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Did You Know These Actors Grew Up Poor?

They went from rags to riches

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While many Hollywood stars and celebrities are among the wealthiest people in North America, not all of them started out that way. Here are five actors we bet you didn’t know grew up poor.


Oprah Winfrey

Now one of the highest grossing celebrities in the world, the revered television host was born in rural Mississippi to a teenage mother. Winfrey went through many years of poverty and hardship, living with her grandmother, sometimes wearing dresses fashioned from potato sacks. Nevertheless, at 19, she earned a spot hosting the local evening news and has worked relentlessly ever since. Her net worth is now $2.7 billion.

Tom Cruise

tom cruise public image


Born Thomas Mapother III, the star of Mission Impossible is now one of the most famous actors in the world. However, Cruise grew up with nothing in his pocket and an abusive father. After his parents’ divorce, Cruise moved to the U.S. from his home in Ottawa, Canada, and began starring in feature films by the age of 19. Today, he’s worth $550 million.


Leonardo DiCaprio


Another actor that started out with nothing and now has one of the most respected careers in Hollywood. Leo DiCaprio, named after Leonardo Da Vinci, lived with his single mother, who worked multiple jobs as they moved around the low-rent neighborhoods of Los Angeles. By 14, the Oscar winner managed to get a gig in a Matchbox Cars toy commercial. Since 2017, DiCaprio’s net worth has reached $245 million.  


Sarah Jessica Parker

The first of four children in her family, Parker grew up in the coal-mining town of Nelsonville, Ohio. While her family struggled through financial turmoil for many years, Parker eventually landed a spot in a Broadway revival of The Innocents at just 11 years old. By 16, she had earned her first role on the CBS sitcom Square Pegs. Today, the Sex and the City star is worth $135 million.


Leighton Meester


With one of the most harrowing success stories of all, Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl was born in a prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where her mother had been incarcerated for drug smuggling. Since her father had been arrested on similar charges, Meester lived with her grandparents until her mother was released. She and her family soon moved to New York City, where she got her start as a model for Ralph Lauren, photographed by the then unknown Sofia Coppola. Meester landed her first role as a murder victim on Law & Order in 1999 and today is worth $5 million.  


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