14 Celebrities Who Grew Up Poor, 14 Who Grew Up Rich

Table of Contents


Grew up poor: Viola Davis

During a 2014 Variety’s Power of Women speech, the actor said, “Although my childhood was filled with many happy memories, it was also spent in abject poverty. I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.”

“And I did everything to get food. I’ve stolen for food. I jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I had befriended people in the neighborhood who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame.”


Born rich: Lana Del Rey

The singer’s father is the millionaire founder of Web Media Properties, a media and publishing company that operates 8,000 specialty sites. He’s also the CEO and president of a real estate investment and brokerage firm.


Grew up poor: Jennifer Lopez

In 2014, the singer said that she grew up sharing a bed with her two sisters in the Bronx.

Jennifer told W Magazine that she learned hard work from her parents while growing up. “My dad worked nights, and I was aware of how much he was doing for us. My mom was a Tupperware lady and also worked at the school. I always felt that I couldn’t let them down.”


Born rich: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Her great-great-grandfather founded the Louis-Dreyfus Group, a multibillion French conglomerate that deals in agriculture, food processing, international shipping, and finance.


Grew up poor: Selena Gomez

The singer’s mother had her at 16 years old. Selena’s parents divorced five years later, and she was raised by her mother in Texas. In a 2011 E! special, the actor said, “I remember my mom would run out of gas all of the time, and we’d sit there and have to go through the car and get quarters and help her get gas.”


Born rich: Anderson Cooper

The broadcast journalist is the great-great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who made a fortune in shipping and railroads and was one of the richest Americans in history. His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, was a fashion designer, actor, and writer.


Grew up poor: Shania Twain

One of five kids, the singer often went to school hungry. “It’s very hard to concentrate when your stomach’s rumbling,” she told ABC News. She recalled becoming jealous of the other kids’ lunches. “I would certainly never have humiliated myself enough to reach out and ask for help and say, ‘You know, I’m hungry. Can I have that apple that you’re not going to eat?’ I didn’t have the courage to do that.”


Born rich: Adam Levine

The Maroon 5 singer’s father was the founder of retail chain M. Fredric. Adam attended Brentwood School, which is highly selective and extremely expensive.

In rural Mississippi, the talk show host grew up in abject poverty. Her home had no running water, and she sometimes wore overalls made from potato sacks.


Born rich: Gwyneth Paltrow

The actor’s father was a TV and movie director and producer, and her mother is actor Blythe Danner. Growing up, Gwyneth attended Crossroads School in Santa Monica — known for its celebrity alumni — and the Spence School, an all-girls private school in Manhattan. Her godfather is director Steven Spielberg.


Grew up poor: Leonardo DiCaprio

During a 2014 interview with the Los Angeles Times, the actor recalled “crime and violence everywhere” in his neighborhood in LA. He said, “I grew up very poor, and I got to see the other side of the spectrum.” After being beat up in school, he told his mom, “‘I want to be an actor. Please take me to auditions.’ Because I had to get out of that public school system.”


Born rich: Paul Giamatti

The actor’s father was the president of Yale University — where Paul went to college — and the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball.


Grew up poor: Leighton Meester

The actor was born while her mother was serving federal time for drug trafficking, and lived with her grandmother until her mom was released. When Leighton began taking acting classes as a teen, she preferred the ones with adults because she couldn’t relate to her peers. “‘Jimmy doesn’t like me!’ Who cares? I was worried we didn’t have gas money or food. Those were my concerns,” she told Marie Claire during an interview.


Born rich: Rashida Jones

The actor’s father, Quincy Jones, is a music producer and composer. He has received a whopping 80 Grammy Award nominations and been called one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Her mother was actor Peggy Lipton.


Grew up poor: Hilary Swank

The actor grew up in a trailer park in Washington State. She told Together magazine, “I had a roof over my head and I had food, and so it wasn’t that being poor and having those experiences was a negative. The negative part of it was learning about class at such a young age, not from my friends, but from my friend’s parents, who would say, ‘You aren’t to hang out with her.’ At 6 years old, to have a parent say, ‘You’re not welcome in our home, you need to go.'”


Born rich: Cara Delevingne

The English model’s family is full of titles, powerful connections, and even ties to the royal family. On her mom’s side, her grandmother was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, and her grandfather was a knighted publishing mogul. On her dad’s side, her grandmother was an aristocrat, and her grandfather was a stockbroker and a friend of the then-Prince of Wales. Her father was a property developer, and her godmother is English actor Dame Joan Collins.


Grew up poor: Cardi B

“I have real good parents, they poor,” she told Global Grind in 2016. “They have regular, poor jobs and whatnot. They real good people and whatnot, I was just raised in a bad society.”


Born rich: Michelle Williams

The actor’s father wrote many books on stocks and commodity trading. He created market indicators and won the 1987 World Cup Trading Championship for turning $10,000 into over $1.1 million over 12 months. Twice, he was the Republican candidate for Senator in Montana, but he lost both times.


Grew up poor: Kelly Clarkson

“We lived prepay check to prepay check,” she told the Dallas Morning News. “I was like, whatever I’m gonna do, I just don’t wanna have to worry [like] that. I always used to hate when people would be like, ‘Money doesn’t buy everything,’ when you are little and poor. Rich people say that, not poor people. I don’t know one poor person that’s going, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness.’ It pays you to get out of eviction notices.”


Born rich: Jaden and Willow Smith

The father, Will Smith, is one of the highest-paid actors in the entertainment industry. Their mother is actor and Red Table Talk host Jada Pinkett Smith.


Grew up poor: Demi Moore

The self-described “trailer park kid” moved 30 times throughout her childhood. At 16, she dropped out of school and moved away from her alcoholic parents to escape an abusive home. “You could either be trapped by what was going on around you, or you could find a way out,” she told the Guardian. “I think that everything, even if it is scary or good, comes into our life to help elevate and expand us as human beings.”


Born rich: Kate and Rooney Mara

The sisters come from a multibillion football family. Their mother’s side founded the Pittsburgh Steelers while their father’s side founded the New York Giants.


Grew up poor: Tyler Perry

In New Orleans, the actor grew up in a poverty-stricken and abusive home. He poured all the money he made into his first play and lived in his car for months while he worked on the production.


Born rich: Ariana Grande

The “Thank U, Next” singer’s mother was the CEO of a communications company, and her father founded a graphic design firm. Her parents’ wealth gave her early exposure; she sang the national anthem at a Florida Panthers home game where her parents were reportedly seasonal ticket holders.


Grew up poor: Jim Carrey

On The Howard Stern Show, the actor recalled how his father lost his job. The family ended up living in a car, then lived in tents on campsites around Ontario. At 15, Jim worked as a janitor and security guard to help support his family.

After Howard asked if Jim was angry with his father, the actor responded, “I guess I was for a while, but my dad was cool, man. That’s the one thing about therapy, they kinda focus you on what did your parents do, what did they not do. Yeah sure, in certain ways, they made me grow up fast. But the list of what they did for me was so enormous.”


Born rich: Nick Kroll

The comedian’s father founded a corporate investigation and risk consulting company that offered services like employee background checks and fraud investigations. In 2004, it was sold for $1.9 billion.


Grew up poor: Mary J. Blige

After the singer’s father abandoned the family when she was 4, she grew up in the housing projects of New York. During an interview with Oprah, she said, “Life was about surviving —getting money any way you could.”


Born rich: Edward Norton

The actor’s grandfather was real estate developer James Rouse. He co-founded The Rouse Company, which invented indoor shopping malls.

Can you think of any other celebrities who were born into poverty or born into wealth? Sound off in the comments below!

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