Celebrities have lives that most of us only dream of. The clothes, the tabloids, the cars, the big houses and fans. They seem to have everything that money can buy, and so do their closest friends and family. There are tons of TV shows and news articles about famous people’s amazing mansions, cars, and their staggeringly high net worths. There is a kind of romance to their wealth, and their status that we love to read and gossip about. We tend to imagine our favorite celebs as always having been successful, wealthy, and the type of people we want to be. It can be hard to imagine the most successful of them ever being less than wealthy, perfect, and dressed in clothes most of us could never afford. But most of our favorite celebs didn’t start off wealthy or famous. A large portion of the big names in acting, music, and sports began their lives as regular people just like you and me.
Some of them started even lower.
Many celebrities grew up incredibly poor. There are celebrities that grew up in tiny houses with no heat, in the projects, or with no food. Some of them were even homeless. The drive to get themselves and their families out of the poor house and into the good life might be part of what got them where they are today. So how many of our favorite actors and actresses grew up on the streets or in the projects? Many more than you might believe!
15. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger is household name. Everyone knows who he is, and that he is worth millions. He’s been in tons of movies, shows, bodybuilding competitions, and was even a governor in the state of California. But it wasn’t always so. Arnold, who was born in Austria, came to the U.S. in search of a better life. He had nothing to his name when he got here. However, after a little luck and some money came his way through his bricklaying business, he managed to win some bodybuilding competitions and make himself quite the acting career. A classic story of rags to big riches.
14. Hilary Swank
When Academy Award winner Hilary Swank was 16 years old, she lived in a car with her mother in LA. Before that, she and her family lived in a trailer park for many years in Washington state, and just barely scraped by. The stunning and talented actress managed to get a lucky break, and started her incredibly successful career in 1994 with the movie The Next Karate Kid. This lucky lady isn’t just wealthy, she’s also engaged to be married to former tennis pro Ruben Torres as of March 2016. She’s come so far since she lived in a vehicle in LA!
13. Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester, famous for her role on Gossip Girl, was not always the doe-eyed starlet we know and love today. She was born during her mother’s stint in jail for drug smuggling charges. Her mom, Constance, was allowed to be remanded into the care of a halfway house while giving birth, where she and her newborn daughter lived for two months before she was brought back to jail. Leighton lived with her grandparents until her mother finished her sentence. They all moved to LA together were Meester started modeling and acting at about age 14. Things were finally looking up when she started landing TV gigs. Nowadays, Meester is worth about $5 million and looks like she has no plans of slowing down.
Now worth around $30 million, Jewel was once penniless and homeless. The singer-songwriter grew up in a small house in Alaska where her and her father had no indoor plumbing. After that, she also lived in a van for sometime, desperate to make ends meet while she tried to make her singing career work out. When her breakout hit “Who Will Save Your Soul” hit the charts in the 1990s, Jewel knew she had finally made it. Millions of albums later, the singer has a lovely home with her husband and her son. She’s even published an autobiography and a poetry book. Jewel is the very pinnacle of success in the face of adversity!
11. Celine Dion
Imagine having almost no money to your name and then also having fifteen children! Growing up, Celine Dion’s parents, both French-Canadian, had almost nothing to offer their 15 children except music. Times were tough, but the family stuck it out together. Dion’s incredible voice was discovered young; her first album was released when she was just 14 years old. Dion is now wealthy enough to care for all of her family members, and their families, and probably several more families to boot! After several award winning records and a regular gig in Las Vegas, Dion will never have to worry about money ever again.
The fact that the rapper Eminem grew up really poor should come as no surprise to anyone. The rapper’s movie Eight Mile is based on the incredible poverty he and his family experienced in Detroit. There he lived in a caravan with his single mother. Later on, he and his wife worked tirelessly to give his little girl a better life than he had. Lucky for him, his talent dragged him out of obscurity and into the limelight. The rapper is now rumored to be worth more than $100 million. Looks like Haley will never have a Christmas without presents again!
Oprah claims that one night she got so desperate and hungry that she rushed up to a rich woman getting out of a limo and begged for money, telling her she’d been abandoned. The woman in the limo, the soulful Aretha Franklin, took pity on the very tired and obviously homeless youth, and gave her $100 for a hotel and some food. Soon, Oprah would get a gig on a chat show in Baltimore. Gaining momentum, the talk show giant would eventually become one of the most influential women in the entire world. She’s now worth billions of dollars and shows no signs of slowing down.
8. J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter writer J.K. Rowling is now worth more than a billion dollars. As the Harry Potter franchise grows, this number will surely continue to rise. But things weren’t always rosy for the single mom living in England; she had next to nothing when she wrote the first novel that would catapult her to riches and fame. The British author’s book was even rejected several times before she finally got her big break. These days, Rowling is richer than the Queen of English and has more money than she will ever know what to do with. Living proof that you should never give up on your dreams!
7. Jim Carrey
Funny guy Jim Carrey is wealthy beyond many of our feeble imaginations. With many successful movies under his belt, the actor is likely swimming around in his personal pool full of cash right now. Hard to believe that he spent many of his teenage years living in a van with his parents. When his father, the family’s main income source, was laid off from his job, they literally lost everything, including their house. Carrey had to drop out of school to help out. He started doing stand up when he wasn’t working and finally broke into movies in 1985. Carrey is still acting and still successful; look for him in two brand new movies in 2016.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Growing up in Hollywood might sound romantic, but it really depends on what part of Hollywood we’re talking about. The dark parts are filled with unsavory characters and illegal activity. Just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s rumored he grew up in some of the most crime-ridden parts of town. Before he was filming enough to make ends meet, he was even homeless. Now Leo is a household name. DiCaprio has won about 80 awards for a variety of roles including his first Oscar in 2016. He has been nominated for awards nearly 200 times. It should come as no surprise that the actor is worth more than $200 million.
5. Puff Daddy
Sean “Puffy” Combs, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy … we know him by many names and just as many roles. He’s a rapper, a producer, and an entrepreneur. It’s hard to believe it, but one of the most famous rappers in the world was once living in the projects in Harlem. His mother was a struggling model and his father was murdered when he was about five years old. However, he and his mom later moved to Mount Vernon where they finally had enough money to send him not only to a private Catholic School, but also to college. But for several of Combs’ formative years, he and his mother were incredibly poor. Rumor has it, Combs is worth about $500 million now after several platinum albums, his own clothing line, and producing a variety of other rappers in his production company, Bad Boy Entertainment.
4. Kelly Clarkson
Once upon a time, a talented but penniless singer named Kelly Clarkson moved from her home in Texas to Los Angeles to try to make it as a professional singer. The apartment she rented there burnt to the ground, leaving her with no money and nowhere to live. So, the singer lived out her car instead, signing up for a little show called American Idol. The talented but penniless singer was blessed with some lucky breaks and ended up winning the singing contest. She’s now worth $25 million dollars, has a happy little family, many award winning records, and she lived happily ever after!
3. Selma Blair
At 21 years old, Selma Blair was penniless and homeless. She lived in a homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army in New York. Lucky for Selma, she managed to get a small break into acting in 1995, getting a gig for one episode of the Nickelodeon Show The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Soon, she was making enough money acting to get out of the shelter and into her own place. She hit it big when she got a role in Cruel Intentions and has never looked back. The talented and versatile actress now has a cool $2 million in the bank.
2. Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan, actress and producer best known for her roles in Nip Tuck and Charmed, claims she was once homeless. For about a year, she lived on the streets, roaming around in the northwestern United States with another teenage girl. This was after her family put her in rehab for drugs she claims to never have used. Lucky for us, she gave up her nomad status to start acting; she’s picked up some very strange roles for a few very strange and wonderful movies (like Grindhouse). This talented lady is rumored to be worth nearly $20 million and will likely never be homeless again.
1. Jennifer Lopez
After a fight with her mother (who wanted her to go to college while she wanted to be a professional dancer), J-Lo split. Determined to make her dreams a reality, Lopez left without much money or a place to crash. So, she was homeless for a while, living on the couch in a dance studio. Lucky for her, she wasn’t homeless for long; she got her first dance gig in Europe and was soon on In Living Color. Her career boomed after that, and the actress, dancer, and singer is now a household name. Bet her mother is glad now that she decided to follow her dreams!