Most people know certain aspects of their favorite celebrities lives, including their relationship dramas and their likes and dislikes. But what many fans may not know is the circumstances in which some celebrities grew up — and some definitely had it harder than others.
Hollywood sweetheart Marilyn Monroe was bounced from foster home to foster home over the years, before getting married when she was just 16 years old. Others celebs like Seal and Kerry Katona also found themselves becoming ward's of the state after their complicated home lives resulted in them being removed from their families. And they aren't the only ones... Below are 15 celebrities that you most probably had no idea grew up in foster care. They've gone on to accomplish wonderful things, including using their fame as a platform to raise awareness about the system.
Seal has an incredible voice and several Grammy Awards under his belt. He has worked hard for all that he has achieved, and now lives the life of an A-list celebrity. However, Seal didn't have the easiest start in life.
Seal was born in London to a Nigerian mother and a Brazilian father, and according to The Guardian he was placed into foster care with a family in Essex, England from a young age. He returned to his biological family when he was 4 years old (his father was reportedly strict and abusive), but growing up in the house wasn't easy. By the age of 17, Seal had chosen to be homeless rather than live with his family.
In 2007, Seal was reunited with his foster sister, Hilary Scooling, during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The pair had not seen each other since Seal was an infant, 40 years earlier.
14 Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy is beloved for his comedy and he seems to be one of the happiest people in Hollywood. He was born a natural entertainer, and even from a young age, Murphy would reportedly enjoy making his friends and family laugh.
But before he became a household name in the entertainment industry, Murphy had a complicated childhood. His parents divorced when he was 3 years old, and his father was murdered five years later, leaving his mother, Lillian, to raise him and his older brother, Charles, on her own, which proved financially difficult.
According to FosterClub, Lillian was hospitalized for a lengthy period of time, and because of her illness, Eddie and his brother were briefly placed into the care of a woman called Ms. Jenkins.
Murphy spoke about his experiences in the foster care system, and how it shaped him, during an interview with The Rolling Stone. He said, "That whole period with Ms. Jenkins is maybe a year and a half, and I was so young, I'm sure there was a bunch of sh*tty stuff going on."
13 Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe's birth name was Norma Jean Mortenson and she was born to Gladys Baker, an unmarried Hollywood editing assistant during a time when it was of great shame to have a child out of wedlock.
Baker struggled to raise Monroe on her own, but she was not financially or mentally stable enough to take care of her, and so Monroe was put into a foster home until she was aged 7. Baker then bought a house and brought her daughter to live with her, but according to Mashable, shortly after this time, she experienced a mental crisis and Monroe was back into the foster system.
Baker's good friend Grace McKee Goddard was appointed Monroe's guardian and she lived with her for two years until Goddard was married. Monroe then spent more time in foster homes, only to return to Goddard and her husband's home. She was then sent away to live with her great-aunt Olive in California after Goddard's husband allegedly attempted to sexually assault her. Grace then sent Monroe to live with another aunt, Ana Lower, but she returned to live with her again when Ana's health failed.
Monroe was then married at 16 to Jim Dougherty.
12 Simone Biles
Apart from being one of the nicest athletes in the world, Simone Biles is also a five-time Olympic medalist (four of which are gold), and all this at just 19-years-old.
Biles has become America's sweetheart and the poster child for gymnastics, but what many people don't know about her life is that she was actually fostered. According to Glamour, Biles' biological mother struggled with alcohol and substance abuse, and so for the first few years of her life she spent time in various foster homes. However, her grandparents, Nellie and Ron brought Simone (when she was three) and her younger sister, Adria, to live with them, and they later adopted the girls.
Biles refers to her grandparents as "mom" and "dad" and credits them with her success, because they have taught her to be strong, resilient, and to always believe in herself.
11 John Lennon
John Lennon was a member of one of the biggest group's in musical history: The Beatles.
Lennon was born in Liverpool, England, in 1940 (during the World War II), and while his father was away at sea, Lennon's mother, Julia, had to raise him on her own. According to Perpetual Fostering, Julia struggled to raise Lennon alone, and her sister, "Mimi Smith, complained to social services about the conditions in which Lennon was forced to live in."
Lennon was eventually placed into the care of Mimi and her husband, who fostered him from the time that he was 5 years old. Although during this time he did get regular visits from his mother, it is his aunt and uncle who provided for him and had the most influence over his life.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known as Ice-T, lost both his parents at a young age. According to Biography, Ice-T's mother died from a heart attack when he was in third grade, and four years later, when he was just 12, his father also died from a heart attack.
Speaking of his father, Ice-T revealed during his memoir, Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption — From South Central to Hollywood, that his father was, "a working man, a quiet, blue-collar dude…"
After the death of his father, Ice-T was an orphan and was sent to live with one of his aunts in South Central Los Angeles. I was this move that was essential to the formation of his rap career because there he became involved in inner-city life.
He also touched on his life as an orphan, saying, "I was still so young that the experiences of both of my parents' deaths are kind of blurred together in my mind. And being an only child, I was going through all of it in my own little bubble."
9 Faith Hill
Unlike many of our other entries on this list, Faith Hill did not spend a lengthy time in a foster home, because she was adopted when she was one-week-old by a bank teller named Edna Perry and her husband Ted. The couple named her Audrey Faith Perry.
Hill had been given up for adoption by her mother, who was un-wed at the time (although later ended up marrying Hill's father and having a son with him) and as Hill grew up, her desire to meet her birth mother increased. She previously revealed during an interview with Good Housekeeping, "I was adopted into this incredible home, a loving, positive environment, yet I had this yearning, this kind of darkness that was also inside me." And she got her wish: she met her biological mother in 1993.
8 Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson has had a long and successful career recording and performing country music with some blues sounds. Some of his hit songs including "On the Road Again" and "Night Life." And his childhood was just as colorful as his career.
Nelson was born in Abbot, Texas, during the Great Depression in the '30s. The depression resulted in the family struggling financially and Nelson's father being away for long periods of time as he worked as a traveling mechanic, FosterClub reports. Nelson's mother found herself alone and in financial despair and so she abandoned her two children (Willie and his sister, Bobby Lee). However, they later went on to live with their extended family members.
Luckily for the siblings, their grandparents were happy to have them and taught them the values of working hard.
7 Babe Ruth
George Herman Ruth, Jr., better known as Babe Ruth, remains one of the most beloved figures in baseball, and during his career, he broke several records as well as winning seven World Series. But before he became famous, Babe Ruth lived in the St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. It was run by Catholic monks and was a mixture of a reform school and an orphanage, which Ruth's parents placed him in at age 7 because he was a trouble maker.
According to Woman's Day, one monk in particular, Brother Mathias, took a special interest in Ruth's baseball skill and encouraged him to pursue the sport. When he was 18 years old, he was reportedly spotted by Jack Dunn—a scout and Baltimore Orioles owner—who later became his legal guardian.
6 Victoria Rowell
Actress Victoria Rowell, who is best known for her roles on The Young & Restless, Diagnosis: Murder, and A Wake in Providence, did not have an easy childhood. When she was just 16 days old, herself and her other siblings were put into the foster care system, and for 18 years she was raised by a series of different women, which she wrote about in her 2007 memoir, The Women Who Raised Me.
Rowell was never formally adopted, but her childhood shaped who she is today. Rowell has since established her own charity (in 1990) called Foster Children Positive Plan. It's an organization dedicated to offering foster children support, structure, and encouragement through the performing arts and athletics. She is also a passionate advocate on behalf of children in foster care.
5 Michael Oher
Many people actually know of Michael Oher's story, even if they may not be fully aware of who he is, because his life was the inspiration behind the Academy Award winning movie, The Blind Side.
Oher found success with the Baltimore Ravens, but prior to his time as a professional football player, he lived a rough life. He was one of 12 children and reportedly received very little attention at home, and his biological mother, Denise was addicted to crack cocaine. According to USA Today 30, when Oher was just seven he was placed in foster care.
Biography reports that Oher was frequently in and out of foster homes and often homeless, but was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy when he was 16 years old. They later adopted him and helped him turn his life around, which resulted in Oher securing a football scholarship to their alma mater, the University of Mississippi.
4 Regina Louise
Regina Louise is an author, best known for her 2003 memoir, Somebody's Someone, which details her experience in 30 foster homes and the child welfare system.
Abandoned by her parents, Louise was never adopted and left the system when she was just 18, bouncing from one home to another over the years. However, in 2004, Louise finally got her happy ending when she was adopted at the age of 41 by Jeanne Taylor — who had been a counselor at a child center Louise had been taken to.
Taylor wanted desperately to adopt Louise when she was a pre-teen, three decades earlier, but the courts denied her application. Louise believes that this was a race issue and that black children were not able to be placed with white parents. She previously touched on the subject, saying, "Back then, social workers believed that black children needed to be with black caregivers."
3 Eriq LaSalle
Eriq LaSalle is a successful actor, best known for starring as Dr. Peter Benton on the TV medical drama ER; a role which he played for eight seasons.
LaSalle was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and shortly after his birth he was taken in by foster mother, Ada Haynes, who raised him, along with five other children as a single parent. While not too much is known about LaSalle's time with Haynes, it seems as though he had a stable childhood, and he was able to succeed academically. He was offered a scholarship by the well-known Performing Arts school, Juilliard (located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan) and later furthered his education with Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University.
In addition to his role on ER, LaSalle has also held several roles on Broadway, and appeared in films, including, The Relative Stranger, and Drop Squad.
2 Kerry Katona
British singer, Kerry Katona, is best known for being a singer in the girl group, Atomic Kitten, during the '90s.
Katona's mother was reportedly a manic depressive and she and her daughterz "lived together in difficult circumstances," often seeking refuge in women's shelters. During an interview with The Guardian, Katona revealed that when she was three, she witnessed her mother slitting her wrists, and her mother continued to self-harm until Katona was in her teens. This caused her to "grow up very, very quickly." She added, "I automatically became my mum's carer."
Eventually, social services became involved and Katona was sent to a foster home. She had four sets of foster parents and lived in three refuges. In 1993 (when she was 12), she was taken in by Fred and Margaret Woodall, who she remained close with throughout her adult life.
1 Sylvester Stallone
You probably know Sylvester Stallone as the badass boxer, Rocky Balboa, or as Rambo. But what not many people know about him is that he grew up hard.
In the early years of Stallone's life his parents were continuously fighting and he spent time in foster care. During an interview with Express, he said, "My childhood wasn't exactly copacetic [in excellent order]," he continued saying. "I lost myself in painting and that is what I would do to pay for bus travel and food and whatever I needed. I would sell it."
His parents' bitter divorce affected him deeply. According to Biography, he stayed with his father after his parents divorce in 1957, but struggled emotionally and was expelled from several schools. A few years later, he went to live with his mother in Philadelphia, where he attended a school for troubled youth.