15 Celebrities Who Began Their Careers as Backup Singers

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It might seem like most of the celebrities you know and love came onto the scene overnight, becoming a household name about five minutes after arriving in Hollywood. This could not be further from the truth (except for Lupita N’yongo) for most celebrities. Most of the famous people in the world started elsewhere. Some started their careers as unknown models. Some started in the commercials. Others started as backup dancers or singers for other famous people. Read on to find out which 15 celebrities began their Hollywood careers dancing and singing backup for people who were already famous.

(Photo by Rob Harrison/Getty Images)


Kevin Federline

Whether or not we can really call him a celebrity is questionable. Kevin Federline began as a backup dancer before becoming a household name. While he hasn’t actually done anything to earn his household name, he’s still famous and recognizable. One of his most famous backup dancer gigs was for pop star Britney Spears. He danced for her, married her and had two kids with her. He also has a couple of children with some other public figures, but his crowning glory is the fact that as a backup dancer he met his future ex-wife, Britney Spears.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Michael K. Williams

You know him from his television and movie roles. He’s known for his work on the “The Wire” among other productions. Before he was a Hollywood actor, however, Michael K. Williams was a backup dancer. It’s a great way to begin your career if you can get hired on to dance for some of the most famous people in the world, as Michael K. Williams did. He didn’t dance for just anyone, either. He was a backup dancer for two of the biggest singers with the biggest careers in the world. He danced backup for Tupac Shakur and for Madonna in his early career.

(Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)


Wade Robson

Wade Robson has a big career nowadays. He’s not an actor or a model, however. He’s a choreographer and he’s worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry. Before he was making moves and choreographing tours for some of the biggest superstars in the world, however, he was a backup dancer learning the moves created by someone else. Wade Robson began his career as a backup dancer for none other than Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. It probably helped his career to work alongside someone so talented on the dance floor.

(Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)


Cris Judd

He’s another one that probably can’t be considered a celebrity, per say, but we do all know his name, and that counts when you’re in Hollywood. Cris Judd is most famous for his relationship with his ex-wife, Jennifer Lopez. He met the superstar while they were rehearsing together for one of her tours, and he fell in love with the superstar, married her, and ultimately divorced her not too long afterward. However, he did make a name for himself and become famous because he was a backup dancer. Who cares if he’s only famous because he’s a backup dancer than married J.Lo?

Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey has one of the most beautiful voices in the world, and it seems she’s always been around – at least for people of my generation. However, before she was a famous singer with vocals that make you want to sit down and cry they’re so beautiful, she was just a backup singer. It’s hard to imagine Mimi as backup for anyone, but she was. She sang for someone by the name of Brenda Starr in the 1980s before she got her big break and became one of the most iconic singers in the world.

(Photo by CF Publicity via Getty Images)


Sheryl Crow

Who knew that Sheryl Crow hasn’t been around as a singer forever? Well, she wasn’t. There was once a time in which she was not famous and we didn’t know her name, and we didn’t sing along with all her songs on the radio. There was a time when Sheryl Crow was nothing more than a backup dancer for someone you might have heard of; Michael Jackson. In the late 1980s, Sheryl Crow was not a household name, she was a backup dancer for the King of Pop. It all worked out though, since she now has an enviable celebrity career.

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)


Debbie Allen

You know her from her role as Jackson Avery’s mom on Grey’s Anatomy – among other things. Debbie Allen was not always a famous Hollywood actress, however. She was once a woman who danced backup for some of the biggest stars in the world. Her backup dancing resume includes singers such as Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and even Paula Abdul. She’s also been a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, and she even has a school for dancers in Los Angeles. It’s safe to say her dance days did her career well.

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)


Jenna Dewan

She made her debut in the movie Step Up.  She’s the woman married to Channing Tatum. Together they have a little girl, and a few years of marriage behind them, and women hate that about her. However, before she was an actress and Mrs. Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan was a backup dancer. She danced for many different groups and singers, including N’Sync, Missy Eliot, Janet Jackson and Ricky Martin, and each one gave her the experience she needed to make it in Hollywood.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)



It’s literally impossible to remember a time when Madonna was not Madonna, Material Girl and most famous face in the world (or close to it, at least). But there was a time when no one knew the name Madonna. She got her start in the music industry like so many other famous faces; as a backup dancer. In the late 1970s, she was a backup dancer for a singer by the name of Patrick Hernandez. Do you know who that is? Me either, but it paid off for Madonna in the long run, because she’s more famous than most people.

(Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)


Heather Morris

You know her from Glee. She’s one of the actresses that makes the show so popular, but before she was a Glee star, she was actually a backup dancer. She got her start in the music business as a backup dancer for none other than Beyonce. It just goes to show that when you dance for someone as famous and talented as some of today’s biggest stars, you will probably get an opportunity to further your own career in some way, shape or form. Heather Morris moved up from Beyonce’s shadows and landed a role on Glee, and now she’s a household name.

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Jennifer Lopez

Before Jennifer Lopez was one of the most famous actresses and singers in the world, she was a backup dancer. She started her career doing a little dancing for people such as Madonna, though she actually turned down the opportunity to tour with Madonna as a dancer to focus on her personal career. She also danced backup for New Kids on the Block. She spent two years working as a Fly Girl on the hit show In Living Color, which helped her to launch her career. Now she’s dancing front and center; and judging future talent on American Idol.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Hyde Bellagio)


Columbus Short

Scandal is part of Columbus Short’s everyday life (aside from the fact that he’s currently undergoing one of his very own at the moment). The Hollywood actor plays in the hit show Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington, on ABC. But before he was an actor in one of the most popular shows on television, he was actually a backup dancer. Unlike Kevin Federline, who married the star he danced for, Short didn’t marry Britney Spears. He made his own career on his own time. He was a backup dancer for Britney Spears during the height of her career, and it helped him to launch his own career in Hollywood.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)


Carrie Ann Inaba

Before she was famous for her judging on Dancing with the Stars, Carrie Ann Inaba was a backup dancer. In fact, she had the same job as Jennifer Lopez. Both of these women were Fly Girls for the show In Living Color, making their Hollywood beginnings count as dancers. It was a big gig for dancers back then to be featured as Fly Girls, and it did help her to launch her career as a dancer and as a judge on one of the most popular reality television shows of all time.

(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

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Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur is one of the most famous people in the world, despite the fact that he’s been gone well over a decade now. He was a huge rap star and the victim of murder several years ago. But before he was a famous rapper and died in one of the biggest mysteries in the country, he was a backup dancer. He wasn’t a dancer for anyone as famous as Britney Spears or Beyonce or Madonna, however. He was a backup dancer for a 90s band by the name of Digital Underground, which is where he got his start.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Julianne Hough

Does it count that she’s famous for dancing? Sure, she’s had a couple of roles in some pretty big movies, but Julianne Hough will forever be an amazing dancer. Before she became famous as one of the led dance pros and winners on Dancing with the Stars, she was a backup dancer on the show. When the show toured the country every summer, she was right there dancing backup on the show. She was noticed by producers and eventually given a role as a lead dancer, and it launched her career into the stars.

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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