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Celebrity career comeback tips

These stories on how celebrities who emerged from has-been status to find a place in the spotlight again can offer ideas on how to get your career back on track during a recession.
Image: Ellen DeGeneres
In 2003, Ellen made her TV comeback as host of ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ an award-winning daytime talk show.Michael Rozman / AP
/ Source: Investopedia

You might assume that celebrities lead a glamorous life all the time, but when it comes to celebrities' lives and careers, they are subject to the same ups and downs as the rest of us — only they have to live through them in the public eye.

If you're struggling to get your career back on track in this recession, check out a few celebrities who emerged from has-been status to find a place in the spotlight again. You may not be vying for a million-dollar movie role, but climbing to the top of any career takes similar grit. Find out what you can learn from these celebrities' amazing career comebacks.

Betty White — stay relevant
Betty White is an old-school Hollywood star — literally. She began her TV acting career in 1939, and starred in a number of popular series right through to the '80s. But it was in 1985 that she got one of her key roles — that of Rose on the "Golden Girls", which ran successfully for seven years, garnering White numerous awards. Although White continued working in TV and movies, we only saw her here and there.

Until she hit major fame again, appearing as the oldest host of Saturday Night Live in March of 2010. How did it happen? As it turns out, 500,000 die-hard Betty White fans nominated her for the role on a grassroots Facebook fan site. How did White manage to get a second shot at widespread fame?

Check out her resume — she has been working for more than 70 years, doing everything from cartoon voice-work to daytime soap operas. White always managed to keep her career fresh — and her fans guessing - paving the way for her re-entry to super-stardom.

Ellen DeGeneres — be yourself
Ellen DeGeneres hit main-stream fame when her work as a stand-up comedian was translated into a prime-time sitcom in 1994 called "Ellen". The show was popular for three seasons, making DeGeneres a household name. When DeGeneres revealed that she was gay, her character on the show did the same in 1997 — leading to one of the most-watched episodes in the show — and one of the most talked about TV events that year. Unfortunately, ratings dropped soon afterward, and the show ended in 1998.

Criticism about DeGeneres' decision to come out — and her newfound role as a gay advocate — hounded her for several years. But it was DeGeneres' personality — and the sense that she was always being honest — that eventually put her back on top. In 2001, her work as host of the Emmy awards shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York landed her critical acclaim for her ability to balance sensitivity and a somber tone with her characteristic humor.

In 2003, she came back to TV as host of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," an award-winning daytime talk show that featured its 1000th episode in 2009. Even in her down years, DeGeneres never failed to charm viewers (or listeners, as was the case in her role in the animated movie "Finding Nemo") with her humor and warm personality. It was only a matter of time before the spotlight was on her again.

Robert Downey Jr. — focus on your strengths
One thing you can definitely learn from celebrity career comebacks is that when you're not on top, there might a good reason for it. Just look at Robert Downey Jr.'s career. He made his screen debut at the tender age of five. His fame — and critical acclaim for his roles — only grew from there. His ability to become almost any character he took on catapulted his acting career, but it would be his personal demons that would drag him down.

Beginning in 1996, Downey Jr. began a streak of arrests for drug-related charges which put his career on the backburner for five years as he struggled to recover and get back to work. However, by 2005, Downey Jr. was landing some major roles, allowing him to paper over the bad press he'd received and reinvent himself as a top-flight actor again.

Downey Jr.'s struggle with substance abuse dealt a serious blow to his professional life, but once he learned to overcome those issues, he was able to focus on — and appreciate — his strengths as an actor. This is solid career advice for anyone: in order to really shine at your job you need to get your personal life in order.

Teri Hatcher — know your worth
Teri Hatcher experienced her biggest early success opposite Dean Cain as Lois Lane in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman", and in the 1997 James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies". And then, work got a little thin. In fact, Hatcher even referred to herself as a "has-been" when she accepted a Golden Globe award for the major role she finally landed — as the character Susan Mayer on the runaway hit drama series "Desperate Housewives". Plus, she's currently one of the highest paid comedic actresses on TV, bringing in $400,000 per episode, according to Extra.

That's a pretty big score for an actress who spent a few years toiling in commercials and made-for-TV movies. Luckily, it looks like Hatcher knew her worth through thick and thin, and kept on working until she landed a role that allowed her to prove it. So, even if you're stuck working at a low-paying job you hate during the recession, don't let it get to you — a better-paying job could be just around the corner, but it's up to you to keep your game face on so you're ready to go out and get it.

The bottom line
Every career has its ups and downs, but it's how you deal with the low points that really determine how far you'll go. These celebrities were able to make big career comebacks and showed both the lessons that failure has to offer and that success is often worth the wait.