Tony Danza, Brian Boitano, Omarosa & More: Unlikely Celebrity Second Acts

Fame does funny things to people.

It turns the boss (no, not that Boss) into a tenth-grade teacher. It throws a figure skater from the Olympic flame into the kitchen's fire. It sends a reality-TV villain from the no-holds-barred boardroom to the God-exalting seminary.

Tony Danza, Brian Boitano and Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth are just a few of the bold-faced names to raise the curtain recently on unlikely second acts. Below, check out their deviations from the beaten path and others who just strayed from the road that initially led them to fame.

Tony Danza

tony danza

This academic year, former "Who's the Boss" and "Taxi" star Danza takes on a new lead role: heading up a tenth-grade English class at Philadelphia's Northeast High School. While the 58-year-old actor holds a history-education degree from Iowa's University of Dubuque, he won't be going it alone in the classroom. Danza will enlist the help of a co-teacher to impart the literary lessons of such classics as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Animal Farm."

Danza's not exactly making a career switch -- he's keeping one foot planted in the TV biz, as A&E cameras capture his stint in school for the reality series "Teach." But, the actor claims, imparting a grade-A education is his end goal: "[I am] humbled, honored and so grateful that the City of Philadelphia has decided to let us try this," Danza said in a statement to reporters. "I have always wanted to teach, so this is a gift for me. I will work hard to make sure I don't let anyone down, especially the kids."

Brian Boitano

brian boitano

Not only can Boitano land a triple-lutz in the rink, he can also ace a mean coq au vin in the kitchen. The 1988 Olympic gold medalist has traded his ice skates for an apron to show off his lesser-known cooking talents on a new Food network series: "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" -- a play on the "South Park" movie's ode to the athlete, "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"

Each episode of the show, which premiered Aug. 23, features Boitano, 45, cooking at his Santa Monica home for a group of friends, which ranges from a single guy with 20 would-be girlfriends to an all-girl roller derby team. While Boitano takes pride in crafting rustic classics, he's not taking his latest endeavor as seriously as, say, vying for Olympic gold.

"People who watch skating think I'm so serious, and I am when it comes to skating," Boitano told the Los Angeles Times. "But my off-ice personality is kind of goofy, and one of the things I like best about the show is that everybody will finally get to see that."

Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth

omarosa

Here's a career move even the most astute business mind couldn't have predicted; former "Apprentice" contestant Manigault-Stallworth leaving the corporate world to join the ranks of God. Manigault-Stallworth rose to infamy clawing down fellow contestants on the first season of Donald Trump's reality competition, then returned to clash with "America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan on 2008's "Celebrity Apprentice." In between her "Apprentice" stints, she appeared on the fifth season of VH1's "The Surreal Life" and authored the self-help tome "The B***h Switch: Knowing How to Turn It On and Off."

Apparently, Manigault-Stallworth's switch is now off for good. Earlier this month, she began pursuing her doctor of ministry at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. According to the Dayton Daily News, she'll take classes in the Old and New testaments and the History of Christianity, and will be required to minister to the sick and dying at hospitals.

While Manigault-Stallworth's leap of faith may seem out of character, in the entertainment industry, it's not an odd jump to make. "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron and rapper Mase are among the stars who left their glamorous gigs to pursue a higher calling.

Jayson Blair

jayson blair

Another infamous bold-faced name trying to do good: Jayson Blair, the journalist who resigned from the New York Times in 2003 after it was revealed that he fabricated and plagiarized many of his stories, a scandal the Times dubbed "a low point in the 152-year history of the paper."

After leaving the Times and apologizing on national television, Blair found out he had bipolar disorder and began organizing support groups for those afflicted with the mental illness. That led him to his new calling, which he has practiced for two years but only revealed publicly this month: working as a certified life-coach for Dr. Michael Oberschneider, founder and director of Ashburn Psychological Services, located outside of of Washington, D.C. Blair, 33, believes his ordeal with the Times helps him counsel clients on everything from career-related issues to substance-abuse problems.

"They know I've been in their shoes," he told The Associated Press. "I think it can feel a little more authentic. ... I am open about all the details of my problems and that allows people to know who they are listening to."

Kal Penn

kal penn

Movie character Kumar has high lifted actor Kal Penn all the way to the White House. Penn, who shot to fame after starring in the 2004 stoner classic "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," recently headed out of the Hollywood Hills to join the Obama administration. Not that he wasn't wanted in Los Angeles: Writers for the Fox medical drama "House" made Penn's character commit suicide so the actor, 32, could go to the country's most prominent house of all.

Penn, who also took a break from acting last year to teach at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, explained in a conference call with reporters that public service has long been his passion, which he embraced while campaigning for Obama. In July, Penn began his role as associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, where he'll focus on reaching out to young Asian-Americans.

Penn's not necessarily done with acting. In April, he told reporters, "I certainly intend to come back [to Hollywood] at some point."

But asked whether his new job means no more "Harold and Kumar" movies, Penn laughed and replied, "That's probably true."

Joaquin Phoenix

joaquin phoenix

It's probably the most bizarre career move of the past year: Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix deciding to ditch acting and start rapping. In October, Phoenix's publicist confirmed he planned to leave the movie industry to pursue a future in rap. His first performance at a Las Vegas club in January earned him Internet infamy and widespread skepticism," which intensified when he appeared on David Letterman bearded, sunglass-clad and completely out of it.

In February, the 34-year-old "Walk the Line" star opened up about his hip-hop debut, telling USA Today, "I want it to be big. Not big like popular. I want it to really try and be, for me, the culmination of my life thus far. I realize it's going to be for public consumption, so there are songs that are about ? there are dance songs. Most of it, I think, is an internal exploration."

The next month, Phoenix made good on his plan to "be big," although probably not in the way he intended. After rapping a few verses on stage at a Miami Beach club, Phoenix leaped into the crowd to confront a heckler, screaming, "We have a f*****g b***h in the audience."

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