Although not all of these women’s foundations can be classified as equally modest, their present riches makes whatever past they originated from look especially raggedy. Not to mention, a permanent rise in social status. All 10 of these women have in common what is known as, hypergamy. No it’s not an incurable disease, exclusive to women, that causes extreme gold digging tendencies – although some might actually consider it up for debate. It’s a term defined as: upgrading the social status through marriage. These fairy-tale maidens began their lives in one socio-economic class, then quickly found themselves elevated to a new one, through the union of marriage. A few have even gone on to build empires of their own, thanks to the matrimonial association. Whether they deliberately went shovel in hand, digging for gold or not, gold is exactly what they struck when they exchanged “I do’s,” with these accomplished big names. This list explores 10 women from humble beginnings, who completely transformed their lives through marriage.
10. Amber Rose – $5 million
Amber Levonchuck, better known as Amber Rose was intially thrusted into the spotlight as a result of her two year relationship with famed rapper, Kanye West. Shortly after their rough break up, Amber was quickly swept off her feet by Cameron Jibril Thomaz, more famously known by his rapper name, Wiz Khalifa. The two were married in July of 2013, five months after welcoming their first baby boy. Amber Rose admits to supporting herself as a stripper once upon a time at the age of 15, and has even been quoted saying, “I was a south philly hoodrat my whole life.” It’s clear that her connection with Kanye West was most impactful in changing the course of her life. But she’s certainly secured her status thanks to her nuptials, and baby with Wiz Khalifa, who is worth a reported $14 million.
9. Grace Hightower – $16 million
Grace Hightower, wife of highly esteemed actor Robert De Niro, was a flight attendant when they first met in 1987. The two were married after ten years of courtship. Marital issues reportedly arose sometime in 1999. The issues led De Niro to file for divorce and sue for full custody of their one child together, but he eventually decided not to proceed. The couple reconciled and renewed their vows in 2004. They recently welcomed a baby girl via surrogate in 2011. De niro is worth an estimated $185 million, due in large part to his success as an actor, as well as his stake in production studio TriBeCa, and high end restaurant chain Nobu. With access to that kind of money, Grace hightower is definitely living the fairytale dream. A far cry from the lifestyle Hightower was once accustom to, on a flight attendant’s salary.
8. Anna Nicole Smith -$50 million
Vickie Lynn Hogan, more famously known as Anna Nicole Smith, dropped out of high school at the age of 15, and was married to her first husband by 18. In 1991, at 24, Anna was stripping at a nightclub called Gigi’s when she met, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, with whom she began an affair with while still married to her first husband. By 1993, the couple were divorced. The following year, Anna married 89 year old J. Howard Marshall, who was worth an estimated $1.6 billion by the time he died in 1995. A lengthy battle between Marshall’s children and Smith ensued over the oil tycoons estate, but Anna Nicole Smith passed away before a settlement could be reached.
7. Heather Mills – $50 million
Heather Mills comes from a very unstable past. At some point, after leaving both her mother’s and father’s home for different reasons, she found herself homeless in London. During her early 20’s, she had a string of love affairs with various wealthy men, eventually marrying one from 1989-1991. Two years after the end of her first marriage, Mills was in a freak accident with a police motorcycle that caused her to lose her left leg. In 1999, Mills met acclaimed musician, and former beatles member, Paul McCartney. The two were married by 2002, and had a daughter together the following year. By 2006 however, things began to turn south for the couple and McCartney filed for divorce against Mills; citing unreasonable behavior. Initially, Mills sought £125 million of McCartney’s estimated $820 million fortune, as settlement in their divorce but the judge only awarded her £40.8 million, plus an annual £35,000 for child support, in 2008.
6. Kimora Lee Simmons – $50 million
At the pristine age of 17, Kimora Lee Simmons had been modeling for three years, by the time she met fashion mogul and future husband, Russell Simmons. Worth a reported $340 million, Russel Simmons is the founder of the wildly successful Phat Farm, and co-founder of record label Def Jam. In 1999, he added baby clothing to Phat Farm, which eventually led to a line of its own called Baby Phat; appointing Kimora Lee as Creative Director and President. This opportunity was what Kimora Lee Simmons used to build what is now a multi-million dollar fashion empire of her own. The two split back in 2006 and Kimora remarried actor Djimon Hounsou in 2007. The marriage lasted 5 years before ending in 2012. Kimora is now on her third happily-ever-after, with investment banker Tim Leissner.
5. Ivana Trump – $66 million
Ivana Marie Zelnickova, a former olympic athlete, ski coach and model, met Donald Trump in New York while promoting the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The two were married the following year in high society extravagance. Donald trump, currently worth an estimated $3.5 billion, has made the bulk of his wealth through real estate development. The couple worked together on many real estate projects during the 80’s, where Ivana was frequently appointed CEO by her husband. In 1991, Ivana filed for divorce against Donald, after discovering an affair between he and actress Marla Maples. As a divorce settlement, Ivana received $20 million, the $14 million family estate in Connecticut, $5 million in housing allowance, $350,000 in annual alimony and 49% of Mar-A-Lago, the family home in Palm beach, that serves double as a private club for the palm beach elite.
4. Vanessa Bryant – $75 million
Vanessa Cornejo grew up in Pomona, California where she was raised by a single, hardworking mother. She met NBA superstar Kobe Bryant in 1999, while attending Marina High school. The two dated briefly and were married a short year later, just a month shy of Vanessa’s 19th birthday. After news of infidelity broke in 2011 and sexual assault charges were placed against Kobe, Vanessa filed for divorce, but later had a change of heart and divorce filings were dropped. Kobe gifted his wife with a $4 million dollar ring as apology. A prenuptial agreement was never issued, which entitles Vanessa to half of Kobe’s $150 million networth, should they ever split.
3. Elin Nordegren – $100 million
Elin Nordegren hails from Stockholm, Sweden, where she worked as a Nanny for Swedish pro golfer, Jesper Parnevik and his wife Mia. The job required her to relocate to America where she met Tiger Woods in 2001; one of the highest paid athletes in the world. Before meeting Tiger, Elin had plans to become a child psychiatrist. The two were married by 2004. Just five years and two kids later, scandal regarding the multiple affairs Tiger was having, made headlines. Elin filed for divorce in 2010 and received $100 million of Tiger’s estimated $500 million net worth in the divorce settlement.
2. Juanita Jordan – $170 million
Born in Southside, Chicago, Jaunita Vanoy was a 25-year-old secretary when she met a 21-year-old Michael Jordan, in 1984. The two dated for five years before officially tying the knot in 1989. Sometime in 1990, a post-nuptial agreement was signed. The marriage lasted for nearly two decades before the couple filed for divorce in 2006. As a part of the settlement, Juanita received the family compound valued at $168 million; approximately one third of Jordan’s estimated $650 million estate- instead of the half Juanita was entitled to receiving, according to the post-nuptial agreement.
1. Robyn Gibson – $425 million
Robyn Denise Moore was a dental nurse in Adelaide, Australia when she met fresh-faced actor Mel Gibson. The two were renting rooms in the same house in 1977, and were married by 1980. They remained happily married all the while Mel’s acting career skyrocketed and together they had seven children. After 26 long years of marriage, the two finally called it quits in 2009, and Robyn received half of Mel’s $850 million estate, in addition to being awarded half of any future film residuals earned by Mel.