Jared LetoWhen Jared Leto won his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the first person he thanked was his mother, Constance. She was also his date to the event. Clearly, the two are close. But as Jared's speech hinted at, his childhood was a tough one. I'm not sure anyone knew how tough though. Now details about Jared's upbringing are being reported in the media. It's fairly heartbreaking -- but also uplifting. It shows you how a strong familial foundation -- and a loving mom -- can help a child overcome incredible odds.

Jared and his older brother, Shannon, grew up in Bossier City, Louisiana. They were so poor they needed food stamps to eat, and they didn't own a television. But Constance just encouraged her kids to be creative on their own. That paid off!

Jared's mom was a "hippy, vagabond," and a 19-year-old single mother and high school dropout when she found out she was pregnant with Jared. The family moved from state to state, and school to school. At one point, they lived in a truck.

Jared never knew his dad, who split with his mother shortly after she gave birth. Constance ended up turning to her parents for help.

It wasn't until Jared was eight that his life settled into stability when his mother met Dr. Carl Leto, who ended up adopting Jared and Shannon. They also had a girl, Jamie. But within a few years, they divorced.

Soon the family moved to Colorado and lived in a commune. A few years later, it was off to Haiti, where Constance worked for a medical charity. Reportedly, Jared had a screaming fit and didn't want to move there. But eventually he grew to enjoy it.

After 18 months, the family came back to the States and settled in Virginia. At 21, Jared moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He shot to fame as the dreamy Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life.

He followed that with some successful movies, but then quit acting to devote himself to the band he founded with his brother, 30 Seconds to Mars.

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Dallas Buyers Club, the movie which brought him an Oscar, was his first in six years.

This kind of vagabond upbringing can either destroy you -- or make you. Obviously, it made Jared. It's the kind of hard-knock life that can either knock you out, or perfectly preps you for the soul-sucking Hollywood audition circuit. Many actors have a background similar to Jared's.

I also think Jared's story shows that food stamps can't be de-funded. I'm a child of food stamps myself, and we can't let kids starve. Those who grow up to make good give back a million-fold in taxes what they got from the system.

Jared's home life might have been tough -- but clearly it just brought him closer to his family. And it gives him the sensitivity he needs to be a great actor.

Are you surprised to hear about his home life?

 

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