These Celebrities Were on Game Shows Before They Were Famous
Game shows. They have supplied us with endless hours of entertainment over the decades. The set designs may have become more modern over the years, but the general feeling of wholesome entertainment for the whole family hasn’t changed much. For most people, the chance to be picked as a contestant generally serves as a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with ephemeral stardom. For others, however, those 15 minutes of fame transformed into much larger careers in entertainment. From top supermodels to ’90s boy band idols, check out these celebrities who made epic appearances on game shows early in their careers. Winning!
We now know her as the soon-to-be newest member of the British royal family. Yet, long before Prince Harry’s betrothed Meghan Markle was packing her bags for Windsor Castle, she was lugging around a different kind of baggage as a “briefcase girl” on Deal or No Deal.
Far from her sophisticated wardrobe on the sexy office drama Suits or the gowns she’s sure to don in her real-life fairy tale, Markle was traipsing around in skimpy little numbers for her 34-episode stint opening boxes revealing winning sums. More than 10 years later, she’s the one who snagged the deal of a lifetime.
Before she was topping the charts and stunning us with her outrageous outfits, Lady Gaga was a brunette 19-year-old named Stefani Germanotta who appeared as a contestant on MTV’s “Boiling Points” in 2005. Candidly recorded, the future star was in the running for $100 if she could keep her cool in a revolving restaurant.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t keep her “Poker Face” and totally lost her cool as well as the $100. Nowadays the “Born This Way” singer’s music videos are regularly featured on MTV and $100 is just pocket change for the megastar music icon.
Award-winning actress Sally Field hadn’t reached the height of her diverse career yet in 1966 when she appeared as a contestant on the popular ABC series The Dating Game. Field had only starred in the title role on the sitcom Gidget for a year when she appeared on the show.
The Mrs. Doubtfire actress has admitted that she refused to go on a date with her bachelor from the show. “It probably would have changed my life. Honestly, he was probably the one!” she later quipped on the talk show The Talk. Perhaps. But, ending up with a little golden guy named Oscar isn’t so bad either.
Although she’s best known as the glamorous host on Wheel of Fortune, game show goddess Vanna White actually made her debut on a rival game show classic. As a fresh-faced 20-something in 1980, Bob Barker told White to “come on down” to the preliminary pricing round on The Price Is Right.
Although she didn’t make the cut then, two years later, she spun herself to stardom on her TV claim to fame Wheel of Fortune. White was never as sexy as she was during her record-breaking 35-year run at handing out vowels in ball gowns.
Look who’s talking to host Gene Rayburn as a pre-celebrity game show contestant! Although she’s now a recognizable Hollywood name, Kirstie Alley was an unknown interior designer from Wichita when she was pitted against future celeb colleagues like Betty White and Jamie Lee Curtis on the game show The Match Game.
Alley nailed it, appearing in multiple episodes of the fill-it-in trivia show. She ended up pocketing an impressive $6,000 in winnings. Her cheque sums got a lot bigger a few years later with her film debut in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and subsequent household-name status role in Cheers and major big-screen credits in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
You won’t believe which young Sex and the City star made her on-screen debut on a vintage game show!
Decades before fiery redhead Miranda Hobbes was a sipping Cosmopolitans with her girlfriends on Sex and the City, Cynthia Nixon was an adorable blonde-haired nine-year-old who charmed the audience and panel of judges alike on the game show To Tell The Truth.
Nixon’s mother worked on the show, and got her super-cute second grader a spot posing as an “imposter” cowgirl who tried to stump a group of panelists about the veracity of her “career.” Whether she’s playing a horse-riding wrangler or hot-shot lawyer, Nixon’s performances always convince us.
Gina Lee Nolin
Blonde beauty Gina Lee Nolin is another celebrity whose game show start led to a winning career in showbiz. She became one of the buxom “Barker’s Beauties” on the game show The Price is Right in 1994.
From there, she traded in her jacuzzi-and-jetski-displaying bathing suit in for an iconic red one-piece to play Neely Capshaw on Baywatch. Apart from various modeling gigs, she had TV appearances on the soap opera The Young and the Restless and as the lead on the scantily-clad jungle series Sheena.
Meghan Markle isn’t the only A-list celeb with some game show baggage in her past. Before Chrissy Teigen was posing for “Sports Illustrated,” the uber-babe from Utah landed another type of modeling gig that wasn’t exactly on the runway.
We now know her as the leggy supermodel married to John Legend who has a knack for social media satire. But, for a short stint from 2006-2007, Teigen stood in as a substitute briefcase model on Deal or No Deal. Her game show gigs didn’t end there. We recommend you check out her celebrity guest appearance on The Price is Right. It’s priceless.
Blonde beauty Lisa Gleave up and left her native Down Under in 2000 to pursue a career in modeling and fashion in the United States. The ambitious Aussie got her first break as a gorgeous game show girl on The Price Is Right.
From host Bob Barker’s bevy of beautiful young ladies (aka “Barker’s Beauties”) she went on to become a briefcase-toting babe on Deal or No Deal. She might not have snagged a royal prince like fellow “Deal” darling Meghan Markle, but Gleave did land a handful of small film and TV roles, not to mention TONS of men’s magazine photoshoots.
Farrah Fawcett: the hair, the swimsuit poster, the legend! Anything the blonde bombshell touched in the ‘70s and ‘80s was golden. Before her glory days on Charlie’s Angeles launched her to the status of megastar cultural icon, Fawcett appeared as a guest on The Dating Game.
Even as an up-and-comer we doubt she needed much help when it came to romance. Still, she graced the groovy set of the popular game show in 1969. With her magnificent mane, megawatt smile and subtle Texas twang, it’s no surprise she caused something of a “Farrah-ocious” faux fight between the three bachelors up for her choosing.
Why have one good-looking glamorous presenter on a game show when you can have two? Well, that’s exactly what the producers of the decades-long game show Let’s Make a Deal decided when they signed identical Polish twins Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski as the host’s foxy female assistants.
Audiences couldn’t believe their eyes when contestants took home a luxurious Lexus or one of the zany “Zonk” prizes, but neither could believe they were seeing double when the twins took the stage. The sisters later dabbled in acting and wrestling, but their main claim to fame was as the thirst-inducing “Coors Light Twins.”
Find out how a game show stint completely changed the life of the next legendary cultural icon!
Before Suzanne Somers was kicking our tushes with the ThighMaster, the future fitness icon and sitcom star was already in perfect bikini shape. The now legendary infomercial instigator was sporting a two-piece as a model on the now-defunct game show syndicate The Anniversary Game.
The 1969 stint was just a blip on her extensive resume, yet she walked away with something better than a romantic three-day getaway to Palm Springs. As it turns out, the future Three’s Company star met Alan Hamel on the set. The two wed in 1977 and have been married ever since. Can you say winning?!
“Mad Men” character Don Draper had no problem wooing the ladies (in fact, his problem was that he did it too much). But actor Jon Hamm was far from the finely tailored, Old Fashion-slinging Manhattan exec when he was a 24-year-old The Big Date contestant with an epically ‘90s, long man mane.
Now regarded as one of the world’ sexiest men alive, Hamm’s appearance on the game show in 1996 was cringeworthy (literally) cheesy. He used the word “fabulous” about four-too-many-times for a grown man. Ultimately Hamm was passed over twice by female contestants. It’s hard to believe, we know.
We know by now you probably get the idea that Deal or No Deal had been the launchpad for several celebrity careers. Sure, we couldn’t ever decide whether host Howie Mandel was entertaining or annoying. Same goes for the dramatic synthesized sounds. One thing’s for sure though, the briefcase girls were total knockouts.
One of the show’s most gawked-over girls was case #10 glamor model Anya Monzikova. And a perfect 10 she was. The Soviet-born stunner went on to be a red carpet raven and landed some minor movie roles. We’re not sure why she didn’t become a bigger sensation, but we’ll still place our bet on her.
Nowadays he’s more used to hosting reality TV contest shows. However, back in the 1990s, before he was breaking down wannabe-superstar contestants, cut-the-BS American Idol and The X Factor judge Simon Cowell was a contestant himself on popular British game show Sale of the Century. That hair though!
Hardly the brazen, sharp-tongued persona we associated with him now, Cowell was actually a soft-spoken, good-natured British gentleman who was an ace at the trivia-turned-bargain-shopping phenomenon. More impressive perhaps than his breezy victory of £20 worth of cooking utensils (?!), was the fact that he didn’t utter even one curt wisecrack.
The Price is Right was the lynchpin of game show culture since the early ‘70s. The program was famous for bringing on wonderful looking prize models to add a certain sex appeal to otherwise campy concepts. Seriously it takes talent to make tomato juice look appealing. And prize model Gabrielle Tuite could do it (sorry, it rhymes)!
The bubbly blonde eventually traded in the dice-laden dresses and firefighter costumes for bikini photoshoots and small movie roles. While her legacy may be questionable, there’s no doubt that the servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan thought she was a star when she toured the bases. Now that’s patriotism.
Just like Deal or No Deal, game show The Price is Right featured some of the most famous figures (physically) in reality TV history. Nikki Ziering was already known as a “Playboy Playmate” when she landed a more PG gig as a “Barker’s Beauty.”
Nikki stayed on the show from 1999 until 2002 – the same year her marriage with Beverly Hills, 90210 star Ian Ziering ended. Much to the delight of her fans, her perfect features didn’t go off the airways then. She made numerous appearances on celebrity reality shows and had minor roles in a handful B-rate blockbusters.
The next celeb’s early on-screen appearance will have you saying “OMG”!
We knew he had bodybuilding, a prosperous Hollywood career and politics under his (weightlifting) belt. But who would have guessed one of the future Governator‘s early on-screen appearances included a flirtatious feature on the preeminent matchmaking show of the ‘70s: The Dating Game.
The Austrian strongman only had one film credit when he adorably and awkwardly tested the waters with three lovely lady contestants in 1973. His exotic accent and massive body measurements piqued the interest of his potential dates and audiences alike. He eventually said “Hasta la vista, baby” to his match from the show, but as we all know now, he’d be back.
Beauty queen Claudia Jordan was another entertainment personality who did a double round as a game show gal. First appearing on the eternal CBS classic The Price Is Right, she later picked up a briefcase packed with a prize money sum on Deal or No Deal.
Like many of her game show model colleagues, Jordan got further exposure as a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. Donald Trump “fired” her from that, but Bravo later hired her to join the drama and divas on The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Canadian-born Leyla Milani dabbled in the world of “reality” wrestling program before she garnered nation-wide attention on the primetime NBC game show Deal or No Deal from 2005 to 2009. Known for her “lioness-like” mane and number 13 briefcase, she was often dubbed “Lucky Leyla” or “lucky 13.”
Like many of her fellow Deal models, the show was a launch pad for Milani’s ensuing career. She went to land several other modeling stints and gigs on celebrity reality shows and talk show. She also took a stab at acting with parts in fictional series like Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Talk about lucky 13!
And behind door number 25 is the indomitable Markie Post. Most recognized for her roles on The Fall Guy and Night Court, the popular ‘80s and ‘90s actress was also known as a regular celebrity guest on the The Pyramid syndicate.
Although she became a familiar famous face in front of the cameras on the game show circuit, Post actually got her start behind the scenes on another legendary televised trivia take-on. The future Hearts Afire actress “took a risk, took a chance, took a dare” as a producer of Alex Trebek’s Double Dare.
Kids flocked from across the nation to try their hand at winning an awesome (by ‘90s standards) glowing piece of the Aggro Crag on the hit Nickelodeon action sports game show GUTS. In 1992, one young “warrior” to ascend to the primary colored (and purple) spandex-clad arena was A.J. McLean.
Before the tats and iconic facial hair, A.J. was a lean “Mean“ McLean teen physical challenge machine. He may not have made the top spot on what was arguably the greatest kids game show of all time (apart from Legends of the Hidden Temple), but it’s ok because he definitely went on to become “Larger Than Life.”
Years before he donned a yellow hazmat suit on Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul was sporting a yellow name tag and wigging out alongside Bob Barker. In 2000, the then-unknown actor was, shall we say, SUPER excited to have been asked to “come on down” on The Price is Right.
Retrospectively looking at his hyped display you might wonder whether he actually had an affinity for “certain substances” in real life. As it turns out, his self-admitted appearance of being on “serious crack” was due to his downing SIX cans of Red Bull to give the producers the pizzaz that they’d asked for. Epic!
The next pre-fame celebrity game show contestant showed us the meaning of being a total ’90s gem!
His claim to fame was making teen girls around the world go bonkers with his ‘90s boy band sensation N*SYNC. But before Joey Fatone was making gelled tips and goatees a thing with Justin, JC, Chris and Lance, he made his TV debut on a Nickelodeon game show.
In 1992, Fatone (who went by “Joseph” back then) was a cute kid with a flowing sweep over on the children’s game show Nick Arcade. Before he said “Bye Bye Bye” to the world of televised reality competitions, Fatone told host Phil Moore that he loved to sing in the shower. Foreshadowing anyone?
Before comedian Steve Martin was best known as a Hollywood funnyman, he was (and remains) a killer banjo player. It was his musical prowess and hilarious antics that landed him on the amateur talent contest The Gong Show in 1977.
Making the transition from writer to performer, Martin was starting to make a name for himself at that point with his over the top goofiness and signature arrow-through-the-head costume accompanying his twangy tunes. From there Martin went on to have the prolifically eclectic career that we’re familiar with now.
Even if you didn’t remember her name, you’re sure to have encountered blond beauty Cindy Margolis’ image in the ‘90s and early 2000s. From the relatively nameless world of brand modeling, Margolis graced TV sets across primetime America as… ding ding ding… you guessed it a “Barker’s Beauty” on The Price Is Right.
From her days of showing off speedboats prizes, her career zoomed toward an eponymous talk show and further modeling and reality TV roles. Wayyy before the Kardashians, Margolis skyrocketed into early cyberspace stardom as the “Queen of the Internet” and the world’s “most downloaded” person in 1999.
He’s still a looker now, but you won’t believe what the next Hollywood hunk looked like on his mid-’60s game show gig.
He might have missed the “Bamboozled” episode of “Friends,” but the handsomely rugged Hollywood heartthrob, pre-mustached Tom Selleck got his shot on a real-life game show that was fitted with TONS of pre-fame celebrities.
You may not believe it, but long before he was flaunting florals in a drop-top around Oahu, he was a clean-shaven college senior looking for love on The Dating Game. We’re starting to question the reasoning of these dating shows’ female contestants because not only did they pass over Jon Hamm, but they nixed Selleck! TWICE!
If you can guess which game show gave Kasie Head her career headstart you’ll win a BRAND, NEW, CAR! Just kidding. But we’ll give you a hint: it’s produced a squad of glamorous gals who are also on this list.
This scarlet-haired beauty queen turned small-time actress got an intermediary boost as a briefcase babe on Deal or No Deal. After her run at making case #16 look oh-so-sweet, she landed small roles in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and Just My Luck. Talk about teen dream.
For those of you American readers, Amanda Holden is something of the British Julianne Hough. After establishing her career in acting with roles in the likes of Wild at Heart and Thoroughly Modern Millie, she became a prominently provocative judge on Britain’s Got Talent.
Like her co-judge and fellow entertainment personality Simon Cowell, Holden’s career was born from the crumbs of an awesomely retro, pre-fame game show appearance. She may not have found eternal love as a spunky 19-year-old on Blind Date, but her first encounter with TV turned out to be a true date with destiny.
Before William Shatner was using the “communicator” to instruct Scotty to beam him up on Star Trek, the iconic Captain Kirk actor was a dashing young guest panelist on the vintage game show What’s My Line.
Shatner appeared on the show in 1965, a year before he would land his career-defining role as a handsome intergalactic hero. The “enterprising” actor’s career came full orbit when, already as a legend of cosmic proportions, he hosted the short-lived TV game show Show Me the Money in 2006.
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