15 Celebs Who Had The Most Tragic Upbringings

There's a quote that reads, "The prettiest smiles hide the deepest secrets. The prettiest eyes have cried the most tears and the kindest hearts have felt the most pain." This quote could apply to a lot of people that we know, perhaps more than we think.

We probably know someone that's been through a lot but somehow manages to look carefree like nothing ever happened to them. We may be surprised when we learn about horrible events that occurred in their past because we would never guess that they would experience something so terrible. Their endless smiles belly deep emotional pain that they may not feel comfortable talking about or they don't want anyone to know about. For some people, the past is meant to be kept in the past.

However, sometimes it's hard to keep something in for so long, and eventually, one snaps and lets everything out, to the surprise of people around them. They prove to everyone that while they experienced terrible things in their past, they endured through them and came out in the end.

There are many celebrities who had terrible things happening in their pasts. After all, they're human beings too just like you and me. They may enjoy lives full of glitz and fame, but they weren't always doing that. They've had their share of personal life struggles as well. And while their lives during their childhood may have seemed hopeless, they overcame the obstacles plaguing their lives and achieved their own success. If you want to know the tragic pasts about the celebrities that you see on TV, in movies, and in other mediums, then check out this list of 15 celebs that had tragic upbringings. Prepare to be shocked.

15 Leighton Meester

Leighton Meester's crazy family history started before she was even born. Sometime before the Gossip Girl star was born, her mother was arrested after she was caught smuggling 1200 pounds of marijuana out of Jamaica. And it wasn't just Leighton's mother that was involved in the crime either; her dad, aunt and grandfather were all participants in the smuggling business and were arrested as well. Her aunt broke out of prison, becoming the first woman to wind up on the U.S. Marshal's 15 Most Wanted List. Leighton's mother was still in prison during her pregnancy but was allowed to go to the hospital after going into labor to give birth. Leighton's grandmother took her granddaughter in and raised her.

14 Mo'Nique

Playing the role of Precious' abusive mother in Precious allowed Mo'Nique to open up about the abuse she suffered when she was younger. When she was seven years old, she was sexually abused by her then-13-year-old brother and would continue to be abused for the next four years. She eventually turned to her parents but they offered no help. Mo'Nique said her father was angry about what happened, but the incidents were never brought up again. Her mother said, "’If it’s true, it will surface again." At the time, Mo'Nique couldn't understand why her mother would say something like that and why she didn't come to her rescue, but she said she never blamed her parents for what happened to her because her and her brother were their children. Mo'Nique's brother appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show where he acknowledged his past actions and apologized to his younger sister.

13 Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron lived in a highly tumultuous environment growing up caused by the actions of her father. Her father was an alcoholic and drug addict who regularly abused her mother physically. In addition to that, he also cheated on Charlize's mother. She put up with the abuse and infidelity for years until she finally snapped one night during a disagreement. Charlize's father attempted to shoot his wife and daughter, but his wife, who had a gun herself, shot and killed him in an act of self-defense. Charlize was only 15 at the time. Her mother made her enter a beauty contest to distract her from what transpired, which the teenager won. She later went on to attend a ballet school in New York, but an injury ended her career before it began. Charlize was penniless and had to steal bread just to make it. Thankfully, she caught the eye of a talent manager in 1994, and she's seen nothing but stardom since.

12 Missy Elliot

Like Mo'Nique, Missy Elliot, whose given name is Melissa Arnette Elliot, suffered abuse from a relative. For her, it was her then-16-year-old cousin. Missy was eight years old when the abuse started. She was coaxed to her cousin's home and molested, a practice that continued for a year. Missy said that she had no idea what was going on at the time but she knew something felt wrong. She lived a poverty-stricken life growing up and saw her father physically abuse her mother. On one occasion, he pulled a gun out on his wife, which caused a terrified Missy to shriek, "Daddy, please don’t kill my mother!" Fortunately, Missy's uncle, who lived next door to the family at the time, overheard the commotion and intervened just in time to save a life.

11 Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera wasn't always the fierce and powerful individual she's known as today. When Christina Aguilera was just a child, she bore witness to her father physically abusing her mother. Not only that, but he would abuse Christina as well, who felt helpless to do anything to stop the beatings. Her mother disclosed an incident in which she found a four-year-old Christina with blood flowing down her face. When she questioned her daughter about this, Christina responded, "Daddy wanted to take a nap and I made too much noise." It was later in Christina's life that she would turn to singing as an outlet for the pain and suffering she felt inside. Eventually, her mother left her father and took Christina and her siblings to live with their grandmother.

10 Tyler Perry

While he entertains audiences everywhere with his comedic stage plays, movies and TV shows, Tyler Perry's humorous nature hides emotional scars. He once recalled a time when his father beat his mother after she attempted to leave with their children. Tyler's father was an alcoholic who abused him, and on one occasion, he returned home drunk and angry and proceeded to beat Tyler with a vacuum cleaner extension cord so badly that the skin was coming off of Tyler's back. Tyler's father also inappropriately touched a girl whom Tyler had a crush on, and Tyler was molested at the age of 10. He's said that he has no idea how someone could treat their child like the way he was treated, but he has since forgiven his father and moved on with his life.

9 Dylan McDermott

Dylan McDermott was only five years old when his 20-year-old mother was shot by her gangster boyfriend, a violent drug addict who was not Dylan's real father. Dylan heard the shots but didn't see who murdered his mother, and the murder was ruled an accident until Dylan reopened the case in 2011 and discovered that it was his mother's boyfriend who committed the crime. After his mother died, Dylan and his then-infant sister, went to live with their grandmother, since their biological father was serving time in prison. The new environment wasn't any better for the siblings, as it was ripe with thieves and burglars. Dylan would eventually locate his biological father and spent his nights working with him at a shabby bar cleaning up vomit, breaking up fights, and serving beer. Dylan's stepmother encouraged Dylan at the age of 15 to go into acting and she adopted the teen when she was just 23.

8 Nicki Minaj

If you ever complained about having to share a room with another sibling, you shouldn't after reading this. Nicki Minaj, born Onika Tanya Minaj, was born into a family of 15 who lived in a three-room house. At the age of 5, she and her family moved from Trinidad to New York into a poisonous environment. Nicki's father was a drug and alcohol addict who would take the furniture in the house and sell it to buy crack. Nicki said she would come home from school to find their couch missing. Her father also physically abused Nicki's mother and once set fire to the house with her still inside, causing Nicki to live in fear that he would one day end up killing her mother.

7 50 Cent

Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) chose his stage name as an indication towards his desire to change, to turn over a new leaf. Curtis was raised by his single mother after his father abandoned the family at Curtis' birth. His mother was a drug dealer who sold cocaine, but she was killed after she was drugged and burnt inside a gassed apartment; Curtis was eight years old at the time. After his mother's death, Curtis went to live with his grandmother and various aunts and uncles. By the age of 11, he was following in his mother's footsteps and was selling crack on the streets. By 12, he owned a gun. He was later arrested on gun ownership charges during high school and was sent to a military-style boot camp. It was after the stint in boot camp that he discovered his love for rapping, and the rest is history.

6 Ashley Judd

The rise to fame can be a difficult journey for many artists, not only for themselves but for their families. Such was the case for Ashley Judd. Naomi Judd, Ashley's mother, struggled to raise Ashley and Wynonna, Ashley's half-sister. After Naomi and Wynonna formed a singing duo, they left home often to go on tour and left Ashley at home with her father. Naomi and Wynonna had to work hard in order to make it big, and the family moved 13 times before Ashley turned 18. To add to that, Ashley was r*ped by three men on separate occasions, including a relative and a man who lured her into an empty storeroom. No one believed Ashley when she told them what happened to her, which caused her to become depressed and suicidal. Today, in addition to being an actress, she's an activist who raises awareness about sexual violence.

5 Oprah Winfrey

Before she became the television icon she's known as today, Oprah Winfrey was just trying to make it through one day at a time. She was born into poverty to a single, teenaged mother, but lived with her grandmother until she was six. She went back to live with her mother and they moved to Wisconsin, where her mother found work as a housemaid. Oprah's mother was out of the house often while at work, and starting from the age of nine, Oprah was repeatedly molested by male relatives and other visitors. To cope with the trauma in her life, she turned to drugs, alcohol and sex, and at 14 she discovered she was pregnant. Sadly, her son died shortly after birth. Oprah was then sent to live with her father in Nashville, who made sure his daughter received a proper education, laying down the foundation for the talk show host's later success in life.


There's a clear distinction between discipline and abuse, which is something DMX's mother didn't seem to understand. The rapper, whose given name is Earl Simmons, said that to punish him, his mother would braid three extension cords together, wait until he fell asleep, and then proceeded to beat him until she was exhausted. DMX said that it was hard for him to sleep sometimes because of those incidents. When he was seven his mother beat him with a broom so severely that he lost two teeth. DMX felt like there was nothing he could do about the abuse because his mother would scare him and his siblings by saying, "'white people are going to come take you away, you want that?'” As an adult, DMX came to realize that his mother never truly cared for him, which devastated him deeply.

3 Shania Twain

Shania Twain's theme of female empowerment in her music most likely stemmed from her desire to rise above the abuse that ran rampant in her home during her childhood. Shania remarked that her father shifted personalities, like he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and he would frequently beat her mother. Following one terrifying beating, Shania thought that her mother had been beaten to death. Shania lived in constant fear of her father, never knowing what to expect from him. Her parents didn't make a lot of money and so the family was always under financial burdens, which meant there wasn't always a lot to eat. As a result, Shania learned to hunt. When she was 22, her parents were killed in a car accident, and she became responsible for raising her younger siblings so they wouldn't be put into the foster care system.

2 Demi Moore

Family life was pretty difficult for Demi Moore growing up. Her father left her mother before she was born, and while her mother remarried, Demi's stepfather wasn't exactly the father figure one would yearn for. Her mother and stepfather, who were both alcoholics, argued frequently. Before Demi had even turned 14, she and her family moved 30 times. When she was 15, her parents separated, and when she was 17, her stepfather committed suicide by breathing in carbon monoxide from his car. Demi's mother stayed hooked onto alcohol after her daughter's rise to fame and was arrested on multiple occasions for drunk driving and arson. Seeing that her mother didn't want to change, Demi stopped communicating with her. However, when her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1987, Demi reconciled with her until her death a few months later.

1 Kelsey Grammer

TV's Frasier star Kelsey Grammer gets the #1 spot on this list as he suffered the most loss in his life. After his parents divorced when he was two years old, he and his mother began living with his grandfather. When he was 11, his grandfather passed away. When he was 13, his father was shot and killed by a cab driver who had no connection with his father whatsoever and was later deemed insane. When he was 18, his sister was kidnapped outside the Red Lobster where she worked at as a waitress by four men who violently r*ped and murdered her. Kelsey would suffer more losses later in his life, including the deaths of both of his half-brothers.

Sources: vh1, thethings

More in Shocking