By Riesa Pascal

From clothing brands to beauty product empires, the world of the rich and famous is often saturated with announcements of new projects and side-hustles. Oftentimes these business ventures make perfect sense such as Grammy award-winning rapper Jay-Z owning a streaming platform, but of course that’s not always the case. Here are several celebrities who ventured into random businesses and strange side-gigs that put their creativity on full display… but also left us with more questions than answers.

Susan Sarandon

From Thelma and Louise to Dead Man Walking, five-time Academy Award nominee Susan Sarandon has had quite the decorated acting career. Most people dream of achieving half her level of success, but apparently making it big on the silver screen still wasn’t enough of an achievement for the actress. In 2009, Sarandon and three business partners founded a ping pong bar in Manhattan called SPiN. The venue featured a unique blend of drinks, a dance floor, great bar food, and of course the game in question itself. If you’re like me and had no idea there was a market for Ping Pong bars, then you’re in for a surprise! SPiN was a complete success with eight more locations having opened up across North America, including one in Toronto.

Rob Lowe 

Depending on your age you may know Rob Lowe from his acting debut in the 1983 film The Outsiders or more recently, from his unforgettable roles in beloved TV shows like The West Wing or my personal favorite, Parks and Recreation. Needless to say, Lowe has enjoyed quite a successful career in movies and television over the years. In 2017, however, he decided to venture into an entirely different field of the entertainment industry. The Lowe Files was a reality TV show that featured the actor and his adult sons, Edward Matthew and John Owen, driving around the country looking for ghosts. From the legend of Bigfoot to UFO sightings and more… Lowe described the venture as “Anthony Bourdain in a blender with Scooby-Doo,” but a review in the Hollywood Reporter preferred to call the show an “inexplicable” vanity project. Unsurprisingly, it only lasted for one season on A&E.

Jada Pinkett Smith

Although she’s more well-known today as the wife who’s name should be kept out of everybody’s mouth, Jada Pinkett Smith has actually been a Hollywood starlet since the early 90s when she made her debut in A Different World. You may even remember her other notable roles in The Matrix, The Nutty Professor, Madagascar and much more. Knowing about her extensive acting career, it may come as a surprise to learn that she has also thrived as a musician, and unlike her family, I’m not talking about pop or hip-hop. In 2002, Pinkett Smith stepped away from acting and formed the nü-metal band Wicked Wisdom. The band produced two relatively successful studio albums before disbanding in 2007 and even played at Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest in 2005 alongside headliners like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. 

Garth Brooks

While Jada Pinkett Smith’s venture into music may have seemed entirely random, the next celebrity on our list was already a successful musician who made the attempt to venture into an entirely new genre altogether. In 1999, country music superstar Garth Brooks was one of the best-selling artists of all time with over 95 million album sales under his belt. You would think that type of success would be enough to keep a man happy, but Brooks wanted to try his hand at something else and managed to do so by creating a fictional Australian rockstar alter ego named Chris Gaines. In order to channel his new personality, Brooks lost weight, grew his hair out, and released the 90s pop album Garth Brooks in…the Life of Chris Gaines which didn’t feature a trace of Brooks’ signature twang. Somehow—literally, I have no idea how this was possible—the album reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and even landed him a No. 5 spot on the Billboard Top 40 with the single “Lost in You.” In spite of the album’s success, the critical reception to Chris Gaines was unsurprisingly negative. Brooks ultimately ended the venture and avoided discussing his alter ego for over twenty years before finally admitting, “My ribs are still sore from getting the s*** kicked out of me for it.” 

Jeremy Renner

From portraying Marvel’s Hawkeye to Oscar-nominated roles in The Hurt Locker and The Town, Jeremy Renner is known for a lot of things and I bet you didn’t know that one of them was for developing an app. In 2017, Renner released a self-titled app simply titled “Jeremy Renner.” A corresponding press release described the app as “groundbreaking” and as an opportunity for the actor’s fans from all over the world to interact with him directly. Fancy press release aside, one outlet saud the reality was that the app “looked almost identical to Instagram if the only content on Instagram was about Jeremy Renner and the interface only worked 60% of the time.” Users also complained that the competitions were always rigged and that the in-app purchases were nothing but predatory cash grabs from fans. Unfortunately, the app’s many issues eventually became too much and Renner ultimately shut down the app in 2019.

Scarlett Johansson

Much like Jeremy Renner, fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe star Scarlett Johansson has also enjoyed a successful acting career over the years. Some of you may have even seen her movies in the theater while munching on a bag of buttery popcorn and though popcorn has little to do with acting, Johansson actually took a surprising venture into the popcorn business way back in 2016. The actress decided to open a Parisian popcorn shop called “Yummy Pop” which had been a longtime dream for her and her family. Created as a joint effort with her then-husband Romain Dauriac, the shop featured a variety of delicious flavors ranging from “Canadian maple” to “truffle parmesan” and celebrated long lines well into the first year after its opening. Unfortunately, Yummy Pop closed shortly thereafter and Johansson went back to fighting crime on the big screen and letting us buy our own (overpriced) popcorn from the theaters.