16 celebrities who came from nothing

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It’s hard not to get jealous of the fabulous lives celebrities lead.

They’ve got the fame, they’ve got the looks, and they’ve got the fortune. They never have to worry about looming rent or bills. Instead, they jet off in private planes to their favorite exotic locations to play on their yachts.

Despite the millions they may have now, many of the richest celebrities grew up with nothing.

Their rags-to-riches stories prove that with hard work, persistence, talent, and a lot of luck, you really can end up in a better place than where you started.

Check out these “started from the bottom” stories about 16 of your favorite celebrities.

Amy Daire contributed to a previous version of this story.

1. Oprah Winfrey has a net worth of $3 billion, but before her big break things were difficult.

The billionaire media mogul had a rougher start than most. She grew up wearing potato sacks because her family couldn’t afford clothing, was shuffled between family members living in boarding houses and on rural farms, and had to deal with both sexual abuse and teen pregnancy.

She fled those terrible conditions to move in with her dad in Tennessee, where she became a model student and a popular peer. The rest is history.

“I know what it means to be poor,” she said in a video clip from “MAKERS.” “I know what it feels like to be abandoned. I know what it feels like to not be wanted. I know what it feels like to not be loved … and yet have inside yourself a yearning, a passion, a desire, a hope for something better.”

Despite her rocky start, her hopes and dreams turned into reality. Now she’s one of the richest people in the world and has everything you could ever dream of owning. She’s even been flagged as a potential presidential candidate.

2. Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t always worth $200 million.

He’s been in countless Oscar-winning films, all of which certainly helped him earn some of his estimated net worth, but before he started shelling out the big bucks for yachts and celeb-filled vacations, he was just trying to make sure his parents could make ends meet.

His family grew up in the rougher parts of East Hollywood where his mother worked as a secretary and his father sold comic books underground, neither making anything that stacked up.

“Money was always on my mind when I was growing up,” he said to Telegraph magazine in an interview in 2016. “So I was always wondering how we were going to afford this and that. Acting seemed to be a shortcut out of the mess.”

DiCaprio became a superstar when he starred in “Titanic” in 1997, the highest-grossing movie ever at the time, and received an Oscar for “The Revenant” in 2016.

3. Demi Moore left the trailer park and is now worth $150 million.

Her estimated worth means even more after learning how she started. The self-proclaimed “trailer park kid” moved from place to place with her alcoholic parents throughout her entire childhood. She dropped out of school and moved out of the abusive home at 16.

She worked as a debt collector and model before landing a supporting role in 1981’s “Choices” and making all the risks worth it.

“We weren’t dirt poor, but we didn’t have a lot of money,” she explained to The Guardian during an interview in 2007. “I entered this career having no background or connection to acting. I had so little I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking the risk.”

4. Hilary Swank caught her biggest break in “Boys Don’t Cry.” 18 years later, she’s well out of the poverty she grew up in and worth $40 million.

She also starred in “Million Dollar Baby” and “Freedom Writers,” films that surely helped her rise to her assumed worth, but before her name was ever in lights she was living in a trailer park just like Moore. When her mother lost her job, the two of them moved to California and lived out of a car.

The two-time Oscar-winning actress has been very open about her childhood and was even criticized for romanticizing poverty. Her second Academy Award acceptance speech might have contributed to those harsh opinions.

“I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve this. I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream,” she said on stage in 2001. “I never thought this would ever happen.”

5. Nicki Minaj always wanted to make enough money to support her mother. Now with $14 million, she can.

The rapper and singer’s estimated worth is quite a step up from her earlier lifestyle. She grew up in a turbulent home, with a drug-addicted father who would sell their things for drug money and set their house on fire with her mom still inside.

“When I first came to America,” she said to Rolling Stone in 2010, “I would go in my room and and kneel down at the foot of my bed and pray that god would make me rich so that I could take care of my mother.”

She’s got more than enough money and power to do that now, thanks in part to the fact that she worked hard and stayed out of trouble herself.

“At one point you had to sell a few kilos to be considered a credible rapper,” she also said in the interview. “But now it’s like Drake and I are embracing the fact that we went to school, we love acting, we love theater, and that’s OK — and it’s especially good for the black community to know that’s OK, that’s embraced.”

Minaj has paid her wealth forward, too. In 2017, she revealed that she’d been donating money and infrastructure equipment to a rural village in India for years.

6. It didn’t take long for Justin Bieber to go from struggling teenager to $84 million mogul.

The 23-year-old, who’s net worth is more than he probably ever imagined, stepped onto the scene in 2009 with his hit “One Time.” Just before it was released, he was living in Canada with his single mother who wasn’t exactly making the money that Bieber is used to these days.

“I remember being poor and being teased by other kids,” he said in an interview with Clique TV. “I remember sitting in restaurants with my mother and she’d make me order water instead of soda. I remember so badly wanting to order a soda. And I also remember that when I got my first big pay check I was so glad to be able to use that money to take care of my mother.”

They have since fallen out, but his mom made a pretty penny on her own when she wrote a book about mothering the superstar.

7. Mariah Carey’s cool $500 million came from loads of hard work.

The singer earned her estimated worth with hits like “Without You,” “We Belong Together,” and “Touch My Body.” However, before she was wearing designer dresses and rocking one of the most expensive engagement rings ever, the singer was waiting tables.

“I moved to Manhattan alone as a teenage girl. It was an exciting time for me, even though I had nothing,” she said on her show “Mariah’s World.” “I lived, like, on a mattress on the floor. I was writing my songs and being a horrible waitress. My demo tape ended up at Sony and they signed it away.”

Since then, it’s been a Cinderella story fit with a prince (or two), overwhelming success, and a happy family.

8. This pop singer might be worth $300 million nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case for Jennifer Lopez.

Everyone knows that before she became J-Lo, and put such a large wealth to her name, she was just Jenny from the block. She grew up in The Bronx walking around with holes in her shoes.

Once she decided to drop out of college and pursue singing, she even became homeless for a while. The former American Idol judge told Extra that she spent those days couch surfing in dance studios.

“I was like, ‘Can I sleep here when everyone goes on home … on the couch?'” she said. “Now that I think back on it, and thinking about being 18 and one of my kids being 18 and doing that, I would’ve had a heart attack.”

9. J.K. Rowling has flirted with billionaire status, but makes sure she isn’t one.

Both of Rowling’s parents came from impoverished backgrounds and never attended college. After Rowling graduated from the University of Exeter, she spent years doing odd jobs and living off government welfare before publishing the first “Harry Potter” book at 32.

They became bestsellers and led to movies and spinoff books. Rowling, soon enough, was a millionaire.

While Rowling’s book sales and movie deals make her well more than enough money for her to become a billionaire, she reportedly remains off the list because of the money she gives to charity. Forbes estimates her net worth is about $650 million..

10. Mark Wahlberg’s $225 million didn’t come as easily as some might expect.

The actor earned some of that assumed worth with his parts in “Ted,” “The Departed,” and “Entourage.” However before he broke out as Marky Mark and started getting cast in Hollywood blockbusters, Wahlberg was getting into trouble in Boston.

The actor came from a broken home and spent his teenage years dealing drugs, feeding his cocaine addiction, and getting into fights. One of those fights landed him in jail for attempted murder.

“As soon as I began that life of crime, there was always a voice in my head telling me I was going to end up in jail,” he said during an interview with The Daily Mail. “Three of my brothers had done time. My sister went to prison so many times I lost count. Finally I was there, locked up with the kind of guys I’d always wanted to be like. Now I’d earned my stripes and I was just like them, and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I’d ended up in the worst place I could possibly imagine and I never wanted to go back. First of all, I had to learn to stay on the straight and narrow.”

Since then he’s turned his life around and is one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

11. Jim Carrey once apparently made $20 million per film, but there was a time when he was actually homeless.

When Carrey was just 12, his father lost his job, leaving the four kids and their stay-at-home mom in quite a tight squeeze.

“My father lost his job when he was 51 and that was the real ‘wow,’ the kick in the guts,” he said to James Lipton on “Inside The Actor’s Studio.” “We lived in a van for a while, and we worked all together as security guards and janitors.”

Carrey worked in a factory after school to help out, but his days of doing dirty work are long gone.

He reportedly made $20 million per movie in the 1990s, and is now recognized around the world as a reliably funny slapstick, if erratic, actor.

12. Jay Z’s net worth is estimated to be $810 million, but his beginnings were much more humble.

Beyoncé’s husband grew up in the projects in Brooklyn, where the hopes of making millions was usually just a pipe dream. He spent his high school years selling drugs, something many of peers were also doing at the time.

“We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled. Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off,” he explained to Vanity Fair in an in-depth interview in 2013. “We weren’t starving—we were eating, we were okay. But it was things like you didn’t want to be embarrassed when you went to school; you didn’t want to have dirty sneakers or wear the same clothes over again. And crack was everywhere — it was inescapable.”

He ended up walking away from it all to focus solely on music, which he was juggling with dealing at the time.

13. Leighton Meester is now worth $5 million, but after hearing her backstory you’ll be even more amazed.

Meester didn’t have a lot of experience to go off of for her role as the queen bee on “Gossip Girl.” The first few years of her life were far from glamorous, which probably makes her estimated worth even more valuable to her.

The actress was born in a prison while her mother was serving time for smuggling drugs. Meester spent her childhood in Florida with her grandmother until her mom got out and the two reunited.

When she was 10, they moved to New York so that Meester could model and then packed up again four years later to head to Los Angeles where she started auditioning for roles and taking acting classes.

“I couldn’t relate to kid stuff. ‘Jimmy doesn’t like me!’ Who cares? I was worried we didn’t have gas money or food. Those were my concerns,” she said in an interview with Marie Claire in 2012.

14. Celine Dion has come a long way since her early days — $380 million farther to be exact.

She earned some of her big bucks singing international hits like “My Heart Will Go On” and “The Power of Love,” but before she was belting on stage, she was working in her father’s piano bar trying to help out. She was the youngest of 14 children in a family that survived off the $160 a week her dad earned.

“And since they didn’t have any money, [her dad] used to walk to work because he would save 10 cents each day by not taking the bus,” Dion’s former publicist, Mia Dumont, said to CNN.

The singer, and her family, got their big break when Celine sent a recording of her “Ce N’etait Qu’un Rêve” to manager René Angélil. He was moved to tears by her voice and even mortgaged his house to fund her first two albums, but it clearly paid off. The two were even married for 21 years before his untimely death.

15. Sarah Jessica Parker is reportedly worth $90 million today, but she grew up with much, much less.

The “Sex and the City” star made her rumored millions after a big break when she was just 16. Her family grew up on Roosevelt Island in New York so that the kids could pick up theater gigs, but Parker and her siblings saw very little of those earnings. Instead of being placed in a trust for her when she was older, it went to the family’s bills.

”I remember being poor. There was no great way to hide it,” she said while discussing money wih “The New York Times.” “We didn’t have electricity sometimes. We didn’t have Christmases sometimes, or we didn’t have birthdays sometimes, or the bill collectors came, or the phone company would call and say, ‘We’re shutting your phones off.'”

Now she’s notoriously frugal and hopes that her children won’t ever have to worry about money the way she always has.

16. Chris Pratt lived in a van before he was famous.

Before he was worth a reported $17 million and the star of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Jurassic World,” Pratt was a college dropout who lived out of a van in Hawaii.

Pratt said he was pretty fortunate. As he describes it, he lived a life of low ambition rather than misfortune.

“We just drank and smoked weed and worked minimal hours, 15 to 20 hours per week, just enough to cover gas, food and fishing supplies,” he told The Independent. “You know, it was a charming time.”

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