These Celebrities Went From Rags to Hollywood Riches

It’s hard to imagine A-list celebrities living out of cars and being homeless. We almost like to think they were born in their star-studded shoes. While some stars were lucky enough to be born into a famous family, others had to work hard and pay their dues before becoming part of the Hollywood elite.

Despite the millions they make now, many top celebrities grew up with nothing. J-Lo slept on her dance studio’s couch before Selena, and Jim Carrey was living in a tent in his sister’s yard before his big break. Keep reading to see some celebrities that worked hard to go from rags to Hollywood riches.

Chris Pratt Used To Live In His Van

Chris Pratt Used To Live In His Van
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Before he was cast in one of the biggest blockbusters to date, Chris Pratt was homeless in Hawaii. The Guardians of the Galaxy star has opened up a few times about living out of his van, joking that at least he wasn’t on the cold streets of Chicago.

Pratt would work 15-20 hour weeks, just enough to buy fishing supplies, gas, and food. It took some time, but Pratt got his big break in 2002, landing the role of Bright Abbott in Everwood. He’s come a long way from busing tables and eating leftover food off customers’ plates!

Halle Berry Lived In An NYC Homeless Shelter

Halle Berry Lived In An NYC Homeless Shelter
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Leaving her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Halle Berry made her way to New York with just enough money to make it through a three-month modeling job. She hoped that the gig would lead to something more permanent. That wasn’t the case, and Berry eventually ran out of money.

Her mother didn’t fund her, wanting her to learn to be on her own. So Berry wound up living in an NYC homeless shelter. She’s said that the experience made her stronger, and pushed her to pursue her entertainment industry dreams. Berry’s big break came in 1991 when she was cast as Vivian in the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever.

J.K. Rowling Was Living Off Government Aid

JK Rowling Was Living Off Government Aid
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe author J.K. Rowling used to be a struggling single mother. The famous author has opened up about how she used to live off of government assistance, being “as poor as possible in modern Britain without being homeless.” That all changed when she wrote the Harry Potter novels. Rowling confessed that she wrote the book series in a tiny cafe while her infant daughter slept beside her.

After multiple rejections from publishing houses, in 1997, Bloomsbury in London partnered with Rowling to publish Harry Potter. From there, Rowling went on to become one of the wealthiest women in the world!

Steve Harvey Was Homeless For Three Years

Steve Harvey Was Homeless For Three Years
Jim Spellman/WireImage
Jim Spellman/WireImage

The entertainment industry is nearly impossible to break into, especially for comedians. For Steve Harvey, he spent three years living out of his 1976 Ford Tempo before landing his big break. Living in the car wasn’t the hardest part, though. He was also jobless and using an igloo cooler as a refrigerator.

Harvey landed his big break in the late 80s, hosting Showtime at the Appollo. Eventually, his success as a comedian landed him more roles, and in 1994, he starred in the ABC show Me and the Boys. When asked about his time being homeless, Havey says, “I can’t ever be in that position again.”

Hilary Swank Lived In A Car With Her Mom

Hilary Swank Lived In A Car With Her Mom
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Before becoming an Academy Award-winning actress, Hilary Swank lived in a trailer park. Then, when she was 15, Swank and her mother packed up their car and with $75, moved to Los Angeles. For the first few weeks, they lived out of the car, “I was embarking on a big adventure, and I was very excited. My mum was scared as hell, but I loved it,” says Swank.

It took nine long years, but after Swank was fired from Beverly Hills 90210, she landed her big break. Kimberly Pierce hired Swank to star in the small movie Boys Don’t Cry. The film became huge, and Swank won an Academy Award.

Justin Bieber Used To Go To Bed Hungry

Justin Bieber Used To Go To Bed Hungry
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Justin Bieber grew up sleeping on a pull-out couch in a rat-infested house in Stratford, Ontario. Thankfully, his family wasn’t homeless, but his mother was single, and they struggled to get by. In an interview with OK! magazine, Bieber says, “I remember sitting in restaurants with my mother, and she’d make me order water instead of soda. I remember so badly wanting to order a soda.”

Before being discovered on YouTube and becoming an international pop star, Bieber used to be teased for his family’s financial status. He even went to bed hungry some nights. Now, he has enough money to keep his fridge nice and full!

Kelly Clarkson Worked Odd Jobs Before American Idol

Kelly Clarkson Worked Odd Jobs Before American Idol
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

Before becoming one of the most popular singers in the music industry, Kelly Clarkson says she had “nothing” to her name. At the age of 18, she packed up and left her town in Texas to move to Los Angeles. There, she worked random jobs to get by, ranging from Subway to a cocktail waitress at a comedy club.

Her rock bottom was living out of her car after her apartment building burnt down. Clarkson almost moved back to Texas after the ordeal but decided to stay and audition for a new show called American Idol. With nothing left to lose, Clarkson went for it and wound up winning.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Had Seven Bucks In His Pocket

Dwayne
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had a unique background before becoming the international star he is today. Going from a college football legend to wrestling in flea markets for $40, to professional wrestling, and finally, to Hollywood. Once his football career ended in injury, The Rock realized that he only had seven dollars in his pocket!

But he worked hard and became famous wrestling for the WWE. Soon, he was on Hollywood’s radar. The Rock was asked to Host Saturday Night Live, a gig that would lead to movie roles. He made his film debut in 2001 in The Mummy Returns, reprising the role in The Scorpion King. The Rock is now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood.

Matt LeBlanc Was Down To $11

Matt LeBlanc Was Down To $11
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Before landing the role of Joey on the popular sitcom Friends, Matt LeBlanc was down to his last $11. With the success of the television series, it’s hard to believe that LeBlanc was almost completely broke! Not wanting to get an ordinary job, LeBlanc revealed that he kept telling himself that his bank account could make it until he landed another gig.

Thankfully, the gig he landed was Friends. In an interview, LeBlanc admits that a bank account dwindling down to $11 is holding out a little too long. And if he didn’t land the role of Joey, he probably would have starved.

Chrissy Metz Had Eighty-One Cents In Her Bank Account

Chrissy Metz Had Eighty-One Cents In Her Bank Account
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Chrissy Metz had landed various roles in the past, including a reoccurring role on American Horror Story. It just wasn’t enough work to have consistent funds in her bank account. Then, she got a call-back for a part in the future Emmy Award-winning television show This is Us.

Unfortunately, she freaked out at the news, and not in a good way. Metz was afraid she wouldn’t be able to make it to NBC Universal because she only had eighty-one cents in her bank account. Not nearly enough to put gas in her car! Thankfully, she made it and landed the role that changed her life.

J-Lo Slept On A Dance Studio Couch

J-Lo Slept On A Dance Studio Couch
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Jennifer Lopez hasn’t always been a pop super-star and dance machine. Growing up, she used to butt heads with her mom. By the time she was 18, Lopez knew what she wanted to do with her life, and it didn’t include going to college. Her mom decided some tough love was in order, kicking her out of the house.

J-Lo didn’t let that little bump in her road stop her, though. She wound up sleeping on a dance studio couch, virtually homeless. Her big break came in 1997 when she was selected to play the pop legend, Selena. Her performance landed her a Golden Globe nomination.

Sylvester Stallone Sold His Dog For $50

Sylvester Stallone Sold His Dog For $50
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images

For Sylvester Stallone, money was in such short supply that he had to resort to drastic measures. One day, he tied his beloved dog Butkus up outside of a store with a sign saying he’d sell the pooch for $100. A guy called “Little Jimmy” gave him $50. On top of that, Stallone was homeless and sleeping on the benches in New York’s Port Authority.

In 1975, Stallone sold the rights to his screenplay, Rocky. With the money he got from selling his work, he repurchased his dog for a drastically inflated price of $3,000! Rocky went on to win multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Jim Carrey Slept In A Tent In His Sister’s Yard

Jim Carrey Slept In A Tent In His Sister's Yard
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BAFTA LA
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BAFTA LA

Growing up, Jim Carrey’s father lost his job, resulting in the family losing their home and living out of a VW van in his sister’s driveway or a tent in the yard. Carrey says that it was during those tough times that he developed his sense of humor.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Carrey got his big break, playing the title character in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The movie showcased his humor and dramatic facial expressions, traits that kept the hits coming. That same year, Carrey starred in the hit movies Dumb and Dumber as well as Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

Dolly Parton Grew Up In A One-Bedroom Cabin

Dolly Parton Grew Up In A One-Bedroom Cabin
David Becker/Getty Images
David Becker/Getty Images

For Dolly Parton, growing up in a one-room cabin in Tennessee with 12 siblings was just life. She grew up dirt poor. Her parents didn’t have two pennies to rub together and offered bags of cornmeal for payments instead of actual money. Even though she grew up to be a country music icon, Parton still has trouble spending her money.

In an interview, she said, “If I am thinking about spending a lot of money on clothing or furniture, I think ‘I can’t spend so much money on one thing; my poor old daddy could have raised his family five years on that!'”

Oprah Winfrey Wore Potato Sack Dresses

Oprah Winfrey Wore Potato Sack Dresses
John Phillips/John Phillips/Getty Images
John Phillips/John Phillips/Getty Images

Before she became a successful self-made woman, Oprah went through a tough childhood. Living on her grandmother’s farm in rural Mississippi, her family was so poor that she would often wear dresses made out of old potato sacks. Her poverty was often rubbed in her face by her better-off classmates.

Oprah graduated from high school but decided to drop out of college to pursue a career in media. Her big break came in 1983 when she became the host of Chicago’s WLS-TV. After Oprah took over the show, it quickly became the highest-rated talk show in Chicago. Now, she has her own talk show and has a net worth of $2.8 billion.

James Cameron Lived Out Of His Car

James Cameron Lived Out Of His Car
Mike Pont/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Mike Pont/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Between dominating the film industry and writing hit movies, it’s easy to forget that James Cameron was once a struggling filmmaker. While living out of his car, Cameron was determined to direct his screenplay, The Terminator. Even though a few studios offered to buy the rights, Cameron wasn’t in the market to sell unless they agreed he could work on the movie.

The paycheck would have been nice, but Cameron ended up selling the screenplay to a producer for one dollar because they allowed him to direct. The movie ended up making $80 million worldwide, launching Cameron’s career.

Sam Worthington Sold Everything He Owned

Sam Worthington Sold Everything He Owned
David Buchan/Getty Images
David Buchan/Getty Images

Before Sam Worthington auditioned for Avatar and ultimately landing the lead role of Jake Sully, he was living out of his car. The Australian actor decided to take time to “find himself,” selling all of his possessions to friends and family.

After the audition, it took director James Cameron a few months to persuade the studio executives that Worthington, a homeless unknown actor, was right for the role of the big-budget film. Now, Worthington is a familiar face in multiple action movies, such as Clash of the Titans. He is worth millions, and that’s not including the check he’ll receive for the next Avatar installments!

Jewel Used To Steal To Get By

Jewel Used To Steal
Steve Jennings/WireImage/Getty Images
Steve Jennings/WireImage/Getty Images

Jewel wasn’t always a Grammy-nominated singer. When she was growing up in Alaska, she was homeless. Shoplifting food and clothing was the only way Jewel knew how to survive. People would even back away from her on the streets. In an interview, Jewel said, “People treated me like I was contagious. They thought the homelessness might spread to them.”

At the age of 19, Jewel was accidentally discovered while singing in a coffee shop. She negotiated a massive record deal, something she almost didn’t sign out of fear! Today, she’s sold over 30 million albums and has won multiple awards.

Marky-Mark Used To Rack Up Petty Crime Allegations

Marky-Mark Used To Rack Up Petty Crime Allegations
NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images
NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images

Growing up, Mark Wahlberg was what one would call a common street thug. He would steal cars and racked up quite a few petty crime allegations. Wahlberg even found himself in jail. It was during that time that Wahlberg decided he wanted to live a clean life, and his brother, Donnie, helped him do so.

Together, they formed Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. The debut album ended up going Platinum, but the band lost its footing in the following years. Wahlberg decided to drop the Marky Mark persona and take up acting. He is now one of the bigger stars in Hollywood.

Eminem Grew Up With Nothing

Eminem Grew Up With Nothing
Donna Ward/Getty Images
Donna Ward/Getty Images

There’s a whole movie dedicated to the poor upbringing of Eminem. He grew up in a trailer park in Detroit with his mother and brother, what he calls the “wrong side of eight mile.” After failing the ninth grade three times, Eminem dropped out of school. He would go on to work odd jobs to help his mom pay the bills.

Even though it was hard for a white rapper to break into the rap genre, Eminem was able to grab the attention of Dre. Today, Eminem is known as one of the world’s greatest rappers, winning multiple awards, including a few Grammy’s.