It seems difficult for many of us to imagine that not all celebrities have always been as wealthy as they are today. Some celebrities weren’t surrounded by caviar, bottles of Dom Perignon and over-flowing cash, while growing up. In fact, a number of stars came from very humble beginnings and beat the odds to obtain fortune and fame. Below is a list of ten very well-known and very rich celebrities that actually came from a background close to poverty.
10. Sarah Jessica Parker
It’s hard to believe Sarah Jessica Parker, the woman who played columnist and fashionista, Carrie Bradshaw, on the hit television show Sex and the City for six seasons was ever poor. Parker grew up in Nelsonville, Ohio and told New York Times in 2000 about her childhood stating, ”We were on welfare. I remember being poor. There was no great way to hide it. We didn’t have electricity sometimes. We didn’t have Christmases sometimes, or we didn’t have birthdays sometimes, or the bill collectors came, or the phone company would call and say, ‘We’re shutting your phones off.’ And we were all old enough to either get the calls, or watch my mother’s reactions or watch my parents shuffling the money around.” Sarah was one of eight children and neither her mother, father or stepfather could support such a large family. The forty-nine year old actress is now worth $90 million.
9. Leonardo Dicaprio
These days, Leonardo Dicaprio lives a life full of yachts and private jets, but Dicaprio wasn’t always accustomed to his extravagant lifestyle. Before making it big in Hollywood, Leo was just a poor kid living in L.A. surrounded by drugs and prostitution. Dicaprio told Los Angeles Times in February 2014, that he grew up in a poor and rundown neighborhood in Los Angeles. Drugs and prostitution were so prevalent in his neighborhood, that it turned him off to do drugs at a very young age, because he saw addiction all around him. The thirty-nine year old actor is worth over $200 million and now lives nowhere near his old neighborhood.
8. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise was born in 1962 in Syracuse, New York. His father was an electrical engineer and his mother was a special education teacher. His father was also dominant and abusive, and the family was very poor. At a young age, Cruise became interested in theater and took part in plays at school. At age 11, his mother left his father and his father died of cancer later that year. At some points in his teenage years, Tom’s mother was working four jobs to support her four children. Tom dropped out of high school his senior year in order to pursue acting. In 1983, Tom appeared in the films The Outsiders, Risky Business and All the Right Moves. His role in Top Gun in 1986, fortified him as a Hollywood star. Tom Cruise is now worth an estimated $500 million.
7. Hilary Swank
Two time Oscar winner, Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer park in Washington. Swank’s father left the family when she was young, leaving her mother to be a single parent with two children. At age fifteen, Hilary dropped out of high school. Her mother lost her job around the same time and the family packed up their car and moved to California, so Hilary could pursue her dream of becoming an actress. They lived in their car and stayed at friends’ homes, until they could afford an apartment. Hilary landed several roles, but it wasn’t until 1999, when she got the lead in Boys Don’t Cry that her career took off. Although she only earned $75 a day for Boys Don’t Cry, which came out to be a total of $3000, Swank is now worth an estimated $40 million.
6. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey was born in Ontario, Canada and was the youngest of four children. Carrey grew up lower middle class, until his father lost his job when he was a teenager. The family fell on hard times, lost their home and ended up living in their van. Jim dropped out of high school at the age of fifteen in order to work full time to help support his family. He worked as a security guard and a janitor. Once his family became stable again, Carrey worked the comedy circuit, trying to become a stand up comic. He was eventually discovered by Rodney Dangerfield who helped Jim propel his stand up career. Although he was becoming a popular stand up comic, Carrey turned his attention to film and television. After landing a role on the television show, In Living Color, in 1990, Jim’s career took off. Now, with a net worth of $150 million, janitorial work and calling a van ‘home’ is only a distant memory for the fifty-two year old actor.
5. Demi Moore
Demi Moore was born Demetria Gene Guynes, in 1962, in Roswell, New Mexico. Demi’s biological father left her mother a few months before she was born. Her mother remarried when Demi was three months old. The family lived in trailer parks and her mother and stepfather were both alcoholics. Her parents had a violent and tumultuous relationship. Demi dropped out of high school and moved out of her parents house at the age of sixteen, in order to pursue a modeling career. At age seventeen, Moore enrolled in drama classes. Demi gained recognition for her roles in Blame It on Rio in 1984 and St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985. Her role in the 1986 film, About Last Night is what made Demi Moore into a Hollywood star. The fifty-one year old is now worth an estimated $150 million.
4. Shania Twain
Shania Twain was born Eileen Regina Edwards in 1965, in Windsor, Ontario. Her parents divorced when she was two and her mother took the children and moved to Timmins, Ontaraio. Shania’s mother remarried not long after. Her family was poor and many times there was not enough food to go around. Living in a very remote area, Shania learned how to hunt and chop wood. Her mother and stepfather had a very violent relationship and in 1979, her mother took the children to a homeless shelter in Toronto, while her stepfather was at work. The family returned to the stepfather in 1981. Shania turned to music and songwriting to deal with the issues with her family and living in poverty. At age 21, Shania’s mother and stepfather died in a car accident. Shania put off her dreams of becoming a singer to raise her younger siblings. Once they were old enough to take care of themselves, Shania headed to Nashville. Her self-titled album, ‘Shania Twain’ was released in 1993. The forty-eight year old country singer is now worth an estimated $350 million.
3. Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester’s character Blair Waldorf, a rich and spoiled girl on the show Gossip Girl in no way compares to her own upbringing. She was born in 1986 in Fort Worth, Texas. Leighton’s mother was serving a federal prison sentence at the time of her birth for drug smuggling. Meester’s mother nursed her for three months in a half way house and then returned back to prison to finish out her sentence. Leighton was then cared for her by her grandmother in Marco Island, Florida. Her mother was released from prison when Leighton was eleven. The two moved to New York and Meester began working as a model. At age 14, her and her mother moved to Los Angeles and in 2007, Leighton got her big break when she was cast as the role of Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl. Leighton Meester is now worth an estimated $5 million and has three films coming out this year.
2. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling born Joanne Rowling, found herself a single mother and living on welfare in the U.K. while writing her first manuscript. On her application for welfare benefits, Rowling wrote that she, “was poor as it’s possible to be without being homeless.” She wrote by hand in cafes with her baby by her side, because she was not able to afford a typewriter. Rowling recalls times that she would not eat, because she could only afford to feed her daughter in an interview with dailymail.co.uk. In 1995, her literary agent warned her stating, “You do realize. you will never make a fortune out of writing children’s books?” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published on June 26, 1997. J.K. Rowling is now worth $1 billion.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Before she was the Queen of Daytime, before she was an actress and before she launched her OWN cable network, Oprah Winfrey was a poor girl who grew up on a small pig farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Winfrey was born to unmarried teenage parents and was raised by her grandmother until age six, when she moved with her mother to Milwaukee, WI. Her mother was a maid, who worked very long hours and was not supportive, nor encouraging. At age 14, Oprah was sent to live with her father in Tennessee. He instilled a strong work ethic in her and was very strict, but encouraging with her education. As a child, Oprah was dressed in potato sacks and now, she only wears designer clothes. With a net worth of $2.9 billion, Oprah Winfrey is considered the richest African-American in the world.