The homeless population in America is one of the fastest growing communities in our country, and should undoubtedly be one of our top priorities. Yet, regardless of our problems, we still live in one of the best countries in the world, where no matter what social class you are currently in, you have the opportunity to pull yourself up by your boot straps, and turn even the darkest situations into a life of prosperity and fortune.
And that is exactly what this list of millionaires did with their once unfortunate lives. Persevered. Take a look into the world of people who turned nothing into something, and let this be some motivation for those of you who are currently struggling, or are in need of some inspiration. Have faith, because as this article will prove, those rags to riches dreams really are attainable.
15. Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez comes from the hardened streets of the Bronx, one of the toughest burrows in the city of New York. It is a place designed to create a crab in a barrel mentality and produces individuals that are systematically encouraged to think that they are not capable to become all that they can be. It sounds a little dramatic but if you do some research or just talk to anyone that stems from tough neighborhoods, we’re pretty sure they’d agree. Anyways, while Jennifer was trying to become a dancer during her teenage years, she and her mother had a falling out and Jennifer ended up sleeping on a couch at the dance studio. We’re pretty sure that her mother doesn’t regret Jennifer chasing her dreams. These days, Jen is worth an estimated $322 million and climbing.
14. Kelly Clarkson
From Kelly Clarkson’s background, it appears as if the singer always knew that her time to shine was coming. Clarkson actually got a full ride scholarship from multiple colleges due to her pipes, in which she declined all of them knowing that her original content and songs had the potential to take her to the top. So she ended up leaving her home state of Texas, and packed up her entire life and moved to Los Angeles, where she was able to afford her own apartment. Well, that was until her apartment and all of her possessions burned up in a freak accident. Not knowing anyone in the Los Angeles area forced Clarkson into living out of her car, prior to her American Idol fame. She lived on the streets shortly until she got an opportunity of a lifetime. Kelly is one of the greatest and most successful American Idol contestants ever to take the stage, and that fire gave her strength to overcome anything.
13. Lil’ Kim
The pocket-sized Brooklyn MC is known as one of the most respected female rappers of all time. She opened a lane for all women to be able to express themselves however they choose within the hip-hop community. But before she became the legend she is today, she was forced to live through multiple stints of homelessness. At only 9 years old, her and her mother fled the home of her abusive father and the two lived out of the trunk of her mother’s car. Later, Kim rekindled her relationship with her father but it wasn’t long before she ended up back on the streets as a teen due to her and her father’s crumbling relationship. From there, Kim couch surfed, bouncing from friend’s house to friend’s house until the day she met a young man by the name of Biggie Smalls, who encouraged her to take the rap game prisoner.
12. Hilary Swank
The Million Dollar Baby once didn’t have a dime to her name. After Hilary’s parents split during her teens, she pleaded to her mother to move to Los Angeles so that she could pursue her acting dreams. They eventually moved from Washington state to the land of opportunity in southern California, where they had nowhere to call home except for Hilary’s mother’s ’88 Oldsmobile. After living on the streets for a short while, Hilary and her mother got some help from a friend who allowed the two to stay in a vacant home they were preparing to sell. They slept on air mattresses and used nearby pay phones for making audition calls and contacting various agencies for casting calls. Eventually, Hilary landed a gig here and there, and the two got on their feet. These days Hilary is one of the most renowned actresses on the planet and has two Academy Awards. Talk about grinding for your dreams.
11. Jim Carrey
It’s kind of hard to believe that one of the funniest men alive was at one time homeless. For those of you who didn’t know, Jim was born in Ontario, Canada, and lived the average lifestyle of a Canadian by leaving his door unlocked and actually being a decent human being to those around him. Unfortunately, Jim’s father had lost his job and his family’s financial status left the entire family living out of their van. Later, Jim’s mother fell ill and he was forced to drop out of school and work in a local factory in order to provide as much income as possible for his loved ones. Even though he came from such troubling beginnings, he was able to do his comedy to rise to prominence on In Living Color. These days, Jim is one of the most inspirational and well respected actors of our generation. Jim might have used his butt cheeks to call upon the animal kingdom, but we definitely wouldn’t hesitate to ask him for guidance.
10. Carmen Electra
It’s extremely puzzling to us that someone as hot and spicy as Carmen Electra, was once homeless, but please believe it, she really was. Back in the great year of 1991, Carmen moved to California to pursue her big time dreams and ended up meeting the late, great Prince, as he was instantaneously captivated by her. She ended up getting a record deal with his Paisley Park Records and Prince even gave her a gig dancing at his Glam Slam club. Later, her stint rolling with the Purple One came to an end and she ended up dating this douchebag that took everything she owned, including her assets and majority of her possessions as he bailed out of town, never to be seen again. She was homeless in Hollywood with nothing but a pair of Versace high heels, a pocket knife, and a pager. She was later discovered in an edition of Playboy magazine and was given the opportunity to act on the famous Baywatch.
9. Ed Sheeran
You can’t help but get your groove on when you hear the voice of none other than Ed Sheeran. But many do not know that at one point in time, not everything was so peachy for the singer/songwriter. At the tender of age of 16, Sheeran dropped out of high school and moved to London in order to study and take music courses. After he completed his music courses, his grants were terminated and he was unable to pay his rent, forcing him to live on the streets of London. From 2008 to 2010, Ed would sleep on Circle Line trains and play gigs in the early hours of the morning to avoid having to search for a place to sleep. He even slept under an arch outside of the Buckingham Palace near a heating duct. Ed later revealed this to a crowd of thousands while he was performing at the Palace. If that isn’t overcoming adversity, we don’t know what is.
8. Jewel Kilcher
This might be the most disgusting reason for homelessness to the list, but we’ll let it speak for itself. Anyways, this blonde bombshell, Jewel Kilcher, has cranked out a plethora of chart topping hits, scooped up four Grammys, and has sold close to 30 million albums and she deserves it. Why you might ask? Not only because of her talent, but because of the journey that led her to pursue her real dreams. While working for a certain jerk boss of hers, she was forced into homelessness. Instead of us explaining her predicament, we’ll let Jewel do the talking: “I ended up homeless because my boss propositioned me and when I wouldn’t sleep with him he didn’t give me my paycheck. I got kicked out of where I was living and my rent was due that next day. I thought ‘Well, I’ll live in my car for a minute … get back on my feet,’ but I had bad kidneys and I never could hold down another job because I got sick so often. I didn’t have insurance and ended up almost dying in the parking lot of an emergency room because they wouldn’t admit me because I didn’t have insurance.” We almost lost a great artist because of some punk employer. Utterly disgusting.
7. Drew Carey
Drew Carey is living every comedian’s dream. He’s able to tour the country making people laugh from city to city, he earned his own sitcom, the self-titled Drew Carey Show, and now he’s filling the shoes of the great Bob Barker on The Price is Right. But prior to the glitz and the glamor, he probably wouldn’t have been able to guess the price of a bottle of Clorox bleach, or even afford a bottle of it. After dropping out of Kent University for poor academic performance and being discharged from the military after six years of service, Carey was attempting to travel to Los Angeles, but ended up homeless in Las Vegas where he was forced to sell his blood for low sums of money, panhandle, and search the streets for change in order to get a decent meal. These days he’s made his dreams come true, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the heartache and struggle he had to face during his journey.
6. Halle Berry
We’re not sure what’s up with some of the most beautiful women in entertainment being homeless, but it seems to have become an ongoing trend here. With that being said, Halle Berry is up next. After Halle’s parents divorced when she was only four years old, she continued to live the life of the overachieving kid. From cheerleader to honor student to prom queen, Halle was the epitome of the perfect Cleveland high school girl, until she moved to the big city of New York to pursue her dream of becoming a model. After realizing that she didn’t want to be a model, but an actress instead, Halle hit some hard times and ended up sleeping in a YWCA homeless shelter. She was later picked up by ABC’s Living Dolls, which allowed her to get back on her feet.
5. Sylvester Stallone
This might be the greatest rags to riches story on our list. We all know the names, Rocky and Rambo, and who else but Sylvester Stallone could play those bada** dudes? Even real-life pre-fame Stallone would not take no for an answer. He refused to take a regular job and ended up on the streets of New York City. He slept at a bus station for numerous weeks and frequented a local library where he would study film and eventually write the entire script of Rocky. With money at a bare minimum, he was forced to star in a skin flick entitled, The Party at Kitty and Stud’s, in which he was paid only $200. He even sold his dog for $50 in front of a liquor store. He met with many studios and tastemakers until he was offered the lead role in his film, Rocky, for just $25,000.
4. William Shatner
Yep, it’s true, Captain Kirk was once a part of the homeless community, but there’s a twist to his hobo tale. William Shatner actually became homeless after gaining the fame and the fortune. Shatner worked as the main lead on Star Trek from 1966 to 1969, and became one of the biggest stars on network television. Unfortunately, after the show was cancelled for the first time, Shatner was unable to find steady work and he was forced to live out of the back of his truck in San Fernando Valley, after divorcing his wife and losing his home. Fortunately for him, a little series by the name of Star Trek took off and Shatner was called back to the studio to lead the USS Enterprise as Captain Kirk, which eventually solidified his spot in Hollywood. It’s one of the most amazing Hollywood comeback stories of all time.
3. Dr. Phil McGraw
Even though, we’re not sure if Dr. Phil is an actual doctor or not, he’s been able to carve out his own lane in daytime television and actually do some worthwhile philanthropic work with his platform. But what many people don’t know is that at one point in time, he didn’t exactly have a place to call home. At the awkward age of just 15, Phil and his father had to leave behind his three younger sisters and mother due to lack of income and resources. The two ended up sleeping in the family vehicle until they were able to find a local YMCA that rented out rooms for $5 a week. Dr. Phil went on to study psychology in order to become a therapist, but later realized that his troubled past made him insensitive to the troubles of others. He was later discovered by Oprah; she took him under her wing and gave him an opportunity that has now made him an international sensation.
2. Steve Jobs
The man that revolutionized the tech world and connected people all over the world once was homeless. In search of a Buddhist guru while in India, Steve Jobs ended up homeless while on his quest to find enlightenment. He actually mentioned his downfalls during his commencement speech in 2005 at Stanford University. This is what he had to say to the wide-eyed graduates: “I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.” To be honest, Steve Jobs’ homelessness stint seems intentional but it brought him the peace of mind that was required for him to change the world.
1. Djimon Hounsou
To close out our list of rags to riches stories, we have none other than Djimon Hounsou, who just might have the most unique and hardest come-up of all the entries listed. First of all, Djimon’s story doesn’t take place in the United States. He was born in the West African nation of Bénin, and at the tender of 13, he and his brother left his home country in search of a better life where they ended up in Lyon, France. Soon Djimon dropped out of school in France, and he and his brother had to live on the streets of the foreign land, doing whatever they could to attain warm clothes and food for the harsh weather and climate. He later got the opportunity to become a model in Paris and even got roles in music videos from the likes of Madonna and Janet Jackson. After becoming a recognizable face in the United States, Djimon pursued an acting career, and let’s just say things didn’t turn out half bad for him. He’s now an Award-winning actor and has worked with acting greats like Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. Let this be a message to those of you struggling day to day, that nothing is impossible. And if you just so happen to be dirt poor and reading this at this very moment… Never. Give. Up.