Celebrities Who Grew Up Poorer Than You Thought

Hollywood is home to some of the richest and most successful people in the world, but not everyone who made it big in Tinseltown started from the top. From Sarah Jessica Parker to Leonardo DiCaprio, find out which of today's biggest stars grew up with next to no money in the bank.

Jim Carrey

In a revealing interview on Inside the Actors Studio, funnyman Jim Carrey opened up about the tough financial hardships his family faced after his father lost his accounting job when Carrey was about 12. Suddenly, his family went from lower-middle class to living in a Volkswagen camper, an experience Carrey described as a "traumatic...kick in the guts."

Things got so rough for his family that they took jobs working as janitors and security guards at a nearby factory in Ontario, Canada. As he struggled to balance going to school and working 8-hour shifts at the factory, Carrey's grades fell sharply; by age 16, he had dropped out of school.

On the bright side: after turning 16, Carrey's father encouraged him to perform at a nightclub in downtown Toronto. That experience served as the catalyst for his insanely successful career as a comedian and actor. As of 2017, he was reportedly worth about $150 million.

Demi Moore

To say that Golden Globe-winning actress Demi Moore had a troubled upbringing would be an understatement. According to a 1996 profile in People magazine, her family moved about 30 times before she was a teenager as her father switched jobs or tried to escape debts. Her living conditions weren't great, either. The Ghost (1990) star described herself as a "trailer park kid."

Moore's troubled family life continued through her teenage years. According to People, she discovered at age 14 that her real father was a member of the Air Force to whom her mother was married for just two months in 1962. Her mother and step-father, both reportedly alcoholics, split up. Then, in 1980, her step-father "committed suicide by breathing carbon monoxide from his car exhaust."

Moore's relationship with her mother, who was reportedly in and out of jail numerous times, deteriorated, but the pair reconciled in the late '90s when Moore's mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, according to the Evening Standard. "I had a very young mother. But I know she tried to do the best she could and that in the mix of it all—and she was nutty, trust me—she really loved me," Moore said of her mom, who died in 1998. "It wasn't always the kind of love I wanted but that doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't what I needed."

Celine Dion

As the youngest of 14 siblings, songstress Celine Dion grew up in tight living quarters in Quebec, Canada. Although her family struggled financially, Dion told Vanity Fair in 2012 that her parents' love and care made up for whatever they lacked in the bank.

"My mum was brilliant enough to put a pillow in a drawer for a baby to sleep in," Dion said. "We were safe and warm and taken care of. Three or four of us in the same bed was normal to us. We weren't poor, but we never had money. I don't know if that makes sense. We were given love and affection and support. What else did we need?"

Leonardo DiCaprio

He may be a multi-millionaire today, but Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't always so financially fortunate. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 2014, the actor said he grew up "very poor" in a rough neighborhood in Los Angeles, where he'd often come across prostitutes and drug addicts smoking crack and shooting heroin in nearby alleys. "I try to tell my godson, who lives close to that area [today], what it was like, how there used to be a major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere," the Oscar-winner said. "It really was like Taxi Driver in a lot of ways."

DiCaprio got a brief reprieve from hardship when he won a scholarship to what is now known as the prestigious UCLA Lab School. However, he eventually returned to the tough halls of his public school system. Seeing both sides of the tracks, he said, encouraged him to get into acting and forge a better life for himself. "I was 15, and I said to my mom, 'I want to be an actor. Please take me to auditions.' Because I had to get out of that public school system," he said.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson is one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood today, but when she was a kid, her family relied on public assistance to get by.

"We were living on welfare, we were on food stamps," the Avengers star told Inside the Actors Studio (via Entertainment Tonight) in June 2017. "My parents were raising four kids in a low-income household in Manhattan. So, it was a lot." She continued, "My mom tried to be as much as a buffer as possible with that experience. But by the time my twin brother and I came around, I think my parents' marriage, it had a lot of strain."

Leighton Meester

Of all the celebrities in Hollywood, few had an upbringing as wild as Gossip Girl (2007-12) alum Leighton Meester. According to Marie Claire, Meester was born while her mother was serving time in prison for drug-related offenses. A newborn Meester was transferred to a halfway house, then lived with her grandmother until her mother was released from jail. "My family has a crazy history," she told the magazine. "Probably the craziest I've heard of."

Meester's rough upbringing stuck with her as she began to pursue acting. She told Marie Claire she preferred to take acting classes with adults rather than kids her age. "I couldn't relate to kid stuff. 'Jimmy doesn't like me!' Who cares?" she quipped. "I was worried we didn't have gas money or food. Those were my concerns."

Despite her struggles, Meester eventually made peace with her upbringing in Florida. "I look back now and I see it in a nice light," she said. "It wasn't uncomplicated. But I played outside. I went to the beach. There were happy, fun times."

Shania Twain

Country singer Shania Twain reportedly grew up dirt poor in an abusive home in Ontario, Canada. She was often sent to school hungry because her parents couldn't afford groceries. "It's very hard to concentrate when you're stomach's rumbling," she told ABC News in 2011. Twain would sometimes eat sandwiches that consisted only of bread, mayo, and mustard, and often feared that her teachers would catch on that she was poor and take her and her siblings away from her parents, reported Rolling Stone.

Twain faced more hardships in 1987 when her parents died suddenly in a car crash on their way to a job site. She put her music career on hold to help take care of her teenage brother and sister. "When you hit an emotional bottom like that and come face to face with the fragility of life and how fleeting it can be, then you realize nothing else matters," she revealed on Behind the Music. "Your priorities completely change." Twain added, "I didn't see music fitting in anymore. Because in order to fix this, broken thing, there is no time for music. I'm going to have kids now... I was overwhelmed."

Sarah Jessica Parker

Raising a brood of eight children put tremendous financial strain on Sarah Jessica Parker's family. The Sex and the City (1998-2004) star described her childhood as "Dickensian," telling The New York Times, ”I remember being poor. There was no great way to hide it." She said, "We didn't have electricity sometimes. We didn't have Christmases sometimes, or we didn't have birthdays sometimes, or the bill collectors came, or the phone company would call and say, 'We're shutting your phones off.' And we were all old enough to either get the calls, or watch my mother's reactions or watch my parents shuffling the money around.”

Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer park in Washington state, an experience she has been open about as her career climbed from obscurity to the Academy Awards.

Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2011, Swank said living in a trailer park initially wasn't a problem for her. "For me, it didn't feel like, 'Well, poor me, I'm in a trailer park.' It wasn't a bad experience. I had a roof over my head and I had food," she said. "But you feel it from other people. Not your friends, because at that age kids don't care where you live—but their parents. I learned what class was...they wouldn't want me to come round to their house to play. It was like, 'Well, what's wrong with me?'"

The two-time Oscar winner is grateful for her humble beginnings. "My background is not something I forget," she told the Daily Mail. "It helps me to not take what I have for granted. I really appreciate that I get to travel and see the world, and that I can pay my bills." She continued, "It's an incredible feeling to know that I can actually buy that pair of shoes, and I appreciate a sale as much as the next person. I think about how I'm spending my money, and I like to spend on my family."

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson and her family struggled financially for many years while living in a small town in Texas. "We lived, like, pre-paycheck to pre-paycheck," she told CBS Sunday Morning in 2015. "I definitely had this whole mentality. I was like, 'Whatever I'm going to do, I just don't want to have to worry about that.' She added, "I always used to hate, though, when people would be like, 'Money doesn't buy everything.' Rich people say that, not poor people! I don't know one poor person that's going, 'Money doesn't buy you happiness.' It pays you to get out of eviction notices, so it's pretty good!"

Clarkson continued to struggle after graduating high school and moving to Los Angeles to try to make it in the music industry. According to The New York Times, her apartment went up in flames and she was forced to live in her car until she returned to Dallas in 2002. Fortunately, that same year, she heard about auditions for a new show called American Idol.

The rest, of course, is Grammy-winning history.