They say wealth tends to create more wealth, but having an affluent upbringing isn’t the only way up. Many of the wealthiest and most popular people on the planet also have their own amazing stories about starting from the bottom. Although the rich do become richer, these 15 Hollywood rags-to-riches stories can inspire us that through determination and hard work, we can also overcome challenges and achieve success.
15. Leighton Meester, estimated net worth: $5 million
Leighton Meester has only been in the industry in 1999, and since then, she has been making a name for herself. The American actress and singer starred on The CW’s hit drama series, Gossip Girl. She also made appearances in films, including Country Song, The Roommate, Monte Carlo, The Oranges and That’s My Boy.
Before she became famous and successful, she had to deal with a troubled childhood. While pregnant with her, Leighton’s mother was serving time in a federal prison. She was born in a hospital and nursed for three months in a halfway house, before her mother returned to prison. Despite everything, the Gossip Girl star has nothing against her parents.
14. Jewel, estimated net worth: $30 million
Jewel has had a total of 11 studio albums to date; with her debut album entitled Pieces of You considered as the most successful musical premieres in the history of recording. Today, she has turned into an accomplished composer, singer, onstage performer and recording artist.
The MTV Video Music Award winning singer grew up with her father in a small town in Alaska, where they lived in a rustic house, with no indoor plumbing. Whenever they needed money, both would sing in local bars and entertain patrons. She revealed in an interview with Songwriter Universe, “I was just closing this period of my life where I was living in a car and scrambling my whole life to then signing a six-record deal with Atlantic.” Now, she has sold more than 27 million albums worldwide.
13. Hilary Swank, estimated net worth: $40 million
Hilary Swank had to contend with a poor childhood. During the first few years of her life, her family lived normally. When she turned six, her family moved to a trailer park in Bellingham, Washington. At the age of 16, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother, where they both lived in a car. Her difficult childhood helped her connect to the characters in the film Freedom Writers.
Swank has now earned two Academy Awards as the best actress in the films Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don’t Cry. She also has her own star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.
12. Sarah Jessica Parker, estimated net worth: $90 million
At a young age, Sarah Jessica Parker had to live the life of poverty. Even if her mother had a steady job, it wasn’t enough to support eight children in the house. Sarah shared to The New York Times, “We were on welfare. I remember being poor. There was no great way to hide it. We didn’t have electricity sometimes.”
Even with the struggles and challenges, her mother encouraged her to pursue her passion for dancing. She raised enough money and sent Sarah to singing and ballet school. In 1976, Sarah made her Broadway debut already in the revival of The Innocents. Three years after, she landed her first title role in the Broadway musical Annie. Her acting prowess was discovered further when she starred in Sex and the City, making her family fabulously wealthy.
11. Jim Carrey, estimated net worth: $150 million
A lot of people recognize Jim Carrey as the man behind comedic roles in films like Dumb & Dumber, The Mask, Yes Man and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. But, before he made us laugh in all these films, he went through a rough childhood.
The first few years of his life seemed fine, but when his father lost his job, things changed. “When he lost his job, that’s when everything fell apart. We went from lower middle class to poor. We were living out of a van. I quit school at age 15 to begin working to help support my family as a janitor,” he told Inside the Actors Studio. Now, the comedian has a successful career, winning lots of awards and being described as one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood.
10. Demi Moore, estimated net worth: $150 million
Demi Moore rose to prominence with an array of successful films from the ‘80s to the early ‘90s. She became known for her role in the film, Striptease and Ghost, which made her one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood in 1990.
However, she also had a troubled childhood. Before she was even born, her biological father left them. Shortly thereafter, her mother remarried. At age of 16, she left high school to sign with the Elite Modeling Agency. Even though her childhood was tough, this doesn’t stop her from becoming a famous actress.
9. Eminem, estimated net worth: $160 million
Eminem is a multi-platinum rapper, who spent his childhood moving around Missouri with his mom. When they settled in Warren, Michigan, he became interested in hip-hop music. He participated in freestyle rap battles and started amateur performances in his entire teen years. From there, he started gaining respect and recognition from the local hip-hop scene.
Even if they already had a steady home to live in, Eminem’s life wasn’t that great. He suffered a lot from bullying in school. He dropped out of school at the age of 17 and decided to join Bassmint Productions. He recorded music under Mashin’ Duck Records and FBT Productions. During that time, he was also doing a minimum wage job as a dishwasher and a cook. He had his debut album, Infinite, released in 1996. Now, Eminem already has twelve #1 singles worldwide.
8 . Leonardo DiCaprio, estimated net worth: $220 million
It is undeniable that Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the biggest and most popular actors of the moment. Throughout his acting career, he has been nominated five Academy Awards and ten Golden Globes. Aside from that, he also received nominations from the British Academy of Film, Satellite Awards, Screen Actors Guild and Television Arts. Now, he has an estimated net worth of $220 million.
Even with his huge success, DiCaprio has his tough beginnings. While working two jobs, his German mother was able to raise him well. Still, it was a rough road for them. According to The Independent, Leo described his childhood home as, “a major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere. It really was like Taxi Driver in a lot of ways.”
7. Tom Cruise, estimated net worth: $380 million
Tom Cruise grew up in poverty. His family was dominated by an abusive father, whom he described as “a merchant of chaos.” He was always beaten by his father. According to Cruise, “He was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life – how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then bang! For me, it was like, ‘there’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.’”
Fortunately, when he was in middle school, his mother left his father. That change made his life better, not only as a teenager, but in his future career as well. Since then, he has already won almost 30 awards, including three Golden Globes.
6. Stephen King, estimated net worth: $400 million
At a young age, the father of famed author, Stephen King, walked out on the family, leaving all responsibilities to his mother. It was pretty rough for them, especially at the time when the parents of her mother fell ill. Since they had no other source of income, his family had to get used to the life, where they have to borrow and ask money from relatives.
Now that he is making a name in the industry, he doesn’t have to worry about money. The acclaimed author has been a recipient of countless recognitions and awards from different renowned award giving bodies, including Alex Awards, Balrog Awards, Quill Award, Locus Awards and a lot more.
5. Mariah Carey, estimated net worth: $510 million
At first, things weren’t that hard for Mariah Carey. Her family was financially stable when her parents were together. After they divorced, that was no longer the case. Mariah’s father was an aeronautical engineer, and after the divorce, they were no longer able to rely on his income. Her mom had a tough time finding money to support their needs.
Luckily, her mom earned enough money as a vocal coach and a singer. Since their life is getting better, they moved to a nicer neighborhood. That change in residency brought changes to Mariah’s life and career. In a span of two decades, she has already sold more than 200 million records worldwide. With her remarkable voice range, no wonder she has become the successful performer she is right now.
4. Jay-Z, estimated net worth: $550 million
Jay-Z might be seen as a hip-hop royalty in the music industry, but even so, stars also have their humble beginnings. As for the young Jay-Z, who embodies his rags-to-riches rap dream, he worked hard to become the famous rapper he wanted to be.
He described his early childhood in his book Decoded, “My life after childhood has two main stories: the story of the hustler and the story of the rapper, and the two overlap as much as they diverge. I was on the streets for more than half of my life from the time I was thirteen years old. The feelings I had during that part of my life were burned into me like a brand. It was life during wartime.” As of now, his estimated net worth is already $550 million.
3. Sean Combs, estimated net worth: $700 million
Sean Combs has definitely gone a long way. Before he reached a net worth of $700 million and owned a recording label and clothing line, he lived a difficult life in the projects in Harlem. His father was suspected as a drug dealer that was killed in his car. At that time, Sean was just a kid. However, he didn’t let his upbringing pull him down.
The American rapper, actor, entrepreneur and record producer started his career when he worked as an intern for Uptown Records. When he got fired from his job, he established his own record company, Bad Boys Records. He also produced several songs that became a huge hit. His career as a rapper only began when he released his first album, No Way Out. It earned him five Grammy nominations and won Best Rap Album in 1998.
2. Celine Dion, estimated net worth: $800 million
According to Celine Dion, “I grew up in a very, very, very small house. We weren’t poor, but we never had money. We were given love and affection and support. What else did we need?” The songstress was the youngest of 14 kids in her family. Coming from a musically-inclined family, Celine Dion began his singing career at an early age.
As a youngster, she was already a popular recording artist in Europe and Japan. She was also recognized by The Los Angeles Times as one of the top ten largest earners of 2010. Now, she continues to perform onstage for her own Las Vegas show.
1. Oprah Winfrey, estimated net worth: $2.9 billion
Oprah Winfrey is by far the most successful person on the planet. According to Forbes, she is the richest self-made woman in America. Despite her success, she grew up very poor. She was so poor that she only wore clothes made from potato sacks. She even suffered sexual abuse at the age of nine.
Even so, she was still able to live an amazing and successful life. Her childhood inspired her to finish college and build her own empire. She already has her new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. She also has a school for girls in South Africa, which she invested $40 million. Her current net worth is $3 billion.
From stories of growing up without money and a complete family, to somebody worth millions of dollars, perhaps, you can also be inspired by any of these stories. These Hollywood A-listers contended the odds and ended successful despite their tough origins. Now, they are earning more than they need and are living the life they once dreamed of.