Rags to Riches: 8 Successful Celebrity Stories That Will Inspire You

From rags to riches, you won’t be able to guess which celebrities fought tooth and nail to be where they are today. Check out their inspiring stories.

Published 21 Aug 2020

Rags to Riches: 8 Successful Celebrity Stories That Will Inspire You - Feature-Image

If someone had told you that the iconic powerhouse Celine Dion grew up struggling to make ends meet, or that Transformers heartthrob, Shia LaBeouf, had to support his family’s livelihood since the age of 10, chances are, you wouldn’t believe it.

But that’s the reality of some of these A-listers who are gracing the red carpet and billboard charts today.

From being homeless to living in impoverishment, check out which starving artists turned their growing pains into comfortable and luxurious living through passion and perseverance.

#1. Oprah Winfrey 

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Oprah

Best known for her wildly popular programme The Oprah Show, you might recognise Oprah as the philanthropist who throws giveaways on every episode.

But this 2.6 billion dollar TV personality, producer and author did not come to be from a line of generational wealth. In fact, Oprah Winfrey had a rather difficult backstory before she climbed the ladder to success. Born and raised into poverty in Mississippi to a young single mother, Winfrey had to endure a troubled adolescent years where her family of four had to rely on welfare most of the time.

After years of struggles and rebellious phases, Winfrey’s life turned around after she was inspired by Maya Angelou’s memoir titled ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’. She began to get her life back on track by focusing on school and public speaking, a talent that became her stepping stone to stardom. Her determination to follow her passion in journalism is what led her to be a media mogul today.

#2. Jim Carrey 

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Jim Carrey

Hollywood’s king of comedy, Jim Carrey is clearly on the list among other notable comedians such as Robin Williams and Rowan Atkinson. From gracing TV screens with In Living Color and shaping our childhood with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask, it’s hard not to miss this iconic comic.

Yet, Jim Carrey’s rise to fame wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. His passion for stand up came about when his mom started to fall sick, and in an effort to cheer her up, Carrey started doing impressions and slapsticks. Later on, Carrey had to drop out of school and work as a janitor and security guard at a tyre factory due to financial constraints. To make things worse, they became homeless and ended up living in a van for almost a year.

However, his impressionable personality and jokes is what drives him to be the person he is today. After doing a few small shows to support his family, he was scouted by one-man-show Rodney Dangerfield, which marked the beginning of his career as a full-fledged performer. Today, Jim Carrey is worth $180 million.

#3. Eunhyuk (Super Junior)

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Eunhyuk

Before BTS took the world by storm, there was Super Junior who reached stardom with their 13 talented members back in 2005. With a gross net worth of $26.4 million, it’s no surprise that this first generation Kpop band is still popular today. But the upbringing of the members are poles apart from who they are today.

One of the members, Eunhyuk, had a challenging early life as compared to the rest of his colleagues. Inspired by the likes of Michael Jackson, Eunhyuk took an interest in street performing and started joining dance crews at a very young age. Despite getting rejected countless times from acclaimed agencies, this determined performer continued to persevere by training for dancing, acting, singing and even took up Mandarin classes to widen his opportunities.

After being successfully accepted into SM Entertainment (the agency for Super Junior), Eunhyuk has shown nothing but progress from winning competitions to appearances on TV shows.

#4. Dato Siti Nurhaliza

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Dato Siti Nurhaliza

With an angelic voice that has taken Malaysia by storm, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza needs no introduction. Her rendition of both traditional and pop music has won the hearts of many local and international audiences. Aside from her musical prowess, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is also a business mogul with her cosmetic line SimplySiti.

However, this Malaysian sweetheart had to trek an uphill battle to get to where she is today. Growing up in a poor family, Dato’ Siti had to wake up early in the morning to help her mother sell various homemade kuih in her neighbourhood, sometimes risking her safety by climbing down 3 flights of stairs with makeshift tables to set up by the roadside.

Despite the struggles, Dato’ Siti has always viewed her difficult upbringing in a positive light. She has said that her hardships have helped her to be more economical with her spending and confident when communicating with the public. Thankful for her musically-inclined family, Siti receives enormous support to pursue her talent by tagging along with her uncle to perform at weddings and other special events. As of 2018, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is worth RM69 million.

#5. Tom Cruise

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Tom Cruise

Mission Impossible, Rain Man, Top Gun, Jerry McGuire.

It’s almost impossible to list Tom Cruise’s extensive filmography. This award-winning and top-grossing box office star is reported to be one of the highest-paid actors in the world with a net worth of $570 million.

But before he became a megastar, Tom Cruise led a pretty rough childhood from growing up near poverty and being abused by his father. In fact, his mother walked out on the family to escape his father’s wrath when he was only 12 years old. Cruise moved across the country often due to his father’s occupation and his mother’s custody battle, resulting in him attending 15 different schools within 14 years.

His passion and interest in acting drove him to pack his bags and move to New York City to pursue his career. After a stint as a busboy, Tom Cruise signed with a talent agency that paved his way to stardom.

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#6. Jackie Chan

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Jackie Chan

Did you know that Jackie Chan used to do stunts for acclaimed martial arts star Bruce Lee before jumping into lead roles for major films like Police Story and the Rush Hour trilogy? This impressive stuntman and comedic genius started his career as a child actor but the road to discovering his passion was no walk in the park.

Born in Hong Kong to Civil War Chinese refugees, his parents worked for the French Embassy as a housekeeper and a cook. Despite the financial insecurity, they managed to put Chan through school. Unfortunately, academics wasn’t his strongest suit and he even failed his first year in primary school. As such, Chan could neither read nor write. Thankfully, martial arts and acrobatics was where his heart’s at and he devoted most of his time to these endeavours.

When he was in Peking Opera School, Chan tried out for small roles in many films, one of which was Bruce Lee’s. But it was the action-comedy flick Rumble in The Box that helped him gain a strong foothold in Hollywood. Since then, Jackie Chan has appeared in over 150 films and is now an influential film director and action choreographer.

#7. Sarah Jessica Parker

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Sarah Jessica Parker

If there’s one iconic character that has got it all together while looking fabulous, it’s Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, played by Sarah Jessica Parker who brought the character to life. But in reality, Parker’s early life was a total 180-degree to Carrie’s lavish upbringing.

Raised in a coal-mining town to divorced parents at the age of 2, Parker grew up relatively poor. Oftentimes, they would run out of electricity and had to skip Christmas and birthdays as they couldn’t afford to celebrate them. Her mother was a housewife and her step-father was a truck driver, so Parker had to play a part in supporting the family to get by.

Luckily enough, Parker’s mother was very supportive of her artistic endeavours and her talent in ballet and singing landed her major roles on Broadway such as The Sound of Music and Annie. Despite the hardship to support her acting career throughout the expensive city of New York, Parker admitted that she had everything she needed growing up! Parker is reportedly worth $90 million today.

#8. Leighton Meester

Rags to Riches Celebrities-Leighton Meester

Leighton Meester rose to fame as the chic and wealthy Blair Waldorf from the upper east side on the immensely popular series Gossip Girl. Not just that, she’s also acted in numerous hit films and even had her own recording album! So with all the success and adoration, it’s a little hard to believe this star had a difficult start to life.

Meester was born behind bars when her mother was serving time after being convicted of smuggling drugs into the United States. Even though Meester was taken in by her grandparents, her life was still full of financial insecurities. The art scene, however, has always fascinated her and she started her career as early as 11 years old when she became a model for acclaimed talent agency Wilhelmina in New York.

Even though her childhood ended fairly quickly as she had to worry about paying bills at a young age, Meester admitted that her unconventional childhood did not stop her from experiencing the good parts with her family. In fact, it has helped her grow into the mature and responsible person she is today. This bubbly personality is now worth $16 million.

As the saying goes, when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade — and that’s exactly what these celebrities did. While climbing the ladder to success can be a rough journey, it’s important to remind yourself why you decided to lead the path you chose. Nothing is impossible if you’re passionate and determined enough to follow your dreams!

Do these celebrities inspire you? Maybe a movie will do! Check out these movies related to your degree that will give you a boost of inspiration.

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    Nina Fazil

    Nina Fazil

    A work in progress — has been for the past 24 years.