Four awesome people who conquered life with an Arts degree
Are you sick of being mocked by your fellow students for undertaking an arts degree? Do you crack the ol’ “I’ll see you at the drive-thru” joke whenever somebody talks about graduation and die a little inside? Well listen up because this article was made for you. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to round up some pretty inspiring people who conquered life with an arts degree – and not one of them spent time after graduation working at Maccas.
That’s right, comedian extraordinaire, my main man and generally awesome human being Conan O’Brien has an arts degree. Before he became the creator, writer and executive producer of the much-loved Late Night with Conan O’Brien, O’Brien studied history and literature at Harvard University (yes, the Harvard University) and graduated magna cum laude from a Bachelor of Arts with honours in 1985. His senior thesis focused on the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. His other writing credits include Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, but O’Brien credits his experiences at uni with fostering his passion for comedy.
“Comedy was something that I stumbled into when I was in college. Getting into comedy was a very beautiful accident, because I worked very hard at everything, and I tried really hard. It was like falling off a log and discovering what I was meant to do,” he said in a 2012 interview with CNN.
Though a controversial figure, Lena Dunham has worn many hats since her graduation from exclusive liberal arts school Oberlin College where she studied creative writing in 2008.
Perhaps best known as the creator and star of HBO comedy-drama Girls, Dunham has also published her own book, Not That Kind of Girl, co-founded the weekly online feminist newsletter Lenny Letter and co-founded A Casual Romance Productions, a production company dedicated to developing television and film projects. Not That Kind of Girl reached #2 on The New York Times Best Seller List and earned the young writer a whopping $3.5 million USD. A not-too-shabby list of accomplishments for someone who’s been out of uni for less than 10 years.
Former Star Wars star and multi-award winning actress Natalie Portman has a history of being, well, generally a badass. Portman’s acting credits include such smash-hit films as V for Vendetta, Black Swan and The Other Boleyn Girl. She is also well-known as an activist, championing animal rights and serving as Ambassador of Hope for FINCA International, an organisation that promotes micro-lending to help women-owned businesses in developing countries.
But in 1999, in what was called a risky move for the then-up-and-coming actress, Portman decided to put her career on hold and pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at Harvard University. Let’s just say she’s never once regretted her decision, and famously told Fox News “I don’t care if college ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.”
Here I was thinking I couldn’t love her any more. You go, Natalie!
Sacha Baron Cohen
It’s probably hard believe that the man behind the hilariously politically-incorrect characters Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, Bruno Gehard and Admiral General Aladeen was once described as being “Quiet, friendly and studious” during his time as a humble history student at Cambridge University. Sacha Baron Cohen actually graduated from Cambridge with upper-second-class honours in history, his thesis having focused on the role of the Jewish people in the U.S. civil rights movement – an interest that has carried over into the extreme nature of his characters.
When responding to criticism of his character Borat, Baron Cohen told Rolling Stone “Borat essentially works as a tool. By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice.” So basically Baron Cohen used Borat and his fellow personas as a tool to call out the bigots lurking among us, which is pretty damn impressive if you ask me. Rejoice history majors, now you have someone to point to the next time a nosy relative asks you to name someone with a history degree who doesn’t work in a museum.
Shannon Coward is a fourth year Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Queensland. She enjoys period dramas, doughnuts and a good nap.
Image: Reid Rolls