When we see celebrities, it’s difficult to think of them as being anything other than rich, famous and beautiful. We may also tend to think that they may have had a perfect childhood, or even being born “with a silver spoon,” as so many are in this day and age. However; there are so many people that were born and raised in less-than-ideal circumstances, including those who have no parents at all. Even though most babies get adopted, it is incredibly difficult to be embraced once a child is no longer “cute and adorable.” Luckily, these people rose above their difficult upbringings, and some of them (if not all) used it to their advantage. Instead of making a rough situation worse, they used their talents for music, writing, acting and sports, and one this is for sure, the world would not be the same without them.
10 J.R.R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in South Africa where both of his parents lived, but went to England with his mom when he was three years old to visit family members in the area. During that time, his father passed away and left John, his mom and his little brother practically homeless since they had no form of income. His mother died when he was just twelve years old, leaving John and his brother without parents. They were left with Father Francis Xavier; a man who their mother had decided was a good man and had promised to “bring up her sons as good Catholics.”
Father Francis (as John and his brother had referred to him) must have kept to his promise, as they both attended Catholic schools in their upbringing. John then began writing under the name, J.R.R. Tolkien, and became one of the best authors of the century. Even though there were other writers who had written about fantasy previously, John made famous an imaginary world of Middle Earth, made us all believe in Hobbits, and even befriended (and inspired) C.S. Lewis, who was a friend of his, and created another line of incredible books, The Chronicles of Narnia. The two were good friends for a while, and were in what we would now call a book club, “The Inklings.” J.R.R. Tolkien brought back a new, more modernized style of writing, and there have been several movies made because of it.
9 L.L. Bean
L.L. Bean; that’s just a store that carries high-quality clothing and outdoor equipment geared towards people who want to go camping and not have their backpacks rip open half-way into the hike, right? Well, that is somewhat accurate. It is a place to go when you’re looking for a durable pair of boots that should last longer than a weekend ski trip; but it is also the name of the man who created the brand.
Leon Leonwood Bean (also known as LL Bean) was a man who loved the outdoors, and killed his first deer by the time he was a teenager. He learned very early the value of a buck (pun intended), and would sell traps at a very young age. His parents both died when he was twelve, and had decided that he would earn his own money to help with the family. He loved to fish, but his boots would always get wet, so he designed a pair that were waterproof. Leon was able to obtain a patent for the material that was used for the boots, but he also wanted his customers to be happy. Even at such a young age, he still offered clients their money back if the boots would leak. He eventually expanded his work, and we now know of his massive outdoor chain of stores known as LL Bean.
The store has continued his commitment to his customers, and has donated over $2 million to charities in this year alone.
8 Ray Charles
In 1962, Ray Charles had recorded a studio album that was supposed to be considered a Country and Western style of music. This album sold over 700,000 copies in the just the first month that it was released, and was at the top of the charts; including R&B Singles, Adult Contemporary and the Billboard Hot 100. Basically, almost everyone loved his songs and the type of music he sang, no matter what type of genre it was entitled.
Ray lost his eyesight completely at the age of seven, but his mom decided that she wanted him to learn to do things on his own. She would still have him do chores around the house; such as chopping wood, and this taught him to be able to take care of himself when his parents died at the age of fifteen. Ray moved to Seattle after going to school, and learned to sing and play music when he was incredibly young. He has earned numerous awards, and in 2013, there was a USPS postage stamp created in honor of Ray’s memory.
7 Ice T
Tracy Lauren Marrow’s mother died when he was only three years old, and was raised by his father until he was twelve, when his dad died of a heart attack. After his father’s death, Tracy left his home in New Jersey to be with his aunt in Los Angeles, California, where he shared a room with his cousin who was able to get Tracy interested in heavy metal music.
Before rap music became hugely popular, Tracy showed off his talents in high school by quoting lyrics from books. His friends would say things like, “Yo, kick some more of that by Ice, T,” and a legend was created. Ice T is now known for his acting, rather than his singing, but his music is where he originally began. He began rapping in the 1980s, and his album was the first one that was labeled with an “explicit content” sticker, which was not intended for young ears.
6 George Lopez
George Lopez has been called “one of the top 25 Hispanics in America,” by Time Magazine (2005), and has won the 2003 Imagen Vision Award, the 2003 Latino Spirit Award for Excellence in Television and the National Hispanic Media Coalition Impact Award. He is an actor and comedian, and had his own talk show for a while a few years back.
Even though George is not officially an orphan, he was raised by his grandmother after being abandoned by both of his parents at a very young age. This was an exceptionally difficult way to grow up, and to deal with the struggles, George would use his sense of humor to cope with the pain of not having a mother or a father. Eventually the stand-up comedian obtained his own television sit-com, and it was partially based on the toil of growing up without parents.
5 Dr. Ruth Westheimer
If you grew up in the 1980s, you may remember seeing or hearing Dr. Ruth talk about sex in a time when it wasn’t quite acceptable to do so. Dr. Ruth Westheimer was able to open up to her patients and created a space for people to talk openly about a subject that so many people had considered taboo for so many years beforehand.
Before Ruth Westheimer became the lovable, tiny lady that made talk of sex exciting, she lived in Switzerland in a children’s home that was designated for kids who were victims of the holocaust. At only ten years old, she had lost her parents to one of the worst events in history. Ruth went on to college, she obtained her Doctorate Degree, and is now one of the most famous doctors in the world. Dr. Ruth made it acceptable for people to openly discuss sex, unlike any other.
4 Billy Mills
Billy Mills was born in 1938, and grew up in a Sioux Indian Reservation, in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. At the age of twelve, he lost his parents and was raised by the others in his tribe. He wanted to make sure not to get too upset, so instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, he began running, for sport. He won several track events while in high school, and then accepted a scholarship to the University of Kansas, in rewards to his track record. He then joined the United States Marine Corp, and ultimately went on to win a gold medal for the 10K run in the Olympics. Billy has been honored by the president of the United States for his work with children, in which he tries to help others to focus on staying active.
3 Lee Majors
When I hear the name, Lee Majors, I instantly go back to my childhood memories of the Six Million Dollar Man, and the lead character with the beautiful blue eyes. Lee Majors was also in television shows, The Big Valley and The Fall Guy, but most people remember him from one of the most popular series of the late 70s. Lee’s parents both died when he was a baby, but he did not know that he was adopted until he was a teenager. He found out that he was being raised by his aunt and uncle, but decided that he would “prove himself worthy” by pushing himself as hard as he could to do great things. He attended college after high school on a football scholarship, but after injuring his back, opted for an acting career, instead.
2 Orson Welles
Growing up, I had always heard of the story, War of the Worlds, where Orson Welles wrote and read a story about aliens taking over Earth. Apparently people thought that this broadcast was real, and he created a worldwide panic from those who thought that giant spaceships were going to arise and invade mankind. George Orson Welles, or Olson Welles, as he was known as, was also a director, actor, producer and a writer of many other books and films through the years. Orson’s mother died when he was nine, and his father passed when Orson was fifteen, and he was able to pick who would raise him to adulthood; in which he chose a man by the name of Maurice Bernstein.
1 Marilyn Monroe
Is there anyone in the world who has not heard of Marilyn Monroe? Surely there is, but at one time, she was the beautiful blonde bombshell that every woman aspired to become. She had starred in many movies of the 1950s, and had appeared in the very first edition of Playboy magazine. Marilyn was born Norma Jean Baker, and spent the majority of her childhood in orphanages and in foster care. She changed her name once she moved away and started taking her acting career more seriously. She dyed her hair and transformed her name, almost creating an entirely different person entirely. Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 at only 36 years old, of an ostensible drug overdose.