Walk of Fame Celebrities Who Came Up From Literally Nothing Published 3 months ago on Nov 12, 2018 By Eric Sumner Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps to make something of yourself has always been the centerpiece of the American dream. Usually it involves securing a better future for the next generation, but sometimes it means rising from poverty all the way to the very top of the social ladder in a single person’s lifetime. Indeed, many of the world’s most influential celebrities fall under the latter category – having overcome immense hardship to make it big in the world of show business. Hardship doesn’t exactly come to mind when one thinks of celebrities and their lifestyles, but it’s worth taking a look at some of the most inspirational celebrity success stories ever. 1. Nicki Minaj It’s not easy to picture Nicki Minaj wearing anything other than expensive designer outfits, flawless makeup and iconic wigs. But there was a time when one of the most famous women in hip hop didn’t have the luxuries she has today – far from it. That’s right. Before Minaj even met Drake, Lil Wayne or ex-boyfriend Meek Mill, her family was living in poverty. nme.com Born Onika Tanya Maraj, Nicki’s father had mistreated her and her mother – and even burned down the family house when she was a kid. Since then, Minaj dreamed of fame and becoming wealthy enough to support her mother. “I don’t think I had a lot of discipline in my household,” she has recalled of her childhood. “My mom motivated me, but it wasn’t a strict household. I kind of wanted a strict household.” 2. Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo DiCaprio has been in Hollywood for so long that many forget about his humble beginnings. Yes, he got his big break young, and, yes, he has done rather well for himself, but that doesn’t mean the star has always had it easy. Before he ever made it in the world of acting, DiCaprio grew up in a poverty-stricken part of Los Angeles. Time Magazine From a young age, the Academy Award winner was surrounded by wrongdoers after his parents split and his mother Irmelin worked several jobs to make ends meet. He was even forced to live with his grandparents for part of his childhood! 3. Hilary Swank The talented Oscar-winning actress went through some incredibly tough times before becoming the star she is today. The struggle for her started when she was very young and her family lived in a trailer park. Things got even worse when her father walked out on her mother when she was still a young girl. parade.com Her mother worked hard to provide for her two children in poverty and, just when things couldn’t get any worse, her mother lost her job and Swank dropped out of high school. But there was a glimmer of hope for her family – and that glimmer was her. Swank’s family drove out to California to allow her to try her hand at acting. Money was tight – they even lived in their car for a while – but boy, looking back, they must be glad it payed off. 4. Jim Carrey The A-list actor and funnyman actually started out in decent shape. Born in Ontario, Canada, Jim Carrey grew up in a lower-middle-class family. It wasn’t that the Carrey’s were swimming in cash, but they were making ends meet. But it wasn’t always like that. snakkle.com Carrey’s father lost his job and, as a result, the family’s home was repossessed due to their inability to pay the mortgage. The hardship caused Carrey to drop out of high school at age 15 so he could help support the family. The titles he held included janitor and even security guard. In his time of hardship, Carrey decided to take the courageous step of pursuing comedy as his escape from poverty and vehicle into the entertainment industry. Spoiler alert: it worked. 5. Justin Bieber There now exists an entire generation that followed Justin Bieber’s career from his time as a child star. But some people can’t be blamed for wondering whether the international star who inspired a cult-like fandom ever knew how it felt to be a normal human being. guardianlv.com He did. Bieber was born to a single mother and grew up in poverty. Even the house in which he was raised was reportedly infested with rats. He slept on the couch and relied heavily on macaroni and cheese to survive. The empty fridge and rat trails surely kindled Bieber’s urge to get out there with a guitar and make a name for himself, and make a name for himself he did. Did that story change your view on the Biebs? Wait until you hear about the tough conditions other celebrities lived in. 6. Leighton Meester Leighton Meester made a name for herself playing Blair Waldorf, a privileged adolescent living in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in Gossip Girl. Meester’s own childhood couldn’t have been more different from that of her character – and not just in terms of her financial situation. Fame Focus Meester’s mother was actually incarcerated when she was born – she was even nursed in a halfway house! She lived with her grandmother while her mother was behind bars. Luckily for the star-to-be, things improved when her mother was released. A modeling gig in New York landed her in the city that would change her life forever. 7. Halle Berry Halle Berry is now considered one of the biggest icons in Hollywood, but not everyone knows she had to overcome extreme adversity to get there. Her father came from a troubled background and abandoned her before she even turned 5. That meant her mother had to raise Halle and her sister alone in a rough neighborhood in Ohio. biography.com Despite the hardship at home, Berry excelled in school as an honor student, cheerleader and editor on the student newspaper. She moved to New York in an attempt to make it in the entertainment industry as a model and actress, even staying in homeless shelters in the very beginning. You can bet she appreciates the Hollywood comfort after having experienced that! 8. Tom Cruise Tom Cruise was actually raised in Ottawa, Canada, and started acting at a young age – not professionally, that is, but through drama classes in grade school. He moved to the U.S. after his parents split, and his passion for acting remained. While this picture sounds pretty enough, especially considering everyone knows how the story ends, it wasn’t always that way. quirkybyte.com Cruise’s upbringing was a challenging one both physically and emotionally. He has described growing up in near poverty and being mistreated by his father, whom Cruise has since described as a bully and a coward. Through hard work and resilience, though, Cruise’s reality is much different today. Good for him! 9. Jay-Z In keeping with a common theme in hip hop, Jay-Z was raised in a very troubled place. Born Shawn Corey Carter, the rapper participated in criminal activity growing up in Brooklyn’s Marcy housing projects, even attacking his own brother for stealing his jewelry. Breaking the law was one of the young musician’s only options. elitemuzik.net His other option was hip hop. Known as “Jazzy” around his neighborhood, Carter first appeared on several recordings of his mentor’s, Jaz-O, in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Eventually, Jay-Z realized music was his only chance to escape the crime and poverty that surrounded him. Today it is clear he has forever cemented his name as a hip hop icon. 10. Demi Moore The stage was set for a tough life for Demi Moore even before she was introduced to the world. Moore’s father abandoned her mother before she was born. It didn’t take long for the future actress’s mother to remarry, but that didn’t help much – she and her new husband were both very troubled. Pinterest Growing up in a trailer park, the family’s household dynamic was reportedly unhealthy and filled with tension. As a result, Moore dropped out of high school and left home at the young age of 16 to pursue modeling and, eventually, get into acting. Luckily for Moore, she had the genes and talent to succeed in both, and along with a little luck, look where she landed! Are you inspired yet? Wait until you read about the lives of other celebrities before fame. 11. Kelly Clarkson It’s perhaps fitting that Kelly Clarkson, the first ever American Idol, came from nothing and earned hear stardom through hard work, a little luck and a little love from the rest of America. The star with the paralyzing voice grew up in a cockroach-infested house with very little money. Things got so bad she eventually had to rely on food stamps to survive! US Weekly Bugs aren’t the most pleasant roommates, and Clarkson was sick and tired of it all. Her plan was to capitalize on her musical talent to escape her situation. It wasn’t easy – she even had to live out of her car and even in a homeless shelter before her big break. Today, Clarkson is a successful singer who set the standard for all American Idol contestants who came after her. 12. Eminem Marshall Mathers’s rags-to-riches story isn’t quite as surprising as others on this list, considering everyone in the world has seen his autobiographical film, 8 Mile, and listened to his award-winning music. Nevertheless, it’s a compelling story and the list would be incomplete without it. mtmtv.info Eminem shuffled between Michigan and Missouri as a kid, but spent his teen years in a rough part of Detroit. He was bullied relentlessly – often physically. Indeed, one bullying incident resulted in a head injury that the rapper discusses in one of his songs. Mathers wrote rhymes and participated in rap battles growing up, hoping to break into a majority-black industry against all odds. Today, he is routinely listed among the best rappers ever. 13. Arnold Schwarzenegger Like many others on this list, Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t born to a family of many means. You might be able to tell from his accent that unlike the others, Arnie wasn’t raised in the United States. The man who now boasts a resume that includes bodybuilder, actor, author and two-term governor of California – among other titles – was born in an Austrian village in 1947. Reddit Money was scarce in the Schwarzenegger household and, to make matters worse, Arnie’s father preferred his eldest son and established a toxic family dynamic. The harshness of it all is what provoked Schwarzenegger to get into weightlifting and eventually become a bodybuilding icon. From there, the Governator proved to be a man of many trades. 14. Sarah Jessica Parker This one might be a little hard to believe. Carrie Bradshaw? Coming from humble beginnings? It’s the truth! Sarah Jessica Parker was raised by a struggling family in Nelsonville, Ohio. They relied on welfare to survive and went without electricity at times when they couldn’t afford to pay the bills. Cosmopolitan When times got really tough, the Parker family was even unable to celebrate Christmas and had to skip over birthdays. They weren’t really able to afford the large house they occupied to house Parker and her seven siblings. The hardship fed Parker’s drive to succeed in show business and escape the cycle of poverty. Today, she has made such a name for herself that to explain the Carrie Bradshaw reference in the previous paragraph would have been totally unnecessary. 15. Shania Twain Shania Twain is a country music superstar. She could also conceivably star in an autobiographical drama someday – her upbringing was just that tough. Twain has recalled not having enough food to share among her siblings in her youth, and even having to learn how to hunt. To top it off, her stepfather was a rough man and fought incessantly with her mother throughout her youth. Noteabley Indeed, Twain and her family even ran away from her step dad at the time, taking refuge at a homeless shelter. When she was 21 and kick-starting her career, her mother and step father were killed in a car crash. In her pain, Twain turned to singing and songwriting in her quest to escape poverty. Keep reading for other surprising celebrity success stories. 16. Oprah Winfrey Media mogul Oprah Winfrey’s is perhaps one of the biggest and most widely appreciated American success stories ever. Born to unwed and unprepared young parents on a Mississippi pig farm, Winfrey moved to Milwaukee with her mother. She spent some time with her father in Tennessee, but neither house offered her much love or support. achievement.org Indeed, people made Oprah‘s life difficult everywhere she went. Ambitious and resilient, though, Oprah Winfrey never gave up. She overcame all of her challenges to become literally the most celebrated television host and businesswoman ever. There are other celebrities on the list who might surprise you. 17. P. Diddy Sean John Combs, otherwise known as P. Diddy, was born in Harlem and raised in Mount Vernon, New York. His father served in the U.S. Air Force and happened to be the associate of convicted crime boss Frank Lucas, whose story inspired the film American Gangster. He passed away when P. Diddy was young. Rolling Stone It was rough for Combs being raised by a single mother. At one point, when his mom couldn’t afford to buy him sneakers, Combs worked as a paper boy so he could buy some on his own. There might be a hint of irony in the idea that a big, bad rapper once delivered newspapers as a boy – but that work ethic was key to Diddy’s monumental success. 18. Camila Alves Camila Alves is a tremendously successful model and entrepreneur who also happens to be married to A-list actor Matthew McConaughey. That reality likely not even a dream of hers when she was a 15-year-old Brazilian immigrant to the United States. Immigrants come to America to achieve the American dream, but it’s not always the case that they rise to wealth and stardom within a single generation. IMDb Camila Alves did exactly that. Alves worked in restaurants and cleaned houses to help her family make ends meet, and she also saved cash for her dream to pursue modeling in NYC. She didn’t know how far she’d get, but looking back, it was a chance worth taking indeed. 19. Joaquin Phoenix In 2014, Joaquin Phoenix revealed something about his childhood that raised eyebrows across the entertainment world. Unlike some others on this list, Phoenix wasn’t raised in poverty or in a broken home – at least, not in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, he was dragged into a religious cult by his parents before he was signed by talent agents at the young age of 6. Panda Gossips The cult, called “Children of God,” trekked through South America together. The star never blamed his parents, though. “I think my parents thought they’d found a community that shared their ideals,” he has said. “Cults rarely advertise themselves as such. It’s usually someone saying, ‘We’re like-minded people. This is a community,’ but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out.” 20. Billy Bob Thornton Billy Bob Thornton opened up about growing up poor in rural Arkansas in 2016. Anyone who has seen Bad Santa probably won’t find it difficult to imagine, but Thornton used to get a stick and a rock in his stocking for Christmas! Poor kid. topsimages.com Perhaps that’s why his character in Bad Santa, Willie T. Stoke, has a soft spot for little Thurman Merman in the film. It might explain other problems Stoke has in the film. Today, the Oscar-winning actor/writer can boast of success that he has earned on both sides of the big screen. Did you like Thornton’s story about overcoming poverty? There are plenty more to come. 21. Selena Gomez Selena Gomez is one of the biggest music and movie superstars in the world, with a cult following that rivals literally anyone else’s in the game. Literally anything she does today can make bank. And she started at age 18, as a Disney star. Elle But there was a time when even Selena Gomez lived in abject poverty. That’s right, Gomez opened up about her past in 2011 and, apparently, her mother was only 16 when she was born. She worked several jobs to provide for Gomez. Dinner for the superstar-in-the-making was often dollar-store spaghetti – a far cry from the extravagant caviar and lobster she can more than afford to enjoy today. 22. Snoop Dogg As another rapper on the list, it’s no secret that Snoop Dogg’s upbringing involved abject poverty, violence and a great deal of broken laws. And Snoop isn’t just any rapper – we’re talking the literal incarnation of West Coast gangsta rap culture. hollywood.com Unlike the trap beat-dominated mumble rap that kids listen to today, ’90s rappers were known to document their experiences in their lyrics, and Snoop’s were wild. His music and laid-back persona have transformed him from street thug to mainstream pop cultural icon. They say crime doesn’t pay, but a common theme in this list would suggest hip hop can. 23. Mila Kunis Mila Kunis literally came from nothing. It is why, the A-list actress has said, she and her husband, fellow actor Ashton Kutcher, don’t plan to raise snobby or entitled children. Born in Ukraine, Kunis and her family fled to the United States right as the Soviet Union collapsed, making her eventual success all the more noteworthy. Reddit Even in the land of the free, her family struggled. When food was scarce, Kunis recalled, “ketchup soup” was served for dinner when she was a kid. Kunis acted her way out of abject poverty, starting with her beloved role on That ’70s Show, alongside Kutcher, at age 14. Today, Kunis has every possible meal anyone could imagine at the tips of her fingers. 24. Dolly Parton Not the only country star on this list, Dolly Parton is undoubtedly one of the biggest and wealthiest names in country music. One of the few similarities between country music and hip hop is the tendency of the artist to chronicle his or her past in their music. In “Coat of Many Colors,” one of Parton’s best-known songs, she describes her life in Appalachia. relaxmeong.info It was a life of poverty. She grew up in the rural mountains of Eastern Tennessee with 11 siblings, in a house that lacked running water, gas and electricity. She even slept on a straw bed! Parton appeared on a local television channel at the age of 12, and it was all uphill from there. 25. J.K. Rowling J.K. Rowling is a late bloomer in the world of show business, but boy did she make it big. Born in Gloucestershire, England, Rowling was a single mother raising her daughter on public assistance when she wrote the best-selling “Harry Potter” in 1994. It catapulted her a kind of literary super-stardom that she probably couldn’t have even fathomed at the time. Los Angeles Times Rowling was “as poor as it’s possible to be,” she told Daily Mail in a 2013 interview. Oh, how things can change. Rowling took the titled of highest-paid author and third highest-paid celebrity in 2017, according to Forbes. Hers is truly an amazing story about escaping the ills of poverty through persistence. 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