It is easy to assume that the rich and famous have always enjoyed privileged, pampered, and simple lives. However, celebrities often have upbringings that are just as complicated as anyone else’s. For example, many people do not realize just how many of their favorite stars were adopted as children.
Adoption is a wonderful choice that allows people to care for children whose biological parents are unfit or unwilling to raise them. It is not always the easiest way to grow up, being raised by people other than one’s biological parents. For this reason, it is important to highlight celebrities who were adopted in order to show people that growing up in such a household does not limit one’s potential.
Below, check out a list of some of the most famous individuals in the world. From actors to musicians to politicians, there are celebrities on this list from every walk of life. Each has their own inspiring and interesting journey, but they all have one thing in common: they were adopted.
20. Michael Bay
One of the most commercially successful directors in recent history, Michael Bay has emerged as a sure-thing for movie studios. His Transformers series has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The highly talented director was adopted as a child and had a fairly public search for his biological father. Interestingly, acclaimed director John Frankenheimer was rumored to be Bay’s biological father. He even admitted to sleeping with Bay’s mother. However, DNA testing proved that the two were not related.
19. Melissa Gilbert
Fans of Little House on the Prairie will undoubtedly be familiar with Melissa Gilbert, as she played the role of Laura Ingalls throughout the series. She would later become actively involved in US politics, even running for Congress. Gilbert was born to a young, newly-engaged couple that put her up for adoption right after she was born. Luckily, she was adopted by actors Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane. Interestingly, the couple adopted a boy, Jonathan, who would star with Melissa on Little House on the Prairie.
18. Sarah McLachlan
Adoption can be a sensitive topic, especially when the child does not know they were adopted until later in life. However, stars like McLachlan are perfect examples of why finding out one is adopted does not have to be traumatic. The iconic Canadian singer was adopted by Jack and Dorice McLachlan shortly after her birth in 1968. It was not until she was 9 years of age that she discovered she was adopted. She has stated that both at the time and today, she does not consider it to be a big deal. She was happy to meet her biological mother years later.
17. JC Chasez
There are thousands of children adopted every year; adoption is not necessarily a rare event. However, some cases stand out more than others. Former NSYNC singer JC Chasez has one of the most unique adoption stories that one will hear. After Chasez was born, his biological parents felt that they could not provide him with the right upbringing. In order to give him the best chance in life, they put him up for adoption. However, what makes his story so interesting is the fact that he was adopted by his biological mother’s own foster parents. This meant that Roy and Karen Chasez were both the adoptive parents and adoptive grandparents of JC.
16. Frances McDormand
While much of the attention when it comes to adopted people is centered on the child, it should be noted that many people who adopt choose to do so out of compassion and generosity. Such was the case with Frances McDormand. The actress was adopted by Vernon and Noreen McDormand, a couple that adopted four children. According to Frances, they were so generous that they couldn’t help but take in stray cats as well. Interestingly, Frances has paid forward the generosity of her adoptive parents. She and her husband, Joel Coen, have an adopted son named Pedro.
15. Kristin Chenoweth
Many children who are adopted grow up with a burning desire to find their biological parents. The incredibly talented actor and singer Kristen Chenoweth never shared this desire. Although she has stated that she is curious where her singing ability came from, she has expressed her appreciation for the wonderful upbringing she had thanks to her adoptive parents. She even feels that people would instinctively know that she was their child if they were to meet.
14. Liz Phair
Liz Phair, one of the most popular and talented rock stars of the early 2000s, was adopted as a child. Interestingly, while many people who are adopted follow in the footsteps of their adoptive parents, Phair’s career could not have been more different. Phair was adopted by Nancy and John. Nancy worked as a historian for the Art Institute of Chicago, while John worked at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital as an AIDS researcher. Very few families have such a variety of career paths.
13. Babe Ruth
One might expect that Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest baseball player in the history of the game, grew up with a great deal of support for his athletic pursuits. However, this could not be further from the truth. He was actually given to an orphanage when he was seven, as his parents felt that he was too much trouble. Luckily, Brother Mathais from the orphanage encouraged him to develop his obvious athletic talent. After being discovered by a talent scout when he was 19, Ruth became his own legal guardian so he could have the freedom to pursue baseball.
12. Nicole Richie
Of all the adoptions on this list, Nicole Richie’s may be the most famous. However, many people misunderstand her story as one of dumb luck. The iconic Lionel Richie, Nicole’s adoptive father, did not randomly decide to adopt a child. Instead, he adopted Nicole at the behest of her biological father. Nicole was born to Peter Michael Escovedo and Karen Moss. Peter toured with Lionel as a musician, but felt that he and his wife could not support Nicole financially. Lionel agreed to become Nicole’s father and adopted her when she was 9 years of age.
11. Ice T
Few individuals have the same air of invincibility that rapper and actor Ice T manages to pull off. Whether in his music or on Law and Order, Ice T simply has an aura of confidence and strength. There was a time, however, when he was in great need of help. His adoptive parents came to the rescue. When Ice T was only 8 years old, he lost his mother to a heart attack. Tragically, his father would suffer the same fate only a few years later. This left him orphaned at only 12 years old. Luckily, he was later adopted.
10. John Lennon
Perhaps the most influential artist on this list, John Lennon was also adopted. His story is tragic and interesting, as his father essentially disappeared while on a naval ship when Lennon was a young child. His mother felt that she was unable to care for him, which left the young Lennon without parents. Luckily, his aunt stepped in and adopted him. Given the remarkable impact he would go on to have on the world, these early challenges are often forgotten about Lennon.
9. Nelson Mandela
While performers like John Lennon changed the world through art, individuals like Nelson Mandela have permanently changed the world through courage, self-belief, and inspiration. The former South African President was adopted when he was only 9 years old. His father had passed away, leaving him without a home. Luckily, Chief Johnintaba Dalindyebo stepped in and gave him a home. Dalindyebo was the regent of the Thembu people and was one of the first examples of leadership in Mandela’s life. This is important, as Mandela would go on to become one of the greatest leaders in the world.
8. Ray Liotta
Sometimes, when adopted children seek out their biological parents, they discover that they have siblings they never knew. Such was the case for distinguished actor Ray Liotta, perhaps best known for his role in Goodfellas. Liotta knew from a young age that he was adopted, but did not meet his biological mother until years later. After this meeting, he discovered that he had a sister, five half-sisters, and one half-brother. This incredible expansion of his family has also played into his career. Part of the reason he worked on The Identical was because of his own adoption experience.
7. Marilyn Monroe
One of the most iconic performers from the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe’s legend still endures today. The actress, model, and sex symbol is still featured in many other works of art. However, many people do not discuss the fact that she was adopted as a child. The fact that she achieved such success is remarkable given her troubled upbringing. Her biological mother was mentally unstable and had to be institutionalized. This forced Monroe into the foster system, where she lived in at least nine different homes. Eventually, she was adopted by a family friend.
6. George Lopez
Some artists are so charismatic and entertaining that it makes one wonder how they could be given up. Such is the case with comedian and actor George Lopez, whose comedy has provided a hilarious insight into the lives of Mexican-Americans. Sadly, Lopez was only 2 years old when his biological father abandoned the family. To make matters worse, his mother would abandon him when he was only 10. Luckily, his grandmother and her husband stepped in to give young George a home.
5. Faith Hill
There might be no better example of an adopted person finding tremendous success than Faith Hill. Hill has established herself as one of the greatest country music stars in history after selling tens of millions of records. Hill grew up knowing she was adopted and had a great relationship with her adoptive parents. Her story is remarkable, as she forged a connection with her biological brother after decades of being separated. She has also become one of the most notable advocates for adoption.
4. Steve Jobs
Other individuals on this list have changed the world through art and politics, but Steve Jobs has made a lasting impact thanks to technology. Hundreds of millions of people around the world can thank him for their smartphones, laptops, computers, and iPods. Many people do not realize that he was adopted. Jobs was the child of an unwed interracial couple. As his biological mother’s parents would not allow their daughter to marry Jobs’ Arab father, he was eventually given up for adoption. He describes his adoptive parents, Paul and Clara Jobs, as his only parents. He would later form a close friendship with his biological sister, novelist Mona Simpson.
3. Nicole Polizzi
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi emerged as one of the most popular and iconic reality stars in the world thanks to Jersey Shore. Although she is beloved by thousands of fans across the world, many do not know about her childhood. Polizzi was born in Chile and adopted when she was less than a year old. Apparently, her biological family includes many children and her mother simply couldn’t afford to raise her. Polizzi has stated that becoming a mother has helped her understand what a difficult decision it is to put a child up for adoption.
2. Simone Biles
With her astounding triumph in the Rio Olympics, Simone Biles has emerged as the face of American gymnastics. She is powerful, agile, and incredibly charismatic. It is no surprise, then, that she has become a massive celebrity after topping the Olympic podium several times last summer. Her success is even more inspiring when one considers her difficult childhood. Biles’ mother suffered from drug and alcohol addiction which led to Simone being placed in foster care. After a tough period, her grandparents adopted her. She gives them all the credit in the world for turning her life around.
1. Jamie Foxx
This list has featured actors, musicians, politicians, and reality stars. However, few have the wide range of talents possessed by Jamie Foxx. Foxx is an Academy Award-winning actor, a Grammy-winning musician, a successful comedian, and now the host of a primetime game show.
Many people do not know that Foxx, one of the country’s greatest entertainers, was adopted while he was only a child. His biological parents were young when he was born and did not feel that they could give him a proper upbringing. Luckily, his grandparents stepped in and adopted him. His grandmother was 60 years old when she adopted Foxx. He credits her as his inspiration and the reason he believed in himself.