Before they rose to fame, many of the world’s wealthiest and most recognized celebrities struggled for money. And some weren’t just poor — they were homeless. Here are 15 incredible stories of famous people who at some point in their lives had nowhere to sleep but the streets. They all eventually turned their lives around, becoming an inspiration to anyone who dreams of a professional career, despite starting from nothing.
15 Rich And Famous People Who Were Once Homeless
Jim Carrey once lived out of a VW camper van and in a tent on his sister’s front lawn.
Yahoo reported that the comedian dropped out of high school and lived in a VW bus with his family parked in different places throughout Canada. They eventually moved into a tent on his older sister’s lawn and parked the van in the driveway.
Carrey said it was during these tough financial times growing up when he developed a sense of humor.
Oscar winner Halle Berry once stayed in a homeless shelter in her early 20s.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
When she first moved to Chicago to become an actress, Berry ran out of money, and her mother decided the best thing would be to not send her daughter more cash.
During these struggling times, the actress acknowledges, she stayed in a homeless shelter.
In an interview with Star Pulse, Berry said:
It taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation, even if it meant going to a shelter for a small stint, or living within my means, which were meager. I became a person who knows that I will always make my own way.
America’s most famous psychologist once lived in a car with his father.
According to BusinessPundit.com, when Phil McGraw (Dr. Phil) was 12 years old, he was homeless and living in a car in Kansas City with his father, who was interning as a psychologist.
McGraw later went on to obtain his own bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D., and he joined his father’s psychology practice in Texas. 15 Rich And Famous People Who Were Once Homeless In the 1990s, Oprah Winfrey invited McGraw to appear on her show. He later became a regular on “Oprah” and eventually launched his own syndicated advice program.
Today the author and TV personality is worth an estimated $280 million.
Personal finance guru Suze Orman lived out of her van for four months in 1973.
The well-known Emmy-winning financial adviser, who has published numerous New York Times bestsellers, could not afford to move out of her van when she first moved to Berkeley, California, in the 1970s.
Today Orman is worth an estimated $35 million. 15 Rich And Famous People Who Were Once Homeless
Daniel Craig, or “James Bond,” once had to sleep on park benches in London.
Singer Ella Fitzgerald was abused, had Mafia ties, and was homeless before becoming the “Queen of Jazz.”
She would go on to sing for President Ronald Reagan in 1981, but before becoming “arguably the finest female jazz singer of all time,” Fitzgerald was abused by her stepfather when her mother died at a young age, according to PoemHunter.com.
She worked with the Mafia for some time before the police put her in a school for girls.
Fitzgerald ran away from there and was homeless until debuting at the Apollo Theater in 1934. Her voice quickly won her fame, and she went on to win 13 Grammy Awards and receive medals from both President Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
She died in 1996, but her face appeared on a U.S. postal stamp in 2007.
Millionaire Chris Gardner, who inspired the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” was homeless with a young son while he was in a finance training program.
Aside from a movie based on his life starring Will Smith, Gardner also has two New York Times bestselling books under his belt: his autobiography “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”
But before his story was shared with the world, Gardner was living on the streets with his young son. At the time, he was trying to pursue a career in finance despite not having any experience in it, or even a college degree. He received a spot on the Dean Witter Reynolds training program but could not afford to live off of the small salary, and his wife eventually left him. 15 Rich And Famous People Who Were Once Homeless He is also a motivational speaker and CEO of Gardner Rich LLC with offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
According to Gardner’s website, his childhood was “marked by poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and family illiteracy.”
After being fired, Jewel was homeless for about a month and almost died in a parking lot.
Jewel once lived on the streets after losing her job. In an interview with Adam on Showbizspy, the multi-platinum singer said:
I ended up homeless because my boss propositioned me, and when I wouldn’t sleep with him he didn’t give me my paycheck.
I got kicked out of where I was living, and my rent was due that next day.
I thought, ‘Well, I’ll live in my car for a minute … get back on my feet,’ but I had bad kidneys, and I never could hold down another job because I got sick so often. I didn’t have insurance and ended up almost dying in the parking lot of an emergency room because they wouldn’t admit me because I didn’t have insurance.
I ended up homeless for about a month, and I went back to singing.
Michael Oher’s story of homelessness and struggle in “The Blind Side” was inspirational to the world.
During his childhood and teenage years, Oher was living on the streets while his crack-addicted mother lived in public housing, reported NPR.
He was eventually taken in to live with a wealthy family, played college football at the University of Mississippi, and drafted into the NFL in 2009 for the Baltimore Ravens.
His inspirational story was turned into Michael Lewis’s 2006 book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” and the movie “The Blind Side.”
After butting heads with her mother as a teenager, Jennifer Lopez slept on a sofa for a few months.
W Magazine reported that Jennifer Lopez moved out when she was 18. Lopez wanted to be a dancer, and her mother wanted her to go to college — and they couldn’t see eye to eye. So, she moved out and started sleeping on the sofa of her dance studio.
Lopez told W that a few months later she landed a job dancing in Europe, and when she got back, she booked “In Living Color” and became a Fly Girl, which proved to be her big break.
Today the 45-year-old singer, actress, producer, and designer is worth an estimated $300 million.
Before becoming the greatest magician, Harry Houdini ran away from home at the age of 12 and begged on the streets for coins.
At a young age Houdini knew he wanted to be a magician, and he ran away from home by hopping a freight car, according to Appleton Public Library.
He ended up in Missouri.
A few years later, he moved to New York City with his father, but they were so poor Houdini continued to panhandle on the streets.
He began his professional career at 17.
Talk show host Steve Harvey lived in his 1976 Ford Tempo for three years before his big break.
The 57-year-old actor, TV personality, and author told People Magazine that when he was just starting out as a comedian in the late 1980s, “one or two gigs fell through,” and he suddenly found himself homeless.
People reported that Harvey lived in his 1976 Ford Tempo for three years — he would wash up in hotel bathrooms, gas stations, or swimming pool showers — until he was called to appear on “Showtime at the Apollo.”
That gig turned out to be Harvey’s big break.
Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank lived in a car with her mother while they saved up for an apartment in Los Angeles.
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images
According to Time, Swank, who grew up in a trailer park, moved to California with her mother as a teenager to pursue a career in acting.
Before landing roles, she and her mom lived in a car and stayed in an empty house for a few months.
Swank told CBS News: “We had a friend who was selling their house. And so they said, ‘You know, there’s no furniture, but you can stay there at night. And then, during the day, you have to leave so we can try and sell it.’ So we got air mattresses. Blew the air mattresses up. Slept on the air mattresses. And left in the morning.”
She went on to win two Oscars by age 30 and is now worth an estimated $40 million.
Before the age of 10, Charlie Chaplin had to figure out how to make a living on the streets of London.
After the early death of Chaplin’s father, his mother was put in a mental hospital, and the young boy and his brother had to try to make a living by themselves, according to his website.
As both his parents were in show business, Chaplin and his brother decided to follow suit. Today he is known as one of the greatest actors of the silent film era.
While homeless in Las Vegas, Drew Carey would sell plasma for $40.
Getty Images / Frederick M. Brown
Carey grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where his father died when he was just 8 years old. According to the Kirkland Reporter, Carey told audience members at a 2010 benefit for the Friends of Youth organization that he was on his way from Ohio to California to see his brother when he ended up homeless in Las Vegas.
He would sell plasma for $40 and would look for spare change to buy boxed mac and cheese.
The actor, comedian, game show host, and philanthropist is now worth an estimated $165 million.