13 Celebrities Who Used to Live on the Street and Now Own Mansions

year ago

It’s hard to become successful. And it seems that some people are dealt an especially bad hand in childhood, only to end up in a really good situation later in life. Each successful person’s life is unique and different from everyone else’s, but there’s one thing they all have in common: their unwavering faith in themselves and their dreams.

Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey at the age of 19.

When Jim was still in school, his family had financial trouble. His father lost his job and Jim, his sisters, and his brother ended up having to take jobs had cleaning their school and scrubbing floors and toilets. The family even had to live in a van for a little while. Katlin, Jim’s mother, was a hypochondriac — she was exessively worried about having a serious illness to the point that people questioned her sanity. After Jim finished school, he worked at a Dofasco steel plant. In 2007, in one of his interviews, Jim said that if he hadn’t built a career in movies, he would’ve still worked at the plant.

Halle Berry

Halle posted this picture on her Instagram account in 2017 and said: “If I could give this young girl some advice... I’d tell her to do it all the same... no regrets”.

Halle Berry signing autographs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1996

Halle was named after... a department store! Later, because of her fame, Halle’s Department Store will become a local landmark in Cleveland, Ohio. But before that, Halle had to make her way to fame, and it’s wasn’t easy. She remembers that her father used to beat her mother, and when she was 4 years old he left their family. Halle has been persistent and ambitious since childhood. When she was in school, she won beauty contests. After graduation she moved to New York and when she ran out of money, she had to sleep in homeless shelters. Halle worked as a waitress and a bartender and had a lot of refusals at auditions until she finally got a part in “Living Dolls,” which made her famous.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey had a very difficult childhood and now dedicates her time to helping children.

This TV star got her name purely by accident. Her parents wanted to name her Orpah after a bible character, but due to some mistake or because the name was hard to pronounce, Orpah turned into Oprah. Today, she is the first black woman billionaire. When she was a child, she had to wear dresses made of potato sacks because her family had no money for clothes. She also grew up in an abusive family.

The future TV star’s talent was noticed even in her childhood. Oprah interviewed her dolls made of corncobs. When she was a little older, she studied really hard and started working as a local reporter, and soon after, she was able to create her own show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which became incredibly popular.

Sylvester Stallone

In 1977, “Rocky,” which was shot with Stallone’s script, won 3 Oscars.

Sylvester was also unlucky in his childhood. During his birth, obstetricians damaged a facial nerve which resulted in slurred speech and facial paralysis. Later, he was put in a school for troubled youth and was humiliated by other students. Young Sylvester worked as a doorman and a cage cleaner at a zoo. He even agreed to play a part in an adult movie for $200 because he lost his apartment, wasn’t able to pay the rent, and had to spend 3 weeks living on the street. Later he said: “It was either do that movie or rob someone because I was at the end—at the very end—of my rope.”

Stallone actually wrote the script for “Rocky” himself, which eventually brought him the long-awaited money and fame he was after. There some reluctance on the part of the producers to feature him as the star because he was an unknown, but Stallone got the part after agreeing to a lower profit.


Madonna concert, 1985.

A pop-star queen, Madonna has always been rebellious. When she was young, she used to dream of becoming a dancer and moved to New York with just $35 in her pocket (she spent $15 of it right away on her first taxi ride). To pay the rent, Madonna worked at Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts, but not for long. She set a stove on fire when she was dancing at the counter and threw jam on a rude customer. After that, she worked as a coat-check girl and a nude model. She was forced to rent a place in one of the cheapest but most dangerous areas of New York.

Once she started singing, she tried out different styles and directions and even broke contracts with producers, leaving them until she became super successful with the song, “Everybody.”

Ella Fitzgerald

Young Ella Fitzgerald in 1940, and 6 years later in 1946.

When Ella Fitzgerald was 14 years old, her mother died. She had to work when she was underage until child services put her in an orphanage. She escaped the orphanage twice and stayed homeless for some time until she decided to take part in a singing competition. She had never performed on stage before and didn’t have a decent dress, but the viewers were so impressed with her voice that she won first place. This was when Fitzgerald was noticed by the manager of a jazz orchestra, and soon, the young singer started doing her own concerts.

Charlie Chaplin

Young Charlie playing the part of a mailman in “Sherlock Holmes,” and an older Chaplin in 1921.

The most famous role of Charlie Chaplin, the greatest comedian of the 20th century was The Tramp, and it was based on the personal and sad experiences of Chaplin himself. He grew up in extreme poverty, lost his father very early, and his mother had a psychiatric condition. Young Charlie was ready to do any job. He delivered newspapers, he was a doctor’s helper, and he sawed wood, all before age 14. Once he turned 14, he got his first small part in a theater production — he played a mailman in “Sherlock Holmes.” When Charlie got the script of the play, he couldn’t read it, because he was actually illiterate (he simply didn’t have enough time for school) so his brother helped him learn the part. Charlie never got an education, but thanks to his talent, he managed to build a great career.

Michael Oher

Michael Oher, on the left, and Quinton Aaron playing Michael in “The Blind Side,” 2009.

Michael Oher is a professional NFL player. His extraordinary biography was described in a book and later in the famous movie, The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock. Oher was the twelfth child in his family. His parents were troubled people who had recurring problems with the law. Because of his family issues, he was a really bad student and changed 11 schools in 9 years. Oher lived with foster families and on the street until Le Ann and Sean Touhy started taking care of him. They helped Michael get accustomed to his academic environment and start taking school seriously. Thanks to their care, Oher developed faith in himself and started making his first athletic strides in football.

Chris Gardner

Christopher Paul Gardner and Will Smith who played him in “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

The stunning success story of this millionaire was made into the movie, The Pursuit of Happiness, with Will Smith.

Chris Gardner’s life made a big turn when he was put in jail for 10 days for unpaid parking tickets. After he returned home, he found out that his wife had left him and taken their child. She took all the valuables, including his clothes and shoes. But there was something that no one was able to take away from Chris — his dream of becoming a stockbroker. He managed to get his foot in the door at a brokerage company, but he still wasn’t making enough money. During all of this, his wife returned briefly and left their son with him, and for an entire year, they had to sleep in parks, shelters, in his office, and even in public bathrooms. He stood in line for free food and even had to fight for a place for his son to go to kindergarten. His goal was to save money so he could rent a house and fight for a better future for his son. Soon, his career was thriving. And now he is the owner of a huge financial firm and does a lot of charity work.


Matthew Symons/Coleman-Rayner/EAST NEWS, Matthew Symons/Coleman-Rayner/EAST NEWS

The house where Eminem grew up (which he used on the cover of one of his albums) and one of the rapper’s mansions where his ex-wife and daughter used to live.

Eminem was never homeless, but his childhood and youth were still very hard. The future star’s father left the family right after Eminem was born, and his mother, who was only 18 years old, traveled around to different cities searching for a better life. Once they settled down, nobody took Eminem’s interest in rap seriously, saying he was doomed to fail. However, Eminem continued to take part in rap battles and gradually earned people’s respect. Today, he is one of the best-selling rappers in the world.

A few more examples

Sometime in the past, this simple van was Chris Pratt’s home, and now he is a collector of expensive retro cars.

Handsome Chris Pratt used to work both as a ticket seller and a stripper, and he also lived in a tent on the street and in a van until he was noticed and offered a part in a TV series.

“Oscar” winner Hilary Swank lived with her mother in an RV until she was 15 years old. In order to give the girl a chance to become an actress, her mother moved them to Los Angeles where they continued to live in the RV for some time.

Jennifer Lopez left home at the age of 18 because her parents were against her dream to become a movie star. Jennifer’s faith in herself was unwavering — she slept on a couch in a dance studio and she never gave up on her dream.

Which of these stories surprised you the most? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Please note: This article was updated in January 2023 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.


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