Rich And Famous People Who Were Once Homeless

When we think about the rich and famous, the idea that these individuals ever struggled for money or faced hardship can seem unthinkable. But the truth is that many of the world's most famous and recognizable celebrities come from hardscrabble beginnings. From actors who struggled to hit it big to future tech innovators who faced serious housing uncertainty, some famous people were actually lacking a household before becoming household names. Renowned comedian Jim Carrey, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jewel, and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt lived out of vehicles for a spell. A-list diva Jennifer Lopez once slept on a couch, and Oscar-winner Halle Berry survived in a shelter. Actress Hilary Swank's gigs were anything but swanky, and Steve Harvey's early days were no laughing matter.

Just because these well-known individuals would go on to change the entertainment (and in some cases, entire) world as we know it, doesn't mean they haven't struggled. Here are some of the most well-known celebrities in the world who were homeless at one point before striking it big.

Chris Pratt lived in a van

Long before Chris Pratt was helping save the galaxy as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy and making audiences chuckle as Andy on Parks and Recreation, he was just another young, aspiring actor — except unlike many of his peers, he wasn't banging on doors in Studio City. Nope, Pratt was living out of a van in Hawaii. How did he wind up there?

After studying acting at a local community college in his native Washington for half a semester, the future velociraptor handler found himself tempted by island life. "I had a friend who was like, 'Dude, you've got to come out here,"' Pratt told Entertainment Weekly. "We set up camp on the beach and lived the dream." While Pratt lived out of that van, he also waited tables at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Maui. At 19, he reportedly waited on actress and director Rae Dawn Chong, who then cast Pratt in the 2000 horror-comedy Cursed Part 3. That movie didn't catapult him to international super-stardom, but it did give him a ticket straight off the island and out of that van.

In 2014, Pratt shared a picture on Facebook of that van-sweet-home in Maui: "Can't believe I found this picture!!!" the caption said. "That is the van I lived in!!! In my hand is the script for the movie that got me out of Maui. Crazy."

Halle Berry stayed in a homeless shelter.

Halle Berry became the first — and as of 2018, only — actress of African-American descent to win the Academy Award for best actress for her performance in the 2001 film Monster's Ball, but long before she captivated audiences and critics alike with her riveting turn as a grieving widow and mother, Berry faced hard times of her own. At 21, she ended up in a homeless shelter as she was struggling to break into show business.

Berry, who was first runner up in the Miss USA Pageant in 1986, told People that she moved to New York City with money she earned from modeling. Unfortunately, that dough didn't last long in the Big Apple. "I mean three months later I was out of my cash and I called my mother and I asked her to send me some money and she said no, and that subsequently led to a year of not speaking to her because I was so upset that she wouldn't help me." 

The actress now believes those hard times hardened her resolve to succeed. "Giving up was never an option." She said the experience "took me right back to my high school years. 'You say I can't, watch me. I'm going to figure this out.' And shelter life was part of figuring it out for a minute until I could get a waitressing job. Then I got a bartending job, and until I could figure that out, that's what I did."

Steve Jobs didn't have a dorm room and dropped out

As the CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs helped revolutionize the way we communicate with others and the technology we use to do it, but his path to success was rather revolutionary all on its own. Raised in the San Francisco Bay area by adoptive parents, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Ore. in 1972, but his experience as a college student was anything but easy. For starters? The guy was homeless. 

"I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple," Jobs told the crowd at a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University. He dropped out to avoid saddling his parents with debt, but he credits a calligraphy course as the inspiration behind the typography of the first Macintosh computers.

The man who founded Apple, NeXT Computer, and Pixar seemingly regrets nothing about his nomadic early days. In his address, he urged graduates "to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

Jewel says sexual harassment forced her to the streets

For Alaskan-born singer and songwriter Jewel (born Jewel Kilcher), the road to fame was a rocky one, indeed. The Pieces of You songstress started performing early, singing and yodeling at local venues with her father, but the family faced housing uncertainty and the star struggled growing up as a result. "People treated me like I was contagious," she said at an event for the Inspiring Children Foundation (via CNN Money)."They thought the homelessness might spread to them."

Jewel left home at age 15 to pursue her music dreams and landed her big break at 18 after signing with Atlantic Records, but she could have used a helping hand during the years in between. Jewel told The Hollywood Reporter that she wound up on the streets after losing a job. The singer claims her boss at the time fired her for refusing to have sex with him. Unable to pay her rent, she lived out of her car until her car was stolen. "I'd go back to my car, writing songs, and men would literally come up and proposition me," she said. "They would be like, 'Hey, do you need rent money?' you know and things like that. It was pretty wild. I never took anybody up on it, but it was interesting to see this side of men that basically would prey on somebody vulnerable."

Jim Carrey camped in a van with his family

Canadian-born funny man Jim Carrey is best known for his over-the-top, slapstick performances in films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber, but underneath that iconic sense of humor is a hardscrabble history. When he was just 14 years old, his father — an accountant and aspirant sax and clarinet player — got laid off. According to Rolling Stone, "Percy Carrey found work in the massive Titan Wheels factory, where the Carrey kids reported after school to labor as janitors and security men, living feudal style in a big stone house next to the factory." The experience reportedly fueled major tension throughout the family, and eventually Percy quit that job and resettled the brood in a VW camper van. 

That sounds like an experience some might want to wipe clear from their memories, but the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind star told Rolling Stone that life in that van was great. "We went to a couple of campgrounds, and we pitched a tent on my sisters lawn, and we lived like Gypsies, but we were so much happier than we'd been being those people we didn't like," he said. "We didn't have a place to live, but it was like somebody lifted a goddamned burden off our shoulders, and we became loving, happy, laughing people again, people that had food fights every Sunday."

Jennifer Lopez slept on a sofa in a dance studio

Jennifer Lopez danced her way onto the small screen as a Fly Girl for the '90s sketch comedy show In Living Color, but the Bronx native who became an international film, television, and music sensation, had beginnings that were less than spectacular. In fact, Jenny from the Block once had to hit the block, literally.

"My mom and I butted heads," Lopez told W magazine. "I didn't want to go to college — I wanted to try dance full-time. So she and I had a break. I started sleeping on the sofa in the dance studio. I was homeless, but I told her, 'This is what I have to do.'" Lopez, who had studied dance at the Ballet Hispanico and at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, was just 18 at the time. Fortunately, Lopez's gamble paid off. She booked a dancing job in Europe, and within a year, she was reportedly living in Los Angeles and moving and shaking for In Living Color.

Michael Oher was living on the streets

Offensive lineman Michael Oher was one of the most highly coveted players going into the 2009 NFL Draft, but the University of Mississippi all-star is renowned as much for his awe-inspiring story of survival as his talent on the field. Oher's mother struggled with addiction while raising her 11 children, and his father was "murdered in prison," reported SB Nation. After spending time in foster care and living on the streets, Oher was adopted by the Tuohy family – a well-known name among local football circles – and attended Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis.

The heart-wrenching story of Oher's humble beginnings inspired the 2006 book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis. It was also depicted in the Academy Award-winning 2009 adaptation The Blind Side, starring Quinton Aaron as Oher and Sandra Bullock as adoptive mom Leigh Anne Tuohy. Oher went on to have a successful career in the National Football League, winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. "Anything is possible," he said (via ABC News). "My background is a bad background, but a lot of people said I couldn't do it. You can do anything if you put your mind to it."

Sylvester Stallone sold his dog for 50 bucks

In the 1976 sports drama Rocky, actor/writer/director Sylvester Stallone captures the rags-to-riches story of boxer Rocky Balboa, a working class Italian-American from Philadelphia who manages against all odds to get a shot at the world heavyweight championship. The film has become the stuff of legend, earning $225 million in global box office receipts, but what some may not know is that Stallone's own success story is pretty legendary in its own right.

The man who portrayed Rocky throughout the film franchise endured hard times before he sold the script for that first boxing film. According to The New York Times, Stallone was "farmed out to foster homes while [his] parents worked" and "was a juvenile delinquent who attended 12 schools by the time he was 15, and was kicked out of most of them." He was so destitute that he even supposedly sold his dog for $50 to a guy known as Little Jimmy. 

"When I sold the Rocky script, I went to see Little Jimmy and begged for the dog back," Stallone told ShortList. "He lined up his children, 'Oh my kids love the dog.' I said, 'You've only had him for a f***in' week!' He wanted to fight me and he said he was gonna kill me ... I couldn't fight him — they'd arrest me — so I offered to pay double. Anyway, $3,000 and several threats later..." By the way, "Little Jimmy" also got a part in that first Rocky flick.

Hilary Swank squatted in a vacant house

Audiences know Hilary Swank for her two Academy Award-winning roles. She portrayed transgender victim Brandon Teena in the 1999 biographical film Boys Don't Cry and impoverished prizefighter Maggie Fitzgerald in Clint Eastwood's 2004 drama Million Dollar Baby. Less known is that this A-list actress faced homelessness when she first moved to Los Angeles. 

According to CBS News, Swank dropped out of high school, and she and her mother left their trailer park in Washington and headed to Hollywood. But they didn't have a place to land in California. They reportedly lived out of a car and squatted in a vacant property. "We had a friend who was selling their house," Swank said. "And so they said, 'You know, there's no furniture, but you can stay there at night. And then, during the day, you have to leave so we can try and sell it. So we got air mattresses. Blew the air mattresses up. Slept on the air mattresses. And left in the morning."

Even after winning her first Oscar, Swank still had trouble making ends meet. She'd reportedly made only $3,000 for Boys Don't Cry. "So, I had an Academy Award, and I didn't have health insurance," she told CBS News, laughing. "The life of an actor."

Steve Harvey survived on bologna sandwiches

Steve Harvey has a knack for making audiences chuckle, but the hardship he faced in the early days of his career was no laughing matter. In an interview with People magazine, Harvey revealed that he took some Little Big Shots of his own and quit his job as an insurance salesman after winning $50 for his first performance as a stand-up comedian. His decision to quit his job reportedly kick-started a Family Feud with his wife and twin daughters. 

Harvey slept in his Ford Tempo and survived on mostly bologna sandwiches, using a cooler in place of a refrigerator, washing in rest stop bathrooms, and sometimes stealing fuel from gas stations, People reported. "It was crushing," he told the magazine. "I realized, 'You're on your own. You have nothing or no one.' All I knew was that I could make people laugh."

Carmen Electra's boyfriend cleaned out her savings

For Carmen Electra (real name: Tara Leigh Patrick), starting out in Hollywood was a bit like watching a Scary Movie. The Ohio-born model/actress/dancer got her first taste of fame collaborating with Prince on a professional (and personal) level. Unfortunately, after ending her involvement with "the Purple One," Electra hit hard times. 

In 2009, the former Playboy model told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she was homeless for a couple years in Hollywood after her then-boyfriend stole $5,000 from her, effectively cleaning out her savings. "I remember sitting on a park bench in the Valley," she said. "I was crying because I was stranded. It was over 100 degrees outside. I was sitting there with a pocketknife and a pager and some change in my pocket and a really nice pair of high heels." Her situation was dire, but Electra's luck eventually turned around thanks to help from choreographer Jamie King, whom she'd met while dancing for Prince. King helped her find a publicist, and in 1997, Electra was cast as a series regular on Baywatch and started hosting MTV's Singled Out. Those gigs launch her career to the next level.

As for her experiences being homeless? "Maybe that's what gave me the drive to be in this business, and stick it out, and really push myself and make it happen," Electra told the newspaper.