Celebs Who Went Broke But Then Got Rich Again

This article contains references to suicide and sexual assault. 

Fame is a torturously fickle business. No matter how many millions a star may be raking in, the prospect of losing it all is never too outlandish. Countless A-listers have gone from bringing in the bread to being low on dough. Though such stories may be disheartening, not least for the cash-strapped stars themselves, not all tales of celebrity financial misfortune have unhappy endings. We all love an inspirational rags-to-riches story, but what about a riches-to-rags-to-riches story? For some stars, lady fortune is waiting right around the corner.

The personalities in this rundown prove that no matter how dire a situation may seem, there is always hope. While some of these stars have been able to recover part of their losses and become modest millionaires in the process, others have found ingenious ways of raking in more cash than they ever did in their pre-bankruptcy days. "The wealthy know big money requires thinking about it in non-linear terms," former tennis player turned millionaire, Steve Siebold wrote in his book, ″How Rich People Think″ (via CNBC). "The rich know that creative thinking is the highest paid skill in the world ... Training your mind to find solutions to difficult problems is the real secret to making money." Well, when it comes to creative solutions to making it rain, these stars are flooding it. Here's the lowdown on celebs who went broke but then got rich again.

Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon is a renowned and lauded actor with Oscar-winning films such as "Mystic River" and "Apollo 13" under his belt. It comes as a surprise, then, that the high-flying A-lister lost everything seemingly overnight. Per New York Magazine, in 2008, he and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, were unfortunately among a number of high-profile celebrities who invested millions in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. "It was most of our savings, you know, our retirement," he stressed during an episode of "Piers Morgan Tonight."

During an appearance on the "SmartLess" podcast, Bacon discussed how he and his wife lost the majority of their money in the scheme. "There's obvious life lessons there," he reflected. "You know if something is too good to be true." While he was angry, and understandably so, the actor revealed that the traumatic experience motivated him to work harder than ever to make some of the money back. As for whether he recouped his losses, Bacon explained that he was given a payout that covered a percentage of the cash he invested.

In addition to the payout, Bacon has been able to earn megabucks since the Madoff scandal by starring in numerous high-grossing films. In 2011, he featured in the box office hit, "X-Men: First Class," which grossed over $350 million worldwide. He has also found fame in the U.K. by appearing in commercials for mobile network EE, including their 2017 multimillion-dollar ad campaign, for which Bacon is likely ... ahem ... bringing home the bacon, per EE Newsroom.

Nicolas Cage

The financial hardships of Nicolas Cage have become the stuff of legend. Per CNBC, in his heyday, the actor had a whopping $150 million to his name. However, his extravagant expenditure would prove his undoing, leaving the actor broke. Cage reportedly bought everything from a $2.6 million German castle, a $3 million Caribbean island, and shrunken pygmy heads (yes, seriously) — not to mention his various luxury cars and properties. All the while, he owed the IRS an eye-watering $6.3 million.

Cage opened up about his spending sprees with The New York Times – one of which included the purchase of a $276,000 dinosaur skull, which had to be returned after it materialized that it had been stolen from Mongolia. "Of course, it should be awarded to its country of origin," he conceded. "But who knew? Plus, I never got my money back. So that stank." The Oscar winner confessed that many of his subsequent acting projects were done simply for the money. "Financial mistakes happened with the real estate implosion that occurred, in which the lion's share of everything I had earned was pretty much eradicated," he said.

He elaborated on this shift in his career during a 2022 chat with GQ, admitting that his recent status as a staple of the direct-to-video circuit helped him pay off his debts and expand his waning bank balance. Accordingly, Cage revealed that thanks to his paycheck from the film "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent," he fully cleared his debts and is rich once again.

Ellen DeGeneres

Hailed by Forbes as the second wealthiest talk show host of 2017, it's hard to believe that Ellen DeGeneres was once flat broke. In an interview with Out, the former comedy star revealed that she had been earning a pretty penny while starring in her eponymous '90s sitcom, "Ellen." However, things swiftly went downhill once she came out as gay. On top of being mocked mercilessly for her identity, her sitcom was canceled soon after. "I was the punch line of lots of jokes," she reflected. "I laughed at some, but I realized there's somebody on the other side of them. It's cruel." Per The Guardian, she landed another sitcom, "The Ellen Show" — but it was canceled after 18 episodes leaving DeGeneres in a dire situation.

It wasn't until she scored her hit talk show, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," in 2003 that she began raking in millions of dollars, telling Out, "Before this show ... I wasn't sure if I was going to work again." Later in the interview, she added, "If this isn't an example of 'It gets better,' I don't know what is. Time is a strange thing. I was at rock bottom and out of money, with no work in sight, but one step at a time, it gets better."

Although the talk show ended in 2022, amidst a variety of workplace allegations against her and the production team, DeGeneres likely needn't worry about money for the foreseeable future, having earned a fortune at her peak.

Will Smith

By the age of 20, Will Smith was a millionaire. A year earlier, he'd won a Grammy and was living a life of luxury, indulging in swanky vehicles, designer clothing, and living in a mansion. "When you get a large sum of money that young, it's real hard to keep control of yourself," he explained during a 1991 episode of "The Arsenio Hall Show." "I was out buying clothes and cars ... You just feel like the money never ends." But then, he lost everything.

While he was living the high life, Smith had no idea that he owed millions in back taxes. Subsequently, the IRS came by and seized his house and car, landing him in jail. "So the money's gone, the car's gone," he recounted on "The Oprah Conversation." "I'm laying on the floor in a jail cell and I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding me. I won a Grammy eight months ago.'" As the Oscar-winner revealed to CBS News, he owed the IRS $2.8 million, which was exactly how much money he had left, having spent up to $6 million.

Despite having no acting experience, Smith was soon asked to audition for "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The drive to get out of his dire financial situation propelled Smith to give the role his all. Although the IRS initially took 70% of his earnings, he was soon raking in megabucks due to roles in blockbusters like "Men in Black" and "Independence Day." Needless to say, his money woes were fully behind him.

Willie Nelson

Despite being a certified country music hitmaker, Willie Nelson once found himself with absolutely nothing. By 1990, he owed the IRS a whopping $32 million, effectively leaving him broke as he had no choice but to auction off his possessions, per The Telegraph. "When you don't have it, it seems more important than when you do," he told the outlet. "And when you do have it you realize it can't buy you happiness or health. A man with $10 million is no better off than a man with $9 million. Trying to get by without money can be a chore. But it can be done."

As Texas Monthly notes, the IRS eventually reduced the debt to $6 million. However, as his daughter, Lana, said, "He didn't have one million. He probably didn't have thirty thousand." Subsequently, in an attempt to pay off his debt, he released the comically titled album, "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories," and appeared in commercials for Taco Bell, per Rolling Stone. By 1993, the debt was settled for $9 million. Nelson blamed accounting firm Price Waterhouse for misleading him about his taxes, having placed his earnings into a tax shelter, and settled a lawsuit with them in 1994, though the payout details remain unknown, per The New York Times.

Nelson has bounced back from those days of financial hardship. In addition to releasing numerous successful albums and continuing to tour in his late 80s, he owns a cannabis company, Willie's Reserve, which is worth an estimated $47.9 million

Lady Gaga

She may be a queen of stage and screen, but there was once a time when Lady Gaga was scrambling to make ends meet. In an interview with the Financial Times, Mother Monster admitted that money meant very little to her, to the point that she had no idea she'd gone totally broke in 2009. "I actually went bankrupt after the first extension of 'The Monster Ball," she revealed. "And it was funny because I didn't know! And I remember I called everybody and said, 'Why is every­one saying I have no money?'" Despite Gaga's run of No. 1 singles at the time, she was told the hard truth: she was $3 million in debt.

The songstress elaborated on this difficult period in her life in the documentary, "Who the F*** is Arthur Fogel?" (via Digital Spy), in which she explained that she invested all her money into the Monster's Ball tour, wanting the experience to be as spectacular as possible. However, this was to her detriment, and she had to explain to her confused parents that she was flat-broke. But as any Little Monster knows, Gaga is not one to give up at the first hurdle. She got in touch with Live Nation CEO, Arthur Fogel, who would prove her saving grace. "I remember he called me and he said, 'We want to do this'. And he got Live Nation to write me a $40 million check," she divulged. "And it changed my life and the life of my whole family."

Robyn Dixon

"The Real Housewives of Potomac" star, Robyn Dixon lived a life of luxury when she wed NBA star, Juan Dixon. As she revealed in a chat with Woe Magazine, "Life as a young adult was fun and easy and we had money ... like the hardest decision to make was at a dealership — either we wanted the black one or the silver one." But the couple's fairytale lifestyle would soon turn into a nightmare. 

As she'd claimed on "RHOP," they experienced financial hardship thanks to the allegedly bad investments of a close friend. Outlets like Distractify have suggested this person was former basketball player, Earl Badu, who died by suicide in 2012. However, this has seemingly never been confirmed. Speaking to Bravo, Dixon suggested that ultimately, the betrayal of being lied to by a pal hurt her more than the loss of money. "I experienced the shock of my life when that same friend took his own life in order to avoid the consequences of his actions," she shared. According to documents obtained by Radar, when she filed for bankruptcy in 2013, she was $217,000 in debt.

Thanks to her reality series, Dixon was able to recoup her losses, and save her marriage to boot. "I will be honest, if Juan and I were not broke and honestly if we weren't on the show, we probably would not be together today," she admitted to People. Additionally, she found a lucrative side hustle flipping property, and reportedly bagged $30,000 from renovating and then selling her home.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

George Foreman

In his boxing heyday, George Foreman was an Olympic gold medallist and the heavyweight champion of the world, having knocked out Joe Frazier in 1973, per The Ring. These victories meant that he could comfortably retire with millions in the bank. Or so it would seem. 

The truth is, Foreman found his finances spiraling out of control. By the late '80s, he'd lost his $5 million fortune and was facing bankruptcy, per The New York Times. "It was frightening. The most horrible thing that can happen to a man," he reflected. "... I had a family, people to take care of ... It was that scary because you hear about people being homeless and I was only fractions, fractions from being homeless." Accordingly, he decided to get back into the ring, earning the aging boxer millions of dollars. Foreman revealed that the experience helped keep him grounded, as he acknowledged the ephemeral nature of wealth, and thus, the importance of investing money wisely.

In addition to the millions he recouped through boxing in the '80s and '90s, Foreman made big bucks with his business ventures. In 1994, he launched his line of lean, mean grilling machines — the George Foreman Grill — which earned him hundreds of millions of dollars, per Forbes. "I didn't have any idea it would sell," he admitted. "Next thing you know, I had sold 500. Then 5,000. Then we sold 5 million of those things. If I told you that I could see that coming, I'd be lying."

Kesha

Who can forget "Tik Tok?" No, not the app that sees Gen-Z mime along to helium-infused 1960s girl groups, but the hit Kesha track of 2009 — one that became such a ubiquitous cultural milestone that "The Simpsons" even used it for one of their couch gags in 2010. Though the song was a colossal success and propelled Kesha to stardom, she was soon left with nothing. 

In 2014, she sued her producer, Dr Luke, alleging that he repeatedly raped her, per The Guardian. The judge dismissed the suit, with the producer claiming her allegations were false. She was then left broke as she was ordered to pay Dr Luke $373,000 as part of a countersuit. As an act of solidarity, Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to the singer, per Rolling Stone.

In 2018, she made a comeback after a four-year hiatus, releasing the song "Praying," which reached No. 22 on the Billboard 100. Per The Telegraph, the song became hailed as a MeToo anthem. Curiously, it was TikTok that helped Kesha recoup some of her losses following her lengthy legal battle. In 2020, her song "Cannibal" reached the Top 40 a decade after its release, thanks to the audio going viral on the social app, per Forbes. She also debuted her ghost-hunting series, "Conjuring Kesha," on Discovery Plus in 2022, which garnered positive reviews. These ventures have evidently enabled Kesha to accumulate a hefty bank balance once again, with the singer purchasing a $5 million Los Angeles home in 2020, per Dirt.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

50 Cent

Back in the 2000s, 50 Cent was living the dream. "In da Club" became a pervasive party anthem and his debut album, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," sold a colossal 12 million copies when it was released in 2003, per Sydney Morning Herald. Though Forbes reported that Fiddy was worth a staggering $155 million in 2015, he soon found himself in financial turmoil. That year, the rapper filed for bankruptcy, with his assets and debts estimated to be in the range of $10 million to $50 million, per The Wall Street Journal. Another financial blow came when he was ordered to pay Sleek Audio $16 million after he was accused of stealing the company's designs, as Radar reports.

But Fiddy is not one to give up, and he was determined to, well, get rich again or die trying. In 2018, International Business Times reported that the rapper had become a millionaire again through bitcoin investments. He had reportedly forgotten that he'd invested in bitcoin in 2014 when he allowed fans to purchase his music with the cryptocurrency. As the price skyrocketed, 50's shrewd business tactic saw him raking in up to $8.5 million. Moreover, he made heaps of cash when he embarked on a career as a television producer, signing a $150 million deal in the process, per The Guardian. Living the good life once more, 50 makes no apologies, telling the outlet, "If you don't want nice things in your life, I don't even want to know you. I. Don't. Want. To. Know. You."

Donald Trump

Donald Trump loves to toot his own horn about his wealth. In order to bolster the self-made billionaire persona that endeared many of his towards him, he may have even told more than a few white lies about his finances. In 2018, The Washington Post even claimed that Trump embellished his fortune to get onto the Forbes 400 in the '80s.

Truth be told, Trump was a successful business magnate in his pre-POTUS days. In fact, thanks to his father, he was a millionaire when he was barely out of pre-school, as The New York Times disclosed. But Trump has also faced financial hardships on numerous occasions, to the point that he's been declared bankrupt a startling six times, according to NBC News. By his own admission, he was left totally broke, telling The Washington Post in 1992, "Right now I'm worth minus $900 million."

Due to a series of bad financial decisions and failed business ventures, including a quintet of floundering casinos, Wall Street firms refused to loan Trump any more money. Eventually, he was saved by Deutsche Bank, who gave him a $125 million loan in 1998, per Bloomberg. Nevertheless, his money troubles continued to plague him. As noted in The New York Times report, the mogul found himself struggling financially in 2003. However, thanks to the sale of his late father's empire the following year, he made a princely $177.3 million. According to Forbes, Trump was estimated to be worth $3.2 billion as of September 2022. 

Natasha Lyonne

It may seem like she had a career breakthrough in her 30s, but before she became a Netflix mainstay, Natasha Lyonne was a super successful indie actor. She starred in LGBTQ+ classics, "But I'm A Cheerleader," and "If These Walls Could Talk 2," in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and also found fame with the "American Pie" franchise. However, the tide soon turned.

In the 2000s, Lyonne was beset by legal issues. Her landlord, fellow actor Michael Rapaport, evicted her in 2005 and there were rumors that she had been made homeless, per Heeb Magazine. Her darkest hour came in 2006 when she was accused of threatening to harm her neighbor's dog. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, she turned herself into the police and was booked for criminal mischief, harassment, and trespassing. However, the charges were eventually dropped. Soon, no one wanted to cast Lyonne, and her work and her money dried up. 

All hail the Lyonnissance. After British director Mike Leigh saw her potential and cast her in his play, "Two Thousand Years," in 2007, the actor began securing work again. Having enjoyed a notable role in "Orange is the New Black," and wrote and starred in the hit show, "Russian Doll," Lyonne now has a lucrative career under her belt. She's also set to earn an impressive $500,000 per episode for the Peacock series, "Poker Face," per Variety. As Lyonne once told Gothamist, "I could have been really screwed. It's kind of amazing to be given the chance to make a living at it again."

Burt Reynolds

In his own words, Burt Reynolds' combined career and money woes were once so bad that he deemed himself a relic of "the nostalgia section of Blockbuster," per Entertainment Weekly. Devastating words indeed from the man who was a Hollywood super hunk of the '70s and '80s, wowing fans in the chilling "Deliverance" and wooing them with his turn in the smash hit comedy, "The Cannonball Run." But sadly, the mustachioed lothario soon fell into financial turmoil.

According to Vanity Fair, Reynolds had an impressive annual income of $10 million in his heyday but blew his money on everything from luxury vehicles, various mansions, a string of failed restaurants, $10,000 dresses for his wife, and even $100,000 dollars worth of toupees. "I've lost more money than is possible because I just haven't watched it," he confessed. His undoing came in 1993 when he and Loni Anderson divorced, with the latter receiving a huge chunk of Reynolds' cash. Three years later, and with debts totaling $11.2 million, he filed for bankruptcy. "I have a lot of pride and filing Chapter 11 tears me apart," he said at the time, per The Washington Post.

The money troubles didn't end there. By 2009, he owed $225,000 in back taxes. Poignantly, it was an auction of his own possessions that made Reynolds a millionaire again, fetching $2.5 million in 2014 (though $154,000 of it went to Anderson, he was still left with over $2 million), according to Vanity Fair.

Dane Cook

It's been a hot minute since Dane Cook was trending, largely because the once-successful comedian was left flat broke. The star was scammed by his brother, Darryl McCauley, and his sister-in-law Erika, per CNN. McCauley worked as his Cook's business manager throughout the '90s, embezzling him out of $12 million. In 2010, he and his wife, Erika, were jailed for six and three years respectively, and ordered to repay the comedian. However, Cook wasn't going to wait around for the money. Accordingly, he concocted a plan to become rich again that's nothing short of genius.

As Cook revealed on "Steve-O's Wild Ride," he took initiative to make back the money he had lost. Subsequently, he scrambled together the only dough he had left — $450,000 from stocks that his brother couldn't get to — and came up with the idea of renting arenas in order to perform his stand-up, thereby eliminating the need for an expensive tour promoter. "The door's mine, the merch is mine," he explained. "We did some deal on the ... food and drinks and at the end of the two nights, I had already put like $1.8 million or something back in my pocket. And I went, 'Alright, here's $200,000. Rent me two more that are within that range.'" He rented around 80 more arenas on his own, and by the end of the year, Cook had made back everything that his brother took from him. "What took me, like, 17 years I pretty much banked in a year," he divulged.