For all those who don’t believe that the American dream can come true, here’s a list of 23 living examples who made it from rags to riches with their talent. From spending restless nights on the cold streets to owning plush homes in the best parts of the country, here are some of the wealthiest people who were once homeless.
Drew was a positive minded personality who did whatever it took for him to make it big. Carey was no a stranger to hardships after his father passed away when he was only 8.
After hitchhiking from Ohio to California he ended up being homeless in Las Vegas. He was living in his car for a while and even sold Plasma just for a meal of mac and cheese. He ended up working as a waiter at Denny’s and as a bank teller. Since then his career has taken off and he is now a multi-millionaire
Kelsey Grammer’s past is full of tragedies. Despite being educated at a private prep school in Florida, followed by the prestigious Juilliard School of arts in New York, his father and sister were murdered, and his half-brothers died in a scuba diving accident. He also had notable addictions to alcohol and cocaine in the early 80’s and is now entertaining his fourth marriage.
Before becoming Dr. Fraiser Crane on Cheers and then getting his own spin-off show “Fraiser”, he used to camp out in an alley with his motorcycle behind the theatre he performed in. He is now one of the best known comedians in the world.
Currently worth almost quarter of a billion dollars, Jenny from the block started her adult life being homeless at the age of 18. Her parents were highly unappreciative of her desire to make it in showbiz. Her disagreements with her parents left her no choice but to leave their home and sleep for a while on a couch in a dance studio.
Almost a year later she was already in LA after a quick gig in Europe and then landing a role in ‘In Living Color.’ Since then she has reconciled with her family and they are now on excellent terms.
Australian actor Sam Worthington was so eager to get the role for Avatar, he sold everything he owned to get to the auditions. All his possessions at the time accumulated to $2000 which he bought a car with. He lived in his car for a while till he was finalized for the role. In fact, Sam is famous for telling his story as a homeless actor and an avid couch surfer. He has admitted multiple times that he is more of a drifter at heart and that he isn’t”very responsible when it comes to mortgages, bills, paperwork.”
In 2012, Worthington finally settled down, buying his own place in Honolulu.
In her memoir “From This Moment On” Twain details her childhood in an abusive home and living for a period of time with her mother and siblings in a homeless shelter. Twain, attempting to earn extra cash for the family too, sang in bars starting at the age of 8. Shania was just 14 when her mom turned her along with her three siblings into a homeless shelter 400 miles away from her home.
She has since won 5 Grammy awards, sold over 85 million records making her the best-selling female artist in the history of country music and one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
When she was only 18, Kelly finished high school and decided to pursue a singing career and moved to LA. As luck would have it, Kelly’s apartment caught fire and she had no money to rent a new one. Like many hopefuls, she supported herself doing odd jobs and sporadic television appearances, before finding herself working as a female vocalist with songwriter Gerry Goffin.
Eventually, succumbing to her hard luck, she returned to Texas. In 2002 a friend told her about American Idol and that it was looking for singing talents that were looking for a chance for a big break. She went on to win the first (and best) season.
Don Imus grew up on a farm in Arizona. When he was 15 his parents divorced and two years later he joined the Marine Core. Discharged in 1960, after three years in the core, he found himself without an education trying to make ends meet. He worked for some time in uranium and copper mines, and found work as a brakeman for Southern Pacific Railroad. Already developing an addiction to alcohol, Don found himself homeless, finding shelter in laundromats.
After winning a talent contest at Johnny Otis’s nightclub his career as a singer/songwriter started to emerge. In 1968 he was appointed as a radio disc jockey at radio station KUTY in Palmdale, California and started gaining a name for himself.
Rose has one of the craziest childhood stories out there. She grew up in the polygamous Children of God cult. At the age of 13 she ran away and was later hospitalized after taking acid at a school dance.
Her experiences include living under a house in Oregon and one night waking up to see her friend being raped. She contracted an ear infection and wandered the streets delirious. Still, she was so determined to make it big in Hollywood she lived a year on the streets with an aim to hit the jackpot. That came in 1992 when she was 20 in Encino Man and became a star after “Scream” in 1996.
Jim’s father was a musician turned accountant, but when Jim was 12 he lost his job and they had to live in a van. They eventually moved into a tent on his older sister’s lawn and parked the van in the driveway. At the ae of 15, Jim quit school and took a job as a janitor to help the family out. This really pissed Jim off, so he developed a sense of humor.
He started doing standup in Ontario and when he was 17 he was already the opening act for famous stand-up comedians Rodney Dangerfield, and Buddy Hackett. In 1983 he moved to LA and the rest is history.
Halle Berry was hell bent on being a star. She moved to Chicago as a teenager to pursue her acting dream. She quickly ran out of money, and her mother decided that the young woman must hack it by herself. Halle spent almost a year in a homeless shelter before being able to get on her feet and finance herself.
Talking about the period with Star Pulse, she said: “It taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation, even if it meant going to a shelter for a small stint, or living within my means, which were meager.”
Tyler knew he was meant for Hollywood and history proves he was right, earning approximately $130M in 2011. However his journey wasn’t that easy. He moved to Atlanta with almost no money and a dream to launch a play. He invested everything he had in it and it tanked leaving him penniless and living in his car. He worked hard, recovered and … tanked again. This went on for 7 years until he decided to listen to the few people that did show up, how his plays impacted them.
In an interview to AJC.com he said “My life shifted after that,” he said. “My intention became, how do I serve other people? How do I lift other people?” it was from this moment on that his career started to ascend.
Kurt Cobain came from Aberdeen, a small failing lumber town 140 kilometers out of Seattle. His parents divorced when he was 9 and his life changed forever. When he was 12 his father was granted full custody, but Kurt’s rebellious character was too much for him. Kurt found himself being shipped off from friends to relations.
In his second high school year, he moved back to live with his mother. Two weeks before graduation he decided to drop out figuring he wouldn’t graduate anyway. His mother gave him an ultimatum – find a job or leave. A week later his clothes were on the lawn and he couch surfed amongst friends. He spent his nights in the hospital waiting rooms and sometimes under a bridge in Washington (though bass player Krist Novoselic said that Cobain tended to exaggerate his experiences).
David Letterman was born and raised in Indiana. When he decided to move to LA in 1975, he didn’t have a penny to his name and had to live in his pickup truck for a while. His first step out of the dire situation was writing jokes for Jimmie Walker.
In 1982 The Late Show with David Letterman started airing and turned things rapidly around for the famous talk show host. In his heyday, Letterman grossed over $50M a year. Since his retirement, he has grown a beard and has been ridiculed by the internet that he once again looks like a homeless man. Yeah… no!
Dr. Phil McGraw
The most famous doctor on TV knows a thing or two about hardships. When he was 12, his father, and he was living in a car in Kansas while his father, a recovering alcoholic that turned his life around and was interning in psychology. When he was 15, his father and he left the rest of their family because they didn’t have enough money to support everyone. They found a 5$ room at the YMCA, and after a few months, the moved to their own place. In took them three months to get electricity.
As we said, Dr. Phil is no stranger to hardships, perhaps that’s how he can relate to his guests so easily.
Daniel Craig was spotted sleeping on a park bench one night and the story of him being homeless began circulating. The truth is that Craig suffered hardships from a very early age. His parents divorced when he was 4 and he moved in with his elder sister. He started acting at the age of six but waited tables as a struggling teenage actor with the National Youth Theatre.
Upon moving from London to New York to make it great, he most likely lived in a squat with fellow upcoming artists when first starting out before moving into his own digs.
Lil’ Kim is a tough individual. Her biography starts with her mother and herself leaving an abusive home when she was 8, and lived out of the trunk of their car and sleeping in the backseat. However, this wasn’t the only time Lil’ Kim was homeless.
She went back to live with her father who, in her late teens * early twenties decided he didn’t like the company she was keeping nor her aspirations to become a musician. Her dad kicked her out, and Biggie Smalls, who also became her mentor, took her in. In 2016 HSBC repossessed her $3M mansion, and she is again in trouble with the police in mid-2017. You can take the girl off the streets but not the streets out of the girl.
“Million Dollar Baby” star, Hilary Swank knew how to play her role because parts of it were similar to her personal biography. She moved to LA when she was 16 and for two weeks they lived out of their car. Friends that tried to sell their house let them stay in it during the night provided that there will be no evidence of Hilary and her mother being there during the day when the house was up for sale. They slept on air mattresses and left in the morning.
Luckily, Hilary landed a role on her first audition and soon the two were on their feet.
Jim Morrison’s dad was a rear admiral in the US Navy. So, naturally, the family moved around a lot. George Morrison was the commander of U.S. naval forces aboard the flagship USS Bon Homme Richard during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident that helped ignite the Vietnam War.
After finishing UCLA he founded the doors, but since he graduated from college only because “I didn’t want to go into the army, and I didn’t want to work—and that’s the damned truth,” he didn’t have any money. So he slept in cars, on rooftops, park benches, basically anywhere. In 2016 there were rumors that Morrison didn’t die in Paris but was actually living homelessly in New York
When Sylvester Stallone moved from New York to LA with his wife, things didn’t come easy. He had to sell his dog before he was able to sell the script to “Rocky” and he even starred in a softcore adult film and an erotic play. He said later that he took the roles because he was utterly desperate. He had been evicted from his house and was homeless for several days.
Eventually, his script “Rocky” was sold and this is where fact and myth get confused. Sly got his dog back and it appears in “Rocky” and the sequel and is credited Butkus Stallone. The man who bought the dog from him got a role in the film.
Carman’s story spiraled awkwardly and things should have turned out very differently. In her early 20’s she had already done a tour with Prince, and was a dancer at his club in LA. Her boyfriend in return stole everything she had. Oddly enough she was stranded with pocket change, a pocket knife, and Versace heels. She found herself homeless for almost two years.
She contacted the choreographer that she knew from her Prince tour and he set her up with a manager who got her on Playboy and then Baywatch. Never underestimate a homeless woman with Versace heels and a penknife. They might be the next Carmen Electra.
Former Partridge Family teen star Danny Bonaduce was slowly getting addicted to drugs, and then saw his life spiral out of control. For a while he lived in a car behind a dumpster. Strangely enough, he was still famous and still having his photo taken with fans and signing autographs. It was his mother that started his life change from a teenaged drug addict. She told him that she understands that he will probably die very soon and that she wanted to have one last chance to tell him that she loved him before getting the dreaded call that his body was found.
Today Danny is finally sober, after being (in his words) legally drunk for almost 25 years. He hosts a radio show in Seattle and guest appears in reality shows.
Martin Sheen has a past that could feature a movie, if not a whole 3 season series. On one hand, he was so dedicated to be an actor that he spent more than a few nights sleeping in different subway stations. He also deteriorated to alcoholism and substance abuse. This is probably one of the reasons Martin is one of Hollywood’s most arrested celeb.
After gaining his success, Sheen was anointed Honorary Mayor of Malibu. In his inaugural speech he said: “I hereby declare Malibu a nuclear free zone, a sanctuary for all aliens, and the homeless and a protected environment for all life, wild and tame!”
“Blood Diamond” star Djimon Hounsou really has to thank his good looks and guardian angels for the way his life turned out. Being a semi delinquent youth on the streets of Paris, Djimon sent himself to “wintertime, when I didn’t have enough warm clothes to sustain the harsh weather outside, I was sent to a juvenile prison to spend the night.” He told a congressional panel in 2008.
He spent about 5 years on the streets before fashion designer Thierry Mugler discovered him and fundamentally altered his life. Djimon stays sensitive to the homeless issue to this day and is a strong advocate for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.