Rags-to-Riches: 29+ Celebrities Who Were Once Homeless


| LAST UPDATE 08/25/2022

By Elizabeth Russo

From Jennifer Lopez to Oprah Winfrey and Lil Kim, these celebrities are some of the biggest in the game, but it didn't always start out that way. Here's a look at some stars who came from humble beginnings…

The Weeknd

In a decade, The Weeknd went from being a Toronto "street kid" to headlining the Super Bowl; talk about a come-up story. The Blinding Lights artist had a harsh childhood and went from couch to couch before his big break.

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Kevin Winter via Getty Images for iHeartMedia

The singer even admitted he would tell girls he loved them so he could sleep at their house. And at one point, there were "three girls that thought legit that I was their boyfriend." Despite his difficult upbringing, he used music as his "direct therapy." And it eventually saved his life, the singer recalled.

Halle Berry

Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry began her career off as a runner-up in the 1986 Miss USA Pageant, which eventually led her to move to the Big Apple to pursue her acting dreams. However, the money from the competition didn't last very long. And three months later, she called her mother for help.

Celebrities Homeless Halle BerryCelebrities Homeless Halle Berry
 Frazer Harrison/Wire"mage via Getty Images

"She said no, and that subsequently led to a year of not speaking to her because I was so upset that she wouldn't help me," Berry recalled. The actress ended up living in a homeless shelter until she managed to get a waitressing job, but now believes it was because of those struggles that she is the success she is today.

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Chris Pratt

One of Hollywood's most sought out actors, Chris Pratt, was once living out of a van in Hawaii. Oh, and before that, he spent some time as an exotic dancer. Yep. The Guardians of the Galaxy star was looking for his big break as a teen when a friend told him to join him on island time while he waited for his big break.

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Daniel Knighton via Getty Images

Pratt made the move to Maui, where he "set up camp on the beach and lived the dream" while he was waiting tables at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. It was there that he met director and actor Rae Dawn Chong, who later cast the young star in the 2000 horror-comedy film Cursed Part 3. And well, the rest is history…

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Steve Jobs

Who is more of a revolutionary than Steve Jobs? Apple Inc.'s CEO completely changed how the entire world operates - but he wasn't always a brilliant businessman. Jobs attended Reed College in Oregon, but couldn't afford to live on campus, so he slept on friends' dorm room floors.

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Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

For money, he "returned coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I [he] would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple." The CEO eventually dropped out of college due to financial struggles. And years later, he invented the first Mac computer!

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Cardi B

"I just feel like I influence people because I'm like - I was practically homeless," Cardi once confessed. She went from working as an exotic dancer at 19 to one of the world's most influential rappers. Born in the Bronx, she was "raised in a bad society," ultimately leading her to fend for herself.

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Rob Kim/GC Images via Getty Images

During her time as a dancer, Cardi became Instagram famous, which eventually scored her a sport on Love & Hop Hop: New York. And although she only stayed for two seasons, people loved Bardi! The rapper's online fame landed her a deal with Atlantic Records in 2016, and Bodak Yellow was released the following year.

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Ed Sheeran

In Sheeran's autobiography, A Visual Journey, the artist revealed he had a tough start to his music career after moving to London in 2007 to study music. When the course he was enrolled in ended and the grant ran out, his life turned, and he spent the next two and a half years sleeping on London underground trains or couch surfing.

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NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images

The singer would "go out and play a gig, wait until 5 am when the Underground opened, sleep on the Circle Line until 12, go to a session… then repeat. It wasn't that bad," he recalled. Sheeran admitted that being social helped him have friends' floors to sleep on and that he would just make it work.

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Jennifer Lopez

Jenny from the block was once sleeping on the block. But fast forward decades later, and she is one of the most successful entertainers in the world. Lopez told W Magazine she "didn't want to go to college - I [she] wanted "to try dance full-time." But her mother was totally not on board, leading her to sleep in the dance studio.

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James Devaney/GC I"ages VIA Getty Images

"My mom and I butted heads," she said after telling her mom, "this is what I have to do." Luckily, Lopez landed a dancing job in Europe, eventually leading her to move to Los Angeles and start dancing In Living Color alongside Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey, and other Hollywood hotshots. And, well, the rest is history.

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Jim Carrey

Speaking of Jim Carrey, before he was one of the world's most hilarious stars, he lived out of a van with his family as a child. The Dumb & Dumber star recalled working with his siblings as janitors and security men at the Titan Wheels factory where their father worked. Sadly, things soon took a turn for the worst.

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Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images

"My father lost his job, and I actually became homeless for quite some time," he recently revealed. "I grew up in Canada, so I thought we had just gone camping." However, Carrey assured Rolling Stone that it could've been worse. "It sounds sad," he said, "but we were so much happier than we'd been being those people we didn't like." 

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Michael Oher

Although he was one of the most sought-after players for the 2009 NFL Draft, Michael Oher had a challenging upbringing with his ten siblings. Growing up with a mother who struggled with substance abuse and an absent father, his whole life changed when he attended a high school in Memphis - where he met the now-famous Tuohy family.

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Thearon W. Henderson via Getty Images

Growing up in the foster care system and on the streets, Oher never had a home base. But in 2004, the Tuohy family adopted the high school student and welcomed him into their family. A few years later, his story was adapted into an award-winning film, The Blind Side, proving that "anything is possible."

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Tory Lanez

Rapper Tory Lanez was out on his own at just 14 years old. He was living in Toronto, and his grandma kicked him out, which resulted in him living with "three dudes" that his brother knew. He confessed that it was a time when he had to fend for himself, but it resulted in him sleeping on park benches many nights.

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Greg Doherty via Getty Images

The Say It rapper spent time hustling on the streets but always knew he had a talent deep down that he wanted to pursue. He confessed to HipHopDX that growing up homeless gave him the "I'm always alone, kind of feeling" that would eventually result in a "cocky" attitude. But clearly, that same cockiness turned him into a success!

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Sylvester Stallone

Much like his acclaimed movie character, Rocky, Stallone had a tough upbringing. He grew up being "farmed out to foster homes," despite his claim to fame one day. Stallone "was a juvenile delinquent who attended 12 schools by the time he was 15, and was kicked out of most of them," according to The New York Times.

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James Devaney/GC Images via Getty Images

The actor was so low on cash he even sold his dog to a guy named Little Jimmy for $50 bucks. However, when the actor finally sold the Rocky script, he "went to see Little Jimmy and begged for the dog back." Sure enough, "$3,000 and several threats later," he got his pup back.

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Hilary Swank

As a young aspiring actress, Swank had to make a lot of sacrifices. The actress dropped out of high school, and with her mother, they moved to Hollywood from their trailer park in Washington. However, when they got to the big city, they had nowhere to go, but they squatted on a friend's open property.

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Tommaso Boddi/FilmMagic via Getty Images

"So we got air mattresses. Blew the air mattresses up. Slept on the air mattresses. And left in the morning," Swank recalled. Even after winning an Oscar, the actress recalled only $3,000 for Boys Don't Cry, "So, I had an Academy Award, and I didn't have health insurance," she told CBS News."The life of an actor."

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Steve Harvey

Although he is one of the most recognizable TV personalities to date, Steve Harvey was once living out of his Ford Tempo, surviving on bologna sandwiches. "It was crushing," he told People. "I realized, 'You're on your own. You have nothing or no one.' All I knew was that I could make people laugh."

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Paras Griffin via Getty Images

Harvey was working as an insurance salesman before he entered the world of comedy. And evidently, his decision to quit his job is what landed him Family Feud in the future. The young insurance salesman won $50 in a stand-up competition, and he knew he was destined for comedy, no matter the risks.

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A$AP Rocky

This Fashion Killa wasn't always rocking the latest Gucci slacks or Goyard bags. In fact, growing up in Harlem, A$AP lived far from the glamourous life he leads now. As a young kid, he was hustling on the streets - which landed him in jail at 16 years old, where he would meet Cassanova, a young rapper.

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Burak Cingi/Redferns via Getty Images

While he was locked up, A$AP was inspired by Cassanova to enter the rap game. Upon his release became a part of the Harlem-based group A$AP Mob, and the rest is history. As we know, the name stuck, and all these years later, the kid from Harlem is one of the most iconic names in the music biz.

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Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson moved from her hometown in Texas to Los Angeles when she was just a teenager to pursue her dream of singing - but she had a devastating start. The enthusiastic young singer was living in the City of Angeles when her apartment suddenly burned down, and she was forced to sleep in her car for a bit.

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Pacific Press / Contributor via Getty Images

After sleeping in her car, she ended up moving back home to Texas. But she knew there was more for her in Los Angeles and that this was just a little speed bump along the road. Her friends in Texas pushed her to audition for American Idol, and well, we know how that turned out!

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Daniel Craig

Secret agent James Bond struggled as an actor before landing the role that would change his entire life. The British actor started acting at a young age and, at 16, was accepted into the London National Youth Theatre. But had a difficult time paying for his drama training.

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Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images

The Independent reported that Craig worked part-time at restaurants, but it wasn't enough to pay for all the necessities. And the struggling actor would sleep on park benches while looking for acting work. Well, fast forward to a nearly $20 billion franchise, and here we are.

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Lil' Kim

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Lil Kim lived on the streets for a few years before making it big. At only eight years old, she and her mother left her abusive father and "were living out of the trunk of her car," Kim confessed in an interview. "We slept in the back seat."

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 Prince Williams/Wireimage via Getty Images

A few years later, the future rapper moved in with her father, who then kicked her out, resulting in her living on the streets. However, during her years struggling as a teenager, she met The Notorious B.I.G., who eventually helped her to become the major artist she is today.

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Ella Fitzgerald

Now regarded as the "Queen of Jazz," Ella Fitzgerald struggled as a teenage runaway living on the streets. Until one day, she sang for a crowd at the Appolo Theatre in New York - and things changed forever. The soulful singer remembered thinking, "Oh my gosh, what am I going to do out here?"

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George Konig/Key"tone via Getty Images

"Everybody started laughing," she remembered. "And I couldn't think of nothing else, so I tried to sing The Object of My Affection," she told National Public Radio years after. Clearly, her voice said (sang) it all, and her life completely changed after that moment.

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In the early 1990s, singer-songwriter Jewel was living on the streets after her boss fired her when she turned down his sexual advances. "I ended up homeless for a year," she recalled. But that didn't stop her from working hard on her music and eventually making it big.

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Joe Scarnici via Ge"ty Images for Fortune

"I kept writing songs and started singing in a local coffee shop called The Inner Change Cafe. I developed a loyal following. No one knew I was homeless," the singer said. Her debut album, Pieces of You, went on to become a huge hit and eventually would sell 12 million copies.

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Shania Twain

According to Time, the singer grew up in an abusive household in Toronto and spent time in a homeless shelter with her mother and siblings. Twain recalled the moment in her memoir, From this Moment On, when her mom "scribbled the address of a homeless shelter" on a piece of paper, and they headed to the shelter.

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 Thomas Niedermueller vi" Getty Images for ZFF

"That night, we slept in a crowded, sweltering place on cot-like beds spread out along the walls of a series of spacious, open rooms designed for large groups," Twain wrote. Fast forward a few decades, and she is regarded as one of the best female country-pop singers in the world.

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Oprah Winfrey

The one and only Oprah Winfrey truly defines the old saying "from rags to riches," growing up in an impoverished family in Mississippi. She suffered from years of sexual abuse by her male relatives after living with both her grandmother and mother before she lived with her father in Nashville.

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George Pimentel / Contributor via Getty Images

At 17, Winfrey moved to Baltimore to work as a news reporter. And she became a "sensation," according to her co-host Richard Sher, before moving to Chicago to star in her morning show, later known as The Oprah Winfrey Show. The TV personality soon became an image people would soon strive to model after. And we couldn't be prouder.

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Jacob Elordi

It's no secret that Euphoria is a hit show - but it's also no secret that Jacob Elordi is one of the many reasons we love watching it. However, before he was cast to play the notorious wild child, he was a struggling actor who could barely make ends meet.

Jacob Elordi Before FameJacob Elordi Before Fame
 Tim P. Whitby via Getty Images

Elordi moved to Los Angeles at 19 and quite literally became an overnight star from the success of The Kissing Booth. Still, when he went to audition for Euphoria before the Netflix movie dropped, he was living out of his Mitsubishi. "My car was like a hoarder's, stacked with boxes and coat hangers and things," he recalled.

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Machine Gun Kelly

The Texas-born rapper made his claim to fame through his rather unique style of rapping and overall style and attitude. Still, before he was MGK, he was Colson Baker, a struggling artist who suffered from substance abuse - and, as a result, a period of homelessness.

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Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

MGK became homeless at 17 years old when he was evicted from his apartment. Around the same time, his girlfriend fell pregnant. He eventually attended rehab to overcome his demons and has been sober since 2012. Today, he's known as one of the most prominent rappers in the industry - and the lucky guy who snagged Megan Fox.

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"When I was growing up, [it] was the typical story of a single mother just trying to make it happen," Pitbull said. So when his mother kicked him out of her house for hanging out in the wrong crowd, he respected her wishes and left, realizing later on, "she's the one that has made me a man."

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Steve Jennings/WireImage via Getty Images

The Give Me Everything singer recalled growing up in Miami fighting with his mom until "one day she told him, 'Grab what you can in 20 minutes and get out!'" Pitbull explained he "broke the deal" after getting into the wrong business on the streets. But his mother evidently "taught me [him] to be able to live life."

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Natasha Lyonne

Lyonne got into the biz in the mid-1980s as a child actor and in the early 2000s spent a lot of the years "pretty underground." In 2001, she was charged with a DUI, and in 2004 was arrested again. But a year later, she was hospitalized for a "variety of ailments," which eventually led her to live out on the streets.

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Arturo Holmes/WireImage via Getty Images

After struggling with substance abuse for about a decade, she was cast in Orange is the New Black. And according to the actress, the show "really gave me a full second leg." With the success of the Netflix show, she co-created Russian Doll, a "heavily autobiographical" and "heavily fictionalized" show based on her life.

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Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil took on the patriarch role of his family at a pretty young age - being the only boy with three sisters and an absent father who struggled with alcohol abuse. The summer before his sophomore year, his family got an apartment but had no money for utilities for a few months.

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Noel Vasquez via Getty Images

"So we had this one bedroom apartment, we didn't have electricity, we didn't have heat, we didn't have anything. We moved in in September; we didn't have utilities until January," he recalled. His struggles helped him become of the most renowned clinical and forensic psychologists to date.

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ScHoolboy Q

Before he signed a recording contract with Interscope Records in 2011, ScHoolboy Q was spending time on the streets dealing and getting into trouble. The rapper recalled being 22, "I was basically homeless - not living on the street, but I didn't have nowhere to stay."

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 Scott Dudelson via Getty Images

"I was just hanging out, hoping for something good and making bad decisions," he recalled of the dark time. The now 35-year-old rapper has worked alongside some of the most prominent names in the industry, from Kendrick Lamar to A$SP Rocky and Kanye West.

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Carmen Electra

She may have posed for Playboy, starred in Baywatch, and danced with Prince, but before she was the Carmen Electra, she struggled so much that she spent "a couple of years being homeless in Hollywood." Electra went on tour with Prince - but when the tour ended, her boyfriend stole her life savings, and she ended up alone.

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Amanda Edwards/WireImage via Getty Images

"I remember sitting on a park bench in the valley," she said. "I was sitting there with a pocketknife and a pager and some change in my pocket and a really nice pair of high heels," she remembered. "Versace heels." However, she felt ready to move back to Ohio before getting cast in her dream gig, Baywatch.

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Tupac Shakur

Probably one of the most influential rappers to ever exist, Tupac was born in East Harlem but became a die-hard West Coaster when he moved out to California as a teenager. However, before he made it to the Golden State, the rapper faced a hard life growing up on the streets.

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Bob Berg via Getty Images

Pac frequented homeless shelters in both Baltimore and New York before moving to California at 17. He quickly adapted to the Cali lifestyle and then became the face of West Coast rap. In 1990 he joined Digital Underground, a rap group with a hit single that then kicked off his solo career.

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Tyler Perry

Although he is a total Hollywood mogul today, Tyler Perry once lived in his car, suffering from physical, verbal, and sexual abuse from an early age. He moved from New Orleans to Atlanta in hopes of staging his first play. But after the play failed six times, he was left homeless - and motivated.

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Santiago Felipe via Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

"There was something in me that said, this is what you're supposed to do." So he continued and continued, and eventually, on the seventh try, his play hit - and that jump-started his career to what we know it as today. Imagine if he quit, and we would have never met Madea!

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