Modern families come in all shapes and sizes. And, increasingly, adoption is a prevalent option for today’s hopeful parents. In fact, with roughly 135,000 kids adopted into U.S. homes annually, the practice has lost the stigma it used to have. Indeed, while celebs like Angelina Jolie and Kristin Davis fly the fostering flag, some stars were actually taken in themselves as kids. These 20 famous faces, for example, were all adopted – and they have some surprising stories to tell.
20. Debbie Harry
The singer from new-wave group Blondie, Debbie Harry was given up for adoption at just a few months old. Subsequently, she was raised by foster parents who revealed her lineage at the age of four. “It made me feel quite special somehow,” she told the Irish Independent in 2014. “I sometimes attribute my adventurous nature to that.”
19. Faith Hill
Like many adopted children, country music sensation Faith Hill always wanted to meet her natural parents. Adopted by Edna and Ted Perry shortly after her birth, she started looking for her birth mom in 1990. And, besides successfully finding biological mother Paula White in 1993, Hill also discovered a brother, Zachary. Moreover, the pair still maintain a close relationship today.
18. Sarah McLachlan
Many children have difficulties dealing with their adopted status, but this was never the case for Sarah McLachlan. “It wasn’t a big deal,” the singer-songwriter told Parents in 2007 about learning of her adoption aged nine. “It was like, ‘Oh, okay, good to know you’re still my mom and dad.’” Nevertheless, she’d go on to contact her birth mother later in life.
17. 50 Cent
Few musicians have experienced as tragic an upbringing as Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The rapper’s mother raised Jackson alone after her husband left her. However, her tragic murder forced him into his grandparents’ care at the age of eight. Though his biological father survives, the musician expressed “no interest” in meeting him during a 2013 interview with Larry King.
16. Eric Clapton
When rock star Eric Clapton’s unmarried mother gave birth to him in 1945, she and her baby would have faced stigma because of the era’s conservative values. So in order to avoid the disgrace of being born out of wedlock, the future guitarist was raised by his grandparents. They even pretended Clapton’s mum was his sister, but he eventually discovered the truth when he was nine years old.
15. Jaime Foxx
Following the dissolution of his parent’s marriage, Jaime Foxx was adopted by his grandparents just before his first birthday. Though the future actor experienced a happy childhood, living nearby to real mother Louise, he admits her rejection still haunts him. “I still ask myself why they didn’t want me,” he’s been widely quoted as saying.
14. Nicole Richie
Everyone knows that Nicole Richie is singer Lionel Richie’s daughter, but how many know the reality star was actually adopted? After meeting Richie at a Prince concert when she was just four, Lionel offered to look after the child while her parents – Karen Moss and Peter Michael Escovedo – went through relationship troubles. Despite starting as a temporary arrangement, her adoption was made official when Richie turned nine.
13. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Originally from Santiago, Chile, Polizzi was adopted at six months old and grew up in New York and later New Jersey. Though the reality star hasn’t met her birth family, she expressed a desire to see them on a 2016 episode of Kocktails with Khloé. “I guess they couldn’t afford me,” she said. “I’m definitely open to going there and meeting them.”
12. Frances McDormand
Famous for her Oscar-winning role in 1996’s Fargo, Frances McDormand was greatly influenced by her adopted upbringing. In fact, she and husband Joel Coen would adopt their son Pedro in 1995. Taken in by a minister as a toddler, McDormand still doesn’t know her birth mother’s identity. However, she speculates that she could’ve been a parishioner at her father’s church.
11. Keegan-Michael Key
After 25 years of not knowing his real parents, the actor tracked down his biological mother in 1996. However, as he explained to writer Tania Richards for ChicagoNow in 2014, the experience took a surprising, spiritual turn. “I’m sitting in her living room […] with tears rolling down my face accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” the comedian explained. “So, that was pretty unexpected.”
10. George Lopez
In contrast to his effervescent comedy act, George Lopez suffered a troubled and unhappy childhood. Indeed, both his father and mother abandoned him – at two months and ten years old, respectively – leaving him in his grandparents’ care. Today, the comedian has a strained relationship with his birth mother, though he continues searching for his real father.
9. Michael Bay
Adopted into a Los Angeles-based family at an early age, Michael Bay spent several years searching for his biological parents. And while he eventually traced his mother, his father has proved more elusive. Somewhat fittingly, the Transformers director long suspected filmmaker John Frankenheimer of being his real dad, though a DNA test later proved this false.
8. Kristin Chenoweth
While it’s natural for some adopted children to feel neglected, actress Kristin Chenoweth learned some valuable lessons from her foster family. “Growing up, my parents explained my adoption by telling me, ‘We chose you,’” she wrote in a 2015 WhoSay post. The star, who was adopted at one week old, continued, “We weren’t abandoned… we were given a chance.”
7. Melissa Gilbert
Born into a family that already included six children, Melissa Gilbert proved too much for an already financially insecure family. Due to the pressures of raising a seventh child, the actress’ parents quickly put the future Little House on the Prairie star up for adoption. Amazingly, just one day after her birth, she was taken in by actor Paul Gilbert and his then-wife Barbara Crane.
Though many fostered children are aware of their adoption from an early age, it wasn’t until Darryl McDaniels, a.k.a. D.M.C., was 35 that his parents broke the news. Shocked and in despair, the Run–D.M.C. rapper fell into a depression that only the music of fellow adoptee Sarah McLachlan saved him from. Nonetheless, McDaniels met his birth mother in 2004 and produced a VH1 documentary about adoption in 2006.
Best known through his EDM moniker Skrillex, Sonny Moore learned of his adoption almost by accident. After a passerby referred to a family friend as his mother, the then 16-year-old musician was told the truth by his adoptive parents. Indeed, while the news was shocking, it subsequently encouraged Moore to launch his now phenomenal music career.
4. Andy Dick
Most biological parents are happy to contact their estranged children, but Andy Dick’s birth father had ulterior motivations for meeting his son. After rebuffing initial advances, the comedian’s parent agreed to a visit after discovering that Dick was a celebrity. “I immediately was like, ‘Oh, now you want to be my father,’” the comedian told Hollywood News in 2014.
Born Allan Pineda Lindo in Angeles City, Philippines, apl.de.ap walked a long road to life in the United States. As the son of a disadvantaged single mother, the Black Eyed Peas founder received a sponsored visit to America to get treatment for an eye condition. Moving to the country aged 14, he stayed with lawyer Joe Ben Hudgens, who eventually adopted him.
2. Ric Flair
Not all adoption stories have happy endings. Indeed, wrestling legend Ric Flair was adopted from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society – an organization guilty of kidnapping children from new mothers. While it’s unclear whether or not Flair was a victim, his case is still a tragic reminder of how flawed the system used to be.
1. Jack Nicholson
While preparing a 1974 article on actor Jack Nicholson, researchers at TIME magazine made a shocking discovery – his sister June was actually his mother. After learning the news, Nicholson later discovered that his grandparents had taken him in as their own to preserve June’s career as a dancer. Unfortunately, June had already passed away before the actor learned the truth of their relationship.