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Making career changes in the entertainment industry: What does it take to achieve success?

Updated on June 22, 2013
midget38 profile image

Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

The illustrious Barbra Streisand
The illustrious Barbra Streisand | Source

By Michelle Liew

Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra
Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra | Source

“Everyone is a genius but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

This little quote from the scientific genius of all time stemmed a little thinking about the wisdom and consequent success or failure of making career moves. Those who follow the ins and outs of the entertainment industry will know that Hollywood and other entertainment arenas sometimes breed crossovers.

What exactly do I refer to? Our favorite actors and actresses becoming musicians, and the reverse switch!

For the purposes of this article on the field of entertainment, this writer will discuss the risks and benefits involved in making crossover career switches or extensions in the entertainment industry. This article will also broach the subject of the ingredients necessary for a successful career move in entertainment, and highlight some famous entertainment crossover personalities.

Funky Will Smith
Funky Will Smith | Source

The benefits of making a career change in the entertainment industry

Those who have made changes to their career paths will know that these always bring with them their pros and cons. For better or worse, they will have to accept the consequences of the decisions that have been made. Nevertheless, there are some advantages for those who have made career moves.

The development of versatility and well-roundedness

Musicians turned actors and those who have also made successful career moves the other way have turned out to be well-rounded entertainers who can come up with versatile, well-rounded performances. So have those who have added entertainment skills to their bucket list.

A good example of such a persona is the rapper turned actor Will Smith, who I shall discuss more of in the course of this write. The successful hip hop rapper has successfully bridged his music career with roads made into acting.

It helps to boost a celebrity’s reputation.

If the changes made are successful for the celebrity,his reputation can experience a great, positive boost. Smith’s Men In Black Trilogy is as successful as the number of rap numbers which have scored well on the Billboard Charts.

Consequently, he has become a great example of a well-balanced entertainment persona.

It helps an entertainer to accrue a bigger fan base.

Entertainers who have made successful changes to their careers face the all-too-wanted consequence of having a larger number of fans.

Smith, who has won American Music and Grammy Awards for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Men in Black and Summertime, has also extended his comedic versatility with a serious performances in I Am Legend, which won him a Saturn award. Undoubtedly, it has secured him a bigger fan base.

It brings the entertainer out of his comfort zone.

Trying to attempt a crossover or extension with one’s career, for anyone, brings him out of his comfort zone by allowing him to develop new skills or talents.

So it is with entertainers. The well-rounded Barbra Streisand has, over the course of her career, is the first female artist to have the widest span of Billboard Number Ones over 48 years. She has also won Academy Awards for well displayed acting skills in Funny Girl.

The entertainer is more sustainable in the industry.

Streisand is proof that actors or actresses who make successful changes to their careers and craft new skills are sustainable within the industry. Not only a consummate actress, the singer of perfect pitch (she is able to sing a note on the piano in its exact tone) has spanned a recording career of nearly 50 years.

David Bowie and Cher in a CBS Television Broadcast
David Bowie and Cher in a CBS Television Broadcast | Source

And the risks of making career moves in the entertainment industry are.....

There are as many entertainers who have made misses with crossovers within the industry as there are who have scored hits, highlighting the risks of making career moves. What risks did these actors or actresses not consider which proved to mar their success?

Misses can sour reputation.

For some actors and actresses, trying to cross over to another arena of entertainment has proven to be less successful. Singers turned Actresses like Britney Spears can attest to this with mixed reviews for her performance in How I Met Your Mother.

A loss of fan base

The wrong career move for entertainers can mean a loss of friends or fans. Singers like Spears apart from her somewhat eccentric behavior, might have lost a number of fans as a result of a questionable move into acting. Other singers who are not such consummate actors-and the other way around-have also suffered such losses due in large part to a wrong career move.

Dampening of image

Some high profile entertainers who have made career switches have found their images dampened as a result. Actor David Bowie, as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, was criticized by List Inconsequential reviewers for turning in a “cornball performance as one of the least menacing villains of all time.” Bowie, another actor noted for singing rather than acting, apparently made a mistaken career move.

A career move can destroy sustainability

Mistaken career moves can destroy career sustainability together with the entertainer’s image. These entertainers sometimes find fewer producers or directors seeking them out as a result.

Risk of time and investment

A risky career move with an unsuccessful outcome means a waste of time and investment of money, as the entertainers who have experienced this will attest.

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey | Source

Questions to be asked when making a change in career

The hits and misses of many of these actors and actresses prompt one to ask a few questions when considering a change in career. Applicable not only these celebrities, anyone considering a career move would do well to ask themselves these very important questions.

Is it the right fit?

Successful musicians turned actors have done because they asked themselves if they had the necessary dramatic or interpersonal skills to be good actors. So it is with all of us - before considering a career change, considering if it is a good fit is an important but sometimes forgotten factor that contributes to success.

Am I acting out of impulse?

Like any of us, these celebrities make, or have made, career moves out of dissatisfaction with the present situation or the need to do something new and different. Acting out of emotional need can of course mean unwanted consequences.

Do I have the passion?

Successful career crossovers in the entertainment industry clearly showed that they had the passion for the other aspect of the career that they switched to. Streisand has been successful largely because of her commitment to both singing and acting-and has clear talent for both.

Do I have the courage to make the move?

Making any changes professionally takes a lot of courage, whether it is for these entertainers or for ourselves. It takes the bravery needed to come out of the comfort zone.

When is the correct time to make a career move?

Actors who have made successful career moves, like Smith, can attest to making these moves at the height of their careers.

Like them, when we consider a career move, timing is of the essence - we do not want to introduce too much variety to our careers at the wrong time.

Will Smith Wild Wild West

Will Smith

By far one of the most successful crossover artists, or artists who have added other dimensions to their careers, Smith helped to usher in the musical development of Hip Hop in the late 1980s and 1990s. As already mentioned, he has scored massive musical successes with raps like “Summertime” and shown his acting chops in such shows as Bad Boys, playing a young con artist. His more recent success comes with comedic performances in Men In Black, playing opposite the illustrious Tommy Lee Jones.

Cher Shoop Shoop Song


Another lasting icon like Streisand, Cher has scored massive hits with her then husband, Sonny. A massive hit of hers that still keeps everyone singing is the Shoop Shoop Song - In His Kiss.

Cinematically, Cher has scored hits such as Burlesque and attained a Golden Globe Nomination for 1982’s “Come Back To The Five and Dime.”

Mark Wahlberg feat Jan Van Der Toom

Mark Wahlberg

Sometimes the subject of ‘Marky Mark” jokes, the consummate rapper has turned A list Actor with films like Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, where he played loser turned porn star Dirk Diggler. He expanded his repertoire successfully to include comedy in I Heart Huckabees, action in The Perfect Storm and Drama in The Fighter.

Frank Sinatra Strangers in the Night

Frank Sinatra

Arguably one of the best known of artists who have developed added dimensions to their careers, Ol’ Blue Eyes of the evergreen My Way fame won an oscar nomination for The Man With The Golden Arm and his only Academy Award for a supporting role in From Here To Eternity.

Barbra Streisand/Bryan Adams I've Finally Found Someone

Barbra Streisand

The multi-talented film maker, producer, actress and singer won an Academy Award for her performance in 1968’s Funny Girl. Her successful career extends to this day with the Focker’s series. She is one of the few entertainers turned directors who has picked up nominations for films she directed, such as Prince of Tides.

Bob Dylan Like a Rolling Stone

The less or moderately successful artists who have made career moves

Just as there are successful artists who have made career moves, there are those who have made near disastrous misses.

Bob Dylan

Dylan received mixed reviews for his performances in films like Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidd, which was criticized for his rather confused mumbling. He also received less positive reviews for his performances in films like Masked Anonymous.

Beyonce/Destiny's Child Emotion


The singer turned actress received mixed reviews for her role as Foxy Cleopatra in the third Austin Powers film, leading to questions about whether the transition from singing to acting was the correct one.

David Bowie Let's Dance

David Bowie

As mentioned earlier, Bowie did not exactly receive rave reviews for his performance as Jareth in Labyrinth. Some felt that there was more emphasis on the package than the acting.

Nonetheless, his contributions to the music industry cannot be questioned.

Mariah Carey Hero

Mariah Carey

Many saw her film debut, Glitter as laughable. But she scored moderate success in the 2009 film Precious, with her watered down image as a sensitive social worker.

Jennifer Lopez/Richard Gere Shall We Dance

Jennifer Lopez

With a more successful musical career, her films like Gigli and Jersey made some of the Worst Lists. However, her performance opposite Richard Gere in We Can Dance was credible.



Like them or leave them, whether an artist makes a successful crossover is best left to the viewer or listener to judge. Do leave your opinions about artists who have made career moves in the comments below!

Original Work by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

All Rights Reserved


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    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      I always share--and especially enjoy doing so when the hub is as good as yours!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Audrey! It's interesting to know what makes someone last in the industry and what doesn't. Thanks for sharing!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      Interesting Michelle! It is so hard to have a long career in entertainment so it is always interesting to see what those who do have long careers do--

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      LOL! Thanks, Cristina, this one came when I saw a picture of Will Smith. And I thought that it would be a good idea to think about all our entertainment crossovers, their successes and failures. David Bowie's a better singer....I guess we'll always remember him for that. Yes, his acting skills aren't that bad. ;)

    • CrisSp profile image


      7 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Very interesting! Although not all of those who made a switch became successful, it is still admirable that they were brave enough to change.

      This is one very insightful hub. I wonder where did you get the muse Michelle? You're very creative to even think about it. Great thoughts, well laid out hub.

      Way to go and here's to our courage in creativity!

      Voting up +++ and sharing.

      P.S. I'd say David Bowie wasn't bad as an actor on the film Labyrinth--I actually like that movie and will surely watch it again. Why not? Yet again, he's better as a singer. Just sayin' :)

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Glad you like articles about entertainment! I love sharing them, Careermommy. Thanks for sharing!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      midget38, this is a very interesting topic. It was very original and well written. Entertainment type articles always catch my attention and this certainly was no exception. Thanks for the information.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janet. Having many talents definitely keeps one on their toes! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Nithya! Yes, a career change is a HUGE that can be really frightening, so it must be really thought through carefully. Thanks for sharing.

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      7 years ago from Georgia country

      A very interesting, informative and great hub. I really appreciate multi talented people. Having many talents will never get you bored. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, enjoyed reading. Making career changes is a big step and to make it work is even tougher. Great write and insight. Voted up.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Travmaj. yes, Jagger is a musician through and through, he shouldn't change that. ;) Oh yes, some are multi talented, really hard to keep up with them! Jackman aces that. Thanks for sharing!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Oh well! Kind of sours the reputation when they cross over and cannot quite come up to expectations. Thanks for sharing, Mary!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hey ho, Sparkster, Thanks for sharing...Snoop and the rest are certainly versatile folk!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      HI Mary! Yes, Sinatra was a great one. Thanks for sharing!

    • travmaj profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      This is so interesting - I'd never really thought about it. Many years ago Mick Jagger was out here making a film about a bushranger (Ned Kelly) Don't think it was successful - but he had a good day job!

      I'm an Alfie Boe fan - opera singer - now embracing musical theatre and some popular covers. Seems to be a good career move.

      Some artists don't need a transition they just have it all - thinking Hugh Jackman - dancer, singer, actor, theatre, film. Sigh!

      Enjoyed this Michelle - voting - cheers...

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      Very interesting subject Michelle. You see so much of it and wonder what happens to those who try acting and least they still have their day jobs ;)

      Voted up and interesting.

    • sparkster profile image

      Marc Hubs 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Really great hub, though I'm surprised Snoop Dogg/Lion isn't in the list, given his recent change of direction (then again, that was a change of name and genre, not career)!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      You mentioned some of my favorites here! Who could ever forget Frank Sinatra in From Here To Eternity??? Great Actor. Cher is a great actress, too.

      Very informative and interesting, and I voted it so! Also shared.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mike! Yes, some like Smith have had it work well for them, but not others. Thanks for sharing.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jackie! True. For some, we just enjoy watching! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Correct, Pamela...not many were able to do so successfully. Those who have have made a great payoff, though! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Alecia! I totally agree....somehow the exposure makes musicians becoming actors more acceptable. When it happens the other way, it seems very contrived indeed! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hey, Bill, I'm sure that for those who've made a success of it, the payoff is huge! Risky too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      7 years ago from London

      Interesting article. (For some reason) I remember Mark Wahlberg's rapper years as Marky Mark, back in the 90s :) I was surprised later to see how well he did as an actor. Will Smith, Cher and Frank Sinatra are also examples of a successful career change as you pointed in your article but I'm pretty sure it hasn't work so well for many others.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      I enjoyed this, some I had forgotten. Will was a really good one and Cher. I think she surprised many that she could be so serious since she never had been. lol Some we don't even care if they are that good or not if we enjoy watching them. ^

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Kidscrafts. These people are certainly the ones who have excelled in entertainment! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing, kill any.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, he was a model too, Dianna! We can pretty much do what we've a mind to. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very interesting hub. I like Walburgh and did not know he was a rapper either. I think not very many really make a good crossover, although you gave some good examples of those that have. Will Smith has certainly been successful. Interesting hub.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I always am interested in when actors try to sing and musicians try to act. I feel like it's easier for musicians to become actors simply because their visibility through music videos and promotional appearances usually builds interest from other audiences. However, actors trying to sing seems more contrived than anything.

      But overall, I feel like while many make the transition, only a few can do it and sustain a long career on both sides. Great hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      There have been some very successful ones over the years, dating back to Bing Crosby and possibly is a risk but the payout can be huge as well. Very interesting hub, Michelle.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Interesting article about career changes in the entertainment industry, Michelle!

      Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Will Smith are definitly great examples of versatile people who succeed in several areas of the entertainment industry.... and good for them because success can be sometimes quite volatile!

      I didn't know that Mark Wahlberg was in music before either. I always saw him as an actor. Very interesting!

      Thank you for sharing another great hub, Michelle!

      Voted up and interesting!

    • kislany profile image


      7 years ago from Cyprus

      Interesting post about changes in such prominent career paths.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting. I didn't know Wahlburg was a former rapper. This should inspire us to achieve our goals.


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