How These Celebrities Overcame Poverty And Are Now Worth Millions


It takes a lot of hard work to succeed in any career, even if it’s just running a successful small business. You have to put in the time to learn the basics of what you want to do, and then you have to practice until you master your technique.

This is difficult enough to achieve when you are born into an average middle class or even wealthy family. For anyone born into a poor family, the obstacles can seem insurmountable.

Keep reading to see the surprising stories of how these 10 celebrities worked their way out of poverty and into financial and professional success.

10. J. K. Rowling Wrote Her Way From Welfare To Wealth

Fans of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels know that Rowling was a single mother living on public assistance when she started writing. They might not know that she couldn’t afford a typewriter or computer and handwrote drafts of her early novels.

“I remember twenty years ago not eating so my daughter would eat,” Rowling told The Daily Mail in a 2013 interview.

9. Shania Twain Sang From A Young Age

Shania Twain grew up in Timmins, Ontario, in a family so poor that they sometimes couldn’t afford to heat their home or buy food. At the age of eight, Shania started singing in bars to help earn money for her family. She is now worth about $450 million.

“I would certainly never have humiliated myself enough to reach out and ask for help and say, ‘You know, I’m hungry. Can I have that apple that you’re not going to eat?'” she said to ABC News. “I didn’t have the courage to do that.”

8. Jay-Z Went From Crime To Cash Flow

Born in the projects in Brooklyn, New York, Jay-Z grew up in a crime-ridden neighborhood, dealt drugs, and once shot his own brother in the arm for trying to steal jewelry from him. Learning rap turned Jay-Z’s life around, but he also learned business. As his wealth grew, so did his business investments. Now he is worth $610 million.

Did he feel guilty about dealing drugs? “In the beginning, no. I was thinking about surviving. I was thinking about improving my situation. I was thinking about buying clothes,” Jay-Z told Vanity Fair.

Learn about an unusual way to succeed on slide 6!

7. Birth Order Did Not Slow Down Celine Dion

Celene Dion was born the fourteenth of 14 children. Dion began singing from a young age and was discovered at age 12. She practiced composition and voice to work toward her success.

“I grew up in a very, very small house,” Dion said in a Vanity Fair interview. “Three or four of us in the same bed was normal to us. We weren’t poor, but we never had money. I don’t know if that makes sense. We were given love, and affection, and support. What else did we need?”

6. Billy Bob Thornton Started In Music Early

Spending his childhood in an Arkansas cabin with no electricity or running water, Billy Bob Thornton began playing drums and learning music as a child. He performed in several rock bands and later turned to acting and writing.

“We would order Christmas stuff out of the Sears catalog. And I’ll never forget having a $15 limit. You could buy three things for $15, back then,” Thornton related during an interview with ABC. He is worth about $35 million.

5. Peter Dinklage Succeeded By Sticking To His Standards

Peter Dinklage began his starving actor days in a rat-infested New York apartment. Not wanting to be stuck playing only comical dwarfs, Dinklage repeatedly turned down such roles and let it be known that he wanted to play characters, not a character type. He earned critical acclaim in independent films and only accepted the role of Tyrion Lannister because he liked the character. As Dinklage puts it, “You can say no. You can not be the object of ridicule.”

You think Tyrion has it rough? Check out slide 3!

4. Sammy Hagar Turned His Insecurity Into Wealth

Van Halen member Sammy Hagar began investing in numerous business ventures once he began earning money from his music.

“I was raised poor,” Hagar said during an interview he gave at a benefit concert for first responders. “My mother was married to an alcoholic husband who died really young. My mother raised four kids by herself. And I just was always insecure.”

3. Perseverance Paid Off For Stephen King

“My family lived off of the kindness of relatives,” Stephen King has related of his childhood in Maine. His family survived on what his single mother was paid by her siblings to care for their own parents. His first published novel, Carrie, was rejected at least 30 times before it was sold.

2. Halle Berry Learned To Survive By Tough Love

As a struggling actress just moved to New York City, Halle Berry lived in a homeless shelter for a time because her mother refused to send her money. “Either work it out, or come home,” her mother told her. Berry worked it out and is now glad her mother taught her the lesson. Berry is worth $70 million.

1. A Dark And Destitute Past Did Not Keep Oprah Winfrey From Success

Oprah Winfrey was born poor in rural Mississippi. She lived with her grandmother, who made dresses for her out of potato sacks. After a move to Milwaukee, Winfrey suffered sexual abuse from age nine to 14 and was sent to live in Tennessee, where she got a good education and excelled in school before launching her career.

“Anyone who has been verbally abused or physically abused will spend a great deal of their life rebuilding their esteem.” We can hope that Winfrey has rebuilt hers.

Growing up poor is no barrier to success if you have the drive and determination to succeed.  While most of us will never be as famous as any of the people described here, their lives have shown that hard work, education, and care with personal finances can pay off big. Some of these people looked for opportunities. Others put themselves out where they could be seen.  Others carefully chose from the opportunities that came knocking

Do you know any similar stories of success against all odds? We would love to hear them!  Share them with us in comments. If you enjoyed what you read here, like and share!