The Tragic Truth About Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey has become a staple of the small screen. He's been working non-stop since the late 1980s, smoothly transitioning from a comic to a leading TV personality, hosting everything from his own talk show to "Celebrity Family Feud" and, most recently, "Judge Steve Harvey." Despite some sketchy things everyone just ignores – remember when he told The New York Times then-president-elect Donald Trump was "congenial and sincere"?! — he's managed to remain one of Hollywood's most liked fixtures. Indeed, while he's faced hardship off-screen, including in his love life and relationships with his kids, his career continues to shine bright. In 2018, he even landed the No. 1 spot on The Hollywood Reporter's Top TV Personalities Social Media Ranking.

But Harvey didn't arrive at fame and achieve his millions easily. "To be a success, you must hustle everyday and keep God in your life," he once wrote on his website, and that's exactly what he's done. As it turns out, success was a slow burn for Harvey, who faced his share of struggles, especially early on. Here's the tragic truth about Steve Harvey.

Steve Harvey grew up in poverty

Steve Harvey's net worth was sitting at a whopping $200 million in 2023, but the comedian didn't come from wealth — far from it. As he shared with his "Family Feud" audience during a commercial break in 2022, he grew up in "a poor neighborhood, in a poor house" and was motivated to succeed because of it. "I was sick and tired of being poor; I was just exhausted," he admitted. It's a sentiment that was especially strong during the holidays. Because his family didn't have the money to go all out for Christmas, they'd drive to the suburbs just to check out their decorations. "I would see these big a** houses, man, with lights all on them, and they had horseshoe driveways," he reminisced. "That s**t was amazing to me." When a young Harvey asked his dad why they didn't have a similar house, his father told him if he worked hard, he might be able to buy one for himself in the future. "That was it: My motivation was to buy a big a** house, so I could put up Christmas lights and drive in the driveway," he shared.

Indeed, he's kept his promise to himself on both counts. "I have never built, lived, or owned a home that did not have that driveway with gates on both sides," he said. And as he posted on Facebook in 2018, he always opts for a tree that's as big as the one he'd longingly stare at at the mall as a kid.

He struggled with a debilitating stutter

He's made a career out of entertaining millions, but a young Steve Harvey struggled with public speaking. As a child, he had a debilitating stutter and had to contend with classmates making fun of him and teachers questioning his dreams. As he shared on "Club Shay Shay" in 2023, when he told an educator in grade six that he wanted to be on TV, she openly ridiculed him, saying, "Look at you standing there. You can't even talk." Harvey admitted, "She crushed me." Thankfully, his dad believed in him, as did the man behind the counter at his local deli. The latter actually helped him overcome his speech impediment by giving him candy every time he spoke without stuttering. He also offered some invaluable advice. "He taught me before you say anything, say it to yourself three times, take your time, and speak on the exhale," Harvey recalled to The Stuttering Foundation.

It's a life-changing technique he relies on to this day. As he told the foundation, before he gets on stage, "I still have to get psyched up, pumped, to go out there and face all these people." It's also a method he teaches kids he mentors. In a motivational pep talk delivered on the "Family Feud" set, he told the audience that stuttering is tied to nerves and anxiety, and his advice is to take a moment to gather your thoughts, speak to yourself before responding, and avoid eye contact if necessary.

Steve Harvey was homeless at the start of his comedic career

Steve Harvey dreamt of being on TV as a child, but as he got older, his priorities changed. He found work as an insurance salesman, married Marcia Harvey in 1981, and welcomed twin girls in 1982. Then, in 1985, he did his first standup comedy gig and won $50 — he was hooked. Deciding to pursue a comedic career full-time, he quit his day job. Unfortunately, he earned just $3,000 that first year, and his marriage crumbled as a result. As he told People in 2016, he was soon sleeping in his 1976 Ford Tempo, using public bathrooms to clean up, and keeping his food (mostly bologna sandwiches) in a cooler. "That was an ugly period, just very painful," he told People at another time.

Harvey was homeless for three years, even having to steal gas for his car to make it to comedy shows. "It was crushing," he admitted. "I realized, 'You're on your own. You have nothing or no one.'" At one point, he was living on $50 a week and was ready to give up. "I sat down and started crying, but a voice said, 'If you keep going, I'm going to take you places you've never been,'" he recalled. His big break came soon after when he was asked to host "Showtime at the Apollo." Megastardom followed, but he still thinks about those days. "I'm running from homelessness," he told People. "I can't ever be in that position again."

Inside his messy divorces

Before he found lasting love with Marjorie Harvey, Steve Harvey went through not one but two messy divorces. The famed talk show host first married Marcia Harvey in 1981, but their union fell apart as he pursued his comedic dreams. The pair had three kids together before separating and then divorcing in 1994. As he told People, it was difficult to choose career over family, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity. "I'm supposed to provide for them, but I had to take this chance," he mused. Speaking with "Club Shay Shay" in 2023, he took much of the blame for the split, noting he was just 24 when he said "I do" and admitting, "I messed that up."

In 1996, and the funnyman gave marriage another chance with Mary Shackelford. They had one son but split in 2005. "I got married for the wrong reasons," Harvey later admitted to People. "I was tired of being alone." Despite owning his mistakes, the divorce was contentious. As he told "Club Shay Shay," his bank account went from $30 million to $1,700, partly because of a financial scam and partly because of his ex. "Before I split the assets, she took all of that out the bank," he alleged. Shackelford also launched a smear campaign against Harvey, accusing him of being unfaithful and leaving her with nothing. In 2011, a judge slammed those allegations as false, noting, per Daily News, that she received three homes and millions.

Steve Harvey lost a longtime colleague way too young

Steve Harvey expanded his media empire in 2000 when he took to the airwaves with the launch of a brand new radio show called "The Steve Harvey Morning Show." It's been going strong for over two decades, with folks continuously tuning in to listen to Harvey and co-host Kier "Junior" Spates banter, crack jokes, and welcome celebrity guests.

Despite all of its success, though, the show was rocked by tragedy in 2018 when Spates' assistant and best friend, Bryan Cooke, died suddenly. According to Fox News, Cooke was found unresponsive in his W Hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia, at just 39 years old. Following the shocking news, Spates took to Instagram to pay a heartfelt tribute to his friend, writing, "Today was the hardest day I have ever gone through." While Harvey didn't work directly with Cooke, he still felt the loss deeply. Taking to Facebook to praise his late colleague, he gushed, "Bryan Cooke was an outstanding brother, an incredible human being who touched so many people's lives." Sending his love to Cooke's family, he called him a man who "moved in a special way" and added, "I just happen to be one of the lucky ones whose path he touched, whose life he changed, who he had an effect on."

Was Marjorie Harvey unfaithful to Steve?

Steve Harvey is no stranger to a divorce, but it seems the third time's the charm. The comedian first met his now-wife, Marjorie Harvey, in the '80s, and the pair dated briefly before he called things off. It wasn't until they reconnected in 2005 that the timing was finally right. The pair wed in 2007, and Steve even legally adopted Marjorie's children — Morgan, Jason, and Lori — who all took the surname Harvey.

However, rumors began to spread in 2023 that there was trouble in paradise. There were allegations that Marjorie had cheated on Steve with their bodyguard/chef and that she was seeking a divorce. The couple was quick to shut down the allegations. "I don't know what y'all doing, but find something else to do 'cause we fine," Steve told an audience at Invest Fest in Atlanta, Georgia. As for Marjorie, she took to Instagram to share a link to a blog post titled "How to Handle Being Lied About." In the caption, she encouraged her followers to read it and called the headlines "foolishness and lies."

Marjorie previously raised eyebrows during a 2017 appearance on "Celebrity Family Feud" when she went viral for saying there are some days when she'd like to trade her husband in for a pool boy.

TV execs unapologetically replaced him with a bigger name

Steve Harvey added talk show host to his resume in 2012 when he signed a five-year deal with Endemol Shine North America and NBCUniversal to produce "Steve Harvey." It was a ratings success, but when the contract ran out, Harvey decided to make a deal with IMG Original Content to produce a new version of the show. He renamed the series "Steve," and it debuted in 2017, but according to Variety, that may have been the first step in its demise. That's because even though NBCUniversal was still distributing "Steve," execs were reportedly unhappy about losing their production rights. And so, in 2019, they decided to do something about it, as they axed "Steve" and gave its daytime slot to "The Kelly Clarkson Show." Despite the outcome, an insider told Variety that Harvey didn't regret the move to IMG. "Steve took a shot," the source mused. "He still made more money than he would have under the old deal."

The comedian was later asked about losing his show on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2020 and said he wasn't mad. "I'm a person of faith, so when a door closes for me, I just walk up the hall, there's more doors," he shared, adding, "I like Kelly Clarkson, I'm happy for her." Not that he was tuning in. "I ain't that happy!" he quipped.

That time RIP Steve Harvey started trending

Steve Harvey is no stranger to rumors, but it was a particularly cruel headline that made the rounds in March 2023 as sources began reporting he had died. According to The U.S. Sun, the hoax spread after a Facebook post announced, "At about 11 a.m. ET on Sunday (March 05, 2023), our beloved actor Steve Harvey passed away." The fake news was further fueled by a YouTube video proclaiming, "1 hour ago, American TV icon Steve Harvey suddenly died at home at the age of 66." Angry fans were quick to shut down the stories and set the record straight, but unfortunately, it wasn't the last time Harvey's death would be announced prematurely.

In July 2023, "RIP Harvey" suddenly began trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, except this time, it was due to a misunderstanding and was not intentional. It turns out the hashtag was initially tweeted by KSR radio host Matt Jones, who was paying tribute to a longtime fan named Harvey Doyle. Listeners of the show then paid their respects using the "#RipHarvey" hashtag, which left people wondering which Harvey they were referring to. Was it Steve Harvey, Harvey Weinstein, or someone else? Steve took the mistake in stride, posting a meme of himself to X, in which he could be seen checking his phone while smoking a cigar. "Me seeing that Rip Harvey is trending," reads the cheeky caption.