Ellen Pompeo left her home in Massachusetts after high school and a short time at college and headed for Miami, working there tending bar. In an interview with Playboy (via E! News), she shared, “I wouldn’t say I was a good drink maker, but I was a very good hustler.” Pompeo said she would make customers wait for their drinks until they put enough money down on the bar. If customers “put money down on the bar and it wasn’t enough,” she said, “I’d go wait on someone else who was giving me enough money.” She revealed she’d sometimes make guests wait for their drinks until she saw $20.
Soon enough, she moved to New York City, where opportunity and talent fortuitously collided. While working as a bartender at the Soho Kitchen in New York in 1995, according to the Los Angeles Times, a casting director spoke to her about being in commercials. She called the casting director the next day and was sent to audition for three commercials, getting each and every one, including L’Oreal. The L’Oreal ad, said Pompeo, “was actually really cute,” noting, “They dyed my hair red.” She added, “And then I booked like 20 more commercials after that because I had this great red hair.”