While most celebrities live in the lap of luxury, not all of them were born into such luxurious circumstances. There are tons of stars who actually had rough upbringings that you had no idea about. All of these celebs were raised by single parents. Some of their parents divorced while others had parents who passed away when they were still young. In some situations, a parent might have abandoned the family or the star grew up not knowing who their mother or father was.
Most people will agree that growing up in a single-parent household can be a challenge. A lot of these stars struggled with poverty or financial deprivation. Others were raised in less-than-ideal neighbourhoods or had parents who struggled with alcoholism or substance abuse. Some even struggled with domestic abuse and run-ins with the law.
A lot of these celebrity stories share commonalities. A lot of the stars got into acting at a young age just so they could help their single parent pay the bills, or to help them escape their rough situations. It’s clear that their hard work paid off since they’re now some of the most famous (and well-off) people in the world. This is proof that, just because you’re born into a difficult situation, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to rise above it.
20 Selena Gomez And Her Young Mom
Pop star Selena Gomez has always said that she’s extra close to her single mom since it was just the two of them growing up. Sel’s mom Mandy Teefey was only 16-years old when she gave birth to the future celebrity. The young mom had a lot of financial struggles as she tried to raise Selena on her own. The pop star has recalled one time in particular where the pair had to search for quarters to get enough money for gas. Their money problems led Selena’s mom to get her into acting as a kid.
"I was frustrated that my parents weren't together, and never saw the light at the end of the tunnel where my mom was working hard to provide a better life for me,” Selena once said of her upbringing. “I'm terrified of what I would have become if I'd stayed [in Texas]. In a different interview, she has also said, "[My mom] was really strong around me. Having me at 16 had to have been a big responsibility. She gave up everything for me, had three jobs, supported me, sacrificed her life for me.” Mandy and Selena are mom and daughter goals!
19 Ariana Grande - Mom Is A Survivor
Ariana is the short and sweet pop star who has taken over the world! Fans love the singer for her carefree attitude and positive message, but Ariana has gone through some difficult things in her past. The star’s parents separated when she was around 8, and Ariana says it led her relationship with her father to greatly suffer. Throughout her childhood, Ariana says that it was pretty much just her, her mom, and siblings.
Her mom began helping her pursue her music career at age 13, and it wasn’t long before she landed a stint on a TV show. Of her mom, Ariana told Complex magazine, “My mom is a CEO and owns a company that manufactures communications equipment for the Marines and the Navy, so she’s not really the housewife type, if you get what I’m saying. She’s the most badass, independent woman you’ll ever meet—not the cookies-in-the-oven type.”
18 Leonardo Dicaprio - The Dark Side Of His Childhood
We didn’t know much about Leonardo Dicaprio when we first fell in love with him as Jack in Titanic. But it turns out the actor had a bit of a rough childhood before he found his footing in Hollywood.
The heartthrob was born to Irmelin Indenbirken and George Dicaprio, but his parents divorced when he was only one. As a result, Leonardo grew up primarily with his single mom. He and his mom struggled with poverty, which is why she got him into acting at a young age to help make ends meet.
While speaking to The Independent in 2014, Leo got real about his run-down neighbourhood he grew up in. “I grew up very poor and I got to see the other side of the spectrum” he explained, “[There was] a major [illegal] ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere,” he added.“[There were] people smoking ... and shooting [up].”
17 Adele - Not So Close
Adele is known for making a living by singing about her past heartaches, but the private singer has never shared too much about her personal life. It turns out, Adele was raised by a single mom. The songstress’ father left her family when she was only a toddler, and Adele was raised by her single mom in the UK. Adele is now a mom herself to son Angelo, with her husband Simon Konecki.
It sounds like Adele may not be as close to her family as you’d think. In February 2017, a source said her family was upset that she married her husband in a small, secret ceremony at Christmas. “Adele and Simon have a big family but some of those closest to them weren’t aware of any impending wedding and were shocked to hear one might have gone ahead,” the source said. "They feel disappointed if it’s true. They understand they’re a private couple but are surprised to see them potentially cut out their loved ones.”
16 Barack Obama - Back To Kenya
Before he moved into the White House, Barack Obama was raised in a single-parent household. He was born to Ann Dunham from Kansas and Barack Obama Sr. from Kenya. His parents met during a Russian language class in the ‘60s while his dad was an exchange student.
They were married 6 months before their son was born. Eventually Obama’s parents divorced, and his father moved back to Kenya. The future president was raised by his single mom in Hawaii, and his father only visited them once at Christmas in 1971, when Barack was 10.
The politician has revealed he doesn’t think much of his father. On being the product of a biracial family, Barack once said, "That my father looked nothing like the people around me – that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk – barely registered in my mind.” Now everyone knows that Obama has gone on to be a dad himself! He and his gorgeous wife Michelle are parents to daughters Malia and Sasha.
15 Julia Roberts - Three Girls On Her Own
Julia Roberts comes from a family of actors! Her parents Betty and Walter actually met through their mutual profession of acting and went on to form the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop. Julia’s siblings have dabbled in acting, and her niece Emma Roberts is an established actress in her own right. But growing up in Hollywood didn’t prove to be easy for Julia.
Her parents were only married for six years before they divorced, meaning they separated when the iconic actress was still very young. A year later, Betty remarried another man, but he was allegedly abusive towards his wife and step children. Her mother eventually divorced him, and from then on, Julia was raised by her single mom.
Julia’s mother ended up passing away in 2015, but the actress still speaks fondly of her. “I think about her all the time,” Julia told People magazine in April. “And the kids talk about her a lot […] My mom worked a full-time job and raised three girls pretty much on her own.”
14 Madonna - A Rebellious Streak
While many of the celebs on this list were raised by single moms, Madonna was actually raised by a single dad. The pop star was only 5 when her mother passed away from breast cancer, leaving her husband Tony to raise their six kids. Madonna had two older brothers, Martin and Anthony, as well as three younger siblings, Paula, Melania, and Christopher.
Madonna has said that losing her mother at a young age caused her to be very rebellious. "[I was] Lonely girl who was searching for something,” she once told Vanity Fair. “I wasn't rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn't shave my underarms and I didn't wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades.... I wanted to be somebody."
Three years after her mother’s death, her father married their housekeeper Joan, with whom has had two more kids- Jennifer and Mario. Madonna reportedly despised her father for remarrying, which caused her to become more rebellious. At least her rebellious streak helped her launch an incredible music career!
13 Justin Bieber - Working Through It
Justin Bieber was born to teenage parents Patricia “Pattie” Mallette and Jeremy Bieber. During his early years, Justin reveals that his dad was never around much. "[My dad] was immature. He left for like a year when I was about 4, went to British Columbia, came back on Father's Day,” Justin once recalled of his childhood. “I remember my mom said, ‘If you're going to be here, you have to be here.'"
His mom raised him singlehandedly with the help of her own parents (Justin’s grandparents) Diane and Bruce. As a kid, his mom helped him discover his love of music. She helped him learn the drums, piano, guitar and trumpet. To this day, Justin is incredibly close to his mom- and he’s patched things up with his dad, who went on to have twins!
12 Halle Berry - A Dangerous Situation
Halle Berry is an Academy Award winning actress and all-around Hollywood legend. But the actress has always been private when it comes to her personal life, including her childhood. It turns out Halle was raised by a single mom. Her father Jerome Berry left her mother Judith when she was just a child and they officially divorced when she was four. Reports have said that Jerome was abusive towards his wife. Halle and her older sister Heidi were raised by just their mom from there on out.
In 1992, Halle revealed she hadn’t heard from her father since he abandoned their family. "I haven't heard from him since [he left]. Maybe he's not alive," she admitted. The actress has recalled traumatizing incidents from her childhood, including her father beating her mother daily, kicking her down the stairs, and hitting her in the head with a wine bottle. It sounds like a good thing Halle’s parents got divorced when they did. Her father was very abusive to her mother, and by the sound of it, things got very dangerous.
11 Kanye West - A Family Man
Kanye West is best known for his rapping career and his marriage to Kim Kardashian. But what a lot of fans don’t know is that Kanye was raised by a single mom. It was just him and his mother Donda West for most of his childhood. His parents divorced when he was only 3, following which his mom took him and moved to Chicago.
The rapper had a very close relationship with his mom, up until her passing. This has made Kanye extremely family-oriented. The star has been open about how happy starting a family with Kim has made him- they share 4-year old daughter North and 1-year old son Saint. Rumour has it they’re also expecting baby no. 3 through a surrogate!
“I’m crazy about my kids. I’m crazy about Kim,” Kanye said in 2016 during an interview with Real 92.3. “I'm so happy to be a father. I want to learn what my daughter has to say. What she learns. I just want to learn how she learns in this world. I'm extremely protective.”
10 Austin Mahone - Life Changing
Austin Mahone began as a YouTube sensation and is now a full-fledged pop star. He’s known for his energetic hits like “Dirty Work,” “All I Ever Need,” and “What About Love.” What a lot of fans don’t know about the teen heartthrob is that he was raised by a single mom! Austin’s dad died when he was only a year and a half, so it was up to his mom Michelle to raise him on her own.
The singer has credited his mother for pushing him to pursue music, which he claims changed his life. “Music can change your life,” he once said. “Can change the way you look at things. It changed me from being insecure and quiet to put myself out there and try different things.” How inspiring is that?
9 Demi Lovato - Turning Things Around
Demi Lovato is another former Disney channel star who was raised by a single mom! The singer was born to engineer and musician Patrick Lovato and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Dianne De La Garza. However, Demi’s parents ultimately split shortly after her second birthday.
The star was raised primarily by her mom and has had a rocky relationship with her dad ever since. The pop star has been open about her rough childhood and battles with mental heath, which she say her troubled relationship with her dad has worsened.
“Even before Barney, I was suicidal. I was 7,” she once told Cosmopolitan. “With Barney, I guess subliminally, I did have a relationship with this figure that was saving my life in a way. … I've talked about being bullied and the years of being a teenager, but I went through things when I was younger that I've never talked about that probably caused me to turn out the way I ended up turning out."
8 Angelina Jolie - Deteriorating Quick
Angelina Jolie’s father is as famous as her! So, isn’t it surprising to learn the actress was actually raised by a single mom? Angelina’s parents, director Jon Voight and actress Marcheline Betrand, were together for 9 years before her father left when she was only a year old.
Following the divorce, Marcheline retired from the spotlight to raise Angelina and her brother James. Angie credits her mom for pushing her to pursue acting, even though she got her first acting role in her dad’s movie. It’s widely known that Angelina and her father have had a tenuous relationship, and it’s believed he has little to do with her and his six grandkids.
Though they reconciled in 2001 when they appeared together in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, their relationship has once again deteriorated. Due to their troubled relationship, Angelina changed her last name from “Voight” to her middle name “Jolie."
7 Charlize Theron - Dark Past
Blonde bombshell Charlize Theron had a tragic childhood. The star was raised by both her mom and dad for many years until the unthinkable happened. Charlize’s father Charles was reportedly an abusive alcoholic. Charlize and Gerda put up with Charles’ abuse for many years before it came to a climax one fateful night.
In 1991, he threatened his teenage daughter and wife Gerda’s lives after drinking all day. He then proceeded to attack her mother. In self-defence, Gerda shot and killed her husband, though no charges were ever brought against her. How scary is that?
Nowadays, Charlize is doing quite well for herself. She’s an award-winning actress with a stable career and also a growing family. Charlize became a single mom herself when she adopted her son in 2012 and her daughter in 2015. We’re so glad Charlize was able to break the cycle of abuse and lead an accomplished life!
6 Demi Moore - Run-Ins With The Law
Demi Moore has a beautiful family now, but the star’s family life wasn’t always so picture-perfect. The actress’ father Charles abandoned her pregnant mother before she was even born, leaving her mom Virginia to raise her without his help. The couple had only been married for three months when he bailed.
When Demi was three months old, her mom married Dan Guynes, a newspaper advertising salesman. His unpredictable job meant the family moved around a lot when Demi was young. The star has stated in interviews that she doesn’t consider her biological father to be my dad. “My dad was Dan Guynes. He raised me. There is a man who would be considered by biological father, but I don’t really have a relationship with him,” she once said.
The actress learned about her biological father when she was 13, after finding her parent’s marriage license and learning they were married after she was born. Unfortunately, Demi’s mom and stepfather ended up splitting up and he committed suicide two years after their divorce. Demi’s mom went on to have a lot of problems with substance abuse and run-ins with the law.
5 Christina Aguilera - A Military Dad
Christina Aguilera got an early start to her music career, and that was all thanks to her single mom. The Latina beauty was born in New York to Shelly and Fausto Aguilera. As a young child, X-Tina’s family moved around a lot due to her father’s career in the military service. However, the singer’s mother alleges that Fausto was physically and emotionally abusive towards their family.
Her parents eventually divorced when she was only six. Christina moved with her mom and younger sister to her Grandmother’s home, before her mother remarried and had another child. Christina and her father were estranged for much of her life, but the star did seem interested in patching things up in 2012.
“It's a subject that really hits home with me because I've always been pretty vocal and open about my own experiences in witnessing domestic violence in the home and neighbouring homes around me, so it was something that was pretty constant in my younger upbringing,” Christina once said about her experience with domestic violence.
4 Tom Cruise - Not Much Of A Family Man
Actor Tom Cruise isn’t much of a family man, so perhaps his rough childhood was to blame. The actor and his three siblings were raised by their single mom for much of their lives, but they often lived in poverty. Tom’s mother Mary worked two jobs to make ends meet after her husband left the family.
However, things weren’t much better even when his dad was around. Tom’s father was reportedly abusive. The star has admitted his father used to beat him. "He was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he'd lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, 'There's something wrong with this guy. Don't trust him. Be careful around him,’” Tom once said.
Tom now has three kids of his own, but he’s not very present in their lives. He has two adopted adult children, Isabelle and Connor, with his ex wife Nicole Kidman. He reportedly hasn’t seen much of them since he and Nicole split up. Tom also has an 11-year old daughter name Suri with his ex wife Katie Holmes, who he allegedly hasn’t seen since 2013.
3 Jack Nicholson - An Unknown Past
Fans have always been unsure of what happened to Jack Nicholson as a child. But whatever he went through, it didn’t sound pleasant. The actor was born to showgirl June Nicholson, though it’s unclear who his father was. June married showman Donald Furcillo a year before welcoming her son, but shortly found out that she was already married.
Some speculate Jack’s dad might be June’s manager, rather than her husband. But some fans speculate that June may not even have known who her son’s father was. As she was only 18 and unmarried at the time, June allowed her parents to raise Jack as their son and she would pretend to be his sister. Jack didn’t learn about his real parentage until he was in his 30s, after his grandparents had passed away.
2 Bill Clinton - Tragic Car Accident
Former President Bill Clinton was raised in a one-parent household. The politician was born to Virginia Cassidy and travelling salesman William Blythe Jr. His father passed away in a car accident three months before his mother gave birth. However, it’s also come to be known that his parents weren’t technically married. Though Virginia thought they were, William was still legally married to his first wife at the time of his death.
Bill’s mom left him in the care of her parents as a baby while she went to school to study nursing. She later went on to marry Roger Clinton Sr., and Bill formally adopted his step dad’s last name when he was 15. However, his stepfather wasn’t always a stand-up guy. The former President recalls that Clinton Sr. was a gambler and struggled with alcoholism. He has said his stepfather would abuse his mother and half brother Roger Clinton Jr., and he had to threaten violence against Clinton Sr. on multiple occasions to get him to stop.
1 Mariah Carey - Ethnic Differences
Mariah Carey is the product of a one-parent household! The singer’s mother Patricia was disowned for marrying a black man, Mariah’s father Alfred. The star has spoken about feeling distanced and neglected by her mother’s family, which seems to have affected her greatly. Mariah also seems to have struggled with her bi-racial identity.
When the starlet was only three, her parents divorced. Mariah’s older sister Alison lived with their father, while Mariah and her brother Morgan stayed with their mom. As a result, Mariah grew very distant from her sister and has caused a lot of tension in their relationship- even today.
"It's been difficult for me, moving around so much, having to grow up by myself... my parents divorced,” Mariah once said about her childhood. “And I always felt kind of different from everybody else in my neighbourhoods. I was a different person ethnically. And sometimes, that can be a problem. If you look a certain way, everybody goes 'White girl', and I'd go, 'No, that's not what I am.'"
Sources: DailyMail.co.uk, NYDailyNews.com, People.com, USMagazine.com