It’s easy to forget that, with the luxury lifestyle that comes with stardom, not all celebrities were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. In fact, some stars had to pull themselves up from nothing and fight to achieve their goals. These 20 rags-to-riches stories show just how much is possible with perseverance and hard work.
20. Oprah Winfrey
Her media empire has made her one of the richest women in America, but Oprah Winfrey’s early life was one of mistreatment and extreme poverty. She lived in a boarding house for the majority of her childhood – where she endured physical and sexual abuse – before breaking free and working hard to achieve a current estimated net worth of $3 billion.
19. Chris Pratt
Jurassic World star Chris Pratt struggled to make ends meet as an aspiring actor – so much so that he resorted to living in a van. After dropping out of college, Pratt moved to Maui – an “awesome place to be homeless,” he nevertheless admitted to The Independent in 2014. Eventually, though, he managed to work his way out of his financial woes to a $5-million-a-year career.
18. Jay Z
Before becoming the successful rapper and entrepreneur he is today, a young Jay Z was forced to make a living dealing drugs. “I was thinking about surviving. I was thinking about improving my situation,” he told Vanity Fair in 2013. Thankfully, given his combined net worth of $1 billion with wife Beyoncé, Jay Z never has to worry about money again.
17. Halle Berry
After a 21-year-old Halle Berry relocated to Chicago to further her acting career, she soon found herself without money and living in a homeless shelter. “It taught me how to take care of myself, and that I could live through any situation,” the resilient X-Men star later admitted. Years later, her strength paid off when she scooped an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2001.
16. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj’s family immigrated to New York from Trinidad when she was just five; the future hip-hop star would have some trouble adjusting to life in the U.S. Things were only worsened by her drug-addict father who was abusive and even burnt down their house. Minaj has even once admitted that she used to pray to be rich nightly. And those prayers eventually came true: she later found fame – and a $70 million fortune – with hits like “Super Bass.”
15. Michael Caine
Double Academy Award winner Michael Caine, who was born into a working-class London household, found that his dreams of stardom weren’t exactly compatible with life as a husband and father. After walking out of his first marriage partly due to a lack of income, he worked odd jobs in London and Paris before eventually gaining his breakout role in 1964’s Zulu.
14. Tom Cruise
Long before he became the biggest film star on the planet, Tom Cruise was living in a broken home with his mother working three jobs to support him and his three sisters. Bullying and dyslexia made school even less bearable for Cruise who, after briefly attending a Catholic seminary, became an actor and has since earned an estimated $500 million fortune.
13. Demi Moore
Self-dubbed “trailer park kid” Demi Moore came from impoverished roots before falling onto even harder times as an adult. She worked as a nude model and spiraled into drug addiction, but eventually found a lifeline in St. Elmo’s Fire director Joel Schumacher, who urged her into recovery and helped set her on the path to a $150 million film career.
12. Jim Carrey
Though he was born into a middle-class lifestyle, Jim Carrey found his family’s fortunes dwindling after his father Percy lost his job as an accountant. Carrey worked eight-hour shifts around school to provide for his family – who began living in a camper van – while still finding time to perfect the comedy routine that would set him on the road to stardom. He’s now worth an estimated $150 million.
11. Hillary Swank
Hillary Swank may have more in common with her struggling boxer character in Million Dollar Baby than meets the eye. The Oscar-winning actress once dwelled in a trailer park, and has said that her difficult childhood helps her appreciate her now $40 million fortune. “It’s not something I forget. It helps me to not to take what I have for granted,” she explained to The Mail on Sunday in 2011.
10. Sarah Jessica Parker
Her character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City may have lived the high life, but it was a lifestyle Sarah Jessica Parker had no experience of growing up. Parker was raised on welfare and has described her childhood as “Dickensian” – her family often didn’t have enough money to even celebrate Christmas. Her current $90 million net worth, though, means she won’t ever have to miss another celebration.
9. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling has inspired millions through her Harry Potter books, and her own life story is one of inspiration itself. Once Rowling was an unemployed single mother living on welfare – “the biggest failure I knew,” as the author herself told an audience at Harvard in 2008. Nevertheless, she used her free time to pen the first entry in the fantasy series: one which would make her worth $1 billion and become the U.K.’s best-selling author alive today.
8. Shania Twain
Shania Twain may now be the biggest-selling woman ever in country music, with in excess of 85 million record sales to her name, but once she struggled to provide for her and her three siblings. Twain tragically lost her mother and father in a car accident when she was 21 and took on the responsibility of a parent in their absence. Cut to the present day, though, and she has approximately $350 million in the bank. Impressive.
Eminem has made no secret of his impoverished roots, and his underprivileged childhood – which saw him raised by his often unemployed mother Deborah – has inspired the star’s music. In fact, the hip-hop star even featured his decrepit childhood home on the cover of his multi-platinum third album The Marshall Mathers LP in tribute to his working class background. He’s now thought to be worth as much as $210 million.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio may now be worth an estimated $245 million and be a recent Oscar winner for The Revenant, but he has had a long road to walk to success. “I grew up very poor and got to see the other side of the spectrum,” the actor told the Los Angeles Times in 2014 of his childhood growing up amid crime and prostitution in Los Angeles.
5. Daniel Craig
The man who would be James Bond had as much tenacity as the secret agent when it came to his early career. While Daniel Craig worked as a waiter in London between roles, in fact, he resorted to sleeping on park benches when he couldn’t afford rent. That adversity may have made his reported $55 million paycheck for Spectre feel all the more glorious.
4. Sylvester Stallone
Much like his beloved Rocky character, Sylvester Stallone’s journey to the top was filled with hardships; he even resorted to theft and homelessness in the days when he couldn’t pay the bills. A low point for the “Italian Stallion” came when he was forced to sell his dog as he couldn’t afford to feed him. Luckily, his 1976 boxing film saw his career turn, and he’s now worth $400 million.
3. Justin Bieber
At only 22 years old, Justin Bieber is already worth an estimated $200 million – and his wealth came from nothing. While speaking to the Daily Mail in 2012, in fact,, Bieber said that he would have lived in poverty had it not been for music, stating, “My family are all poor, and my kids would have been poor too. When you break the cycle, you don’t go back.”
2. Celine Dion
Celine Dion grew up in a “very small house” with 13 siblings; her family would sometimes sleep four to a bed. “We weren’t poor, but we never had money,” she told Vanity Fair in 2012. “We were given love; what else did we need?” Indeed, their support – not to mention mega-hits like “My Heart Will Go On” – helped Dion later amass a $630 million fortune.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the epitome of the American Dream; his journey from poverty stricken post-war Austria to global movie star is incredible. After moving to the U.S., Schwarzenegger funded his bodybuilding ambitions by laying bricks and even turned that into a lucrative business. And his estimated $300 million net worth acts as proof that anything is possible.