Jared Leto only saw two career paths for himself: being an artist or a drug dealer. In a 2013 interview with The Big Issue, Leto described his realization when he was 16. “[T]here was a moment, involving a gun and some cocaine, that may have been a turning point for me. I knew it wasn’t good,” he wrote. He was doing much more than drugs back then.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2016, Leto noted he was arrested more than once, and admitted to engaging in petty theft, though he was never caught for it. “[T]here were some undercover cops at one store, and they came out running after us. My friend ran out of steam and kind of slowed down. They grabbed him and threw him to the ground, and I just kept running,” He stated.
Leto was forced to make a decision. After dropping out of high school, Leto returned to highschool and decided that he wanted to pursue a career working in the arts. Acting was not what he had in mind, though — he wanted to be a painter. Rolling Stone reports that he entered New York City’s School of Visual Arts to study painting and photography. Leto could have ended up in a completely different place if not for his creativity. “Without that option I’m not so sure I would have had a path out of my own challenges,” According to The Big Issue, that’s what he said.