decathlon in the 1976 Montréal Olympics. This success entailed rigorous training that she supported by selling life insurance.
Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel is known for his death-defying stunts. But this also meant that he had to take a break from his career once in a while to recover from injuries.
After breaking both his legs in an accident gone wrong, Knievel decided to try his hand in insurance sales, which he actually did pretty well. However, the most interesting bit about his short stint as an insurance agent was how it changed his approach to life.
Having time to read self-help books, Knievel learned the value of positive thinking. This helped him sell policies with global accident and health insurer Combined Insurance, as well as recuperate from his injuries.
Actor Chris Lane appeared in hundreds of films and television shows in a career spanning decades. This included successful stints in the 1940s film “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy”, where he portrayed his trademark mopey scowl.
Before he became famous, the iconic celebrity held a job as an insurance agent. He left the industry in 1928 to join Pasadena Playhouse in his pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox turned to a career in insurance sales after a devastating arm injury left him out of the National Football League (NFL). After several comeback attempts failed, Maddox became a full-time insurance broker.
If you want to follow the same route as Maddox’s, this step-by-step guide on how to become an insurance broker can help jumpstart your insurance career.
Before the “Twilight Saga” became a box office hit, best-selling author Anne Rice was the queen of vampire literature. Her novel “Interview with the Vampire” was adapted into a successful movie in the 90s, setting off a mainstream obsession with the blood-sucking creatures that continues today.
Unlike the others on the list who worked in sales, Rice spent her insurance career as a claims adjuster. After her marriage to renowned poet and painter Stan Rice in 1961, she left the insurance industry for good to focus on her writing career.
The son of an insurance agent, Don Rickles was exposed to the profession at a young age. Unfortunately, he didn’t possess the sales skills his father had. The comedian, who was the voice behind Toy Story’s Mr. Potato Head, tried his hand at selling life insurance but couldn’t close a sale. In his 2007 autobiography, Rickles admitted that his sales techniques were so poor his dad called it “the kiss of death.”
Harland “Colonel” Sanders’ likeness will forever be associated with the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, which he founded. But before developing his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices that were made for finger lickin’ goodness, Sanders worked in the toughest jobs you can imagine.
A military veteran, Sanders’ professional career included working as a farmer, railroad firefighter, steamboat pilot, and life insurance agent. He spent almost his entire insurance career making door-to-door cold calls – one of the toughest ways to find insurance leads. However, the sales skills he developed throughout the years proved handy in establishing his now world-famous food chain.
The stage isn’t the only place where Kiss bassist and singer Gene Simmons is a rock star. He’s also rocking it in the corporate office as an insurance executive. Considered a late bloomer in the industry, Simmons traded his leather pants for a crisp suit and founded Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy in 2010. The firm specializes in life insurance policies and estates planning services for high-net-worth clients.
Here’s Simmons demonstrating his entrepreneurial skills and industry savvy in a Bloomberg interview.
Award-winning poet Wallace Stevens is the most successful and dedicated insurance professional on our list. He spent most of his professional career as an executive with the insurance giant The Hartford.
Stevens began his insurance career as a lawyer for the American Bonding Co., a bail bonds services specialist. He later became the vice-president of the Equitable Surety Co.’s New York office before moving on to The Hartford.
After winning the Pulitzer Prize for his collection of works entitled “Collected Poems,” Stevens was offered a faculty position at Harvard. However, Stevens declined the role as it would’ve required him to give up his position at The Hartford.
Being a successful insurance professional also entails knowing how to market insurance products effectively. Our picks for the best insurance ad campaigns are great examples of what compelling marketing looks like.
What makes an insurance career truly enticing is the sense of fulfillment in knowing that you played a vital role in providing people with financial protection. But this is just one of the many benefits of a career within the sector. Here are some other factors that make being an insurance professional exciting and rewarding.
A career in insurance opens opportunities in diverse fields. Besides the traditional insurance agent, adjuster, broker, and insurance underwriter roles, you can choose an insurance job in different fields. These include accounting, actuary, customer service, data analytics, human resources, information technology, legal, marketing, and sales.
As an insurance professional, you will get several opportunities to develop new skills and progress in your career. These include pursuing continuing education to sharpen your industry know-how, with some employers offering financial assistance.
People will always need financial protection, be it when buying homes, driving cars, seeking medical treatment, travelling to different places, or operating businesses. Because of this, insurance will always be in demand.
Insurance professionals are typically given a good living salary with a high potential for growth. That’s why many celebrities chose insurance jobs before they were famous. If you’re curious about how much insurance agents make, you can check out this guide.
Insurance is a dynamic sector that presents a different challenge each day. This gives you several opportunities to solve problems creatively and innovatively, which can be fulfilling at the end of the day.
As an insurance professional, you’re given the opportunity to help people overcome hardships. Most insurance companies also encourage employees to do volunteer work as a way to give back to their communities.
Many celebrities took jobs in insurance before they were famous because it gave them the opportunity to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. But being an insurance professional is not for everyone.
To be successful, you will need to have a combination of hard and soft skills that can allow you to help people get the best financial protection. The table below lists the most essential skills that will enable you to land the top insurance jobs and thrive professionally.
Insurance careers don’t always require you to put on a suit. Sometimes, all you need to do is wear a costume and utter witty phrases like these insurance mascots and characters.
Were you surprised at some of the personalities on our “celebrity jobs before they were famous” list? Were there big celebrity names that we missed? Chat us up in the comments section below.