It's easy to forget that the celebrities we know and love weren't always famous. They had childhoods and teenage years too and were often remarkably 'normal' before their ascent to stardom. Just like the rest of the population, they had family troubles, childhood issues, and their own trials and tribulations. In fact, some of the richest and most famous people in the world now had to struggle to succeed.
While celebs often go through many challenges in their early lives, a common theme is being raised in exceptional or unusual circumstances. A surprising number of stars were adopted, for example, and lived incredibly happy lives with their adoptive parents. Others found out under shocking or surprising circumstances that their parents weren't who they thought they were.
Likewise, just like many of us non-famous folk, a lot of celebs had to deal with their parents separating or divorcing. Some took it well and saw the split as a welcome relief from family issues. Others are still suffering from the repercussions of their parents' actions to this day. Read on to find out which celebs dealt well with their broken homes, which suffered more than we realized, and which are happy adoptees.
20 Broken Childhood: Demi Lovato's Lackluster Father Barely Saw His Daughter
Demi Lovato has made no secret of her fraught relationship with her late father. Patrick Lovato left the family when Demi was just two years old, divorcing her mother shortly afterward. His mental health issues and struggles with addiction led to him becoming abusive, and his daughter Demi struggled to maintain a positive relationship with him. While Demi's mother remarried, her father was constantly troubled by his demons. Lovato has stated that her dad wanted to be a good person and a good father but ultimately couldn't manage it.
When Patrick Lovato died of cancer in 2013, his famous daughter had mixed feelings. She was obviously devastated that he had passed but also struggled with her bad memories of his abusive actions. The effects of her broken home stayed with Lovato for many years after her father left, and she's still struggling with the impact of her upbringing today.
19 Adopted: Jersey Shore Star Snooki Is Biologically Chilean
Jersey Shore's Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi wasn't born into the luxurious lifestyle she enjoys now. She was actually adopted aged six months old from an orphanage in Chile. She was brought to the U.S. by an Italian-American couple in 1988. The story of why Snooki was given up by her birth parents is actually pretty tragic. It turns out that the star's biological family is pretty large: she has ten brothers and sisters. It's suspected that Snooki, the youngest of the brood, was put up for adoption after her birth parents realized that they simply couldn't afford to raise another child. It must have been a heart-wrenching decision for them to make! Snooki says that after becoming a mother herself, she can finally understand the anguish that her biological parents must have faced. The star is yet to meet her birth family but is open to doing so in future.
18 Broken Home: Selena Gomez Was Furious With Her Mom After Her Parents Divorced
Selena Gomez has been very open about the issues she had with her parents' divorce. The singer/actress was just five years old when her parents separated, and it took her a few years to fully understand what had happened. However, when she realized that there was no chance of her parents reuniting, she began to blame her mom Mandy for the split. Gomez resented her mother for initiating the divorce and desperately wished that she didn't have to grow up in a broken home. It's unclear what led to her parents splitting, but Selena most definitely put the blame on Mandy.
Gomez has since stated that she feels very guilty for the trouble she gave Mandy regarding the divorce. She now understands that it was the best thing for both her and her parents, and is grateful to her mom for raising her alone. However, the two still have a pretty strained relationship. Mandy was recently hospitalized after an argument between mother and daughter and is reportedly unhappy about Selena's reconciliation with Justin Bieber. Hopefully, the two can work through their issues.
17 Adopted: Iconic Actress Marilyn Monroe Had A Troubled Childhood
All things considered, Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe had a pretty tragic life. While her shockingly early death aged just 36 is public knowledge, fewer people realize just how traumatic her childhood years were. Monroe - then simply known as Norma Jeane Mortens0n - was the product of an affair between her married mother, Gladys, and an unknown man. Almost immediately after giving birth, Monroe's mother placed the young Marilyn in the custody of foster parents. While the actress' birth mother was initially a frequent presence in her life, the two lost contact after Gladys had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized due to paranoid schizophrenia. Aged just eight at this point, Monroe became a warden of the state. She was passed between numerous foster families before being dumped in an orphanage.
Eventually, Monroe found a more permanent home with the Goddard family. However, after being attacked by her adoptive father, she was sent to live with an elderly aunt. When it emerged that the Goddards wanted to move out of state and were planning to send Monroe back to the orphanage, the now 16-year-old Marilyn instead quickly married a family friend's son. It was a questionable ending to a pretty traumatic series of adoptions.
16 Broken Home: Justin Timberlake is Still Feeling The Effects Of His Parents' Split
Although his parents divorced over thirty years ago, Justin Timberlake has admitted that their split still affects him to this day. Timberlake was three years old when his mom and dad called it quits, and although he didn't realize it for many years, the experience truly scarred him. While both of Justin's parents gave him plenty of love and support, the divorce impacted his relationship with them immeasurably. Timberlake feels that their split when he was so young interrupted the bonding process and made it harder to connect with them later on.
All these years later, Timberlake is open about the fact he's still coming to terms with his childhood. He's found it difficult to end bad relationships due to a wish not to repeat his parents' mistakes and found the emotional pain resurfaced when he had his own child, Silas, with wife Jessica Biel. However, he's managed to work through it and become an amazing father and husband. Good for him!
15 Adopted: Country Crooner Faith Hill Respects Her Birth Mother
Grammy winner and country starlet Faith Hill was adopted at birth by Edna and Ted Perry. After being born in Ridgeland, Mississippi, she was raised just twenty miles away by her deeply Christian adoptive parents. Despite already having two biological sons, the couple was desperate to have a little girl. After they couldn't conceive again naturally, they decided to register interest in adoption. Just one week later, Faith came into their lives!
Hill was initially told that her birth mother was a woman who had an affair with a married man and became pregnant. However, this story turned out to be false. One she hit adulthood, Hill decided to meet her birth mother and discovered that she was an artist who simply didn't feel capable of raising a child alone in the late 1960s. Hill doesn't have any hard feelings about this - instead, she's stated that she respects her birth mother for making the difficult choice to give her up.
14 Broken Home: Justin Bieber Was Devastated When His Parents Broke Up
World-famous pop star Justin Bieber has suffered in surprising ways from his parents' split. Bieber's father Jeremy walked out on the family when the star himself was just thirteen months old. He was a pretty questionable dad and was only allowed to see his young son if he was clean of both alcohol and drugs. This didn't happen very often, so Justin grew up with barely any attention or love from his estranged father. Things only worsened as Bieber got older: both of his parents engaged in some pretty erratic and problematic behavior. His father got into trouble with the law numerous times while his mother was accused of stabbing another woman during an altercation in 2011.
The fact that Bieber managed to become such a successful artist given his upbringing is pretty impressive. However, it didn't leave him totally unharmed. When Bieber became closer to his father after finding fame (and a sizeable fortune), Jeremy became something of a bad influence on the young star. He was involved in a drag racing incident that led to his son's infamous arrest in 2014 and apparently encourages Justin to drink and party to excess. That doesn't sound like good parenting to me.
13 Adopted: Nicole Ritchie Was Taken In By Her Bio Dad's Bandmate
It's pretty much common knowledge that Nicole Ritchie was adopted as a child by music superstar Lionel Ritchie. However, the story behind this situation is pretty surprising. Ritchie is actually the daughter of one of her adoptive father's bandmates, who gave his daughter up when she was four years old. The musician simply couldn't afford to raise young Nicole and was troubled by relationship issues with the child's mother. He let Lionel and his then-wife Brenda look after his daughter while he sorted out of affairs. What began as a temporary bout of custody turned into a permanent adoption when Nicole turned nine.
However, shortly after this formal adoption occurred the Ritchies' home life was turned upside down. It emerged that Lionel had been having an affair, a fact that became public knowledge in the late 1990s. The Ritchies' marriage ended shortly afterward. Despite this upheaval, Nicole has remained close to both of her adoptive parents.
12 Broken Home: Johnny Depp's Parents' Divorce Was A Relief Rather Than A Shock
While most children would be pretty devastated if their parents divorced, for a young Johnny Depp it came as something of a relief. While his mom and dad didn't officially split until the actor was 15, their relationship had been on the rocks for some years prior to this. His difficult home life affected Depp so much that by the age of just 12 he was smoking, taking drugs, and self-harming. He became a recluse, locking himself in his room and barely interacting with the rest of his family.
When the inevitable divorce came, Depp was nothing but relieved. It became his task to go and pick up regular child support money from his father, something that drove a wedge between the two. However, Depp never once begrudged his parents for ending things. He only wished they'd done so earlier. The actor himself is no stranger to relationship issues: his most recent marriage to Amber Heard ended in domestic abuse accusations.
11 Adopted: Oscar Winner Jamie Foxx Was Taken In By His Grandma
Hollywood star Jamie Foxx didn't have the easiest start in life. The actor's parents split when he was just seven months old, leaving the entire family in turmoil. In the midst of their difficult breakup, neither of Foxx's biological parents felt that they could continue to raise him. However, rather than put their baby up for an adoption by a stranger, Foxx's maternal grandparents stepped in. They officially adopted the young boy before he'd even seen his first birthday. The couple cared for Foxx as if he was their own son, despite the fact that they had no biological connection to him - turns out they were actually Foxx's mother's adoptive parents, not her birth parents!
Because of the heavy role of adoption in his early life, Foxx is now a passionate advocate of the process. He's also incredibly grateful to his grandparents for taking him in, stating that he credits his grandma with his current success.
10 Broken Home: Rihanna's Parents Split Due To Her Dad's Addictions
Rihanna's childhood was one turned upside-down by her father's addiction to drugs. Robert Fenty was hooked on crack cocaine and alcohol for most of the star's childhood years, leading to her mother divorcing him when Ri was fourteen years old. Her parents' marital problems had a grave impact on Rihanna: her father constantly beat her mother and once even hit his young daughter too. The stress of the situation even gave Ri excruciating headaches that doctors initially thought were caused by a tumor. However, when the pain mysteriously stopped once the future star's parents split, it was clear that their strained relationship had been impacting their daughter physically as well as emotionally.
The hardship didn't stop there for young Rihanna. When her father left the family for good, the teen had to take care of her younger brother while her mother worked full-time. However, it wasn't long before an American record producer spotted her musical talent and sent her to Def Jam president Jay-Z. The rest, as they say, is history.
9 Adopted: Kristin Chenoweth Is A Huge Advocate Of Adoption
American actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth is a passionate advocate of the U.S. adoption system. A lot of this support stems from the fact Chenoweth herself was adopted when she was just five days old. The actress has always known that this adoption occurred and is grateful to her parents for their honesty. She also holds no hard feelings towards her birth mother, a woman who Chenoweth considers brave for giving up her young daughter. Instead of feeling rejected, Chenoweth felt lucky that her biological mother wanted to give her a better shot in life. Her childhood was happy, and she always felt grateful that her parents 'chose' her.
While Chenoweth has discovered small scraps of information about her birth family, she's never felt that she needs to meet them to feel 'complete': she's stated that her adoptive parents are the only parents that she needs.
8 Broken Home: Isla Fisher's Upbringing Left Her Totally Against Divorce
Isla Fisher's childhood involved a lot of upheavals and international moves. Her Scottish father worked for the United Nations, a job that meant the family was never in one place for long. Then, when Fisher was nine, her mother - writer Elspeth Reid - left her husband and moved to Australia with the couple's children. Fisher is pretty guarded about her family life but has admitted in the past that the experience shook her somewhat. It was a lot of change for a young child to deal with.
While Fisher has remained close to her mother, even collaborating with her on several writing projects, it's clear that she doesn't want to follow her example and end up divorced. She's stated in the past that she firmly believes couples should try to work out their differences and remain married, especially if there are children involved. I guess that's good news for her husband, actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen!
7 Adopted: Jack Nicholson Believed His Mom Was His Sister
Jack Nicholson had no idea that he was adopted until after both his adoptive and biological mothers had died. It was a shocking discovery to make, especially considering the circumstances of his birth. Jack's mother, June, became pregnant aged just 16 by an unknown man. As June had a promising dancing career ahead of her, her mother - Jack's grandmother - decided to adopt her daughter's baby and raise him as her own. Jack spent his entire life up to the age of 37 believing that his mother was his sister and his grandmother his mother.
This startling information was only unearthed when a Time Magazine reporter came across it accidentally in 1974. Nicholson initially denied the story, having no reason to believe that it was true. He couldn't ask his 'mother' or 'sister' about it: they had both already passed away. However, Jack's other 'sister' - actually his aunt - finally confirmed that the Time reporter had got it right. Nicholson was obviously shocked but has now come to terms with his complicated family connections.
6 Broken Home: Kanye West's Parents Divorced When He Was Just Three Years Old
Kanye West has been through all manner of trials and tribulations in his life so far. They started at a pretty young age: his parents split when young West was three. His father, former Black Panther activist Ray West, was pretty absent in his son's life for a long time after the divorce - he only saw him in the summertime. Young Kanye instead lived in a middle-class area of Chicago with his now single mother Donda.
While father and son reunited later in life, with Kanye even lending his dad substantial amounts of money, their relationship was never quite as close as that between Yeezy and his mother. He was devastated when Donda passed away at the relatively young age of 58 due to heart failure. In fact, many of his later troubles have stemmed from the grief and trauma Kanye felt. Poor guy!
5 Adopted: EDM Producer Skrillex Found Out He Was Adopted Accidentally
EDM star and music producer Skrillex is another celeb who found out he was adopted by pure chance. He had no idea that his parents weren't his biological family members until he was 16 years old. Until then, young Skrillex - real name Sonny Moore - had been a pretty spoiled kid. His parents had barely disciplined him at all and basically catered to his every want and need. This led to young Moore becoming a bit of a rebel: he even walked out of school aged 14 because he wasn't permitted to smoke cigarettes in class.
Possibly the most questionable part of the Moores' parenting was the fact that they told many of their friends and family that Sonny was adopted, but not the poor kid himself. He had to learn the news totally accidentally when a family friend claimed that he'd seen Moore's birth mother that day in town. As far as Sonny knew, that woman was just a friend of his parents. However, the truth was out: she was actually his biological mom. Sonny reacted to the news by running away from home and joining the emo band From First To Last. In a way, finding out he was adopted actually kicked off Skrillex's career!
4 Broken Home: Jennifer Aniston Came Home From A Birthday Party To Find Her Father Gone
In terms of relationships, Jennifer Aniston is most famous for her own divorce from Brad Pitt back in 2005. However, turns out the actress is no stranger to marriages ending. Her parents broke up when young Jen was just nine years old and was an event that affected her deeply. Aniston has revealed in interviews that the exact circumstances of the split were especially traumatic for her. Tragically, she came home from one of her childhood friends' birthday party to find that her father was gone. He'd moved out while she was out celebrating, and wouldn't be coming back.
Aniston was pretty devastated by her parents' divorce, especially since she had thought that they made a pretty awesome couple. However, the effects of the split weren't all bad: the actress credits the tough times in its immediate aftermath with helping her to forge her comedic skills. Jen has stated that she wanted to cheer her household up so badly that she began to tell jokes and try to make her family laugh. It's a pretty great silver lining in an otherwise sad situation.
3 Adopted: Acclaimed Actress Frances McDormand Was Taken In By a Minister
Award-winning actress Frances McDormand is unclear about the exact details of her adoption. She knows that she was one and a half years old when the official process took place and that her adoptive parents were unable to have their own biological children. However, the origins of her birth family are unclear. As McDormand's father is a minister, she suspects that her birth mother may have been one of his parishioners. However, it's not known whether this was actually the case, or why young Frances was put up for adoption in the first place.
McDormand had such a happy childhood as an adoptee that she chose to repeat history. The actress and her husband, acclaimed director Joel Coen, adopted their son, Pedro, in 1995 when he was six months old. She didn't go as far as her parents, though: they adopted three children, fostered nine more, and apparently had a habit of taking in stray cats too. They clearly had a lot of love to give!
2 Broken Home: Woody Harrelson's Father Left The Family... To Become An Assassin
The story of Woody Harrelson's broken home is truly remarkable. In 1968, his father Charles disappeared unexpectedly from the family home. It later emerged that he'd left to become a contract killer. Yep, really - he became an actual assassin. He was implicated in two murders-for-hire and was proven to have killed a judge on behalf of an infamous Mexican drug dealer. In 1980, he even claimed that he'd been the one to assassinate U.S. President John F. Kennedy; however, this was nothing more than a cocaine-induced delusion.
Woody heard nothing of his father until he saw his mugshot on the news after the killing of the judge. Despite his dad's undoubtedly terrible crimes, the actor actually decided to maintain a relationship with him! Woody visited Charles numerous times in jail and even described him as "articulate", "well-read" and "charming". Errrrr... And "murderous", Woody. Don't forget that part.
1 Adopted: Steve Jobs Was One Of The Most Successful Adoptees In History
The story of the late Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs' adoption is a pretty sad one. His birth parents were Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian Muslim, and Joanne Schieble, a Swiss and German Catholic. When the two began a relationship, Schieble's father was horrified: he threatened to cut his daughter off unless she ended things. The situation became even more complex when Schieble became pregnant. She was forced to put the baby up for adoption, going through with it to please her then dying father. After Schieble's father passed away, she married Jandali and had another child with him, Mona Simpson - Jobs' biological sister.
By that point, it was too late for Steve to be brought back into his now-united birth family: he'd been adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. However, Jobs didn't see this as a problem: he often stated that he considered his birth parents as nothing more than a sperm and egg donor and that the Jobs were his true parents. He never met his biological father, and his then-elderly biological mother was not told when he died.