15 Celebrities Who Went From Rags To Riches

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON January 17th, 2024
Celebrities Who Went From Rags to Riches

Almost every celebrity started out as an ordinary person with dreams in their heads but some of them started from rock bottom. We meet people facing poverty almost every day and who do not want to live in a big house and be rich. Just because you are not in the best situation financially right now, it doesn’t mean that this can’t change. When you start, pretty much anything is possible. If you are looking for inspiration, take a look at the following 15 celebrities who went from rags to riches:


15. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise in Risky Business

Life could have been very different for Tom Cruise. After dropping out of high school, Cruise eventually found out about his dream of acting. Beginning his career with lackluster roles in a few films, the actor starred in Top Gun, and a star was born.

Before Cruise became a household name and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, childhood was not too kind as he had to live with his abusive father drenched in poverty in upstate New York. With dedication and perseverance, Cruise has stood the test of time by being relevant in his profession for almost three decades.


14. Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

While his family background was comparatively better, it was jail time that made Mark Wahlberg realize the error of his ways. As a delinquent, he got in trouble more than twenty times with the Boston Police Department for petty crimes and never completed high school.

After entering Hollywood, Wahlberg achieved immense fame as an actor and is known for achieving vast financial success. To top it all, the actor also took out some time to graduate from high school at age 42 and called it his toughest role yet.


13. Celine Dion

Celine Dion

Growing up with thirteen other children in her French-Canadian Family was anything but an easy task for Celine Dion as her parents hardly earned enough money.

As luck would have it, Dion’s singing voice saved the day as her music career shone with five Grammy Awards. Best known for her song “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, she is currently the best-selling Canadian artist of all time.


12. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Coming from a financially unstable family, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to face abuse from his alcoholic police chief father, and brother. After moving from Austria to America, Schwarzenegger never looked back and did not even bother to attend the funeral of his two family members.

In the land of opportunities, Schwarzenegger became a bodybuilder and won the title of Mr. Universe once and the Mr. Olympia contest seven times. The adventure just began for the enthusiastic bodybuilder as Schwarzenegger soon entered Hollywood and later politics by serving as the Governor of California.


11. Jay Z

Jay Z

Image Source: Splash News

Raised by a single mother in Brooklyn, the young Shawn Corey Carter faced many difficulties after his father abandoned the family. Once he got himself involved in crimes, Carter decided to turn his life around by becoming a rapper.

Now, the rapper is married to Beyoncé and is one of the greatest, most commercially successful, and best-selling rappers today. Furthermore, the rapper owns nightclubs, sports agencies, clothing lines, and record labels.


10. 50 Cent

50 cent

Born Curtis James Jackson III, it is hard to believe that the life of the rapper known as 50 Cent was much different from his current luxurious life. He never knew his father and after his mother was murdered, Jackson had to move in with his grandmother where he earned money selling drugs.

However, Jackson was not just a low-life street thug as he had the gift of rapping. Once discovered by Eminem, a musician was born who would go on to pioneer the slow-flow style of rap. Now, 50 Cent is not only a musician but also an actor, producer, investor, businessman, and entrepreneur.


9. Shahrukh Khan

Shahrukh Khan went from rags to riches

If there is one Bollywood star known around the globe, it is Shahrukh Khan. Despite nearing the age of 50, the actor continues to star in one hit film after another. However, the King of Bollywood entered the business, not for the sake of performing but to escape poverty.

Coming from a lower-middle-class background, Khan faced a lot of hardships and was once thrown out on the road since his family could not afford the rent. After equating poverty with failure, Khan pursued acting as a profession and cemented his legendary legacy.


8. J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is the First Billionaire Author

In a short period, J.K. Rowling established herself as one of the greatest authors in modern fiction and literature through her Harry Potter book series which spawned a giant fan following. While relying on welfare and facing depression, Rowling penned down the first installment of the franchise which became a sensation.

By the time she wrote six sequels, Rowling had become one of the most influential and richest women in Britain. Understanding the hardships of poverty, she contributed a lot to various charities and lost her billionaire status but remains financially sound.


7. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Before becoming a billionaire, Oprah Winfrey had to face a devastating childhood. Until the age of six, she had to live with her teenage mother and grandmother and the family was so poor that her grandmother had to make Oprah’s clothes out of potato sacks.

After trying her luck by entering the media, her talk show became an instant success and the fans ate her all up. Amazing how a woman from an underprivileged family was able to make her name synonymous with power.


6. Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank

Until she was 15, Hilary Swank was raised by her mother in a trailer park. After losing her job, the duo moved to California while hoping that Swank would start a career as an actress. The situation was so bad that the two often had to sleep in their car or at friends’ homes until Swank landed a movie role.

The awful conditions did not get her down as she remained steadfast and improved her acting skills after getting her first gig. Now, Swank is a well-regarded performer in Hollywood and has won the Academy Award for Best Leading Actress on two occasions.


5. Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey

As one of the biggest names in modern comedy, Jim Carrey did not have much to laugh about as a child. After his father lost his job, the entire family saw many hardships and even lived in a van.

Jim Carrey also worked as a janitor and security guard at one point to help his terminally ill mother. While performing small skits to make her laugh, he realized that comedy was in his blood and entered Hollywood where he now earns almost $20 million per movie.


4. Halle Berry

Halle Berry

The living conditions of Halle Berry during her youth were beyond horrible as she was raised by a single mother and spent a lot of time in and out of homeless shelters in New York while dealing with poverty.

However, things gradually got better when Berry decided to enter the entertainment industry as an actress and even won an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress for her performance in Monster’s Ball. Though her career has never been the same after Cat-woman but poverty is no longer her problem.


3. Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone rags to riches

The story of the rise of Sylvester Stallone is quite legendary in Hollywood. Due to his parents’ unstable relationship, he and his brother had to spend a lot of time in foster care. After moving to New York, Stallone did a lot of odd jobs including as a lion cage cleaner.

As a self-made man, Stallone knew that his slurry speech may never allow him to make it big as an actor but entered the movie industry nonetheless. His first movie role was in a soft-core adult film and later a few minor roles. Once he wrote and starred in Rocky, the actor never had to face poverty again!


2. Malik Riaz

Malik Riaz Went From Rags to Riches

In a country that is synonymous with hardship, one man from a financially troubled family dared to dream big. The journey of Malik Riaz from working as a clerk to a real estate investor is the most famous rags-to-riches story in Pakistan.

After launching his own business, Riaz became a much-publicized figure and is now the owner of Bahria Town, the largest housing society in Asia. As one of the wealthiest people in Pakistan, Riaz is also a philanthropist and contributes a great deal to the construction of hospitals and houses.


1. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson

When Leonardo DiCaprio’s parents had a messy divorce, he had to live in many Los Angeles neighborhoods. Despite his mother working several jobs to support him, things were not looking good.

Poor DiCaprio had to make many decisions as a youngster which would affect his life as he came across a lot of enigmatic people and criminals while struggling with poverty.

Once the aspiring lad entered Hollywood, he got a few minor roles but after being handpicked by none other than Robert De Niro out of 400 actors for the lead role in This Boy’s Life, DiCaprio got his big break and his life of super-stardom began.


Honorable Mentions

Our list of rags to riches celebs can’t be complete without mentioning these names also:

  • Sarah Jessica Parker (Actress)
  • Leighton Meester (Actress)
  • Stephen King (Author)

Do you know any more celebs that should have been a part of our list of celebrities who went from rags to riches? Let us know in the comments below!

One Comment

  1. Susan Summers says:

    Elvis Presley was as poor as they come! Born a twin in a 1 room shack. Dad was in the penitentiary leaving his mother to bring in the money. Elvis ended up being the best selling rock n roll musician in the world.
    Also made 32 movies.

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