Being a celebrity isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there’s the fame and the money, but more often than not you’re subjected to intense scrutiny. As an actor, you take your parts where you can get them — but it can come at a price.
The lines between fiction and reality are often blurred, and before you know it you’re widely thought to be as dumb as a rock. It could be thanks to a certain role you play or just public bias. In some cases, this couldn’t be further than the truth. These “dumb” celebrities are actually really smart.
Did you know a certain Friends star studied cluster headaches with her doctor father for nearly a decade?
Kesha Scored a 1,500 On The SATs
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When Kesha burst onto our radar she looked like the ultimate party girl. “Tik Tok” showed us a confident blonde songstress that seemed to know how to have fun. When it was revealed that she dropped out of high school and later got her GED, people assumed Kesha was no academic.
In reality, Kesha was just about to graduate and had planned to study psychology and religion at Barnard College when she dropped out to focus on music. She took the SATs and reportedly got a staggering 1,500 — just 100 points below a perfect score. Over the last few years, she’s faced things no woman should have to face but continues to be a force to be reckoned with.
Ashton Kutcher Was a Biochemical Engineer…Almost
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Ashton Kutcher’s first major role was as the lovable dope, Michael Kelso, on That 70’s Show. Kutcher was on the show for seven seasons, ingraining himself as the dumb stereotype.
Now a successful movie star, Kutcher still gets typecast as the dumb funny guy, but he’s actually got more brains than most. The actor was enrolled at the University of Iowa and planned to major in biochemical engineering, with the aim of helping his younger brother who suffers from cardiomyopathy. He later dropped out to pursue his acting career.
Lisa Kudrow Holds a Biology Degree From Vassar
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Phoebe Buffet is one of the most well-known ditzy characters of all time. From her terrible music to her questionable choices, Phoebe is the last person you’d associate with university-level education. Thankfully, Phoebe is just a character and Lisa Kudrow is a reality.
Kudrow protests that “Phoebe is not dumb. She is a nitwit, but she’s not dumb.” While this may be the case, the character certainly isn’t as clever as the Vassar-graduate actress. After graduating with a degree in biology, she worked alongside her doctor father researching headaches for eight years before switching her hand to acting.
James Franco may play a spaced-out stoner, but he takes education very seriously.
James Franco Is a Ph.D Student at Yale
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James Franco is a controversial star as of late, but he’s still a star. His odd behavior sometimes gets him into trouble, while his roles in the likes of Pineapple Express and The End paint him as the quintessential dumb stoner.
In the real world, James is highly intelligent, graduating from Columbia with a Masters in Fine Arts. He has been seriously invested in his education for the majority of his adult life, choosing to study for a Ph.D. at Yale alongside acting. “I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in,” he told The Washington Post.
Mayim Bialik Is a Literal Neuroscientist
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Mayim Bialik made a name for herself playing the title role in the NBC sitcom Blossom from 1991 to 1995. While Blossom wasn’t dumb by any means, she was often in a world of her own as she tried to navigate living life without a mother.
Although it went relatively unknown for years, Mayim has the kind of smarts that put most of us to shame. Her Ph.D. in Neuroscience isn’t the kind of qualification most actors have, and while she returned to our screens as the super smart Amy in The Big Bang Theory, she continues to be active in the medical field, having published books on parenting and puberty.
Kate Beckinsale Studied at Oxford University
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Kate Beckinsale might be best known for her role as the butt-kicking leather-clad Selene in the Underworld series, but she could’ve easily taken another path. She certainly has the education for it.
The star attended Oxford University, studying French and Russian literature before getting involved with the university dramatic society. When her obvious talent for the stage began to show (no doubt inherited from her late father, Richard Beckinsale) Kate dropped out to pursue acting, before finishing her degree. With a net worth like that, something tells us she doesn’t regret it.
Up next: the model-businesswoman who proves she has brains and beauty.
Cindy Crawford Graduated as Valedictorian
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Some people think that relying on your looks is a cop-out and that supermodels who make money by looking into a camera lens aren’t qualified to do anything else. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Not only is she a sharp-witted businesswoman, but Cindy Crawford was the valedictorian of her class in high school. She was even offered a full scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern. When she arrived for her first calculus class, the professor singled her out and said, “Honey, I think you have the wrong class.” Crawford dropped out to pursue her modeling career but still recalls that moment as a defining one in her life.
Steve Martin Has an IQ of 142
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Steve Martin is well known for playing the part of dopey guys, but the comic actor isn’t all fun and games. When it comes to knowing his stuff, he really knows it. Martin is a member of MENSA with an IQ of 142 (the national average is 98).
Before choosing acting as his named profession, he considered becoming a college lecturer. It might be difficult to believe considering some of the roles he’s played, but he’d definitely be able to out-smart us in a battle of the brains, no doubt about it.
Reese Witherspoon and Elle Woods Are Pretty Similar
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Reese has made her money by playing the female lead in romantic comedies for years now, but one of her most famous roles was as ditzy blonde Elle Woods in the Legally Blonde franchise. Elle was surprising too, graduating from Harvard Law School despite those who thought she couldn’t.
Witherspoon has said in the past that she was “A big dork who read loads of books.” Her parents even dubbed her their “Little Type A.” Reese studied English Literature at Stanford before deciding to pursue acting. Alongside her starring roles, she owns her own clothing line and is an avid producer with her company, Hello Sunshine.
Alison Williams Is a Yale Grad
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Girls star Alison Williams made a host of bad decisions as Marnie in the show, from awful romances to ditching her chosen career path for music when she couldn’t really carry a tune. Marnie may have been a sandwich short of a picnic, but Alison isn’t.
The actress wasn’t allowed to act professionally until she graduated from college — Yale to be exact. She studied English and archaeology but didn’t land a part in Yale’s big musical as a freshman. Instead, she joined the improv group and discovered where her true talent lay — comedy. Good for her.
Did you know David Duchovny has a Master’s degree from Yale?
David Duchovny Has a Master’s Degree From Yale
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For millennials, David Duchovny isn’t as recognized for his role in The X Files. Instead, he’s hailed as the boozy writer and social dope, Hank Moody in Californication. If you’ve ever seen the show, you can’t really blame yourself for thinking that Duchovny might be a little bit of a dunce too. He isn’t.
He graduated with a BA in English Literature from Princeton University before earning his Master’s from Yale. Wanting to become a screenwriter, he thought of acting as research. “I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to write things that are going to be performed by actors, then it’s probably helpful for me to know something about what that’s like.” Little did he know he would drop his Ph.D. to act full time.
Dr. Oz Is An Accomplished Cardiothoracic Surgeon
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There’s no denying that most television “doctors” have some seriously questionable credentials. Most of the time, they’re little more than quacks who cashed in on the medical side of TV, but not in this case.
Dr. Oz is hailed as one of TV’s biggest idiots, but he’s actually far from it. Despite the fact that his show consists of people running around obstacle courses of gigantic body parts, The New York Times hails him as “one of the most accomplished cardiothoracic surgeons of his generation.” He’s got 5,000 open heart surgeries under his belt as well as a successful lung transplant operation. How many of us can say that?
Flavor Flav Was Regarded As a Child Prodigy
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Flavor Flav, whose real name is William Jonathan Drayton Jr., made a name for himself as a part of Public Enemy. He’s best known for jumping around the stage and hyping up the crowd rather than contributing in what some might call meaningful way.
As a kid, Flav was regarded as a child prodigy, because he taught himself how to play a variety of instruments. We’re not talking about the triangle either. The saxophone, the guitar, drums and the French horn are in his repertoire — not exactly things that are easy to learn at all, let alone by yourself. When Public Enemy was signed by Def Jam, the label suggested that they drop him, not realizing that he co-wrote the first record. Chuck D reportedly said, “He can play 15 instruments. I can’t play Lotto.”
You won’t believe which raunchy television presenter is actually a Northwestern grad.
Jerry Springer Is a Northwestern Grad
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Watching Jerry Springer is like watching a car crash in slow motion. Often scripted, the comments from host Jerry just add fuel to the fire rather than calming things down. Let’s just say his style is very different from Dr. Phil.
It’s well known that Jerry used to be the mayor of Cincinnati, but most people write him off as a smarmy politico that snaked his way to the top. This could still be true, but let’s not pretend that he isn’t insanely qualified. A Northwestern grad, he went on to advise Robert F. Kennedy. When he got elected to the Cincinnati city council he was just 27 years old.
Ken Jeong Is a Real Doctor
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Probably the most surprising entry in this article is The Hangover‘s very own Mr. Chow, aka Ken Jeong. In the film series, Jeong plays a very eccentric, volatile character with next to no brains. It’s a testament to his acting expertise because the real Jeong is totally different.
Not only is he highly educated, but the actor is a qualified obstetrician — that’s someone that delivers babies to you and I. He also created, wrote and executive produced the ABC sitcom Dr. Ken. In an interview, Ken said “I was very happy being a doctor. All my best friends are doctors.”
Sacha Baron Cohen Graduated From Cambridge
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Sacha Baron Cohen rose to fame in the ’90s, breaking through to mainstream success for his creation and portrayal of Ali G, an uneducated and jungle music obsessed character. Since then, Cohen has become a staple of the Hollywood scene, playing dumb characters like Borat.
It might surprise you to know that London-born Cohen attended a private school before going to one of the most prestigious colleges in England, Christ’s College, Cambridge. He graduated with an upper-second-class degree in History, while also being a part of the university dramatic society. It’s hard to imagine him being serious, isn’t it?
Brian May Has a Ph.D. In Astrophysics
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Rockstars aren’t usually known for their academic brilliance, but for their creative minds. Let’s face it, you have to be pretty savvy to make decent music. Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, has enjoyed a really successful music career.
Before things took off with the band, he studied math and physics at Imperial College London. He went on to do a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, but it did take him 30 years to get that. He can hardly be blamed, considering he was touring the world with one of the biggest bands to ever exist. Would you ever have guessed it?
Conan O’Brien Is a Harvard Grad
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Wisecracking late-night host Conan O’Brien hardly seems stupid, but it’s still rare for a talk show host to be as intelligent as he is. He majored in history and literature at none other than Harvard University, but even back then his knack for comedy prevailed.
His classmates dubbed him the “pre-eminent jokester” in 1985, and he was the president of a semi-secret social organization called Harvard Lampoon, which published a humor magazine. His 72-page thesis studied William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and continues to speak fondly of his college days.
Sharon Stone Is More Than Just a Pretty Face
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Blonde bombshell Sharon Stone has played some iconic roles that have focused largely on her physical appearance, namely Basic Instinct that saw her bare all in the infamous interrogation scene.
Critics might say she’s just a face, but Stone is much more than perfect hair and teeth. For years the actress maintained that she was a member of MENSA, but it was revealed in 2002 that this was actually a lie. Despite this ill-advised fib, she does have an incredibly high IQ and is respected as one of Hollywood’s finest minds. “I used my intelligence to be sexy,” Stone says.
Harry Hill Is a Neuroscientist
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British comedian Harry Hill may be lesser known in the United States, but he’s done very well for himself on TV across the pond. The Bafta-winning comedian has a goofy style and usually wears signature big-collared shirts. Basically, he looks like a walking cartoon.
Harry got his big break in 1992 at the age of 28, but comedy wasn’t his first career choice. He’s actually qualified in neuroscience, earning his degree at the University of London. He later quit medicine because he “Didn’t feel in control of what was happening.” Despite his comedy career, he remains on England’s list of medical practitioners.