Kirstie Alley Had Another Career Before Finding Fame: 'I Didn't Have Any Money and I Was Starving'

The Cheers actress died from colon cancer on Monday at the age of 71, her rep confirmed to PEOPLE

Kirstie Alley
Kirstie Alley. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty

Before the late Kirstie Alley made it big as an actress, she had a lesser-known passion — interior design.

The Cheers star, who died on Monday at the age of 71, opened up about her first career as an interior designer during an appearance on the Rosie O'Donnell Show in 1996. During the interview, O'Donnell plays a clip from one of Kirstie's first television appearances, alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and Betty White on the show Match Game in 1979.

"I live in Wichita, Kansas," Alley says to the game show's host, Gene Rayburn, towards the end of the clip belown the clip. "I'm an interior designer and I'm out here working." Once the clip ends, Alley tells O'Donnell that she "thought she was going to get discovered" by appearing on the game show.

"I was really poor, I didn't have any money and I was starving — that was one reason I went on," she says. "But the other was, I thought Robert Redwood was going to be sitting there at home, eating breakfast or something and go — 'Woah! We need to put her in Sting 2. She is brilliant!'"

While interior design was her first real career, Alley's first job was as a housekeeper in Wichita when she was 16 years old. In a video for OWN, the actress returns to her hometown to share her cleaning tips in the exact same house she used to work in.

"I'm back here in Wichita, Kansas at the actual house where I had my first job as a housekeeper," she says. "Today, I'm going to keep some house for you and I'm going to show you the right way to do it."

A compilation of Alley scrubbing the toilet, vacuuming the carpets and wiping the windows then plays on screen.

During her series of cleaning tasks, the Emmy-award winning actress recalls how the owner of the home "taught me how to really clean the house well." She adds how "validated" she felt with her job at the time because it gave her the work ethic she would need later in life.

American actress Kirstie Alley attends the 1994 Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, 11th September 1994. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Kirstie Alley. Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

In a statement on Monday, Alley's children, True and Lillie Parker, revealed their mother had died due to cancer that was "only recently discovered." A rep for Alley confirmed to PEOPLE that the actress had been battling colon cancer prior to her death on Monday.

"She was surrounded by her closest family and fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead," her children said in their statement. "As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother."

They continued: "Our mother's zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did."

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