It’s always a marvel when people look at celebrities and remember they were once like everyone else – with some of them even worse than anyone you know. However, the thin line between “rags” or “riches” can only expand into a chasm or disappear like smoke, depending on our actions.
Let’s take a look at some famous people who worked their way against all odds to success.
HARRY HOUDINI – NET WORTH: $500,000 (AT TIME OF DEATH)
Magician Harry Houdini ran away from home at a young age, before he moved to New York City with his father. When they arrived, the pair were too poor to afford anywhere to live and had to sleep on the streets. Harry soon landed a more comfortable lifestyle as he got his first jobs as a professional magician at the age of 17.
COLONEL SANDERS – NET WORTH: $3.5 MILLION (AT TIME OF DEATH)
Entrepreneur Colonel Sanders was homeless for the majority of his life while he built what has today become the KFC empire. Fast food’s famous goateed man lived in a car with his wife while they travelled around trying to convince restaurants to sell his chicken recipe.
SAM WORTHINGTON – NET WORTH: £12 MILLION
British-born Australian actor Sam Worthington had a busy film career in Australia before selling everything he owned and moving into his car during an existential crisis. But shortly after he was invited to audition for Avatar, and went on to play the role of Juke Sally.
IDRIS ELBA – NET WORTH: $12 MILLION
When Idris Elba first moved to America in pursuit of an acting career, he was unable to pick up a job and slept in his van for eight weeks. The British star said he took any job he could to earn money and had a lot of years with nothing, but never gave up on acting. But he soon got the news that he was going to be on The Wire, where he played crack dealer Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell.
CARMEN ELECTRA – NET WORTH: $15 MILLION
Carmen Electra is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades in the showbiz world as she’s hopped from modeling to acting and to singing. In the midst of it all, she reportedly spent a couple of years living homeless after a boyfriend stole her savings.
MICHAL OHER – NET WORTH: $20 MILLION
Michael Oher’s difficult childhood is commonly known as inspiration for the film The Blind Side. The movie depicts how the successful footballer lived on the streets, while his mother lived in public housing and struggled with drug addictions. He was eventually taken in by a wealthy family and soon drafted into the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens.
KELLY CLARKSON – NET WORTH: $28 MILLION
Before winning American Idol, Kelly Clarkson had to sleep in her car after the apartment she rented in LA burned down. The fire started on her first day in town after she’d moved over to California from Texas, so she took to the road and slept in her car until her big break on the American singing contest.
JEWEL – NET WORTH NOW: $30 MILLION
American singer-songwriter Jewel once became homeless after losing her job. Due to her inability to pay her rent, she was left to sleep in her car and struggled to keep any more jobs due to illnesses. Although she was homeless for a month, she soon went back to singing and rose to become the star she is today.
HILARY SWANK – NET WORTH: $40 MILLION
Million Dollar Baby star Hilary Swank was far away from a million dollars when she moved to LA with her mother to pursue an acting career, living out of a car and couch surfing. But within a couple of months, Hilary landed some acting roles and made home in slightly more luxurious accommodation.
CHARLIE CHAPLIN – NET WORTH: $50 MILLION (AT TIME OF DEATH)
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin was put in a mental hospital as a child after the death of his father, leaving him and his brother to support themselves. But inspired by his parents’ careers in show business, Charlie decided to follow suit and quickly became known as one of the greatest actors in silent film.
HALLE BERRY – NET WORTH: $80 MILLION
Halle Berry hasn’t always lived an A-list lifestyle as she spent her first days in New York living in a homeless shelter. In an interview, she said “a girl had to do what a girl had to do”. But just two years later, the former Bond star took on a role as a drug addict in Jungle Fever, kickstarting her Hollywood career.
DANIEL CRAIG – NET WORTH: $95 MILLION
Halle Berry isn’t the only Bond star to have launched into acting from homelessness. Before his acting career took off, Daniel hopped from couch to couch and slept on park benches in London whilst studying at the National Youth Theatre because he had no money for rent. But work soon started to pick up and he made his first film debut in 1992 in The Power of One.
STEVE HARVEY – NET WORTH: $100 MILLION
When this talk show host started out as a comedian, gigs fell through, leaving him without enough money to pay for accommodation and reportedly living in his Ford Tempo for three years. This was until he had a call to appear on Showtime at the Apollo, which was the beginning of his successful career.
JENIFER LOPEZ – NET WORTH: $300 MILLION
J-Lo’s desire to make it as an actress was hindered when she was forced to couch surf because her parents didn’t approve of her decision to move to Hollywood. She was moving from place to place right up until she got her first break as a dancer in Europe and later in Los Angeles.
SHANIA TWAIN – NET WORTH: $350 MILLION
Shania Twain spent much of her childhood living in a shelter with her family in Toronto so they would have enough money to buy food. At the age of eight she started singing in bars to help support her family and went on to win five Grammys for her well-known country power ballads.
SYLVESTER STALLONE – NET WORTH: $400 MILLION
This Hollywood superstar hasn’t always had it so easy. Back in the days before his fame, Stallone had a tough upbringing and was evicted from his apartment, being forced to spend three weeks sleeping in an NYC bus station. But things soon turned around when his career took off with the film The Party at Kitty and Stud’s.
STEVE JOBS – NET WORTH: $10.2 BILLION
Apple entrepreneur Steve Jobs didn’t always live a high tech life. Before he built his empire, he had to sleep on the floor in friends’ rooms, return Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits in order to buy food and walk for miles just to get a good meal at a Hare Krishna temple.