15 Celebrities Who Went From Rags to Riches

Kayla Boyd | Jul 19, 2017 Celebrities
Image: SAF/Splash

Chrissy Metz

Most of us, whether we care to admit it or not, love to observe (maybe even obsess over) the extravagant lives of the rich and famous. However, it doesn't always occur to us that not all of them came from the easiest of situations when they were growing up. 

As a matter of fact, a lot of the celebrities we love made it out of some pretty difficult circumstances before gaining the money and status that we associate them with today.

Here are 15 celebrities that came from very humble beginnings. 

  • Kat Von D

    Xavier Collin/Image Press/Splash

    Before Kat Von D was a famous tattoo artist and model with her own cosmetics line, she lived in Montemorelos, Mexico, where her family went without electricity and running water for a while.

    Her family moved to California when she was 6 and she dropped out of school at age 16 to pursue her tattooing career. Looks like she knew what she was doing!

  • Keanu Reeves

    B. Cool/Splash

    Keanu Reeves has faced more tragedy than most do in their lifetime. When he was 3, his father abandoned him and his mother, resulting in their moving around a lot, and he really struggled in school. In the late '90s, he met his wife Jennifer Syme. She was pregnant for eight months before their child was stillborn; then, 18 months later, Syme died in a car crash. 

    Nevertheless, he went on and continued to star in some of Hollywood's biggest films, from The Matrix to John Wick. (We're not crying, you are!)

  • Oprah Winfrey

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    She's now a billionaire host, actress, producer, and philanthropist -- there isn't a person in the country who hasn't heard of Oprah. She grew up on a farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, and was left in the care of her grandmother after her parents split up. Throughout her childhood, she went back and forth between living with each of her parents and faced repeated sexual abuse while under the care of her mother.

    She credits her father for saving her life, and under his care she was able to do well in school, go to college, and get her first job at CBS when she was only 19.

  • Leighton Meester

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    Most know her as Blaire Waldorf, but before Meester starred on Gossip Girl she also had to overcome some pretty harsh circumstances. She was born in a prison in Texas while her mother was serving time for trafficking marijuana. Meester was placed under the care of her grandmother while her mom finished her sentence. 

    More from CafeMom: 

  • Kevin Hart

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    Arguably one of the most successful comedians of our time, Kevin Hart was raised by a single mother in Philadelphia. His father was a cocaine addict who was in and out of jail for years. 

  • Chrissy Metz


    The This Is Us star had only had 81 cents in her bank account before she got the role as Kate, she told GlamourHer parents divorced when she was 8 and she never really knew her dad. Her mom remarried, but she still grew up worrying about if they could afford to pay the electricity bill. 

    Metz admitted that she has just started being able to pay off her debts from her early career struggles.

  • Celine Dion

    Jen Lowery/Splash News

    Although she was raised in a loving and supportive environment, the international pop icon was the youngest of her parents' 14 children. Her family faced poverty, but they shared a love of music and Dion began singing in her parents' piano bar at just 5 years old.

  • J.K. Rowling

    Brett D. Cove/Splash News

    Not long before she blessed us with the wizarding world of Harry Potter, author J.K. Rowling was a struggling single mother on welfare in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    More from CafeMom

  • Eminem

    Rick Davis/Splash News

    If you've seen the semi-autobiographical movie 8 Mile, then you already know that rapper Eminem didn't exactly have it easy. Growing up in public housing projects in Detroit, he never knew his father, and his single mother often struggled to keep work. He has also publicly accused his mother of drug abuse, as well as physical and mental abuse.

  • Nicki Minaj

    cats/Splash News

    Before Nicki Minaj was one of the most well-known female rappers ever, her family struggled financially. Born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, she moved with her family to Queens, New York, when she was 5. Her father faced severe drug addiction and had a history of violence. 

  • Leonardo DiCaprio

    PG/Splash News

    The Academy Award–winning actor wasn't always an A-list celebrity. According to the Independent, he spent the first nine years of his life in a run-down Hollywood neighborhood where there was crime and violence everywhere.

  • Mariah Carey

    Xavier Collin/IPA/Splash News

    Mariah Carey worked multiple jobs to get by while living in New York City right after high school. She did everything from waitressing to checking coats to survive until she was discovered at a party by a Columbia records executive. Now, she's a chart-topping, Grammy-winning diva with her own TV show. 

  • Shania Twain

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    Singer Shania Twain grew up in the small town of Timmins, Ontario, where her family faced financial struggles for most of her childhood. She and her mother dealt with physical and mental abuse from her stepfather until her parents were killed in a car accident. After that, she was left to raise her three younger siblings. 

  • 50 Cent

    fotostore/Splash News

    Rapper, actor, and businessman Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, grew up in Queens, New York, in a poor neighborhood. He was raised by a single mother who sold drugs to support them until she died in a fire when he was only 8.

    After that, he was cared for by his grandmother. 50 Cent was busted for selling drugs at a young age, but ended up getting his GED while in boot camp. 

  • Demi Moore

    Russ Einhorn/Splash News

    Demi Moore grew up in poverty in Roswell, New Mexico. Her father left her mother before she was born and her mother remarried when she was an infant. Moore's parents were both alcoholics and by the time she was 14 she had already moved more than 30 times. Her mother had been arrested on several occasions and her stepfather, the man who raised her, committed suicide when she was 17. 

    You would never know that such a powerful woman had come from such horrific circumstances, but here she is, a famously celebrated actress and model.


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