From Poverty to Power: Six celebrities who grew up poor

When we think of our favourite celebrities it is hard to imagine them having a life that is anything but glamorous. However, many celebrities overcame many trials and tribulations before they become famous and rich. These individuals are proof  that even if you are born into a ‘bad situation’ that people have the potential to pull themselves out of poverty. These actors, musicians,TV hosts and writers all grew up in poor or poverty stricken circumstances. Many of them struggled to obtain proper shelter and during their formative years. Our list of five celebrities who went from rags to riches:

Leighton Meester


Normally the Queen B of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as an affluent teenager on the CW show ‘Gossip Girl’, Meester’s childhood couldn’t be further away from the privileged life that she portrayed as Blair Waldorf. Her mother who was pregnant with Meester at the time, went to jail for drug trafficking. She gave birth to Meester in a hospital and nursed her in a halfway house before returning to prison.

Jim Carey

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Known for his comedic roles in movies like Dumb & Dumber, Yes Man and Liar Liar. Before all this, he went through a rough childhood. While his first few years were happy but this all changed when he became a teenager when his father lost his job. Carey said on Inside the Actors Studio, “When he lost his job that’s when everything fell apart. We went from ‘lower middle class’ to ‘poor.’ We were living out of a van. I quit school at age 15 to begin working to help support my family as a janitor.” Despite all that, Carey went on to have a successful career in the entertainment industry.

J.K. Rowling

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Best known for writing the “Harry Potter” series, J.K Rowling began her career as a struggling, single mother who was living off handouts from the government. She found inspiration while delayed on a train for 4 hours. It was there that she turned something mundane into something magical.  With a seven book series, eight films and a copious amount of toys and games, it has made her into a billionaire.

Leonardo DiCaprio 

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‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘ star wasn’t always a wealthy actor/playboy/mogul. Originally he started out by living in poverty in Hollywood where he was constantly surrounded by criminals and shady characters. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, where his mother worked two jobs to support her and her son. DiCaprio told The Independent  that there was a “major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere.” Later on in his life he also battled homelessness for a time before catching his first big break.

Sarah Jessica Parker


This  Emmy Award winning actress dealt with the effects of poverty at a young age. Parker’s mother always had a steady job however she was one of eight and supporting that many children was always a struggle. Parker told The New York Times that “We were on welfare. I remember being poor. There was no way to hide it. We didn’t have electricity sometimes.”

Mark Walhberg 


The Fighter’ star started out as a common street rat. He dropped out of school at just 14 years old and took to a life of petty crime. After serving jail sentence for assault, he got his life on track and got a record deal. He went on to become a big-time actor and starring in many blockbusters such as the most recent “Transformers” film, which grossed over $100 million in its opening weekend.

All these celebrities faced poverty at a young age and came out of it with help from people, communities and the government.

Your Child Poverty Advocate,