Sometimes being born and raised on the wrong side of the tracks dictates your future and path of misfortune. In other cases, growing up in broken homes builds character and motivates individuals to stray from the tracks and pave their road to fame.
Although it is sometimes hard to imagine, there are many A-list celebrities who were not born into fame, money and fortune a-la Kim Kardashian. Many celebrities worked day and night, tooth and nail to get where they are today and deserve every ounce of fame they have acquired, which is more than we can say about the lovely, well-known, silicone and overblown Kardashian sisters.
In the following ten cases, we see how hardship, poverty, violence and abuse were all mere stepping stones used as motivation to become something more; more than another poverty statistic, more than a broken soul with nowhere to go and definitely more than the spitting image of their parents. Driven to become successful regardless of their upbringing, these ten incredibly talented people dared shine bright and make themselves known, and believe me, no pity party will ever be thrown for these individuals who defied all odds and achieved milestone after milestone. Although Drake claims to have “started from the bottom,” these celebrities truly built their lives from the ground-up. Let’s take a look at these fabulous individuals who most definitely paved their very own yellow brick road and found Oz- or at least, the Hollywood sign.
10. Charlize Theron
Born in South Africa in 1975, Charlize‘s childhood was anything but sunny. Her father struggled from alcoholism and would frequently abuse her mother. One weekend when Charlize was home from ballet boarding school, the argument and physical abuse came to a tipping point and Charlize’s mother shot and killed her husband. The incident was deemed an act of self-defense and Charlize’s mother pushed her daughter to enter modeling contests to clear her head after the tragic event.
After a year of living in Italy and working as a professional model, Charlize moved to New York to pursue her true passion, ballet. Her dreams came to an unexpected halt when knee injuries forced her to stop dancing. Down on her luck, Charlize began stealing food from restaurants and living in a run down motel.
While going to cash in a much needed cheque from her mother, the lady at the counter refused the transaction and struggling Charlize blew her top. Luckily for Charlize, talent manager John Crosby witness the entire outburst and quickly offered to become her manager… and the rest, they say… is history…
Who said throwing a fit would never get you anywhere?
9. Jim Carrey
Always able to put a smile on your face, acclaimed comedian Jim Carrey‘s childhood is nothing to laugh about. James Eugene Carrey was born on January 17, 1962, in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. At age 12, Jim’s parents had become unemployed and were unable to provide for their three children. Accepting a job offer in a factory that wished to hire the entire family, the Carrey family moved into a tiny building close to the factory. However, this living arrangement was short lived. Crumbling under the pressures of their situation, the Carrey family decided to leave the factory and thus became homeless. Living in a van, 16-year-old Jim began performing comedy acts at a local comedy club in order to generate some income and provide for his family.
8. Leighton Meester
This Gossip Girl’s childhood is full of stories worth gossiping about. Her mother Connie gave birth to Leighton in a prison hospital where she had been serving time for helping smuggle 1,200 pounds of marijuana from Jamaica to the states. Leighton’s father, Doug and sister Judy were also arrested and thrown in prison for their contributions to the marijuana smuggling ring.
After they were arrested and put in prison, Judy escaped and became the first female to be on the United States Marshal’s 15 Most Wanted List – quite the accomplishment, I have to say. However the real black sheep of the family, Leighton, was reunited with her mother as a toddler and they both lived in Florida until Leighton moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.
7. Dylan McDermott
Born in Connecticut, by the name of Mark Anthony McDermott on October 26, 1961, Dylan McDermott was brought into the world by his 15-year-old mother and her gangster boyfriend, John Sponza. Heavily addicted to heroin, John was not much of a father figure, nor was he Mark’s biological father. When Mark was only 5 years old, he heard an argument erupt in the home followed by a gunshot while playing outside. John had shot and killed Mark’s mother, leaving Mark, 5, and sister Robin, 6 months, orphaned. The tragic event was deemed an accidental shooting, although John claimed that she had shot herself. Found dead in a car trunk in 1972, John Sponza was doomed to the same fate as his former girlfriend.
Burdened by unanswered questions, Mark (or Dylan) requested that the cold case be reopened in 2011 and that further investigations take place. In 2012, the late John Sponza was convicted of the murder, 50 years after the event took place.
6. Ashley Judd
Living in the shadow of her older sister Wynona, who performed with their mother as the country duo “The Judds,” Ashley was left feeling neglected throughout her childhood. Growing up in a famous household, Ashley was exposed to her mother’s many lovers, with whom she would fight constantly. She once even put a gun to a lover’s head.
Young, impressionable and with nowhere to turn, Ashley became depressed and suicidal. Ashley’s mother Naomi became dependent on alcohol and drugs and failed to provide a safe environment for her children. Naomi allowed her lovers to move in with her, and one that was living in the Judd family home was a heroin addict with a criminal record, which left Ashley terrified. With multiple men coming in and out of the house, Ashley was surrounded by strange men who took advantage of her sexually.
5. 50 Cent
Born in Queens, New York, Curtis James Jackson III was born to 15-year-old Sabrina Jackson. Living in the neighborhood of Jamaica where his mother would sell cocaine, Curtis was exposed to gangs and street violence from a young age. Sabrina quickly became one of the most feared drug dealers in Queens and was murdered when Curtis was only 8 years old.
Curtis was then raised by his grandparents. As a child, Curtis had big dreams of becoming a professional boxer. However, these dreams melted away once he hit adolescence. By age 12, he quickly followed his mother’s footsteps and began selling crack cocaine. At 15 years old, Curtis bought his first gun and by 19 was spending most of his time in and out of jail. Sitting in a car one day outside of his grandmother’s house, Curtis was shot 9 times in a drive-by attack, causing him to be hospitalized for nearly 2 weeks.
4. Nicki Minaj
Born in Trinidad in 1982, Onika Maraj was raised by her grandmother while her parents moved to America in hopes of a better life. Onika was reunited with her parents at age 5 when she moved to Queens New York.
Not long after moving to the United States, Onika’s father developed a terrible addiction to crack cocaine. Her memories of her father from this time are ones of terror:
“All of my young and teenage years we lived in fear that my mother would be killed by my father. It was ridiculous. My father was violent- physically and verbally.”
One night while Onika and her brother were at a friend’s house, her father set fire to the house. “He did burn the house down. It wasn’t an attempt, he did! My mother was in the house and she had to run out at the last minute.”
3. Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson was born on July 23, 1961 in Texas to a religious Presbyterian mother and a father who was, well, not as religious. Charles Harrelson, Woody’s father, worked as a professional killer. I mean, if you’re going to kill people, might as well do it professionally…right?
Walking out on his wife and three children in 1968, Charles was hired to murdered two people that year and got away with both murders. Maybe this is what made him a professional?
Eventually, justice was served and Charles was jailed for the murder of grain dealer Sam Deglia Jr. in 1973. Sentenced to 15 years, Charles was released after only 5 for good behavior (I guess he didn’t kill anyone in jail). He was then sentenced to 2 life sentences in 1981 for the murder of the first American judge to be assassinated in the 20th century- district judge John H Wood. There have also been claims that Charles was the one to have assassinated John F. Kennedy.
“I’d like to welcome y’all to the Eminem Show”
Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born on October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri. Abandoned by his father as an infant, his mother Deborah moved frequently trying to find stable work. Re-housed by the public housing system between Missouri, Michigan and Detroit, Marshall would have to change schools 2-3 times a year and was frequently bullied. Never able to make close friends and constantly treated as an outcast, Marshall was beat up in the bathrooms and hallways daily.
Eminem has never tried to conceal his opinion about his mother and her caregiving skills, or lack thereof, rapping about her prescription drug abuse and possible suffering from Münchausen’s Syndrome; which led her to harm her children in order to gain attention.
Witnessin’ your momma poppin’ prescription pills in the kitchen
Bitchin’ that someone’s always goin’ through her purse and shit’s missin’
Goin’ through public housing systems, victim of Münchausen’s Syndrome
My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t
’til I grew up, now I blew up”
Oprah Winfrey was born to teenage parents in poverty-stricken 1950s Mississippi. Oprah’s parents split at a very young age and she was raised by her grandmother. At age 6, her grandmother fell terribly ill and she was sent to live with her mother in Milwaukee. Between ages 6 and 9 Oprah moved thrice before settling in Milwaukee with her mother.
It was at age 9 that Oprah was raped for the first time from a male family member who was supposed to be her babysitter. The rape continued for years by different male family members and Oprah never told a soul. Not knowing how to cope with these traumatic experiences, Oprah reverted to drugs, sex and alcohol in her early teens. Unable to put up with her radical behavior, she was sent to live with her father in Nashville. It was not before age 14 that Oprah discovered she was pregnant. Delivering her baby 2 months premature, Oprah’s little boy died within two weeks.
Oprah read Maya Angelou‘s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at age 16 and turned her life around. Focusing on school, books and journalism, Oprah got great grades and worked her way up to the top, and I mean the very top!