New research has revealed the secret education behind some of today’s biggest stars, showing there may be more to certain celebrities than meets the eye.


With awards over for another year adult education charity, City Lit, has researched the topics and qualifications the big winners studied before they were famous, to showcase how education can help prepare you for life on the big stage.



Hip hop, pop and R&B star Lizzo, who recently took home a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance, studied Classical Music at the University of Houston, where she also developed her craft as a flute player.



Similarly, Nora Lum, the actress also known as Awkwafina, who scooped a Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Motion Picture in Music and Comedy, majored in Journalism and Women’s Studies at the University of Albany in New York, before turning her attention to acting and comedy.


Roger Deakins

Experienced and acclaimed cinematographer, Roger Deakins, the winner of the Critics’ Choice Award for his work on the film 1917, was originally on a different path altogether. After studying to be a Graphic Designer at the Bath Academy of Art, Roger’s persistence and dedication to photography on the side eventually saw him admitted to the National Film School and his career took off from there.


Boon Joon Ho

It’s a similar story when looking at the reigning Critics’ Choice Best Directors. Parasite director, Boon Joon Ho, who shared the award with 1917’s director Sam Mendes. He has a degree in Sociology from the University of Yonsei in South Korea, whilst Mendes achieved a first-class degree in English from the University of Cambridge.


Renée Zellweger

Renée Zellweger, who scooped the Oscar for Best Leading Actress for her starring role in Judy, boasts an English degree from the University of Texas, again flying the flag for those in the showbiz industry who were very accomplished before becoming a global star. 

While some of these international stars benefitted from seeing out their education to the end, some of this year’s big players made a huge success of themselves through more unorthodox routes.


Billie Eilish

Pop artist, Billie Eilish, is a prime example. The young American musician is currently dominating the music industry and was recently crowned Best International Female Artist at the Brits without pursuing any further education. In fact, the global superstar was largely home-schooled in her youth and was taught the basics of song writing by her mother from a young age.

Chris Jones, Director of Sales and Marketing at City Lit, said: “From seeing the broad spectrum of educational journeys some of the very best in film and music went on before realising their fame, it is clear that the skills and knowledge you learn through school, college and university can help you to achieve huge success.

“At City Lit, we pride ourselves on the huge range of courses we offer, with more traditional subjects available alongside a variety of subjects and skills to suit anyone’s interests and desires to learn.”

City Lit also has its own share of famous faces gracing its corridors, with David Bowie, actors Steven Berkoff and Richard Wilson, authors Jake Arnott and Jenny Colgan, comedian Jimmy Carr and Britain’s first female Muslim comic, Shazia Mirza, all attending the college.



Award Win

Further Education Pursued


Golden Globe - Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture [Musical and Comedy]

Journalism and Women's Studies/Mandarin - University at Albany, SUNY

Bong Joon Ho

Oscar - Best Director

Studied Sociology at Yonsei University, Seoul


Brit Award - Album of the year for ‘Psychodrama’

Studied Law, Philosophy and Ethics at Richmond Upon Thames College


Grammy - Best Pop Solo Performance [Truth Hurts]

Studied classical music focusing on flute at the University of Houston.

Renee Zellweger

Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice, Bafta, Oscar - Actress in a leading role

BA (Hons) in English Literature at UT Austin

Hildur Gudnadottir

Golden Globe - Best Original Score - Motion Picture [Joker]

Composition and New Media, Iceland Academy of Arts, Berlin University of Arts

Greta Gerwig

Critic’s Choice Award - Best Adapted Screenplay [Little Women]

Graduated from Barnard College with a degree in English and Philosophy

Roger Deakins

Critic’s Choice Award – Best Cinematography [1917]

Deakins applied to the newly-opened National Film School, but was denied admission as his photography was considered not "filmic" enough. He spent the following year wandering the countryside, photographing rural life in North Devon, before finally being admitted to the National Film School in 1972.