Real Housewives Who Were Born Poor

Bravo's Real Housewives franchise is known for two things: absurd wealth and crazy drama. Each week, millions of viewers tune in to get a glimpse of what it's like to be a super, super rich woman meandering around in middle age with a gaggle of BFFs they don't really like. Sometimes it seems like the only thing any of the famous housewives have in common is their big bank accounts — from the hundreds of thousands of dollars Teresa Giudice's husband apparently never reported to the IRS to Bethenny Frankel's multimillion-dollar company and Lisa Vanderpump's $75 million net worth.

Though the real housewives have all managed to build their fortunes via cutthroat careers, high-profile marriages, and not-so-small reality TV paychecks, these women didn't all start out having big bucks. Some housewives actually came from humble beginnings and worked for everything they now have ... though all those rich husbands most certainly helped.

Danielle Staub

Danielle Staub may have been banned from North Jersey Country Club after a certain weave-pulling incident, but the Real Housewives of New Jersey star is used to being on the outside looking in. According to her memoir, she was basically a trust fund baby trapped in the body of a poor kid.

In her book The Naked Truth, Staub revealed that she felt like an "outsider" after being adopted by a poor family. She was apparently naturally at home among the affluent and instinctively "knew how to behave in a nice home" around "expensive furnishings and attractive artwork" (via Today) ... though her behavior in certain country clubs begs to differ. By the second grade, the future TV star had become friends with the rich kids in her class.

"It seemed natural for me to be in that kind of environment," she wrote. "This wasn't because I felt I deserved to be rich, but in my own home I felt like an outsider, never in the right place at the right time. We were poor — really poor."

Staub never fully realized her dream of being massively wealthy, though she's certainly well off as an adult despite filing for bankruptcy in 2012. After working as a "call girl" and being involved in a cocaine drug bust, Staub would find that reality TV would help bring her an estimated net worth of about $1 million.

Yolanda Hadid

Yolanda Hadid's life is the picture of luxury. The former Beverly Hills housewife has had a long, successful career as a supermodel and TV personality. Along the way, she accumulated two wealthy ex-husbands: music mogul David Foster, who's racked up 16 Grammy Awards as a record producer, and real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, who's amassed an estimated $400 million net worth. She also has three supermodel children, Gigi, Bella, and Anwar Hadid.

It's easy to forget that this real housewife wasn't always Hollywood royalty. Her story is actually that of an American dream come true. According to Time, Yolanda came to America with around $55 in her pocket after being signed to Ford Models, and she's since amassed a reported $45 million. She allegedly earned six figures a season for her role on Real Housewives, which she left in 2016

"I was very money-driven," Yolanda told Time about launching her modeling career at just 16 years old. "I come from a very poor family and my dad died when I was seven, I took on this huge responsibility that I was going to provide for my mother and my brother." 

Bethenny Frankel

Bethenny Frankel has always been honest about her tough childhood. The star told People that her early days involved "a lot of destruction: alcohol abuse, eating disorders and violent fights." According to Forbes, Frankel had her first drink at age 7 and started betting at horse races when she was only 8 years old.

"I grew up around a racetrack where there was a lot of feast or famine and gambling," she told InStyle. "My room was completely decorated, but the rest of the house had no furniture in it. The dining table was literally a card table, and my stepfather would be asking me to break into my piggy bank to cover his bets."

Frankel managed to work her way from the ground up, and she told Forbes she spent her fair share of days eating nothing but "cartons of takeout rice two meals a day." According to Acorns, Frankel had just $8,000 in her bank account and a $2,600 monthly rent when she signed onto RHONY. Thanks to her Skinnygirl business, the housewife would later amass more than $55 million in just one year after selling the company for a reported $100 million in 2011.

Erika Girardi

Erika Girardi might have "XXPEN$IVE" things now, but the star's lifestyle used to be nothing of the sort. Before marrying a millionaire and racking up an estimated $5 million net worth with a string of chart-topping dance hits, the starlet had to "pay rent or get out."

In an interview with People, Girardi, who is known professionally as Erika Jayne, admitted that she was raised by a young single mother who was "under a lot of pressure." Her childhood was "hard at times" and, when the reality star turned 18, her mother threatened to kick her out if she didn't pay rent. Instead of paying up, she moved to New York City where she worked as a go-go dancer and became pregnant not long afterwards.

In her memoir Pretty Mess (via Page Six), Girardi claimed to be so broke that, when she went into labor, she couldn't really afford to take a cab to the hospital. Instead, she lived every pregnant woman's dream: She took the subway and waited to see if someone would give up their seat. Spoiler: they didn't.

"We walked to the 6 train station at Wall Street and took that for what seemed like an eternity to the hospital. No one got up and gave me their seat even then. I was in labor on f***ing public transportation," she wrote.

Girardi has since left her MetroCard days behind in New York City. In Beverly Hills, she drives a Lamborghini.

Kenya Moore

The Real Housewives of Atlanta's Kenya Moore wasn't always a glamorous pageant queen – but she's always been just as strong. In her memoir (via Radar Online), the star admitted that she was completely abandoned by her mother as a baby and left in the care of her paternal grandmother who had to work "three jobs to support her five kids and alcoholic husband."

Moore claimed she was 4 years old when she finally got to speak to her mom on the phone. That's when her mother allegedly told her, "I am not your mother. You can never call me your mother and you can't come over here anymore." Though she still managed to foster a connection with her mom's side of the family, she's been struggling to move on from the childhood trauma ever since.

In recent years, Moore has gotten the chance to finally become the mother she never had. In an interview with People, the then-47-year-old admitted that her pregnancy was "a dream come true." Despite her humble beginnings, the former Miss USA winner is worth $800,000, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Brandi Glanville

Brandi Glanville proudly earned the competitive title of champion pot-stirrer on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. According to People, her behavior led her to leaving the show in 2015, but the drama kept on kicking. TMZ reported that the reality star was embroiled in a bizarre defamation suit after she claimed castmate Joanna Krupa's genitals were "smelly" during an episode of Watch What Happens Live. According to the Daily Mail, Krupa's lawyers accused Glanville of hiding over $150,000 "in a retirement account to make her appear less wealthy." So, is Glanville actually rich?

The short answer is yes, even after being hit with a $112,000 federal tax lien in 2016. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the star made around $175,000 per season on RHOBH and has a net worth of $2 million — but she didn't start out with money. In an interview with Broadly, Glanville admitted that her family "never really had money" when she was growing up.

"If I wanted to get something, I had to go out and get a job. ... I've worked really hard my whole life, and I think they were all just born with these silver spoons in their mouths," she said of her former castmates.

Somehow, it's now even less surprising she didn't get along with her former co-stars.

LeeAnne Locken

Though many of her fellow real housewives have had strange and difficult childhoods, LeeAnne Locken's takes the cake. Locken was left with her grandparents when her mother joined a traveling carnival. In an interview with Broadly, the star, who spent summers with her mother, admitted she started working at one of the carnival games when she was just 3 years old. She later bought her own game at age 11 and became a young entrepreneur, but her carnival upbringing was rough. According to Slice, Locken was "mugged, beat up, and stalked during her years with the carnival."

Carnies are also notoriously underpaid. TDN.com, who spoke to numerous traveling carnival workers, claimed salaries range between $375 and $600 weekly, so it's not surprising Locken talked about being totally broke in a Bravo blog post.

"Why is it humiliating to only have $200 in a bank account?" she wrote. "I have had much less than that in my lifetime."

Today, The Real Housewives of Dallas star is estimated to be worth around $1.5 million.

Carole Radziwill

Countess Luann isn't the only member of The Real Housewives of New York who's royalty. According to Bravo, renowned journalist Carole Radziwill became a low-key Polish princess when she married her late husband Anthony Radziwill, the son of a Polish prince. That's a far cry from her humble childhood or her life as an ABC News intern.

"I lived on Cup O'Noodles and hard-boiled eggs," she told Vulture about her early adulthood.

Though Radziwill lived in a tiny New York studio at the start of her career, she was already used to the hustle. Throughout her childhood, money was sometimes tight. She started working at an early age flipping burgers at Wendy's, enduring the trenches of department store retail work, and babysitting — but she wasn't the only member of her family to work hard. According to Bravo, her parents "sometimes worked two jobs to support the family."

Since then, Radziwill has traveled the world, earning a few Emmy Awards and a Peabody for her sometimes-dangerous reporting (despite Bethenny Frankel's claims that she doesn't have a career). She's gone from Cambodia and Haiti to infantry units in Kandahar, yet somehow, she ultimately ended up having to dodge projectile wine glasses (and the occasional prosthetic leg) on The Real Housewives of New York.

Ashley Darby

The Real Housewives of Potomac are like Bravo's forgotten step-sisters. They're often overshadowed by New Jersey's insane table-flipping and Beverly Hills' perfectly aimed cocktail throws. Even E! News ranks the series among the bottom of the bunch. However, that doesn't mean it's lacking in drama. The series' beauty queen Ashley Darby was embroiled in a sexual assault scandal after accusations were leveled against her husband Michael Darby. (According to Peoplethe charges have since been dropped.)

Bravo reports that Michael introduced Ashley to "a world she never knew existed." Since he's a millionaire real estate mogul, we're guessing this means money — and lots of it. Ashley didn't come from an affluent household. In fact, she was far from it. In an interview with The Breakfast Club, she spoke about her childhood and about how she never knew her father.

"Maybe it's better in the long term because he actually was a little bit abusive to me as a baby, as well, my mother was telling me," she said. "She was like, 'I rescued you from that situation and he ran back to Georgia.'"

As the oldest sibling of a single-parent household, Ashley had to work multiple jobs to help her mother stay afloat. Even after attending college, she took a side-gig bartending to help with her family's finances. That's where she was scouted for the Miss District of Columbia Pageant, which she ultimately won.

NeNe Leakes

NeNe Leakes is known for throwing a few well-placed jabs at Kenya Moore, but the Real Housewives of Atlanta star might have more in common with her castmate than she's willing to admit.

During a 2015 reunion episode (via Us Weekly), it was revealed that Leakes was abandoned by her mother who struggled to raise her large family. Leakes' husband Gregg admitted her mom "was very young" and "couldn't take care of five kids." Leakes and her brother were sent to live with her aunt, while the other three children were raised at home.

Though Leakes has kept mum about her childhood financial situation, we do know the TV personality doesn't come from money. After all, financial hardships are what led her to a career as a stripper. After splitting from her eldest kid's father, Leakes was living with her son and a close friend-slash-roommate when they decided to respond to an ad asking for nude models.

"We couldn't pay our rent one month and we were like, 'Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?'" she said during an Uncensored interview. "I thought, 'Okay, girl. We could do nude modeling.'"

As it turns out, the ad was for Atlanta's Gold Club, and she spent the following years working as a stripper. Today, however, Leakes is a doting mom and lives in a modern-day castle.