When it comes to getting rich, there are a surprising number of celebrities and successful entrepreneurs that came from socially or economically difficult backgrounds. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to rise to the top in terms of wealth and celebrity, then the following rags to riches stories can prove that anything is possible, no matter how little money you have start with.
This billionaire has a truly astonishing rags to riches story, starting with his adoption at birth. His adoptive parents taught him to strive to achieve as much as he could in life, but despite this upbringing, he ended up dropping out of college just after one semester. With little else to do, he continued auditing classes and earned money for food by collecting Coke bottles or by going to get free meals at a local temple. Sleeping arrangements consisted of whichever friend’s floor was free that night. After getting into the computer industry, however, it seemed like Jobs had finally found his life’s calling. He completely transformed Apple from an obscure computer company to one of the top leaders in its field today. He was the primary founder of the ever-popular iPhone, iPod, iPad, and played a major role in the improvement of Macs and Macbooks.
Born out of wedlock to a young teenage housemaid, Oprah’s life seemed difficult from the get-go. She lived in poverty for the majority of her childhood, with so little money in the family that she wore potato sacks instead of actual clothing, prompting bullies to taunt her for her poor appearance. She ran away from home as a young teenager and got pregnant but lost the child. Years later, she not only has her own show, but her own television network: OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. She has amassed billions of dollars to her name, but donates the majority of her income to charities prioritising safety for girls and education for children all over the world. She has started schools in Africa and saved people’s lives with her helpful and inspiring talk show. To this day, when people think of a rags-to-riches story, most people think of Oprah Winfrey first.
Chris, like many others on this list, was born into a troubled family. His stepfather was abusive and twice, Chris was sent to live in foster care. Into adulthood, he found himself in an unhappy marriage and had to support a son as well. When his wife left him, Chris could have fallen into despair but instead used this as an opportunity to prove himself. He became a salesman, but didn’t enjoy the hard work and unpredictable income. One day, he met a man named Bob Bridges, who introduced him to the world of stockbrokering. He took a training job at Dean Witter Reynolds stockbrokerage firm, but amidst these changes, he found himself suddenly homeless and with a son to feed. After many weeks of persistence, however, he got an actual job and later founded his own firm, Gardner Rich & Co. He even had a movie made about his life, “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
In 1990, the idea that would influence an entire generation seemingly “fell” into the head of a young single mother by the name of Joanne Rowling. She was traveling home on a train, and despite this massive flash of inspiration, she was too shy to even ask someone to borrow a pen. But the idea of a lonely boy who didn’t know he was a wizard stuck, and in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. She only received £1500 for the initial advance, because the publishers weren’t too confident in this children’s book at the time. To a mother living on welfare, however, this was a true jackpot. Seventeen years later, the series has drawn to an end, with seven books, eight films, and so much money to her name that J.K. Rowling is donating much of it to charities. From a woman living on government stipends to first billionaire author; that is a true rags to riches story.
After dropping out of school at the age of 15 to pursue his dream of becoming a rock musician, Johnny Depp didn’t seem to have much going for him. He could barely afford the trip to California, where he eventually found work as an over the phone salesman. He never really had an interest in acting, but upon learning that it could get him out of the impoverished lifestyle he had been leading, he was willing to give it a try. More than two decades after landing that first gig in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” Depp has become one of the most renowned actors in the world. He has brought in over $300 million from the “Pirates” franchise alone, and is one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. For a guy that used to play his guitar in obscure coffee shops and sell pens to strangers over the phone, this has been quite a step up in terms of lifestyle.
Born as Katheryn Hudson, Katy Perry wasn’t a music sensation until a few years ago, mostly because of her upbringing and repeated failures in the industry. Born in a modest family of two very religious pastors, Katy was forbidden from listening to secular music and didn’t know what rock and roll was until she was almost in her twenties. Her family moved around a lot, not having much money and always focused on church before anything else. When she finally broke free of this environment, however, Katy realised there were still many obstacles to overcome. Her first record deal fell through and she was barely making the payments on her car, let alone making rent. There was another record failure as well, but in 2007, Katy finally got her big break with several hit singles. Now she is an internationally-recognised pop singer with several music awards and millions of dollars to her name. Not bad for a girl who once thought the only singing she’d ever do was in the church choir.
Born in India and later moving to the US with his Indian immigrant parents, Chahal had quite a challenge ahead of him: succeeding in a foreign land with nearly no money to his name. Determined to see his ventures work, Chahal dropped out of school at age 16 to work on ClickAgents, his first official business venture. He had little funding and was living primarily on his parents’ support, but within two years, it sold for $40 million USD. He didn’t stop there, however. Chahal later developed BlueLithium, which he later sold for $300 million USD. At just 25 years of age, he is now a millionaire, even when the odds seemed against him when he was younger.
After her divorce, Lucinda suddenly found herself living on the streets. Without a home and without a job to keep her occupied, she found herself studying the crafting techniques of other homeless people. She quickly learned the art of jewellery design and decided to make it into a business venture. Designs by Lucinda was born, and within a few years, it had created over four million pins, got Lucinda herself off of the streets, and raised over $20 million USD for non-profit charities in the process.
Born to an unwed nineteen year old, Ellison was later adopted out when his birthmother could no longer care for him. He spent much of his life in Chicago, and even started going to university there, but dropped out when his adoptive mother passed away and moved across the country. He then went on to found the company, Oracle. It became a smashing success and he is now the third richest person in the US. He has donated over $100 million to charities and eventually got to meet his birthmother.
Schultz’s family lived in poverty for most of his childhood. His father became unemployed after an injury (had to quit all of the jobs he held at the time) and the family was forced to live in cramped tenements in an underprivileged urban area. He later won an athletic scholarship and became the first in his family to go to university. With this education under his belt, he came to Starbucks and transformed it from a small local coffee shop chain to a global empire, now with thousands of locations and millions of fans worldwide.
There is a reason our culture is obsessed with rags to riches stories: they offer us comfort that, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, someday that could be us, too. No matter how difficult your circumstances may be right now, there is always a chance for improvement. You just need to keep persevering in order to reach your goals and remember: never give up!
Kristy Ramirez is a freelance writer for Life Insurance Finder where she helps people to find and compare quotes to select the best life insurance policy to meet their needs at the cheapest possible price.