Your kids are your kids – be they biological or adopted. Whether they are genetically part of you or not, your kids are your kids and will remain so till kingdom come. We now know of so many celebrities who have adopted children – think Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman, and many other.
But did you know that many celebs themselves have been adoptive children? While some were adopted by grandparents or family friends, many were actually adopted at birth and knew their biological parents only once they grew up. Perhaps these celebrities became who they were because of their adoption and the support they received from their adoptive families.
Blood may be thicker than water, but sometimes it does fail too. This is when people with big hearts and open minds step in to become foster and adoptive families, making the world a better place, bit by bit. So here are 15 celebrities you may not have known had been adopted, and who made a mark on this world by being who they were. We’d like to think that being adopted was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to them – and it gave them the happy childhood every kid so rightfully deserved. For being loved is every kid’s birthright and it what makes them secure and loving individuals later – experts called it learned behavior – being adopted simply equals being loved!
15. Michael Bay: Adopted At Birth But Considers Spielberg & Bruckheimer To Be His Mentors
Michael was adopted when he was a small baby by Harriet, a bookstore owner and child psychiatrist, and Jim, a Certified Public Accountant. His parents later also adopted a baby girl. Michael Bay managed to trace his biological mother and while things indicated that his birth father may be the director John Frankenheimer, Frankenheimer denies this and Bay does not insist on it; and tests proved otherwise too. So while Bay does not know his biological father, in his career Bay has two “dads” who share his creative DNA: Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg, and he has repaid their support rather handsomely too with many a hit that the audience loves to see.
14. Bill Clinton: Adopted By His Step-Father Who Did Him No Favours
The 42nd President of the United States was kind of adopted too. Born William Jefferson Blythe III in Hope, Arkansas, in 1946 – Bill’s mother became widowed before his birth when his traveling salesman father died in an accident three months before his birth. His mom then moved to New Orleans to study nursing to better support herself and left her baby boy with his grandparents, her parents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy who raised him till he was four. His mother returned four years later and then married Roger Clinton, Sr., and they moved to Hot Springs in 1950.
While the Clinton surname was used for Bill almost immediately after the marriage, it was not till he turned fifteen that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward his stepfather. Not that his stepfather was a saint, he was an alcoholic and a gambler who often abused Bill’s mother and his half-brother Roger. But perhaps his struggles led him to become a public service officer and ultimately a rather famous USA President.
13. Nicole Richie: Lionel Richie’s Adopted & Pampered Daughter
Most people know of Nicole Richie as Paris Hilton’s sidekick, and like her friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend, she too has had to clean up her act multiple times – struggling with substance abuse and DUIs. Her thinness too has been in the limelight, though the media was reportedly informed later that she was hypoglycemic but not anorexic or bulimic.
Biologically, she was born to Peter Michael Escovedo and Karen Moss but her parents gave her up when she was three into the care of their friend Lionel Richie (Peter often played percussion for Lionel) since they were unable to support her financially. While Lionel was first her guardian, he and his then-wife Brenda Harvey legally adopted her when she was nine. Just when the adoption got formalized, Lionel’s affair with Diane Alexander became public knowledge. As a result, Nicole was spoiled silly, and in an interview, Nicole later stated, “Their way of making me happy was to say, ‘yes,’ to everything I wanted, but I don’t think a little girl should have that much freedom.”
12. Jamie Foxx: Adopted And Raised By His Maternal Grandparents
Jamie Foxx was born Eric Marlon Bishop was born in Terrell, Texas on December 13, 1967, to Darrell Bishop, a stockbroker, and Louise Annette Talley Dixon. Rather shortly after his birth, his parents’ marriage broke down and so Foxx was adopted and raised by his mother’s parents. Frankly, Jamie’s mother was adopted too, so basically her adoptive parents, Esther Marie (Nelson), a domestic worker and nursery operator, and Mark Talley, a yard worker.
As a child, he barely had contact with his birth parents and it was his adoptive mother, or rather grandmother, whom he gives credit for the success he has had in life. He is trying to bridge the gap between him and his estranged parents though – and has had a measure of success with his birth mother Louise, especially since he has moved her into his own home. He does hold a bit of a grudge against his father who never came to visit but says he is still open to trying.
11. Kristin Chenoweth: Adopted At Five Days, Blessed Because Of It
Kristin Chenoweth is all of 4’11 and for those of you who are not Broadway fans, she played Annabeth Schott on The West Wing and is also the voice of the garden fairy Rosetta (Tinker Bell) and of the poisonous frog Gaby in Rio 2. Chenoweth was adopted when she was all of five days old by Junie Smith Chenoweth and Jerry Morris Chenoweth, both mechanical engineers from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa and was named Kristin Dawn Chenoweth.
Her satisfaction with her life is evident when she wrote in a Huffington Post essay, “I can honestly say being adopted was one of the best things to ever happen to me. It was never something that was hidden from me and it is not something I have ever been ashamed of. I recognize how fortunate I am to have parents who love and support me unconditionally. The fact that they are not my biological parents does not change the fact that they are simply, my parents. I count myself lucky to have a birth mother who loved me enough to know she wasn’t ready to be a mom. I’m lucky that I have wonderful parents who chose me. I often say adoption is a full-circle blessing and I truly believe it. Adopted children were not abandoned, we were chosen”
10. Nelson Mandela: When His Father Died, Nelson Was Adopted By Thembu Royalty
The biggest symbol of black freedom and Nobel Peace Prize awardee, Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918, in the tiny village of Mvezo, on the banks of the Mbashe River in Transkei, South Africa – and ironically, his name meant troublemaker. While Mandela’s father was destined to be chief, a dispute with the local magistrate made him lose his power and stature and they lived in poverty, moving to a tiny village, Qunu, till Mandela was nine, and this is when his father died of lung disease.
This is when he was officially adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu people. Years ago Mandela’s father had recommended Jongintaba be made chief and so the chief now returned the favor – educating Mandela like his own son, and later even making him a counselor. When his adoptive father decided to get him married as was his right, Nelson broke free and ran away – settling down in Johannesburg. The rest, as they say, is history!
9. Sarah McLachlan: My Real Mom Was The One Who Adopted Me
Sarah McLachlan was one of the three children adopted by Nova Scotians Jack and Dorice McLachlan, and while Dorice passed away of cancer when Sarah was pregnant with her daughter India, she still has and will always think of Dorice as her mom. Sarah has met her birth mother Judy, who was 19 and unwed when she had Sarah – and while Sarah believes that it must have been difficult and rather tragic for Judy to give her up – she is glad that it happened that way, since it made her music career so happen. She maintains a warm and cordial relationship with her biological mother.
She got to know she was adopted when she was nine and in an interview stated, “Even then it wasn’t a big deal. Perhaps I was too young to understand it really, but it just never was a big issue to me – it was like yeah cool, whatever, but you guys are still my mom and dad…”
8. John Lennon: Raised By An Aunt, An In-And-Out Mother, And An Absent Father
John Lennon was not legally adopted by anyone, but his upbringing was rather chaotic nonetheless. Born in war-stricken England on October 9, 1940, his father Alfred Lennon was a merchant seaman away at the time when his mother Julia gave birth to him. Named John Winston Lennon, Lennon’s father Alfred regularly sent paychecks home but those too stopped in February 1944. When he returned six months later, Lennon’s mom was already pregnant with another man’s child and refused to stay with Alfred. Finally, Julia’s sister Mimi Smith and her husband George, a childless couple, took John to stay with them permanently.
Sometime in between, John’s father tried to take him away to New Zealand, which Julia did not let happen and then it was some 20 years before he saw his father again. His aunt and uncle tried to give him a good education, often lamenting his lack of interest in his books. But his mother is the one who secretly bought him a guitar and helped fuel his love for music. Later John said, “parents are not Gods, for I never lived with mine!”
7. Marilyn Monroe: Nobody’s Child But A Ward Of The State
For all the beauty she became, Marilyn had a rough childhood, to say the least. She was born Norma Jean Mortensen on June 1, 1926, to a mentally unstable mother and no one really knew who her father was. Her childhood was one journey after another in foster homes and orphanages. Gladys was mentally and financially incapable and so Norma stayed with foster parents until she was seven. Stability seemed to come in 1933 when her mother bought a house and took Marilyn to live with her but soon had a mental breakdown – so Marilyn became a ward of the state.
Gladys’s best friend, Grace, became Norma’s guardian, but when she got married, Norma was sent to the Los Angeles Orphans Home and then more foster homes. She returned to live with Grace and her husband “Doc” who then attempted to sexually assault her. To save her, Grace sent Norma to live with her great-aunt Olive in California where Olive’s son assaulted her. She was packed off to another aunt who was ill so it was back to Grace and her husband in 1942. By now Norma was 16, and in a relationship with a neighbor’s son, Jim Dougherty and they were both soon married off. They divorced in 1946, and Norma became Marilyn Monroe.
6. Ray Liotta: Did A Show-And-Tell About His Adoption In Kindergarten
Born Raymond Julian Vicimarli on December 18, 1954, this hapless baby was left in a Newark, New Jersey orphanage by his birth mother. He was adopted when he was six months old by Mary Liotta, an appointed township clerk, and Alfred Liotta, an auto-parts store owner who already had an adopted daughter, Linda.
Ray was rechristened Raymond Allen Liotta but possibly knew about his adoption pretty early on, considering he claims that he did a show and tell about it in kindergarten. However, Ray did not meet his biological family till the mid-2000s and that is when he hired a PI to find out his origins. Liotta finally located his biological mother and has one half-brother, five half-sisters, and a full sister and remains thankful for his subsequent adoption – since his mother did not really have the means to raise him. He believes it was his adoption that made him the man and the subsequent star he became.
5. Snooki: Adopted At Birth From Chile, Has 10 Siblings
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was born in 1987 on November 23 in Santiago, Chile – soon after which she was adopted by an Italian-American couple, Andy and Helen Polizzi. Her nickname Snooki was given to her by her friends, inspired by a character in Julia Stiles’ 2001 flick Save The Last Dance, and the name kind of stuck.
Given a good life by her adoptive parents, Nicole wanted to be a vet but destiny intervened and TV came knocking. In 2008, MTV was looking for reality newbies to star in their new show Jersey Shore and Snooki wowed them with her 4’9″ body and her sassy attitude. She may have been in and out of trouble, but now finally a mother to two children, she understands why her parents could have given her up and knows that she has some 10 siblings as well – and is open to meeting her biological family in the future.
4. Steve Jobs: Born Out Of Wedlock And Adopted By A Blue-Collar Family
The late Steve Jobs was the love child of a Syrian Arab Muslim Abdulfattah John Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble, a Catholic of Swiss and German descent – who met and fell in love at the University of Wisconsin. Scheible’s father was against the relationship and so Jandali and Scheible had to separate but not before Scheible became pregnant with their love child. Scheible quietly went to a doctor to give birth to her child and then gave him up for adoption – while originally he was to be adopted by a rich white-collar family – they changed their mind and the baby boy was then given to Paul Reinhold Jobs and Clara Jobs, a blue-collar couple with little money but a lot of love. Scheible signed the papers only when they promised to send him to college!
And they held true – they always gave Steve all that he needed, and for Steve, they were his parents, 1000%. He called his biological parents the sperm donor and the egg bank. Later, Steve did meet his mother and his sister, Mona Simpson, but he never met his father.
3. Frances McDormand: Adopted By A Couple Who Took In Stray Cats Too!
McDormand was born in Chicago, Illinois and then adopted by a couple hailing from Canada – Noreen, a registered nurse and receptionist, and Vernon W. McDormand, a Disciples of Christ pastor. She has a sister, Dorothy A. McDormand, who is also an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and chaplain, as well as another sibling, both of whom were adopted by the McDormands, who themselves had no biological children. Loving and caring, the couple also took in stray cats and basically had a loving and open heart.
Frances has said that her biological mother may have been one of the parishioners at Vernon’s church but since her father specialized in restoring congregations, they frequently moved and lived in several small towns in Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, before finally settling in Monessen, Pennsylvania so she never really found out.
2. Faith Hill: Born to Parents Who Gave Her Up But Married And Had One More Child They Did Keep
For years, Faith was told that her birth mother had had an affair with a married man and then had to give her up as her father wasn’t willing to break up his first marriage. So Faith believed in that and was adopted into one happy, loving household of Ted and Edna Perry – Ted was a factory worker and Edna was a bank teller and they wanted to add one more to the two boys they already had.
It was only later when Faith had married her first husband, Daniel Hill, and taken his name that she decided to search for her biological parents – they were a married couple who had another child, a son, after Faith and they kept him. Surprisingly Faith does not hold a grudge against them and forgives them for giving her up because she knows it worked out for the best… She is now happily married to Tim McGraw and has three lovely daughters with him.
1. Babe Ruth: The Legendary Baseball Player Was Sent To An Orphanage at Seven
Nothing can match the greatness of Babe Ruth – for he and baseball are perhaps as synonymous as are breathing and air. And yet, he hardly had a great childhood. Born to George Herman Ruth Sr. and Katherine Schamberger in 1895, he was named George Herman Ruth Jr. and was of German-American ancestry. While the couple had eight children, only George and his younger sister Mamie survived infancy – six of his siblings died. When George was seven, his parents packed him off to the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage, though why they had done so remained uncertain.
George’s mother passed away when he was 12, and he spent the rest of his youth at St. Mary’s where despite the strict discipline and corporal punishment often handed out to the boys, along with all the work that they had to do – George formed an unlikely friendship with the school’s Prefect of Discipline, Brother Matthias Boutlier, a native of Nova Scotia. A large man, Brother Matthias not only taught Ruth the basics of baseball but also became his guardian at 17 to allow him out of St. Marys and onto the road of baseball legend!