35 Most Inspiring Rags to Riches Success Stories | Celebrities

Michael Lefler
by Michael Lefler
Published: January 29, 2020

We see gorgeous and successful people on the screens of our TVs or Instagram feed every day. They are always welcome guests on all social events and possess prodigious wealth. But most of them have not still forgotten how hard it was to achieve it.

Not many people reflect on the fact that a lot of now known celebrities were born into extreme poverty and, who knows, maybe appealed to payday loans for bad credit, trying to make ends meet. But it’s not something that can’t be overcome. These 35 famous rags to riches stories are about renowned people who have successfully got through indescribable hardships and finally become an inspiration for many people.

1. Joaquin Phoenix: from a religious sect to the big screens

Joker card behind one of the poor to riches stories

At the moment, Joaquin Phoenix is one of the most fascinating and world-famous actors. But previously, Joaquin suffered from incredible hardships: from spending his formative years in controversial cult among with his parents and four siblings to watching his older brother die of a drug overdose.

After leaving the missionaries behind, his family settled in LA, where the parents didn’t have enough funds to feed in the Phoenix household. It caused the homelessness of the entire family.

Everything changed when he and his four siblings were spotted dancing and singing on the streets of Westwood. Joaquin was invited to take part in the film Parenthood that led to further starring in other well-known movies, such as Gladiator and Walk the Line.

Nowadays, Joaquin Phoenix has more than 50 credits for movies, several Oscar nominations, and a net worth of more than $35 million.

2. Celine Dion: from local bars to the main stage

Celine’s childhood was spent in a poor and big Quebec family where she was the youngest of fourteen siblings. The parents tried to make ends meet and support their children in any way. And eventually, they succeeded, and little Celine started singing at small local scenes of bars.

Right there, she was discovered and soon invited to perform My Heart Will Go On in a famous movie. It led to an impressive career and made Celine Dion one of the most highly-paid music artists in the world. It is evidenced by Celine’s wealth that is estimated at $800 million.

3. Jim Carrey: from a van to the comedy circuit

Jim’s Carrey biography is probably one of the most impressive poor to riches stories. When he was a teenager, his father lost the job, which immediately led to extreme poverty and homelessness. The family had to live in their van. It caused Jim’s quitting school and working as a security guard at his 15. But the actor didn’t want to give up, so he started trying to enter the comedy genre. And he succeeded in it, thus turning his hobby into money, good money.

At the moment, Jim Carrey is a very famous comedy actor who starred in such hits as The Mask, Ace Ventura, Yes Man, etc., and his present net worth is valued at $150 million.

4. Oprah Winfrey: from a rural settlement to a media kingdom

It’s no secret that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most praised successful queens in the world and the owner of one of the most famous rags to riches people throughout history. Born and raised in humble beginnings, she has grown to become the top recognizable faces we have around. Her rural setup upbringing included years of emotional and physical abuse.

However, that changed when she relocated to Nashville and started to live with her father. He provided a convincing thriving environment for her. She quickly ascended local TV ranks, and after a short while, she was the talk of each household. She believes that determination and a clear vision is the right way to your rags-to-riches success story.

At the moment, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential people in the world, with her own media empire that is estimated at $2.5 billion.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio: from a seedy district to Hollywood

Nowadays, Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and it is immediately associated with such great movies as Titanic, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant. But not many people know that the one thing that allows Leo to portray the darker side of humanity is his childhood and adolescence, which was spent in the terrible environment – a seedy LA neighborhood inhabited by prostitution and drug markets.

The actor never forgets about his impoverished and severe childhood, as he thinks that these hardships have helped him to succeed and see “the other side of the spectrum.” At the moment, Leonardo DiCaprio is honored Oscar winner with a net worth of $260 million.

6. Halle Berry: from a homeless shelter to the big cinema

Nobody knows that before Halle’s Berry astonishing movie career, she slept in a homeless shelter. But these life issues didn’t break her self-confidence. Thanks to her patience and perseverance, Halle Berry has become an irreplaceable part of the American cinema, Oscar winner, and one of the most powerful women of the time.

The actress believes that all these hard situations have made her stronger, taught her how to take care of herself, and let her know that she’s able to overcome any hardships she could meet on the way. At the moment, Halle’s Berry net worth is estimated at $80 million.

7. Mark Wahlberg: from a prison to a movie set

Mark Wahlberg is now known as an Oscar-nominated actor and as a successful producer in both television and movies. However, his childhood was far from a glamorous and prosperous life.

He was one of nine siblings in a low-income family and a crumbling house. As a teenager, he dropped out of school, used to sell drugs, and use them as well, take part in a series of violent assaults. All these incidents caused his imprisonment for 50 days.

But the actor got a grip and put his power and energy into something worth it. In his case, it was a movie. At the moment, Mark’s Wahlberg net worth is valued at $170 million.

8. Selena Gomez: from extreme poverty to Disney

She was born when her mother was just 16. She wasn’t able to support little Selena financially, so she had to work several jobs to make ends meet. Selena Gomez still remembers that they couldn’t even afford gas or food that was more expensive than $5.

But things changed when Selena Gomez appeared on the children’s TV series Barney & Friends. Right then, she was invited to join the Disney Channel that led to incredible fame.

At the present time, Selena Gomez is a music and movie celebrity, who owns more than $75 million of net worth, and over 80 film and TV credits behind.

9. Hilary Swank: from a trailer park to the red carpet

Throughout her childhood, Hilary Swank had to endure the incredible hardships. Her family lived in poverty. They couldn’t afford even a small apartment, so little Hilary lived in a trailer park in Washington among with her mother and two siblings. One day, the family decided to take their chance in California, where Hilary eventually got a lead role in Boys Don’t Cry.

Nowadays, Hilary Swank lives beyond her former state and owns several awards for the best acting and $40 million in the bank.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger: from a nightmare to the government and the Terminator’s character

Before starring in the world-famous film, The Terminator, and later becoming the governor of California, Schwarzenegger lived in terrible poverty and constant violence around him. He grew up in a small Austrian town right after World War II. Thus, the actor still recalls dreadful hunger and the never-cycle ending of riots occurring outside their door.

For now, Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the richest movie stars of the time, whose net worth is about $400 million.

11. Joanne K. Rowling: from a poor single-mother to one of the most famous female authors

From rags to riches with Hogwarts Express train story

Joanne Rowling has gained her fame thanks to Harry Potter. But before the writer became a world-famous person, she was a single mother who had been struggling to pay her rent.

Joanne Rowling had been depressed for a long time, but eventually, she could overcome all the obstacles, including suicidal tendencies and poverty, and become one of the most successful writers and beloved British authors in recent history.

Currently, J.K.Rowling has seven novels about Harry Potter, a hugely prominent and successful movie franchise, and the net worth that is valued at $1 billion.

12. Chris Pratt: from the Hawaiian homelessness to LA glory

In the late ’90s, when the actor was just 17, he left college and was engaged in selling coupons. In two years, Chris Pratt and his friend bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii and traveled there by a van. This old van became a place for sleeping for friends. But despite the homelessness, Chris spent charming time drinking alcohol, smoking weed, and working 15-20 hours per week, just for covering gas and food supplies.

The apparent utopia could go on for a long time, but one day, the actor met actress Rae Dawn Chong who changed the course of his life. She gave him a lead role in her directorial debut and brought young Chris to LA.

At the moment, Chris Pratt has starred in a lot of well-known movies and TV-series, such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks, and Recreation, and many more, and possesses a net worth of more than $30 million.

13. Snoop Dog: from rip-and-run hoods to gangsta rap icons

We know Snoop Dog, nee Cordozar Calvin Broadus, as a West Coast king and one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all the time. But the real fact is that his childhood involved violence, poverty, and constant confrontation with the law in California’s Long Beach neighborhood. The artist was often arrested for selling drugs while he was studying at high school.

Snoop Dog decided to document his exploits in his lyrics. A bit later, his music and style transformed him into one of the most recognizable icons among all famous artists. At the moment, Snoop Dog is the owner of a net worth of $135 million.

14. Eminem: from the 8th Mile to the world hip-hop scene

Perhaps, Eminem’s biography is one of the most real rags to riches stories. Despite the fact that born Marshall Bruce Mathers III was raised in a poor, racially charged in Detroit, he could get through such hardships as poverty, non-acceptance, racial hatred, and even constant violence at home. He succeeded in stoking controversy, outraging a number of critics, bridging racial divides, and endearing millions of fans.

At the moment, Eminem’s album The Marshall Mathers LP is a best-selling rap album throughout all the hip-hop music history. In his turn, the rapper owns more than $230 million and 14.45 million units sold.

15. Guy Laliberté: from a street performer to the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil

We know Guy Laliberté as the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, but we couldn’t even guess that he has begun his career with street performance. He walked on stilts, played harmonica and accordion, and ate fire on the streets of Quebec.

Everything changed when he joined a performing troupe called Les Échassiers and started traveling around the country from show to show. After that, the troupe decided to perform at the Los Angeles Arts Festival, where they were noticed and invited to go to Las Vegas. Right there, they created the world-famous Cirque du Soleil we know today.

At the moment, in addition to owning the circus, Guy Laliberté is a billionaire businessman and a successful poker player that has been ranked by Forbes as the 11th wealthiest Canadian.

16. Mike Tyson: from street run-ins to fights in the ring

While the famous boxer was trying to create his own way to super-stardom, he was attempting to escape crushing poverty, crime, violence, and dysfunction that surrounded him throughout all his adolescence. Those efforts had been going on until he was discovered and adopted by Cus D’Amato, a legendary trainer.

Already in 1986, Mike Tyson succeeded in making his own legend boxing history and became the world’s most feared fighter of all time. Four years later, Mike Tyson lose his belt, and it unraveled his successful life. Nevertheless, he got back on his feet, and now his net worth is valued at $3 million.

17. Walt Disney: from joblessness to cartoon creation

The creator of Mickey Mouse always dreamt of becoming a cartoonist. He used to create cartoons since school for a newspaper. But later, he dropped out of school for joining the army and was rejected. But despite his talent, he got through the hard jobless phase, when nobody wanted to hire him. That time, his older brother helped him in getting a temporary job, at least.

Eventually, he went from rags to riches thanks to his advertisement campaigns for magazines and movie theaters, after which, thanks to the company owner’s support, he moved closer to his dream. Walt Disney successfully started animating his cartoons and acquire his studio.

18. Sarah Jessica Parker: from Ohio poverty to New-York fame

The 49-yeard old actress is best known for her role as Carrie Bradshaw in the raucous TV-series Sex and the City. But before the fame came to her, Sarah Jessica Parker lived on welfare among her family for many years. She was one of nine children, and it was too hard to support all the kids financially. The family seldom celebrated such occasions as birthdays or Christmas, as they couldn’t even afford to pay their bills.

Sarah’s life changed when she got her first role at age 11, and soon after decided to move to Hollywood, where she appeared on the local TV show.

At the moment, the actress is based in New York, and her net worth is more than $100 million.

19. Peter Dinklage: from a school theatre to TV screens

Peter is not a new name in the theatre industry. By looking at his talent, one can always conclude that he was born with everything at hand. But no! That’s not the case. He was born in New Jersey to financially unstable parents.

Since he had always aspired to be an actor, he went to college to study a theatre course. After graduating, he had a more substantial amount of unpaid school debt. He still couldn’t afford an apartment; hence, he stayed in the coach of his friends. He will do all the jobs, such as cleaning, among others.

Eventually, he started landing several lucrative active roles that paid handsomely. Today, he is an acting star with a global reputation and one of the lead actors in the world-famous TV-series Game of Thrones.

20. Leighton Meester: from the birth in prison to the rebirth in a movie

We know the actress for her famous role as the rich spoiled girl from the American TV-series Gossip Girl. Still, in real life, Leighton Meester’s story and persona are very far from the upbringing and lifestyle of the portrayed character. Her mother gave birth to her when she was imprisoned. So, little Leighton was sent to Florida for being raised by her grandmother.

After mother’s getting out, they both decided to arrive in New York, where Leighton Meester got an opportunity to try herself in the modeling world. Right there, she was noticed and invited to take part in some movies that became incredibly famous.

21. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel: from an orphanage to the world fashion industry

Chanel perfume as the product of rag to riches journey

When Coco Chanel was born, her father left her at an orphanage in France, where she was taught to sew and able to use the skills as a professional seamstress. It didn’t have enough profit, so young Chanel also worked as a singer at a bar, where she eventually met a rich man and started living with him as a mistress. It helped her learn to speak and act like a real woman.

A bit later, she started creating clothes using poor fabrics. She considered that corsets and heavy fabrics were too vulgar, so she began creating simple chic dresses and comfortable sportswear. The clothes she designed had a big influence on world fashion, so she was able to open her own boutiques and let herself never need to look for men’s help again.

Nowadays, Coco’s Chanel products are considered as symbols of complete luxury. Just for the record, the current Chanel owners’ net worth is valued at $19 billion.

22. Demi Moore: from trailer parks to the entertainment world

Despite the fact that Demi’s Moore is one of the most recognized people in Hollywood, she has unbelievably impoverished past. When she was young, her mother was twice engaged, and both stepfathers were alcohol-addicted. Because of a lack of money, the family had to live in different trailer parks.

But at age 16, the actress decided to change her life and start pursuing a career in modeling. Later, she enrolled in drama classes for building the appropriate acting skills and entered the entertainment industry.

At the moment, Demi Moore owns more than $150 million in her bank and a lot of acclaimed lead roles behind.

23. Shania Twain: from Canadian cold streets to a country music career

For the moment, Shania Twain is known for her incredible country music talent and unforgettable voice. But previously, young Shania Twain had a rough childhood back. Her parents were in a very abusive relationship.

In addition, the family didn’t have enough money to provide healthy food and all the necessary supplies for Shania and her siblings, so the children were placed in a foster home. But it was getting worse and worse. At the age of 21, Shania had to take care of her siblings, as their mother and stepfather had died in an accident.

Her life changed when she moved to Tennessee to start a singing career after her siblings became older and were able to fend for themselves.

At the moment, Shania Twain is one of the most famous country music artists, and her net worth is currently valued at $350 million.

24. Tom Cruise: from an orphan to Hollywood leading man

Looking at Tom Cruise, a Hollywood A-lister and successful actor, you just can’t believe that he was born into extreme poverty, being constantly tormented by a violent and abusive father. His mother left their family to get away from the husband when he was just 12 years old. A bit later, his father died, which caused sending little Tom to an orphanage.

But Tom Cruise didn’t give up and started making a name for himself from the bottom of the showbiz barrel.

Nowadays, Tom Cruise is one of the most Hollywood famous persons, a highly paid action movie actor, and an owner of a net worth that is estimated at $500 million.

25. Sylvester Stallone: from a grinding beggar to the Expendables

His biography is one of the saddest stories ever told among all the Hollywood celebrities. Sylvester Stallone was a real struggling actor. He didn’t have enough money even for food supplies for him and his dog or renting a place to stay, so he had to sleep at the NY bus station, sell his beloved dog at the liquor store, and steal his wife’s jewelry.

It seemed like everything was going down. But some weeks later, Sylvester Stallone saw a boxing match that immediately inspired him to write the script for the Rocky. And he did it for 20 hours. He wanted to star in his own movie, but the studio that was ready to buy the script was refusing him every time he told about that.

Eventually, he succeeded in it and received the desired role. And the most incredible thing – he spent the earned money to get his dog back ($15.000 for the same dog that was sold at $25).

Currently, Sylvester Stallone is one of the most hard-working and goal-oriented superstars throughout all Hollywood history, with a net worth of $400 million.

26. Ed Sheeran: from London subways to top charts

Ed’s Sheeran musician career was kick-started with performances on London’s music scenes. The struggling artist dropped out of school at 16, spent nights sleeping in subway stations, and played local gigs. Once, he met a drug-addicted prostitute whose name was Angel. Her story inspired Ed to write a song The A-Team and dedicate it to her.

This song became a jumping-off point for a young folk-pop musician. At the moment, Ed Sheeran has more than 150 million sold records behind, that has made him one of the world’s best-selling music artists at once, and the owner of a net worth $110 million.

27. Billy Bob Thornton: from odd jobs to screenwriter’s career

We know Billy Bob Thornton for his famous Bad Santa’s role. But we couldn’t even assume that he was raised in a rural Arkansas, in an extremely poor family that wasn’t able to afford electricity and plumbing.

Young Billy Bob Thornton had a difficult time when he was trying to succeed as an actor, so he had to work in telemarketing, fast food management, and offshore wind farming, while he was applying for acting jobs. He played drums and worked as a waiter for different events.

Right on one of those industry events, he met Billy Wilder, a film director, and screenwriter, who advised him to consider a screenwriter’s career.

At the moment, Billy Bob Thornton is an Oscar-winning writer and an owner of a net worth of $35 million.

28. Nicki Minaj: from a rebel to the Queen of rap

Nicki Minaj, original name Onika Tanya Maraj, was raised in a family of gospel singers. Her father was addicted to alcohol and drugs, had a violent temper that caused burning down their family’s house in the late 1980s.

Nicki Minaj was one of five children, and their mother brought them to Queens. Despite the fact that Nicki’s mother always tried to motivate her, she couldn’t maintain a strict household. When the singer was 19, she struggled to find herself in acting, so she had to work as a waitress. But because of her discourtesy to customers or other reasons, she was fired from at least 15 jobs.

Now, Nicki Minaj is called one of the most influential female rap artists of all time, considered as the Queen of Rap by a lot of media sources, and an owner of $80 million net worth.

29. Ralph Lauren: from a dreamy little boy to one of the most excellent designers.

Ralph Lauren always wanted to become a wealthy and successful person. It was one of his highest goals. But the environment that he lived in didn’t allow him to succeed in it. He was born into poverty in a family of Jewish immigrants that later moved to the Bronx. Little Ralph adored the Old Hollywood movies and was inspired by the designs he saw there. Right then, he fell into the reality of the films of that era.

He escaped his own reality and entered into a new one. He changed his surname from Lipschitz to Lauren and started creating his own designs. Many people think that Ralph brought this ability to step into a fantasy world to the fashion industry.

At the moment, Ralph Lauren has a net worth that is estimated at $7 billion.

30. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter: from selling crack to creating a great media empire

Nobody reflects on the fact that all the Jay-Z’s lyrics are often autobiographical. The rap artist was born into poverty and raised in a Brooklyn public housing project. His financial situation was so terrible that he didn’t see any way except selling crack to escape the poverty trap, feeling guilty all the time he did it.

Nowadays, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter has his own empire that includes music, endorsements, sports teams, and several startups. He is an honestly honored famous rap-artists and one of the wealthiest people in the world, whose net worth is valued at $1 billion.

31. Daniel Craig: from park benches to Casino Royale

Man in a suit with a rags to riches story

An English actor we know today for his James’ Bond role in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall, was born in a low-income family of an art teacher and a midshipman. The poverty he met in the formative years forced him to sleep on park benches and eat the cheapest food he was able to find or ask.

Currently, Daniel Craig is one of the most highly paid action movie actors in recent history, whose net worth is estimated at $65 million.

32. Shia LaBeouf: from the hippy lifestyle to the BAFTA wins

Shia LaBeouf was born in a Jewish-Christian family of two hippies. His mother was a dancer and a visual artist, and his father was a Vietnam War veteran. The actor describes his parents as “pretty weird people.”

When he was a child, he was accompanying his father to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and also, he was frequently subjected to mental and verbal abuse by his dad. There was a time when Shia’s father pointed a gun at him during a Vietnam War flashback. The family didn’t have enough money to afford to have little Shia, so his uncle was going to adopt him.

Willing to escape and make money, Shia LaBeouf started a stand-up comedy career at 10, which became a turning point for his path to fame.

At the moment, the actor’s net worth is valued at $25 million.

33. Jennifer Lopez: from a dance hall to the Forbes lists

J. Lo is one of the hottest female singers and actresses. But previously, the pop-star used to live with struggling Puerto Rican parents in the Bronx. She was looking at all the financial issues they had to face, and right then, she understood the value of hard work. She started training for something important and valuable since she was a child.

Things changed when she finished her dance classes and got her big break as a fly girl dancer on In Living Color. After that, she decided to pursue an acting career and got her first role in Selena’s biopic of the same name. It made her become the first Latin actress who earned over $1 million for a film.

Currently, Jennifer Lopez is considered the most influential Latin performer in the US and the most powerful celebrity in the world by Forbes. Now, her net worth stands at $400 million.

34. Mila Kunis: from the collapsing Soviet Union to American TV screens

The actress was born in Ukraine, but her family immediately moved to America when the Soviet Union collapsed, and Mila was just 7. Mila Kunis had to adjust to American culture, struggling with severe poverty.

She started attending acting classes after school, and soon, she was discovered by an agent. Right then, she was invited to appear in several TV-series. Only at age 14, Mila Kunis succeeded in getting her first significant role on TV-series That ’70s Show, alongside Ashton Kutcher, her current husband.

At the moment, Mila’s Kunis net worth is estimated at $65 million that totally makes her one of the wealthiest famous immigrants.

35. Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs: from constant failures to the personal label

The prosperous life Sean Combs has today is a gift for all his efforts. The American rapper was born in New York, in a family of a model and an associate of a convicted drug dealer. His father, Melvin Earl Combs, who also served in the US Air Force, was shot to death when Sean was just two years old.

Sean got a paper route as a boy to make ends meet, as his mother was enabled even to afford food supplies. He studied and worked a lot, and eventually, he succeeded in establishing his own label Bad Boy Entertainment.

Nowadays, Puff Daddy is three times Grammy Awards winner and has an incredible net worth that was estimated at $825 million by Forbes.

Bottom Line

We can learn a lot of useful life lessons from rags to riches stories. But the most significant thing we need to understand and always keep in mind is that nothing is impossible.

Even if it seems like life is rapidly going down the commode, and there’s no way out – you should always keep believing in yourself and never forget that life provides us chances every day. You just need to be more attentive to these signs and do your best to use them rightly. Don’t waste your chance to survive under the pressure of financial issues with a short term loan. Used responsibly, it will offer you the opportunity to cover some unplanned needs and to begin a new life and, why not, your own story of success.

Mike Lefler shares his interest in a wide range of different subjects, including his love for finance-related writing. The passion for writing, related exceptional skills and his years of study, along with a Master’s Degree at Southwest Minnesota State University led him to become one of the brilliant authors in the massive finance arena and in the area of Financial Planning and Lending Industry.

At the same time, his ability to identify the main points of various aspects and intention to significantly contribute makes him a great team member and a valuable part of 1FirstCashAdvance.

You may also like

Kerry Vetter
by Kerry Vetter
Updated: March 3, 2020