From Dee to DVM: Celebrity Career Makeover

One of our most adored TV shows growing up was What’s Happening!! starring Danielle Spencer as Dee Thomas. To us she was the main attraction, with dialogue that made us chuckle. To wit:

Momma:  Dee, where’s your brother?
Dee:  He gave me a quarter not to tell you. That he went to the party.

From 1976 to 1979, she was America’s bratty and lovable little sister, and today she’s an animal care advocate and author of Through the Fire: Journal of a Child Star.

In her memoir, the now Dr. Spencer-Fields recounts her love of animals from the tender age of 7. She raised Weimaraners, and often brought in abandoned dogs and cats near her home in New York City.

Even though she identified as an actor, the former sitcom star sought a mentor who encouraged her to attend Tuskegee University, and in four years she earned her D.V.M., or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. As she started working professionally with animals, her mentor taught her about being a woman in a male-dominated profession, and about being African-American in the veterinary field. Invaluable wisdom.

Spencer-Fields was prescient to have connected with a mentor for help in navigating this uncharted terrain.  In her role as a protege, she opened for herself many doors into the veterinarian world. That’s right, before giving her mentor credit for the guidance she gave, we credit “Dee” for pursuing a mentor in the first place.

As the story goes, her acting work hasn’t endured–although it may yet return–while her work as a veterinarian remains. So Dr. Spencer-Fields, along with the many animals she’s treated in Southern California, shines.

Have you read Spencer-Fields’ book? What do you think?

Celebrity Career Makeover: The Inauguration

Sometimes it’s annoying to focus on public figures, and yet it can also be fun. On our TV show “Career Talk Live: And What Do You Do?”, we’ve had a segment called “Celebrity Career Makeover” in which we fashion a new career for a popular performer. And now we’re bringing it to!

In this feature, we take a look at a relatively famous person, consider their transferable knowledge, skills and abilities, and thus propose a more accessible occupation for them. Since fame is often fleeting, it’s useful to be prepared for any circumstance.

For this inaugural post, we have a story about actors with actual dual career tracks. They don’t need a makeover, because their backup work plan is already established — in the field of science, no less! For your consideration, from the New York Times “Science” section dated February 28, 2011:

Mayim Bialik, currently in “The Big Bang Theory”:

Dr. Bialik has a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. in … neurobiology. “I tell people, I am a neuroscientist, and I play one on TV,” said Dr. Bialik.

Natalie Portman, recently anointed an Oscar for her work in “Black Swan”:

She went on to Harvard University to study neuroscience and the evolution of the mind.

Hedy Lamarr, best known for “Samson and Delilah” (1949):

[Lamarr] was a rocket scientist on the side, inventing and patenting a torpedo guidance technique she called “frequency hopping,” which thwarted efforts to jam the signals that kept the missiles on track.

And our favorite, Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years”:

[McKellar] graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she helped devise a mathematical proof for certain properties of magnetic fields — a theorem that bears her name along with those of her collaborators. She also writes popular books about math with clever PG-13 titles like “Math Doesn’t Suck” and “Kiss My Math.”

When you work to access the full spectrum of your intelligence, you can be a star, and study the celestial stars.

Which celebrities’ careers would you like to see made over?

Image of McKellar via