Celebrities come from all kinds of backgrounds — some grew up wealthy in urban settings, others grew up near the poverty line in rural locales. Some are American born and bred, and others flew in to Hollywood from Canada, Australia, Israel, basically any nation you could think of. It's a mixed bunch.
And, perhaps most importantly, celebrities come from all kinds of families. Someone's family is often a huge influence on their life — they shape us in more ways than we might even be aware of at first. Sure, some celebrities do come from huge, happy families just like the ones you see on sitcoms, but often celebrities come from a bit of a more unconventional family unit.
One common thread that many celebrities share is that they were raised in single parent households — and more often than not, unfortunately, it's a household where they've been abandoned by their father.
However, that hasn't held these 15 celebs back whatsoever — they've just developed close bonds with their mother and become incredibly strong, despite any challenges they may have faced early in their lives. These 15 celebs were abandoned by their dads, but have been thriving ever since — thanks to those strong, single mamas who raised them.
15 Barack Obama, whose father returned to Kenya and left him to be raised by his strong late single mom
That's right — the former President of the United States was raised by a strong single mama! Barack Obama's parents divorced when he was four years old, and afterwards, his father ended up returning to the country where he was born, Kenya. Afterwards, Obama was raised by his mother for several years, spent some time in Indonesia when his mother remarried, and he eventually ended up spending his later childhood years in sunny Hawaii with his grandparents. His mother did a fantastic job teaching him how to be a great man — and for years, many in the United States agreed! His daughters don't have to go through what he did, though, as he and wife Michelle are an absolutely adorable team of two when it comes to parenting their two girls.
14 Keanu Reeves, whose father abandoned the family when he was just three
Many celebrities end up having strained relationships with their fathers after their parents divorce, but that wasn't the case in Keanu Reeves' life. Instead, his father just flat out abandoned the family when Reeves was a tot of three, and he ended up being raised by his blonde bombshell of a mother, Patricia Bond. He had a few stepfathers over the years, but never had that strong father figure in his life — it was just mom and him, always. He's likely paid her back for all her years of hard work now that he's a big celebrity, and he even takes her as his date for red carpet events every now and then, which is utterly adorable. I mean, she worked hard for so many years raising him — she deserves a little glitz and glam every now and then!
13 Pierce Brosnan, whose father abandoned him as a baby
Pierce Brosnan has been in Hollywood seemingly forever, but he didn't quite have a picture perfect upbringing. His father abandoned the family when Brosnan was still just a baby, and his mother rolled up her sleeves and got right to raising her young son all by herself. He was raised solely by his mother, May, until he was about four, at which point his grandparents became big figures in his life and began helping to parent him. Either way, he's turned out to be a dapper and responsible man — and, as you can tell by the paparazzi shot captured above, he still takes his mom out every now and then for a little mother-son time, which is absolutely precious. I mean, why not take your mom out and treat her like a queen? She deserves it!
12 Marilyn Monroe, who was raised by a single mom — and wasn't really sure who her dad was
There's no doubting that Marilyn Monroe was an absolute Hollywood icon — but she was also an incredibly troubled individual with a lot of personal issues, including her childhood. While she was admired by men around the world as a blonde bombshell movie starlet, she didn't have a male parental figure in her life — she was raised by her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker. There are different beliefs circulating about who her real father is, but the point is, Monroe never really had a father figure in her life, regardless of who her biological father might be. Although, her tragically short life didn't help matters — while she may have remained estranged from her father for life, there's also the possibility that, had she lived longer, she may have eventually reconnected with her father and tried to reestablish that bond.
11 Jodie Foster, whose father left her family before she was even born
Jodie Foster was abandoned by her father before she was even born. That's right — her mother, Evelyn, was pregnant with baby Jodie, and before Jodie could even meet her dad, he up and left the family. Evelyn took her role as a single mom seriously and raised Jodie with total dedication and devotion, raising an insanely talented actress and also incredibly intelligent woman. Evelyn eventually found love again, and the whole Foster family is happy now — so it just goes to show that, sometimes, even the bad things in life can come with a bit of a silver lining. If Evelyn had stayed with Jodie's father, who knows if she would have eventually realized that she'd made a mistake with her choice in partner, but been reluctant to leave him at that point?
10 Samuel L. Jackson, who has only met his father twice — in his entire life
Samuel L. Jackson isn't one of those actors who will share stories about his father on talk show appearances or in magazine interviews — that's because, not only was he abandoned by his father, he actually only met the man twice in his entire life. That's right — twice. Luckily, he didn't really need him — his mother, Elizabeth Jackson, was a strong, independent woman who managed to raise Samuel all by herself. Now that he's a big deal actor, we have a feeling he's paying her back for all those years of struggling by getting her basically whatever her heart desires. Hey — there's nothing wrong with treating your mama right. He's taken her to quite a few red carpet events over the years to share his world with her, which is absolutely adorable.
9 Leonardo DiCaprio, who was raised by a strong single mama
Leonardo DiCaprio got an earlier start in Hollywood than most, as he begun to appear in major films when he was still just a teenager. While many child stars fizzle out once they hit adulthood, his career simply continued to pick up steam, as he tackled increasingly challenging roles. However, one thing he never seems to forget is the role his mother played throughout his entire life growing up — that of a single mother. He was raised by a strong single mom who had to work several jobs just to make ends meet. She managed to keep the family afloat thanks to her hard work, and now, we have a feeling that DiCaprio takes care of his mama as a thank you for all those years of working herself to the bone.
8 Kelly Clarkson, who grew up in poverty raised by a single mom
She may be a pop superstar now, but Kelly Clarkson certainly hasn't had an easy life. Her father divorced her mother when Clarkson was around six, and basically just left the family. In fact, Clarkson even included her childhood memories in a song of hers, "Piece by Piece," in which she says "all I remember was your back, walking towards the airport leaving us all in your past." Yikes! She and her mom struggled to make ends meet growing up, and she managed to get her foot in the door of the entertainment industry thanks to a reality television show. She climbed her way to the top, and now she doesn't need anyone to help her out — she can provide for herself and her family, which is pretty amazing.
7 Michael Phelps, whose parents divorced and whose father left them
Michael Phelps is one of the greatest athletes of all time — I mean, who could ever forget that shot of him with medal after medal after medal around his neck? The man is basically a fish. However, while raising an aspiring athlete isn't the easiest for any family, with all the trips to practice and training and all that, it was particularly tough for Phelps' mom Debbie because she was solo — Phelps' father left the family when he was around 9. He's spoken out before about the impact it had on him, saying that "I was a kid that always wanted a family. You know, whether our parents are together or not, I still wanted a mom and dad. And I never had that for so long." Aww. Well, he has an amazing relationship with his mom, that's for sure.
6 Adrian Grenier, whose mom was a free spirit who had a baby with someone she barely knew
We had no idea Adrian Grenier had such an interesting backstory! Apparently, he was conceived from a bit of a passionate, free-spirited union — his mother didn't have any intention of marrying his father, and didn't really even see him as being someone in her life long term. However, she did try to make sure he was in Adrian's life a bit — although that was a struggle at times. Adrian has spoken out about his family situation, saying that "we all have to make the circumstances we've been given work for us. Some people are born without dads; some people are born with dads that have one leg. Whatever it is, all of life is a unique, special opportunity to rise to the occasion." What a great perspective to have on life!
5 Eminem, who was raised in a tumultuous house by a single mom
Eminem certainly hasn't made a secret about how tough his childhood was — he was raised by a single mom, and they didn't always have the best relationship. However, as an adult, he's slowly starting to repair that relationship and make amends — for example, in his song "Headlights" from 2013, he raps that "I love you Debbie Mathers, oh what a tangled web we have, and I'm mad I didn't get the chance to thank you for being my mom and my dad." They will likely never have the same kind of close relationship that many other celebs raised by single moms have with their mother, but hey — every family family is different, and sometimes it just takes time to mend certain bridges and rebuild that trust. Family can be complicated.
4 Ariana Grande, who is super close with her mom, who raised her solo
Given how young she was when she first stepped into the public eye, it's a bit surprising that the public doesn't know more about Ariana Grande's family. After all, she would have still been living with her mom when she was on the Disney channel! It turns out, Grande's parents divorced when she was a child, and she didn't have the best relationship with him afterwards. Her mother raised Ariana and her siblings solo, and even managed to find a way to help Ariana pursue her dream of becoming a musician. And Grande has nothing but kind things to say about her, telling Complex that "she's the most badass, independent woman you'll ever meet." It sure sounds like it! It's not easy to be a single mom, let alone a single mom with a child who is a rising star.
3 Tom Cruise, whose father left when he was a kid
Tom Cruise doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to relationships and families. He's a father or children by two women — his ex-wives Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes — and he doesn't necessarily seem to spend the most time with them. However, part of that could be because he just never had a strong father figure growing up. His father was allegedly abusive, and eventually abandoned the family, leaving his mother to work multiple jobs in order to provide for her four children. Money isn't something Cruise has to worry about now that he's a big star, but we're betting that his upbringing is likely one of the reasons he works so hard — he likely wants to be able to help out his family whenever they need it.
2 Jack Nicholson, who was never really sure who his father even was
Okay, Jack Nicholson's family history is basically the plot of an insane movie. Seriously — it's so unbelievable you'd assume it's pure fiction, but it's not. Nicholson thought he was raised by his regular parents, but it turns out, he later found out that his real mother was the woman he thought was his sister — and the people he thought were his parents were actually his grandparents. The reason behind the weird family arrangement was that his mother, June, got pregnant as an unwed eighteen year old, and didn't want anyone to know about it. There's a lot of speculation about who his real father is, but one thing is for sure — he wasn't in Nicholson's life whatsoever, either when he was a child or now that he's an adult.
1 Shania Twain, who was abandoned by her biological dad and abused by her stepdad
Shania Twain is alway such a ray of sunshine, with such a positive vibe, but she's fought her fair share of battles over the years, from her struggles as an adult to her struggles as a child. She was abandoned by her biological father when she was just a child, and was raised by her stepfather. However, it wasn't exactly the most perfect solution in the world, because her stepfather was abusive towards both Twain and her mother — so perhaps being raised by just a single mother would have been preferable. Regardless, Twain has managed to keep her head up and keep moving forward every year, despite any issues, and it's one of the reasons her fans love her so much. She's resilient, inspiring, and insanely talented. I mean, what's not to love?
Sources: ranker.com, stars.topix.com