We hear a lot of chatter about which star is dishing out four million to live in a mansion in Los Angeles, or a musician purchasing a pre-war co-op on the Upper East Side. We hear about their private jets, where they dined last night, and how much their jewelry costs (and that they usually promote on the red carpet).
What we rarely hear is where these stars come from. Not all stars were born rich or middle-to-upper class. Many stars grew up a long way from Bel-Air or Bedford. They were born into poverty, or one of their parents lost their jobs and they had to live on food stamps. Some of their parents were downright mean, asking their 15-year-old to drop out of high school to become a janitor, or refusing their daughter money because she's on the verge of becoming homeless. So these stars lived in trailer parks, their cars, their vans and homeless shelters They grew up with eight siblings or twelve, they lived in tiny homes and they all needed help, and you wonder why their parents have no money with so many mouths to feed.
What all of these celebs have in common is that they started at the very bottom and, with tenacity and a belief in their own gifts, they slowly worked up to land that role, spot or gig that would eventually lead to superstardom. So we're giving you the background on 20 places like trailers that celebs used to live in while growing up after making it big.
20 Leighton Meester Was Born In Jail
Gossip Girl, the first hit of the Web-zeitgeist generation, made Leighton Meester a star. Many don’t know that she only played rich onscreen. Her upbringing was the farthest thing from that, and is due to Meester’s mother Constance being the worst mother ever! Meester was actually born in a Texas prison where her mom was serving time for drug smuggling charges. Meester's mother was only allowed to spend 12 weeks in a halfway house with her. After that Meester lived with her grandmother in Florida until her mother was released.
Luckily Leighton didn’t take after her. She’s actually a saint because every month she would send $7,500 to her younger brother to cover some of his costly and extensive medical bills. Instead, her mother Constance used the money on herself to get plastic surgery, Botox and hair extensions. The whole scenario was so bad that Leighton filed a lawsuit against her mother for converting the money and also successfully sued for custody of her brother in 2012.
19 Celine Dion Lived In A Tiny House With Her Twelve Siblings
The chart-topping Celine Dion grew up in a low-income French Canadian household. She was the youngest of 13 siblings and her father made a mere $160 a week to provide for her family.
Dion told Vanity Fair that she lived in a "very, very, very, small house" but what kept them together was that she was given love and support from her family, despite never having money. Dion was always allowed to lean on her siblings, and although their household wasn't the Brady Bunch, Dion, looking back on her life in the past before making millions, would not change anything about her previous life. But Celine was talented.
She and her family sent a self-composed song to a music manager, Rene Angelil, whom she later married. As the rags-to-riches story goes, Angelil knew he had to sign Dion on because he actually cried when he listened to her voice. He believed she was talented enough that he even mortgaged his house to pay for her first record. He was the love of Dion's life, but in 20016 he died.
18 Halle Berry Lived In A Homeless Shelter
Oscar winner Halle Berry always looks sophisticated and stylish on all the red carpets. But Berry wasn't always this way. She left home at 21 for New York with money she earned from a modeling gig. But New York proved too expensive and, in just three months, she found herself broke and homeless. Berry did what any young person would do to get her hands on some money--she turned to her parents. She told Reader's Digest in 2007 that she called her mother and "asked her to send me some money, and she said no, and that subsequently led to a year of not speaking to her because I was so upset that she wouldn’t help me.”
So, in order to survive, she had to live in a homeless shelter. But she did learn something from being homeless: "It taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation, even if it meant going to a shelter for a small stint, or living within my means, which were meager. I became a person who knows that I will always make my own way."
17 Shania Twain And Her Siblings Suffered From Hunger
When Shania Twain was young, she grew up with three siblings in a violent household in Timmins, Ontario, where it always seemed to be cold and bleak. Her family was not just impoverished; things were so bad that she and her siblings suffered from immense hunger.
If that's bad, this is even worse: her mother and her stepfather died in a car accident when Twain (then Eileen Edwards) was only 21. But she was determined that she and her younger siblings would not go to sleep with a gnawing hunger. To support them, she sang in local resorts to get by. In her private dreams, though, she set her sights for Nashville. So, after her siblings were old enough to move out on their own, she made her dreams come true. Her singing caught the attention of a few labels and the highly-respectable Mercury Nashville Records ended up signing her with the attention to become a huge star.
16 Jim Carrey Lived In A Van With His Family
Jim Carrey and his family lived in Canada when he was young. Then something horrible happened to them when he was only 12: his father lost his job. But Carrey was resourceful, giving up his education and becoming a high school dropout at the age of 15.
To make money, Carrey worked as a janitor and a security guard to help pay the bills. But despite his efforts, his family eventually lost their home and they were forced to live in a van. Those were difficult times, but we believe his funny and sunny attitude that catapulted him later to film stardom was the reason he's been so successful. He made something out of nothing, working hard and trying his best not to live in poverty. This rags-to-riches story is poignant and sad, but the Jim Carrey we know today has lived up to his promise, and his perseverance has turned him into a mega-millionaire by starring in such comedic hits like The Mask and Dumb and Dumber.
15 Tom Cruise Grew Up With A Terrible Father
Tom Cruise was raised in Ottawa, Canada and in the fourth and fifth grades, he gravitated toward the drama department. Then his parents divorced, and his family and his mother moved to the US, eventually settling in New Jersey. Perhaps that's the best because Cruise recalls that his father hurt him when he was growing up, and to this day he calls his estranged father a bully and a coward.
To add insult to injury, Cruise also grew up in poverty and his struggling single mother had to keep relocating to different areas to find work as a special education teacher. At one point she held up to four jobs to support the family. Their move to New Jersey didn't change much. But when Cruise attended high school, there was a silver lining, and a possible way out of poverty.
He became interested in drama as he used to be when he was just a kid. It was at his high school's theater department that he found himself in his element, and was so enthused about becoming a real actor that he dropped out of school during his senior year. Good thing. Today he's an A-lister film star whose name alone can open movies.
14 Chris Pratt Lived In A Mice-Infested Van And Had Lots of Fun
Chris Pratt has always had luck in finding parts in TV and movies. He starred in the teen drama Everwood for five years and from 2009-2015, he was in the hit comedy Parks and Recreation. But it wasn't until 2014 that Pratt became Hollywood's leading man after starring in two commercially successful films in 2014: the family cartoon The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2015, Pratt did it again by starring in the fourth instalment of Jurassic Park, which went on to make millions and cemented his status as an actor who could carry a movie on his own.
But before all this, Pratt was homeless after high school. He received a one-way ticket to Maui from a friend when he was 19, but couldn't find a living situation when he got there because he didn't have the money. But Pratt made living in a van fun with a friend. "We just drank and smoked, and worked minimal hours, 15-20 hours per week, just enough to cover gas, food, and fishing supplies...it was a charming time," he admitted. "We set up camp on the beach and lived the dream.”
Pratt worked at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. One day, Rae Dawn Chong visited the restaurant and Pratt waited on her. She liked his looks and gave him a role in the comic-horror movie Cursed Part 3. He left Maui and took the role. And that was how his career started, a chance meeting with someone who had the power to give him a part in a movie.
13 Sam Worthington Lived Out Of His Car
Sam Worthington's life changed when he starred in the critically-acclaimed and highly-profitable film, Avatar, which was directed by behemoth James Cameron, the man who made Titanic, which is the most successful film of all time.
But before Avatar made Worthington a star, he had to sleep on friends' couches and for a long stretch of time, he lived out of his car while auditioning. This move meant that he had to sell everything he owned, but it could not erase the fact that he was unemployed, looking desperately to land an acting gig while sleeping uncomfortably in his car. But while Worthington lived near the poverty line, he has said that he loved this unfettered lifestyle.
"I'm not very responsible when it comes to mortgage, bills, paperwork..." the actor told Cosmopolitan. 'I’m a gypsy. I go where the work is." But when you suddenly have money having starred in Avatar, you can't resist settling down and buying your own house. That's actually what Worthington did, purchasing a house in Hawaii (he later put it up for market). We wonder if he's still a nomad.
12 Drew Carey Lived In His Car For A Year And A Half
Before he hit stardom, Drew Carey lived in Cleveland and dreamt of getting booked on The Tonight Show. He had the confidence to fulfill his dream because he soon moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles. He knew what could happen if he landed a spot on The Tonight Show because the then-host Johnny Carson was known for making comedian's careers.
But things didn't turn out so well at first, and he fell on hard times while waiting to get the call from the producers of The Tonight Show. It was so bad that he had to live in his car. He lasted a year and a half until he finally got that career-changing call. He got booked on the show, and his gig was so funny that Johnny Carson laughed hard, so much so that he invited Carey over to the set's couch to have a confab. The rest is history. He had his own show, The Drew Carey Show and today and for several years he's been the host of The Price is Right.
11 Kelly Clarkson Showered At The Gym
Kelly Clarkson may be a famous chart-topping singer now, but in early years her life was full of deprivation. She grew up poor in a small town in Texas and her dream was to go to Los Angeles to show off her demo tape. So, after high school, she moved there, but remained undiscovered. Unfortunately, her apartment burned down and she was forced to spend the subsequent months living out of her car and showering at the gym.
Believing only that she would live as a failure, she moved back to Texas. But then she heard about auditions taking place for a new singing competition, American Idol, which was rolling out in 2002. She nailed her audition for the reality show. Clarkson knew she could sing well, but the truth was, she only went on the audition because she thought American Idol would give her enough money to pay her bills. In fact, the last thing she had in mind was being a famous singer. She considered being a backup singer, but that was it. But fate had other plans. She went on to become the winner of the show’s first season, and the rest is history.
10 Demi Moore Was Raised In A Trailer Park
Born Demetria Guynes in Roswell, New Mexico, Demi Moore's father left the family before she was even born. She was raised in a trailer park by her mother and stepfather, both of whom were alcoholics, and were often violent with each other, but that was not the only thing Moore had to live through. She also lived in an unstable environment, what with her stepfather having to move more than 30 times around the country because he kept changing his jobs. This made it hard for Moore to make friends, for fear that her family may uproot her at any point.
To make matters worse, Demi had health issues to deal with, including crossed eyes and a kidney dysfunction. Moore vowed to turn her life around and when she decided to become a model at the age of 15. She dropped out of school without saying a word to her mother and moved to Los Angeles. There, she finally caught a break by signing with the Elite Modeling Agency. While working in Europe as a pin-up girl at 18, she married the rock-and-roll singer Freddie Moore. When she moved back to the states, Moore was delighted to have found work by landing a spot on the soap drama General Hospital.
Having done her work on the small screen, Moore gravitated towards movies and, seemingly overnight she became an A-list superstar in the early 1990s, first starring in the hit Ghost in 1990 and between 1992 and 1994 she had a string of back-to-back box office successes like A Few Good Men in 1992, Indecent Proposal in 1993 and Disclosure in 1994.
9 Sarah Jessica Parker Had 7 Siblings And Lived At The Edge of Poverty
Having martinis while wearing Manolas as you go club-hopping around New York City seems fun but pricey, but that's actually what Carrie Bradshaw did with her friends in a few episodes of the widely-popular S*x and the City.
Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie Bradshaw on the hit HBO show, the perpetually-single Manhattanite with a fondness for couture and $600 shoes. But that's not how she grew up. She was the youngest of four children who lived with her parents in an Ohio coal-mining town and they divorced when Parker was only 2.
After her mother remarried, four more children would be born, making the family have 8 children in total. Anyone with that amount of children would need help, and Parker's family definitely needed it. Her mother was a housewife and her stepfather was a truck driver, but because they were raising so many children, the family fell on hard times. But Parker caught the acting bug early in her life and landed her first Broadway role at age 11. In 1981, when she was 16, she moved to Hollywood to become a cast member on Square Pegs, which is now a cult hit. The rest, they say, is history.
8 Britney Spears Lived In Her Aunt's Trailer
Britney Spears' family didn't live in a trailer park, but her aunt did. Her parents lived in Kentwood, a small town in Louisiana and her family life was full of pain. Both her parents constantly fought, and the shouting matches and screams were too scary and too hard to bear. As a result, Britney would spend a lot of time at her aunt's trailer.
For years, Britney’s parents couldn’t pay their bills. But when Britney decided that she wanted to be a performer, her family sacrificed a lot because they believed in her talent.
Her upbringing wasn't that bad, because her parents only wanted the best for her. Britney's mother, Lynne, wrote in Heart to Heart, "We decided that no matter what it took, we’d get Britney the lessons she needed. We all believed in her that much.” Her parents saved up money to go to Atlanta so that Britney could audition for The Mickey Mouse Club. She was 8 at the time, and the producers rejected her because she was so young and had no experience. It was a risky move, but Britney's mother took her to New York City and enrolled her at the famed Professional Children's School. This time, Britney got a role in The Micky Mouse Club, and that was a turning point in Spears' career, and she would eventually become the mega pop star that we know now.
7 Oprah Winfrey Was Born Into Poverty
Oprah Winfrey worked hard to get to where she is. She is the most influential woman in the world and everything she recommends turns into gold. If she announces a new title to her book club, that book would go on to sell millions. When she recommends products during the holiday season of things she loves, every item becomes a hit. But Oprah had a rough life before achieving fame.
She was born into poverty in rural Mississippi by two young unwed parents. She was raised by her grandmother until she was 6. Oprah herself has admitted how horrible her childhood was, as she was taken advantage of at the age of 9 and became pregnant at 14 to a son who died in infancy. She then moved to a boardinghouse in Milwaukee to live with her teenage mother and half-sister. Her family was always broke, even when her mother worked as a maid. To support her family, she relied on welfare on some occasions.
Eventually, Winfrey lived with her father in Tennessee and went to high school there. Soon she worked in radio while still in school and, at the age of 19, she began her career in the journalism field by becoming a co-anchor for the local evening news. She kept climbing and her hard work eventually landed her own talk show, cementing her place in history as the first black woman to have her own show.
6 Hilary Swank Lived In A Trailer Park And In Her Mother's Oldsmobile
Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer park in Washington. Before she dropped out of high school, she was ridiculed and teased because she was poor. After her father abandoned the family, she and her mother had to fend for themselves. When she was 15, her mother lost another job, and the two moved to Los Angeles. That move was important, as both she and her mother believed she had talent, but only if she got the right part, or any part for that matter.
With her mother supporting her, the both of them sacrificed so much by living in their car, an Oldsmobile, so Swank could audition for roles. Eventually, she got some breaks, but it wasn't until her role in the movie Boys Don't Cry that catapulted her into stardom. Swank went on to win both the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama.
"My background is not something I forget," Swank said in an interview."It helps me to not take what I have for granted. I really appreciate that I get to travel and see the world, and that I can pay my bills. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I can actually buy that pair of shoes, and I appreciate a sale as much as the next person. I think about how I’m spending my money, and I like to spend on my family."
5 Eminem And His Family Were Evicted From Their Trailer
Ever since he was young, Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, lived in poverty with his mother and his brother. They could not even find a rent-controlled apartment and were forced to live in a trailer park in Detroit. His mother taught him nothing, as she was too busy with certain recreational actives that made him have to fend for himself.
Eminem has documented his rough childhood in both music and movie form to much acclaim. When the future rapper turned 15, his mother demanded that he find a job to help pay the bills. But it was too late, as they were evicted from the trailer.
Eminem told Rolling Stone that one night he came home, only to find a locked door and an eviction notice. "I had to break in. . . I didn't have anywhere else to go. There was no heat, no water, no electricity. I slept on the floor." But Eminem wanted a different future from the life he knew. He had a talent for rap and made mixtapes. He lived in obscurity for a while, but eventually, he won his big break when he was only 23.
4 Jewel Lived Out Of A Van While Seeking Gigs
Jewel, aka Jewel Kilcher, grew up in a home in Alaska that had no plumbing. Her father was abusive, and Jewel grew up wishing she had a better life. At 18, she fled her home and lived out of her van in San Diego for a year. Determined to become a singer, the "Who Will Save Your Soul" songstress drove all over the city to play gigs. It was slow going at first, but eventually, while she was singing, an employee of Atlantic Records caught one of her performances and signed her. In 1995, she released her breakout record Pieces of You, and after that, she became famous.
"Money will not make you happy, but it takes away a lot of stress," she once said. "The things I love the most are having a place to live, never worrying about my electrical bills, being able to buy the groceries I want to buy, and being able to pay the doctors." And, to this day, the folk-rock singer hasn't forgotten her humble roots and advocates for more and better public housing, saying that "Cynicism is a luxury of spoiled people."
3 William Shatner Lived In The Back of His Truck Under A Hard Shell
Today, William Shatner is best remembered for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise in the sci-fi hit Star Trek. Later in life he played an attorney in the legal drama The Practice, as well as the spinoff, Boston Legal, for which he earned two Emmy Awards. Today, he still finds work on TV and is currently starring in Better Late Than Never. He's even an author and has written books about Star Trek. So it's surprising to learn that Shatner became poverty-level broke after the end of Star Trek in 1969.
He divorced his wife Gloria Rand and fell on hard times, losing most of the money he earned from his TV show. He was paid by episode, so we don't know exactly why he became poor. Information about him becoming broke was that he could not find a follow-up job after Star Trek. The worst part was that he had to live out of his truck for a period before he won a few roles.
"I had three kids and was totally broke," Shatner recalled in an interview. "I managed to find work back East on the straw-hat circuit – summer stock – but couldn’t afford hotels, so I lived out of the back of my truck, under a hard shell." He lived with his dog, which prevented him from going insane.
2 Tyler Perry Squished Body To Live In His Tiny Geo Metro
Tyler Perry is one of Hollywood's hottest producers, directors and actors best known for his creation of Madea, a tough elderly black woman whom Perry plays in the Madea movies. He's also a prolific writer, as it seems there's a new Madea movie every year. But this golden boy wasn't always successful when he was young. He wanted to be a playwright. This was in the 1990s.
Perry was so convinced that his play, the now iconic musical called I Know I've Been Changed, was good but couldn't raise funds to produce it. So, while living in Atlanta, he went broke, spending all his money to stage the play. He didn't give up on his dream, and, as a result, he became homeless for six years. During this time he lived in his car.
As he told Essence, "Can you imagine a six-foot-five man sleeping in a Geo Metro?" Occasionally, when he had some money, he lived in a “pay-by-the-week hotel," as he told Oprah. But his perseverance paid off. Finally, in 1998, this unknown playwright was able to stage his play and it became an instant hit, setting the hard-working Perry on the right track to movie mogul stardom.
1 Ryan Gosling Lived In A Trailer Park While Filming The Mickey Mouse Club
Ryan Gosling is one of the most eligible bachelors in Hollywood, as well as an A-list actor, known for movies like the bestselling La La Land and the romantic drama The Notebook, which eventually became a hit among girls all over the world who wanted to date him.
But his upbringing was steeped in poverty, and not only that, he was bullied at school and had not one friend. When Ryan's parents divorced, he lived with his mother. He had to support her and help her pay the bills. When he was just a boy, he landed a coveted role in the Mickey Mouse Club and he and his mother had to relocate to Florida, where the show was shot. But he wasn't making a lot, and he had to relive his childhood in poverty while on the show.
Like another Mickey Mouse Club member, Britney Spears, Gosling was the sole earner for his struggling family. As he said in an interview, "Most of the other[s] went to this apartment complex but it was too expensive for my mother and me. So we lived in this trailer park." The Mickey Mouse Club turned out to not be his big break (although it was for Justin Timberlake, pictured above) because he couldn't sing and dance like the other children on the show. But as he got older, the roles got meatier and today he never has to return to living in a trailer park.