11 Celebrities Who Were Once Drug Dealers

Celebrities do not become famous overnight unless they are plucked from nowhere and put on a reality TV show. We all need to make money to live and most celebrities made their money with reputable work before they walked the streets of fame.

For example Brad Pitt earned money as a limousine driver, Kanye West worked in retail and John Cena cleaned toilets. However some celebrities came to fame with a more disreputable past. Here are ten celebrities who made money dealing drugs before stardom struck.

11. Mark Wahlberg



Born on June 5th, 1971, Mark Wahlberg fought his way through the hard streets of Boston to become a highly respected actor. His films, including The Fighter and Ted have met with critical and commercial acclaim. Fame wasn’t always on the horizon for this Oscar nominated actor. As a child with little parental guidance Wahlberg learned to take care of himself.

At the age of 14, he dropped out of school and began to make money from petty crime and drug dealing. At 16, he was addicted to cocaine. In those days he had a violent side to his nature which led to him being imprisoned for a racially motivated attack on two Vietnamese men. One of them was partially blinded. Wahlberg avoided a ten year prison sentence for attempted murder and instead spent just 45 days at the Deer Island House of Correction in Boston.

It was here that he decided to turn his life around and on release he sought the help of his Parish Priest in repentance over his past. Wahlberg’s brother Donnie helped him form the ‘Marky Mark’ persona and a career in music and modelling began. He still made mistakes in his professional and personal life but at least his drug dealing days were over.

Wahlberg turned to acting in the 1990’s with Renaissance Man and The Basketball Diaries. It was his turn as porn star Dirk Diggler in Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed film Boogie Nights that really marked him out as an actor of worth. Wahlberg has since gone on to become a respected Hollywood talent, his hell raising days far behind him.

10. Idris Elba 



An only child, Elba was born in Hackney, London on September 6th, 1972. He began auditioning for acting roles in his twenties and has since built up a strong career in film and television in Britain and America. His film roles have included Thor and Beasts Of No Nation while in television he has found success with Luther and The Wire. It was in the latter series that American audiences first took notice of him.

In HBO’s acclaimed drama he took on the role of vicious drug kingpin Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell and drew critical praise. Elba was no stranger to the world of drugs in his own life having taken both soft and hard drugs in the past. From the age of 19 he had worked as a New York bouncer and DJ and during this time he sold cannabis to night club patrons. Compared to that of drug kingpin Russell Bell it is hardly in the same league but it earns Elba a place on this list.

9. Melvin Williams



HBO’s hit show The Wire had another former drug dealer in its cast. This was somebody who is still more famous for his drug dealing than acting.

Melvin Williams was born in 1941 in Baltimore. An intelligent child, he decided to drop out of school to focus on making money. He did this through gambling until Jewish gangster Julius Salisbury took him under his wing. With Salisbury’s help Williams became the biggest drug dealer in Baltimore where he sold heroin and cocaine. By careful planning he avoided prosecution for years but was eventually ratted out by two of his dealers and was given a 15 year sentence in 1975. Williams did not learn his lesson and he returned to drug dealing after his early release from prison in 1979. He was back behind bars in 1984 on conspiracy to distribute cocaine and in 2000 he was given a 22 year sentence for gun possession and assault charges.

It was during this time that Williams found God and vowed to turn his life around. He was released early in 2003 and faith continued to be a big part of his life. Acting became an interest and he played a Church Deacon in The Wire. Perhaps he used his own experience of faith to help him in this role. The programme makers were certainly interested in his experiences, but not of God. Williams’ criminal exploits in Baltimore were used as inspiration for the character of drug dealing Avon Barksdale played by Wood Harris.

Melvin Williams sadly passed away on December 3rd 2015.


About the author

Lee is an accomplished freelance article and creative writer. He contributes to a number of websites on a regular basis, submits book reviews for a publisher, and is currently working on his own novel. For much of his life, Lee has worked with people on the fringes of society. This includes working in socially deprived areas of the UK, mentoring troubled young people, and spending time in a prison giving advice and moral support to prisoners. Lee’s experiences of life underpin his writing, enabling him to write with passion and humour for people of all ages.

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