11 Celebrities Who Became Successful Despite Having Difficult Childhoods

When we look at celebrities, it’s easy to think that they must have it easy. Perhaps we think that somehow they are just luckier or more talented than the rest of us. In some cases, that may be true. In other cases, it isn’t.

Some celebrities had to overcome very difficult childhoods in order to have successful careers. While some people might have given up, they pushed forward. These are their stories.

  1. Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey grew up in poverty. Her mother was just 19 when Oprah was born. Nine years later, Oprah was sexually abused by her 19-year-old cousin. She was also beaten and molested. At 14, she found out she was pregnant and went to live with her father. Her son, who was born 2 months premature, ended up dying at just 2 weeks old.

  2. Jim Carrey

    Sometimes it helps to have a sense of humor about life. Instead of letting a childhood of poverty get him down, he used his sense of humor to launch a successful career. At one point, Jim Carrey’s family was so poor that they were living out of a van. Carrey is certainly proof that not everyone who is rich doesn’t know what it’s like to be poor.

  3. Charlize Theron

    Before she became a famous Hollywood actress, Charlize Theron had a traumatic experience while growing up in South Africa. When she was 15 years old, her father, in an alcohol-induced rage, threatened to kill her and her mother. He was armed with a gun and tried to shoot them. Theron’s mother was also armed. She shot and killed Theron’s father, saving their lives.

  4. Dylan McDermott

    When actor Dylan McDermott was born, his mother was only 15 years old, and his father was only 17. His parents divorced a couple years later, and he, his mom and his sister moved in with his grandmother. It didn’t get better. When McDermott was just 5 years old and his sister was only 7 months old, his mother died in a fatal shooting.

  5. Drew Barrymore

    Drew Barrymore was in the spotlight since she was a little girl, but that doesn’t mean her life was easy. As the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness. She was a self-described party girl and was admitted to a mental health institution when she was just 13 years old.

  6. Ashley Judd

    In her memoir, Ashley Judd explained that when she was a child, she was a victim of sexual abuse, incest, and neglect. She was also exposed to drug abuse at a young age, all while her mother became famous. She was so traumatized by her experiences that she even considered suicide on more than one occasion.

  7. Shia LaBeouf

    When Shia LaBeouf was a child, his family was so poor that they had to sell hot dogs in order to pay the bills. Later, when his parents divorced, he would go with his dad to AA meetings.

  8. Tyler Perry

    When Tyler Perry was a child, he experienced both physical and sexual abuse. He overcame those experiences by focusing on good times he had with his mom and aunt at the park. He would think about the park in order to get through the trauma.

  9. Christina Aguilera

    Christina Aguilera grew up with an abusive father. When she was just 4 years old, her mother remembers seeing Aquilera with blood on her face. Aquilera explained the reason: “Daddy wanted to take a nap and I made too much noise.” Eventually, Aquilera’s mother left her father and took her children to live with their grandmother. Instead of letting the abuse get her down, Aquilera channeled the pain into her music.

  10. Missy Elliott

    At just 8 years old, Missy Elliott was sexually abused by her 16 year old cousin. She grew up poor, and experienced the trauma of her father threatening to kill her mother. She remembers seeing him pull out a gun. She screamed, “Daddy, please don’t kill my mother!” Thankfully, her uncle, who lived next door, came over and stopped her father.

  11. Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts’ parents divorced when she was just 4 years old. They were considering getting back together, but before they could, Watts’ father died. She was only 7. Watts and her mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they moved around a lot. She ended up going to 9 different schools in England before they relocated to Australia when shew was 14.