Celebs You Didn't Know Were Adopted

Giving a child up for adoption is never easy, but in the end, sending them off to a loving home where they'll be nurtured, cared for, and loved unconditionally is a truly selfless and amazing gift. A slew of celebrities have made headlines after taking steps to become adoptive parents, but many people aren't aware that there are numerous famous faces who've been on the other end of the adoption process. 

Whether the adoption process took place through traditional methods or a relative became a legal guardian, these stars have spoken out about what life as an adopted child is really like. From musicians and actors to directors and reality TV stars, learn about the joy, suffering, and questions surrounding these celebrities' family trees. Here are the stars you didn't know were adopted.  

Debbie Harry wanted Marilyn Monroe to be her mom

In the '70s and '80s, the music scene was flooded with the new-wave sound of Blondie, a band fronted by Debbie Harry, the lead singer with the platinum blonde locks. The musician was adopted by Catherine and Richard Harry at age 4. "They explained it to me in a really nice way," Debbie told the Independent. "It made me feel quite special somehow."

As a child, Debbie used to dream of the possibility of being Marilyn Monroe's daughter. Although that fantasy never came to fruition, the "Heart of Glass" singer wasn't too disappointed. In fact, Debbie reveled in the positive aspects of adoption, saying: "I sometimes attribute my, uh, adventurous nature to [being adopted] ... I have an open mind about things. It didn't present me with any borders."

In 2011, Blondie released a song called "Mother" that many believed was written about Debbie's birth mom. "No, and I know where that [rumor] came from; that was a misunderstanding completely," she told Vanity Fair. "I don't think my mother was into patent leather, except perhaps on a pair of Easter shoes."

Jamie Foxx now lives with his biological family

Jamie Foxx was born as Eric Marlon Bishop and given up by his biological family when he was just 7 months old, according to The Times. He was raised by Estelle and Mark Talley, whom he referred to as grandma and grandpa — they were actually his biological mother's foster parents. "They were good people," he said of the Talleys. "They were all about making sacrifices for the kids they were raising."

The Django Unchained star has said his upbringing posed painful questions. Foxx wondered why his parents didn't want him and why they only lived a few miles away, but never found the time to visit him. Discovering that his birth mother went on to have more children — two girls that she kept and raised — brought up even more feelings of abandonment.

Later in life, Foxx made the decision to reconcile with his birth mother, Louise, and he even moved her and his two biological sisters into his home. "We're trying to learn each other," he said when describing the newfound living arrangements. "The one thing I think is great is she's in the same house, because you realize certain things that you missed when you were growing up, like, 'Oh, I do that because of that,' or, 'Oh, I do this because of that.' It's profound."

Faith Hill used to dream she was 'Elvis' daughter'

Faith Hill's adoptive parents, Edna and Ted Perry, told the country superstar that her birth mother gave her up because she had gotten pregnant by a married man — a story that later turned out to be a lie, Hill told Billboard. "I used to think there was some kind of conspiracy, that I must be the daughter of one of my aunts," she said. "And of course I used to dream I was Elvis' daughter." 

The Grammy-winning singer speaks highly of her adoptive parents. "I have a great family: salt of the earth, hardworking," she said, but deep down inside, she still feels a sense of emptiness. "I'm a gypsy at heart. I had a spirit that was completely outside what my family was. I didn't know anyone I was related to, biologically, which gives you a sense of not ­knowing who you are."

Kristin Chenoweth knows that she 'came from love'

Tony Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth has been very open about her life as an adopted child. She talks about her family in detail in her 2009 memoir, A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages. Since the release of her book, she has spoken out about the benefits of adoption, most notably when she published a 2015 piece for People magazine in conjunction with WhoSay for National Adoption Day (November 21).

"It was never a secret or held from me," Chenoweth wrote as she described her life with adoptive parents Jerry and Junie Chenoweth, who took her in as a newborn. When asked if she feels inclined to search for her biological parents, Kristin expressed contentment with life as she knows it. "I have my parents," she writes. "If anything, I would thank my birth mother for loving me enough to make such a huge sacrifice. It's a great gift for me to be able to say: 'I know that I came from love, and I know that I have love.'"

Ray Liotta's birth mom was too young to cope

The Identical dives into the hypothetical theory of what life would have been like if Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother Jesse, had lived. The 2014 film starred Ray Liotta as Reece Wade — a father whose twins are unknowingly separated at birth. 

The subject matter of long-lost family members really hit home for the actor in ways his fans would never believe. "I found my birth mother and found out I have, not an identical twin, but a half-brother, five half-sisters and a full sister that I didn't know about until 15 years ago," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Although he was adopted by what The Guardian described as "nice people," Liotta was naturally curious about why his birth mother gave him up for adoption, later learning she was very young at the time and couldn't cope with raising a baby. "I was really grateful that I was adopted," he said.

Sarah McLachlan didn't think twice about her adoption

Even though Sarah McLachlan isn't biologically related to her adoptive mom, the singer is surprised by how much they're alike. "I think about how she did things and how I said 'I'll never be like her' and how I'm very much like her now," she told Parents magazine.

Unlike other celebs who discovered the truth about their family history at an early age, the "Angel" singer's adoption was kept a secret until she was about 9 years old. "And even then it wasn't a big deal," McLachlan said. "It was like, 'Oh, okay, good to know, you're still my mom and dad.'"

After meeting her birth mother, the Grammy-winner said: "I'm thankful that she gave me up. Because she was an artist, she was way too young, she was 19 years old. She would have had to go and live in rural Newfoundland, and she wouldn't have been able to pursue any of her dreams."

Melissa Gilbert needed to know about her nose

Child actress Melissa Gilbert, who starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the '70s series Little House on the Prairie, dished about her family history in her autobiography, Prairie Tale: A Memoir (via Today). She was adopted when she was just 1 day old, something her adoptive parents made her well aware of while growing up. Gilbert was under the impression that her birth mother, a dancer, had given her up because she "wasn't able to give up her career." As for her biological father, Gilbert said the stock car racer and sign painter "was in the middle of some project" and that the timing for the couple to raise her was "simply off."

"They were both married to other people," Gilbert wrote. "They each had three children. They ran off together, got pregnant, moved in together with six children, and decided they couldn't afford a seventh."

Being put up for adoption left Gilbert grappling with various thoughts and wanting to know more about her medical history, such as whether she had a "predisposition for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, any history of cancer or personality issues." Medical history aside, she was also very curious about "finding out who gave me the nose I disposed of at eighteen."

Michael Bay thought he was the son of a famous director

Director Michael Bay was adopted by Jimmy and Harriet Bay as a baby, and when he reached adulthood, he decided to contact his birth parents. A trip to a hospital led him to his birth certificate, and three days later, he was able to track down his biological mother, he told the Los Angeles Times.  

But finding his birth father has proved to be a lot more difficult. At one point, the Transformers director believed John Frankenheimer, the late award-winning director behind the movie The Manchurian Candidate, was his dad. Frankenheimer had gone on the record to admit he had a one-night stand with Bay's birth mother at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the early 1960s. She had made him aware of her pregnancy, and at the time, Frankenheimer reportedly opted to pay her off with a $7,500 payment to avoid a potentially career-threatening scandal. Years later, Frankenheimer took a DNA test to put the matter to rest. He later told the Los Angeles Times: "We had tests done, and I am not his father."

We hope Bay hasn't given up on locating his birth father, but at the time of this writing, that question remains unanswered. 

Frances McDormand thinks her birth mom is 'white trash'

Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand became an adoptive mom in 1995 when she and her husband, Joel Coen, opened their hearts and their home to a 6-month-old boy named Pedro, according to The New York Times. When questions about his birth parents arise, the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star will be the perfect person her child can turn to because she, too, was adopted.

McDormand's adoptive dad, Vernon, was a minister of a Presbyterian Disciples of Christ church, and her adoptive mom, Noreen, was a receptionist. They were unable to have kids of their own, so they became foster parents, eventually adopting three of their foster kids, including McDormand, reported The Age.

The actress speaks fondly of her adoptive parents, but the same can't be said about her feelings toward her birth mom. "I identify as gender-normative, heterosexual and white-trash American," McDormand said during a benefit concert (via The New York Times). "My parents were not white trash. My birth mother was white trash." Ouch.

Snooki found out she has 10 siblings

Even though Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's roots are in Santiago, Chile, she was able to fit in perfectly with her fellow Jersey Shore co-stars because she was adopted and raised by an Italian-American family.

While appearing on the now-cancelled talk show Kocktails with Khloé, the reality star revealed she was adopted when she was 6 months old. After searching deeper into her background, Polizzi made a startling discovery. "I actually found out and I had like 10 other brothers and sisters. I guess [my parents] couldn't afford me, or whatever," she said.

At the time of the show, Snooki said she was open to meeting her biological family, but she hadn't taken the steps to do. Instead of harboring resentment for being put up for adoption, she was able to come to terms with her parents' painful decision. "You have so many kids and you have another kid, and you're like, 'Okay I can't, I can't afford my next child that I love and adore so much. So I'm going to give them to someone that can afford them.' Yeah, I totally relate to that," she said.