Celebrities might be living that rich and famous life now, but for some, it hasn’t always been so. In fact, plenty of celebrities had childhoods full of poverty, trauma, and hardship that they overcame. These celebrities grew up with nothing.
For these celebrities, they didn’t have any help getting to the top. They made millions on hard work, perseverance, and talent – and maybe a little luck along the way.
These days, Dolly Parton has an estimated net worth of $650 million. But once upon a time, this megastar grew up in poverty as one of 12 siblings in rural Tennessee. They lived in a home without running water or electricity and slept on beds made of straw.
Sarah Jessica Parker
We know her now as NYC fashionista Carrie Bradshaw, but Sarah Jessica Parker came from pretty humble beginnings. She was one of eight kids, and money was tight for her mother and truck driver stepdad.
“I remember being poor. There was no great way to hide it,” SJP once told the New York Times. “We didn’t have electricity sometimes. We didn’t have Christmases sometimes, or we didn’t have birthdays sometimes, or the bill collectors came, or the phone company would call and say, ‘We’re shutting your phones off.’”
Legendary actor Jim Carrey hasn’t always had $180 million. In fact, his family struggled financially when he was younger, and they lived together in a van for a while. After his dad took a new job at a factory, teenage Jim and his brother worked the third shift there as janitors and security guards.
Before Cardi B’s fame skyrocketed, she was growing up in the South Bronx and running into trouble with a local gang. She started making money as a stripper to escape poverty, pay for community college, and have the funds to break free from an abusive relationship. After her social media videos started going viral, she joined the cast of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York, and the rest is history.
Although Mila Kunis didn’t start life poor, things took a turn when her family fled to America from Ukraine as the Soviet Union collapsed. Her parents had to give up good jobs, and their degrees were not transferable. Her family arrived in Los Angeles in 1991 with only $250, and Kunis didn’t speak English.
Snoop Dogg has an estimated net worth of $150 million, one of the most successful and wealthiest rappers to come out of the ‘90s rap scene. But before he got there, his early days included poverty, violence, and run-ins with the law on the streets of Long Beach. After graduating high school, he also found himself frequently incarcerated.
Before he was the title character in The Terminator or the governor of California, he was a child growing up in Austria after it was devastated by World War II. His strict and abusive father showed “strong and blatant” favoritism for his older son over Arnold, and often pitted the brothers against each other in fights.
Before becoming a Disney star, Selena Gomez came from pretty humble beginnings. This third-generation Mexican-American’s mother was just 16 years old when Selena was born, and the family had financial troubles.
“I remember my mom would run out of gas all of the time and we’d sit there and have to go through the car and get quarters and help her get gas,” she confessed in a 2011 E! special about her rise to stardom.
“Queen of Hip Hop” Nicki Minaj is worth an estimated $100 million, but it wasn’t like that before she was discovered by Lil Wayne. She immigrated from Trinidad, where she dealt with her addict father’s violent temper. She spent much of her time growing up with her grandmother in a household full of 11 cousins before moving to Queens.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s upbringing was more Jack in Titanic than it was The Great Gatsby, although you couldn’t tell by looking at DiCaprio’s bank account today. After his parents split, DiCaprio and his mother moved around a lot in seedy LA neighborhoods while she worked several jobs. He started going to auditions to help improve their financial situation and eventually dropped out of high school.
Jay-Z is a member of the billionaire’s club, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. It’s a big change from where he came from, growing up in a housing project in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy. He started selling drugs in an effort to escape poverty and was shot a few times in the process. After he started freestyling and writing lyrics, he sold CDs out of his car before starting an independent label.
Country star Shania Twain had a tough childhood, growing up desperately poor. Food was scarce, and they sometimes didn’t have enough money to pay for utilities like heat. Twain started singing in bars when she was just 8 years old to earn extra income. In 1987, her parents were killed in a car accident, leaving Twain to put a hold on her budding music career to care for her younger siblings.
Although she has an estimated net worth of $60 million now, she grew up in a trailer park in Washington state. Suffering from financial insecurity helped shape her career as an actress, often playing characters struggling with poverty. She attributes her upbringing with instilling her with drive and determination.
During an interview, Shia LaBeouf once labeled his parents the “starving artist” types who never really found an audience for their art. He dealt with verbal and mental abuse from his father and started practicing comedy as a way to escape from his environment. And though his acting career means he’s worth $25 million now, he initially only started acting because his family was broke.
Now a famous musician, Jewel grew up living with her father in Homer, Alaska. The home she lived in lacked indoor plumbing and heat. They only had a coal stove and an outhouse. She was homeless and living out of a van when she wrote and recorded her first album, Pieces of You.
Rapper Eminem has never been shy about where he came from. After his father left, he and his mother moved between Michigan and Missouri, living with family members and rarely staying in one house for more than a year or two. He dropped out of high school and worked at several jobs to help his mother pay the bills.
Before getting her big break via American Idol, she was just a regular kid growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. After graduating high school, she worked several jobs to finance a demo. Clarkson kept trying to market it to record labels, but she received little response. She worked as a telemarketer, a waitress, a Red Bull promoter, and other jobs.
Born in Brazil, Camila Alves didn’t move to the U.S. until after traveling to Los Angeles to visit her aunt. She worked as a house cleaner and a waitress for a few years before becoming fluent in English. It was only after that, that she decided to pursue a career in modeling.
Demi Moore definitely didn’t have a fairytale childhood. Her biological father left before she was born; her step-father changed jobs a lot, which meant the family moved a lot, too. Moore ended up dropping out of high school and working at a debt collection agency before trying her hand at modeling and acting.
Now worth an estimated $90 million, Halle Berry had a rough childhood. She witnessed abuse at home before her parents divorced, and after that, she was raised by her single mother in Cleveland. When she moved to New York City to pursue acting, it didn’t really go as planned, either – she ended up living in a homeless shelter for a while before her situation improved.
Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton is a famous actor now, but while growing up, he lived in Arkansas with extended family in a shack that had no electricity or plumbing. He laid asphalt for the Arkansas State Transportation Department for a while before attending and then dropping out of college.
Did you know that infamous designer Ralph Lauren came from humble beginnings? The youngest of four siblings, he was born Ralph Lifshitz to Jewish immigrants in the Bronx. These days, he’s worth a cool $7.1 billion.
J.Lo wasn’t making things up when she said she’s “Jenny from the block.” She was raised in the Bronx by Puerto Rican immigrants. Now she is the first Latina actress to earn over $1 million for a film and she’s worth an estimated $400 million.
No list of “rags to riches” celebs would be complete without Oprah Winfrey. These days, she’s worth a cool $3.5 billion and reportedly earns around $315 million each year. However, she was born into poverty in rural Mississippi and often wore dresses made from potato sacks. She later moved to a boarding house in inner-city Milwaukee before being sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee.