They started with nothing, only to forge extremely successful careers and legacies. These 10 beloved celebrities were homeless before they achieved fame and fortune.
Today, she’s known as the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. But at age 21, Berry lived in a New York City homeless shelter after her mother refused to give her money. Berry said she’s grateful for that time in her life, as “it taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation…I became a person who knows that I will always make my own way.”
With a net worth of $150 million, the Canadian actor has had a massive career to date. But when Carrey was a child, his family was forced to live in a van. Between working and caring for his sick mother, Carrey performed stand-up comedy and caught the eye of the legendary Rodney Dangerfield, who put him on the path to success.
After graduating from high school, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming a singer, but her apartment burned down shortly after her arrival. Clarkson lived in her car for a while before returning to her native Texas, where she auditioned for the first season of “American Idol.” The rest is history.
The dashing Brit single-handedly rejuvenated the James Bond franchise, but years before making it in Hollywood, he was a struggling actor who slept on a bench in London’s Hyde Park. Maybe that’s what inspired Craig and wife Rachel Weisz to partner with the Opportunity Network, a nonprofit that helps underserved young people attend college.
Before releasing her first album, Pieces of You, which has been certified 12x Platinum, Jewel lost her job for refusing to sleep with her boss. Afterward, she lived in her car and even washed her hair in a Denny’s bathroom sink. The pop star has been very open about her homelessness and recently narrated a documentary, Our Journey Home, which follows three families struggling to break the cycle of poverty.
Her hit song “Jenny from the Block” is rooted in truth. At 18, Lopez left her Bronx home to try to become a professional dancer, and ended up sleeping on a cot in her dance studio. But within a year, she was starring on the sketch comedy show “In Living Color.” While Lopez is now worth $300 million, she’ll never forget her roots, saying, “I love Los Angeles, but it doesn’t give me strength the way the Bronx did. All the strength that I needed for life, I got from that neighborhood.”
The television psychologist and bestselling author known as Dr. Phil grew up in poverty. When he was 12, McGraw lived in a car and then in a $5 room at a Kansas City YMCA with his father. “I cherish those memories,” he said. “That was my time to learn how to deal with stress and adversity — lessons I’d never have learned any other way at that age. I learned what it means to work hard, to stay focused and to set goals.”
He’s built an entertainment empire, but Perry’s beginnings are humble. Determination and faith saw him through his abusive childhood, and he lived in his car and in pay-by-the-week hotels on and off for six years while finding an audience for his now-hit play, I Know I’ve Been Changed. Today, he’s the richest black actor in the world, with a net worth of $400 million.
It’s now a cult classic, but the original “Star Trek” was far from a hit when it first aired — and one of its biggest stars was forced to live out of a pickup truck after the series ended in 1969. Shatner, who was divorced with three children, said the truck had “a little stove, a toilet, and I’d drive from theater to theater. The only comfort came from my dog, who sat in the passenger seat and gave me perspective on everything. Otherwise, it would have just been me counting my losses.” He has since won several awards for his work on “T.J. Hooker,” “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.”
Hers may be the world’s most famous rags-to-riches story. Winfrey lived in poverty on her grandmother’s Mississippi farm until age 6, when she moved to Milwaukee to stay with her mother. She ran away from home at 14, after suffering years of sexual abuse at the hands of male relatives, and found herself on the streets. Winfrey eventually moved in with her father in Nashville; she credited Vernon Winfrey’s strict discipline with driving her to succeed. She is now worth more than $3 billion.