12 Celebrities Who Were Raised by Their Grandparents (PHOTOS)

Rona Gindin | Aug 12, 2015 Celebrities

For many of us, Grandma and Grandpa, or Nonna and Pop, are the sweet senior citizens who occasionally babysit. But for some families, grandparents play a huge role in raising little ones, at times even becoming the primary caregivers. From tragic accidents to trouble with the law, the reasons why moms and dads are unable to raise their own kids runs the gamut.

The following 12 celebrities were raised by their grandparents, and they not only turned out to be successful citizens, they thrived. 

Image via Xavier Collin/Image Press/Splash

  • Jamie Foxx


    Image © Danny Moloshok/Reuters/Corbis

    When Jamie was just seven months old, his parents decided they were too young to care for him, so they turned to his maternal grandparents, Mark and Esther Talley, for help. The couple formally adopted Jamie, even though Esther was already 60 at the time. The devout Baptists nurtured the actor's musical talents with piano lessons, which ultimately led to a Grammy award. He also won an Oscar in 2005 for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the biopic, Ray

  • Kellie Pickler


    © Steve Marcus/Reuters/Corbis

    This country crooner and American Idol alum went to live with her paternal grandpranets, Clyde and Faye Pickler, when she was just two years old after her mother left her in the care of her alcoholic father. She recalls those years with her grandparents as "the most stability I ever had," and called her grandmother her best friend until she died a few years ago. 



  • Eric Clapton


    Image via O'Rourke/Splash News

    British rocker Eric Clapton can thank his grandmother for raising him -- although for the first nine years he thought she was his mother. His real mom, Patricia, was only 15 when her son was born, and by then Clapton's father had left the scene. Thankfully grandma Rose and stepdad Jack Clapp took on the full-time parenting duties for the young lad. 

  • Oprah Winfrey


    Image © Xavier Collin/Image Press/Splash

    The queen of television's young mother left rural Mississippi shortly after Oprah was born to find work, so for six years the future talk show host was under the car of her grandma, Hattie Mae (Presley) Lee. They were quite poor, yet Winfrey was reading by age three and made quite the impression reciting verse at church. Hattie Mae did an amazing job because this little girl became one of America's greatest success stories. 

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  • Dylan McDermott


    Image © Kevork Djansezian/Reuters/Corbis

    Diane and Richard McDermott were only teenagers when their son was born, so it's no shocker that they were divorced a few years later. What is shocking, however, is that shortly after Diane and her two children moved in with her mother, Diane passed away. Avis Rogers Marino raised the boy, whose name was Mark Anthony until he later changed it to Dylan, as well as his younger sister, in Connecticut. The actor became famous for roles such as Bobby Donnell in the TV series The Practice.

  • Carol Burnett


    Image © Rick Wilking/Corbis

    Carol Burnett has made America laugh for decades, but her early childhood was no laughing matter. Burnett's grandmother, Mabel Eudora White, raised the Texas native even before the comedienne's parents divorced (the couple later died of alcholism). Burnett so loved her grandmother that at the end of every episode of her eponymous TV show, she gave her ear a little tug -- a signal to her Nana that all was OK.

  • Barack Obama


    Image © Oliver Contreras/Corbis

    While Barack Obama's mother was a strong figure in his life, America's 44th president spent much of his childhood in the Hawaiian home of his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham. His mother, an anthropologist, traveled extensively. He credits his grandmother during many of his speeches for instilling good values in him. 

  • 50 Cent


    Image © Splash News/Corbis

    The rapper whose real name is Curtis Jackson was born into a rough life. His mother, Sabrina, was 15 when her son was born, and she died when the boy was only eight. Her folks took him in, where he joined his mom's eight siblings. While his career hit a high note in the early 2000s, he's had trouble with the law and has even filed for bankruptcy

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  • Jack Nicholson


    Image © Vaughn Youtz/ZUMA/Corbis

    Since mom was an 18-year-old showgirl and dad was -- it depends whom you ask, three-time Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson ended up in the care of his grandparents, Ethel May and John Joseph Nicholson. He didn't know they were his grandparents, though. The actor was told Ethel and John were, in fact, his parents. For a long time he believed his mother, June, was a (much) older sister. A reporter unearthed the truth when Nicholson was already an adult.

  • Willie Nelson


    Image © Gerald Herbert/AP/Corbis

    Nelson's young parents took off soon after he was born, leaving baby Willie and his sister, Bobbie, with their paternal grandparents, William Alfred Nelson and Nancy Elizabeth Smothers. Devout Methodists with a hankering for music, the duo composed songs every night after dinner and brought a radio into the house once electricity was hooked up. So it's no surprise that Nelson developed musical talents that have literally spanned generations. 

  • Bill Clinton


    © Splash News/Corbis

    America's 42nd president had humble beginnings. His father died in a car crash before he was born, and he spent four years living with maternal grandparents (and grocers) Eldridge and Edith Cassidy while his mother attended nursing school. He reunited with his mom, Virginia, upon graduation, but the former president has long paid tribute to the special role his grandparents played in his life. 

  • Maya Angelou


    Image © Nell Redmond/Corbis

    Poet Maya Angelou spent some of her childhood with her mother, Vivian Baxter, but most of it was spent in the care of her grandmother, Annie Henderson. They lived with Angelou's brother and uncle behind the general store that her entrepreneurial grandmother owned and ran. Angelou died in 2014 with more than 50 honorary doctorates to her name, along with several other achievements. Clearly she had an excellent mentor. 

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