Not everyone who is a millionaire today was born with a silver spoon, in fact, statistic reveals that more than a handful of today’s rich individuals rose to fame from nothing. Today, we all love them for their spectacular talents but it was their bravery, determination, hard work all coupled with a bit of luck that brought them to where they are now. And we can’t help but appreciate that these stars have not only become rich but also a source of inspiration to low-class and homeless people out there providing them with the hope that their dream of making something out of themselves someday, as hard as it may seem can become a reality. It can be hard to imagine, but these are among the rich and famous people who at some point in their lives could not only afford life’s basic needs but were also homeless. I bet some names would be shocking to you.
These are the 20 Wealthy and successful Celebrities You Never Knew Were Once Homeless:
20. Ella Fitzgerald – $10 million
Queen of Jazz, First Lady of Song, Lady Ella- those were the names given to arguably one of the finest jazz songstresses that ever lived. Ella climbed to fame when she made her debut to the Apollo theatre in 1934, she later won 14 Grammy awards. Long before this time, Ella was a victim of abuse by the hands of her own stepfather, she dropped out of school and worked as a lookout for a mafia-affiliated Brothel, authorities caught up with her and she was placed in an asylum and later a school in NYC, she later escaped and became homeless until she gained fame with her voice.
Did you know that – Ella sold over 40 million copies of her 70 albums. She received medals from US presidents Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush.
19. Djimon Hounsou – $12 million
At the age of 13 alongside his brother, he was a Benin immigrant to Lyon, France. He later dropped out of school and became homeless for a while. During these periods he became fortunate when he met with a photographer who introduced him to fashion designer Thierry Mugler who encouraged him to take up a career in modelling. Hounsou became a model and was successful in Paris, he later moved to the US to establish himself as not only a model but as an actor.
Did you know that – Hounsou had his highest box office sales between 2014 and 2015. His films including Furious 7, The Vatican Tapes, Guardians of the Galaxy, among others grossed over $3 billion. The actor paid $2.1 million in early 2020 for a house in Westchester, Los Angeles.
18. Jewel Kilcher – $14 million
Before she became a multiple Grammy nominee and award-winning singer/songwriter, Jewel had a taste of what life could be without money. A victim of sexual harassment, her boss fired her and denied her of her paycheck for refusing to sleep with him. With no cash, she was unable to pay her rent and got kicked out, she resorted to her car for shelter and couldn’t land a new job because of her ill-health, at some point, the star almost died in her car in a hospital parking lot as she didn’t have health insurance. Jewel lived in her car for almost a month doing small gigs and street performances until she gained recognition by singing at Java Joe’s in San Diego California.
Did you know that – Jewel has sold over 30 million album units worldwide and is a recipient of at least 20 awards Her debut album, “Pieces of You,” sold over 15 million copies.
17. Michael Oher – $15 million
Oher was born to parents who couldn’t care less about him, his mom was a crack and alcohol addict while his dad got himself arrested more often than not. Left alone to cater for himself, Oher shuffled between various foster homes and sometimes slept on the streets but his life took a different turn when a wealthy family adopted him and put him through school. While at the University of Mississippi, he played college football and was later drafted in 2009 NFL to play for Baltimore Ravens. The story of his life was penned in the book The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game by Michael Lewis which was later adapted in the Academy Award-winning movie “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock. Thanks to a single act of kindness, Oher is now worth more than $15 million.
Did you know that – Oher received a salary of $1.25 million playing for NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. He once earned an annual salary of $2.7 million.
16. Sam Worthington – $30 million
Though the 2009 blockbuster movie Avatar seemed to be his break-out role, Sam had appeared in various other movies including Bootsmen, Hart’s War, and Somersault for which he won an award for the best leading actor. He was doing very well as an upcoming actor until 2009 when he had to sell all of his possessions for $2000. With the money, he bought a car which was his home until he successfully auditioned for Avatar and was selected to portray Jake Sulley in the movie which grossed $3 billion at the box office making it the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Did you know that – Sam Worthington is to appear in all Avatar films up till 2025. The success of these movies would no doubt significantly boost his net worth.
15. Hilary Swank – $40 million
The Oscar-winning actress was homeless twice in her life- fist at the age of 6, together with her mom they lived in a trailer park in Washington, the second time was at the age of 15 when they moved to LA in pursuit of an acting career, they both lived in a car until her mom saved up enough money to afford an apartment. Swank quickly rose to fame winning her first two Academy Award nominations. The actress said the support from her mom and the desire to live a comfortable life was what motivated and inspired her.
Did you know that – Swank owns a production company 2S Films together with producer Molly Smith. She is a frequent investor in real estate; in 2012, she sold a property at almost double the cost price for $9.5 million.
14. Charlie Chaplin – $50 million
Despite the fact that his parents were music hall entertainers at the time of his birth, they obviously didn’t make that much money as Chaplin had it very rough while growing. Following their parents’ separation, his dad died and after some years his mother died too as a result of prolonged mental illness. The young Chaplin was left to fend for himself while sleeping rough on the streets. His mom, before her death, encouraged him to pursue a career in stage performances. He later made his debut and the rest became history. The London born is recognized today as one of the greatest silent film comic actors that ever lived.
Did you know that – When adjusted for inflation, Chaplin’s net worth at the time of his death in 1977 is the same as $400 million. In 1918 he was paid $1 million for an 8 movie role, the same as $17 million in today’s money.
13. Kurt Cobain – $50 million
At his early death at age 27, the Nirvana lead singer was already worth $50 million. His parents’ divorce led to his many problems, he became depressed as a child and grew into drug addiction. During his high school days, he lived with his mom in Aberdeen Washington but was eventually kicked out when he dropped out of school due to poor grades. He ended up living with friends and sometimes under the bridge and hospital reception rooms. Kurt made the break with Nirvana but his millions couldn’t save him, he later became suicidal and eventually killed himself in April 1994.
Did you know that – Kurt Cobain’s estate has continued to appreciate since his death. In 2014, his estate was valued at $450 million. The rights to his estate were late transferred to his wife, Courtney Love. Their daughter Frances Cobain receives $100,000 monthly from her father’s royalties and publishing rights.
12. Christopher Gardner – $70 million
The movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith is adapted from his memoir of the same name. The memoir tells of his homeless days with his toddler son while he was trying to pursue a career as a stockbroker receiving training at Dean Witter Reynolds which offered a pay so meager it couldn’t take care of his bills causing his wife to leave him with his son. After fighting his way through poverty, family illiteracy, and domestic violence, Chris is now the CEO of his own stock brokerage firm Gardner Rich & Co., a motivational speaker and a New York Times bestselling author.
Did you know that – Gardner once invested $50 million to support an initiative for low-income housing in San Fransisco. Having been homeless himself, Gardner spends a lot of his wealth on charitable causes.
11. Suze Orman – $75 million
Today, she’s a renowned financial advisor, motivational speaker, and NYT best-selling author with an Emmy award to her name, but back in 1973 when the now finance guru just moved from Chicago to California, she was homeless for four months with her van offering the only place to rest her head. Thanks to her job as a waitress and the $53,000 she borrowed from well-wishers, she was able to get back on her feet.
Did you know that – Orman’s net worth has seen significant growth from $35 million back in 2007. Her net worth has grown exponentially thanks to her 10 NYT best-selling books and a host of TV gigs including The Suze Orman Show which was one of CNBC’s most successful shows from 2002 to 2015.
10. Halle Berry – $80 million
We all have a dream to become something someday when Halle took the first step to pursue hers’, she was impeded by insufficient funds- the young Halle in her early twenties left to NYC to pursue her acting career but her mom became unsupportive by refusing to give her cash as she was still dependent on her. Most people would’ve given up at this point, but for Catwoman, nothing could hold her back not even being homeless, the actress opted for a homeless shelter keeping her dreams alive. Sharing her experience with the media, she 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 meagre. I became a person who knows that I will always make my own way.”
Did you know that – In Halle Berry’s over four-decade career, her movies have grossed almost $4 billion. She received around $10 million per movie role in the mid-2000s. She bolsters her income with lucrative endorsement deals with Revlon and Versace. She also owns a lingerie and fragrance line.
See Also: 18 highest-paid Actresses in The World
9. Daniel Craig – $160 million
When we watch them grace our big screens, we would never think actors have once had it rough, especially the likes of Daniel Craig our beloved James Bond since 2005. As an upcoming actor, 007 used park benches in London for his bed, but thanks to his relentless efforts and amazing acting skill, Craig has earned for himself an impressive filmography.
Did you know that – Daniel Craig has received a salary of $85.4 million from his James Bond role in 5 James Bond films including 2020’s No Time To Die. His Bond films alone have grossed over $3.5 billion.
8. Drew Carey – $165 million
Drew at 8 lost his father to a brain tumor. In his teen years, he became depressed and tried to kill himself. Leaving for California from Ohio, to visit his older brother, he ended up homeless in Las Vegas. He had to sell plasma for $40 and seek for extra change to buy a portion of boxed macaroni and cheese. After years of struggling, Drew has made a name for himself as a standup comedian, actor, and game show host. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Did you know that – Carrey owns stakes in MLS side Seattle Sounders FC It is one of the major investments that help keep his wealth afloat. Carrey earned $750K per episode of his eponymous show from 2001 to 2004 which bring his payment for the 79 episodes filmed at that rate to almost $60 million. He reportedly earns $12.5 million yearly just for hosting “The Price is Right.”
7. Jim Carrey – $180 million
The acclaimed stand-up comedian and actor rose to fame back in 1994 with his lead role in 1994 movies- “The Mask” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”. But before all became rosy, the high-school dropout and his family lived in a Volkswagen bus parked in numerous places in Canada, they later moved into a tent in his older sister’s lawn, leaving their previous home (bus) parked in the driveway. While many of us would’ve sulked uncontrollably in such a difficult situation, Jim provided a silver lining for himself by developing the irresistible sense of humor that we all love today. Thanks to comedy, Jim and his family now have a home and more than enough income for their needs.
Did you know that – Jim Carrey was the first actor to get paid $20 million for a single role. That was for his role in 1996’s The Cable Guy. He would go on to earn a total of $35 million for that role thanks to the deal he cut to earn 15% of the film’s total gross which was $102 million. Fast forward to 1999, Forbes estimated his annual income at $44.5 million.
6. Steve Harvey – $200 million
Before came the glitz and glam, Harvey worked various awkward jobs including an insurance salesman, mailman, carpet cleaner, and even as a boxer. Back in 1980 while Steve was an upcoming comedian a couple of his gigs flopped so bad he ended up homeless living for as long as 3 years in his 1976 Ford Tempo car. During these periods he showered at gas stations and swimming pool showers while landing meager pay gigs. Harvey’s breakthrough to wealth and fame began in 1990 when he became a finalist in Johnnie Walker’s National Comedy Search which paved the way for a long lucrative stint as host of “It’s Showtime at the Apollo”.
Did you know that – Steve Harvey earns an average annual salary of $45 million. He makes $10 million for hosting Family Feud. Harvey spends the bulk of his money on real estate. In May 2020, he paid $15 million for a 17-acres property in Atlanta that formerly belonged to Tyler Perry.
5. Jennifer Lopez – $400 Million
J Lo was born into a low-class family that managed to cater to the needs of their children. After featuring in a 1986 low-budget film My Little Girl, Jennifer made up her mind she wanted to become a movie star, which was contrary to what her parents wanted for her – college. A disagreement between her and her family led to the star leaving her family home, finding abode on a sofa in a studio in Manhattan. During these times, says Wikipedia, J Lo performed in regional productions of the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Oklahoma! she later landed a role as a backup singer in Golden Musicals of Broadway Europe tour. However, she left unhappy with her role and became a choreographer in Synchronicity show in Japan. She’s managed to walk her way to fame, hasn’t she?
Did you know that – J Lo has been on the Forbes list of highest-paid celebrities since 2004. Her average annual earning is $40 million. She topped that list in 2012 when she earned $52 million. Between 2018 and 2020, Forbes estimates show that she earned over $137 million. Dubbed the hardest working woman in showbiz, J Lo’s clothing lines and fragrance empire is valued at $2 billion.
4. Shania Twain – $400 million
The Canadian born singer/songwriter is today one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time and the best-selling female country musician ever. But long before she won several Grammy’s and was dubbed Queen of Country Pop, Shania had a rough and difficult childhood. At age 8 she had to sing at bars for money to help support her family. As a result of the physical threats her father posed to the family, her mom drove Shania, 14, and her siblings to a homeless shelter in Toronto. Thanks to her incredible voice, Shania found fame through music.
Did you know that – Twain once owned a New Zealand luxury resort called Mahu Whenua which had rooms that rented for as much as $15, 000 per night. She has properties in the Bahamas, New York, and Florida. In 2016, she was the highest-paid woman in country music with $27.5 million earned in a period of 12 months. A bulk of that paycheck was thanks to her Las Vegas residency which still runs as of 2020. Her 2019 income was placed by Forbes at $29 million.
3. Sylvester Stallone – $400 million
Rambo has amassed great wealth for himself worth a whopping $400 million. How did he get there? It started when he was evicted from his NYC apartment, with no other place to sleep except the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. After three weeks of sleeping there, he became desperate and accepted his first ever movie role in a softcore pornographic movie “The Party at Kitty and Stud’s“. His role earned him $200 for every two days’ work, helping him to rebound.
Did you know that – Stallone also provided the script for the Rocky movies for which he is best known. His salary for the film series rose from a mere $23,000 for the first film in 1976 to $3.5 million for the third instalment and ultimately $15 million for the 1990s Rocky V. The Rocky franchise has grossed over $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office.
2. Dr. Phil – $450 million
Before he became the TV mogul and best-selling author he is today, Phil at the age of 12 and his then psychologist intern dad had no place to call home in Kansas City but a car. Eventually, his dad managed to afford a $5 room, and Phil would eventually follow in his dad’s footsteps, obtained a Ph.D. in psychology, before starting out at his dad’s Texas private practice.
Did you know that – Phill owns 100% of the rights to the content on his TV shows Dr Phil., The Bull, and The Doctors and only pays CBS to distribute it. That’s not all, he also gets a percentage of advertising revenue. This explains why he’s one of the highest-paying TV personalities, his yearly income fluctuates between $60 million and $90 million.
1. Tyler Perry – $1 Billion (Forbes Estimate)
Tyler Perry is today one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, but the beginning was quite rough. He suffered molestation as a child. He left New Orleans for Atlanta to pursue his first acting career but it fell through, leaving him homeless with just his car to live in. With a wealth of almost half a billion, Tyler is a long way from those times.
Did you know that – In 2011, Forbes listed Tyler as the highest-paid man in entertainment, earning US$130 million between May 2010 and May 2011. His Tyler Perry Studios is one of the largest film studios in the nation and established Tyler Perry as the first African-American to outright own a major film studio.
Here is a quick glance at the list of richest celebrities who were once homeless in decreasing order of net worth
- Tyler Perry
- Dr Phil
- Sylvester Stallone
- Shania Twain
- Jennifer Lopez
- Steve Harvey
- Jim Carrey
- Drew Carey
- Daniel Craig
- Halle Berry
- Suze Orman
- Christopher Gardner
- Kurt Cobain
- Charlie Chaplin
- Hilary Swank
- Sam Worthington
- Michael Oher
- Jewel Kilcher
- Djimon Hounsou
- Ella Fitzgerald