Hollywood is filled with stories of celebrities who overcame terrible personal histories to make it to the top. In fact, it’s one of the favourite plotlines of most Hollywood movies! Rising from terrible childhoods to become some of the richest, most famous, and powerful people in the world is the American Dream, isn’t it? Something from nothing, changing your stripes, the underdog finally getting what they deserve – all of it smacks of romance and idealism.
Some celebrities actually have done so well for themselves that we’ve forgotten the dark past they left behind. Aside from articles like these, those celebs have managed to transform themselves into something powerful, talented, and amazing, through sheer force of will and a heavy dose of luck. On the flip side, we have celebrities who haven’t ever really had things rough, since the very beginning. They grew up in happy families in homes that never had the heat turned off. They were enrolled in classes that nurtured their talents and had supportive parents. They got to take trips around the globe and got to be children, when so many of their peers were forced to grow up fast. Check out eight celebrities you forgot had a dark past and eight who were actually angels all along.
16 DARK: Leighton Meester
Unlike her silver-spoon-fed character on Gossip Girl, Leighton Meester’s upbringing wasn’t nearly so lavish. Immediately before Meester’s birth – and right after – her mother, Connie, was in prison, as was her father Doug and her maternal aunt and uncle, arrested for attempting to smuggle 1200 pounds of marijuana from Jamaica! While Meester wasn’t technically born behind bars (her mother was rushed to a hospital), her mother returned to serve her time for the first 16 months of Meester’s life.
Following that traumatic entrance into the world, Meester also has the distinction of having her aunt break out of prison to become the first woman in the States to appear on the U.S. Marshals’ Most Wanted List! Meester was later reunited with her mother in Florida, before they moved to Los Angeles for her to pursue her acting career, but the actress was marked with a dark past before she was even old enough to comprehend it!
15 ANGEL: Taylor Swift
Probably unsurprisingly, singer Taylor Swift had a pretty idyllic upbringing, despite her protests that she was teased in school and ostracized by the “cool kids”. Born to wealthy parents, with her father a stockbroker and her mother a homemaker able to spend time with the kids, Swift was enrolled in a Montessori school as a child, attended Bible classes, and went to church, making her about as angelic as they come.
In case you weren’t already sickened by the perfection of the whole scene, there’s the fact that Swift began riding horses at a young age, and was even gifted a pony named Ginger at the age of nine. Clearly, being the daughter of a couple wealthy folks in a nuclear family in Pennsylvania had its pluses! She attended theatre productions and vocal lessons, and if she rubs people the wrong way with her affected “woe is me” and victimization idea, you only have to look at her personal history to see that she had it made!
14 DARK: Angelina Jolie
It might not be that shocking to learn that Angelina Jolie had a pretty dark past, considering her well known obsession with knives and that incident of wearing a blood vial around her neck throughout her marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, but since her reinvention as a humanitarian and cancer-battling mom of six, it’s worth looking back on some of the bleaker periods of her life.
The daughter of Hollywood actor Jon Voigt, with whom she has a contentious relationship, Jolie admitted to being diagnosed with depression at a very young age because she “couldn’t appreciate or understand” her life and led a “destructive and miserable existence”. Jolie stated that, despite being born into fame and money and with good looks – what many people spend their lives desperately trying to achieve – she couldn’t be more empty. A childhood caregiver also admitted that Jolie struggled with anorexia in her youth, which led to a hospital stay. She also admitted to trying almost every drug available to her, including heroin at 20.
13 ANGEL: Kate Middleton
Growing up to become the Duchess of Cambridge, one had better hope to have a pretty spotless family history, especially when the Queen of England is the one judging you! Fortunately for Kate Middleton, her childhood and adolescence were as pristine as an English countryside.
Born and raised to two upper-middle class parents (mom Carole came from working-class stock but was given the tools to make a better life for herself, while dad Michael had tied to the British aristocracy) who eventually became self-made millionaires, Middleton was blessed with a comfortable existence that allowed her to attend exclusive boarding schools and earning good grades and a reputation as a talented athlete. As we know, she later met Prince William at St. Andrew’s University, where she had gone to study art history, and her life has been pretty gorgeous since! As the mom of two – soon to be three – young children, Middleton has endeared herself to the public and shows no signs of stopping being the angel she’s always been.
12 DARK: Shania Twain
Considering how famous and successful country singer Shania Twain has become, it might be surprising to know that the Canadian songstress grew up extremely poor in a miserable, abuse-riddled family, with financial strains causing the Twain family to suffer food shortages and regularly go to bed hungry.
Describing her father as having a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality, Twain has confessed to watching her father repeatedly abuse her mother, at one point becoming so violent that Twain was convinced she had just witnessed him kill her. Fortunately, Twain’s mother left her abusive husband and remarried, only for tragedy to strike yet again: Twain’s mother and her new stepfather died in a car accident, forcing the future singer to take responsibility for her three younger siblings at the age of 21. The singer was able to turn tragedy into art, however, and cited her ability to be alone and her strength in the face of hardship as instrumental in becoming the musician she is today.
11 ANGEL: Jennifer Garner
Jennifer Garner is the first to admit that growing up, she was anything but the cool kid. Instead, Garner says freely that she was a huge nerd! “I never wore the right clothes and I had a kind of natural geekiness. I was in the school band and…if you had asked me what I wanted to be, I would have said something like a librarian.” We bet a lot of stressed-out parents are wishing that someone like Garner was all they had to deal with when it came to raising kids!
Securing her spot as a total angel growing up, Garner has stated that she attended Bible school as a teenager and that she and her sisters were not allowed to wear makeup, paint their nails, pierce their ears, or even dye their hair! Garner has since said that her upbringing was “practically Amish”, which is pretty much proof that she always stayed out of trouble, and honed the good girl reputation that has stuck with her well into her forties!
10 DARK: Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan is an actress who has hardly had it easy. Even recently, she has been in the centre of the controversy surrounding the Harvey Weinstein scandal, with whom she settled a case years ago. McGowan’s dark past goes back much further, however, and it’s as frightening as it is depressing.
As a child, McGowan was raised in a cult known as The Children of God, which counted celebrities like the late River Phoenix and his brother Joaquin as members. The cult was controversial in its practices, and McGowan began to notice that women were being treated as s*x slaves by the men in the group. In fact, women were often used as “bait” in bars for the cult, to lure new men in to become members and strengthen their numbers. Luckily for McGowan, her father pulled her out of the cult when it began to allow intimate relations between adults and children.
9 ANGEL: Katy Perry
Growing up the daughter of two pastors, you can bet that Katy Perry was an angel before she was shooting whipped cream from her bra! While Perry grew up singing from an early age – going by her birth name, Katy Hudson – she was also very sheltered and her family operated within very strict limits. For example, words like “devilled eggs” and the vacuum bran Dirt Devil were banned from the household!
Naturally, once she became a teenager, Perry followed the tradition of rebelling against her conservative parents, and pierced her nose at the age of 13, but with her schedule full of singing and guitar lessons and performances held at her family church, she was still pretty squeaky-clean as far as celebrity pasts go! Even though she’s had her fair share of controversies since entering the music scene, she’s still maintained a connection to her faith, making her a total angel in our books.
8 DARK: Fergie
Addiction runs rampant in Hollywood. When you’re rich, famous, and powerful, the world opens up – including all the dark corners that are better left unexplored. Too bad Fergie never got the memo! Prior to her work with the Black Eyed Peas and her solo career, Fergie was a graduate of the Mickey Mouse Club and one part of the girl group Wild Orchid, both of which she claimed as the reasons for her addiction to meth. Growing up as a young kid in the public eye under intense scrutiny, Fergie stated that she used the drug to “suppress feelings”, and she would go on benders that would leave her paranoid for hours. One time, she admitted, she spoke to a clothing hamper for eight hours straight!
During an intense period of paranoia in which she feared that SWAT teams and the FBI were tailing her, Fergie entered a church and prayed, asking that if the SWAT and FBI weren’t there when she exited, she would quit the drugs, and so she did!
7 ANGEL: Kate Hudson
Born into the Hollywood scene as the daughter of actress Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson has admitted that her upbringing wasn’t exactly normal but was “as grounded as you could get”. Considering how the offspring of most major celebrities fare, there’s something to be said about a family that moves from Los Angeles to Colorado to get an added dose of normalcy in their lives! There, Hudson has described a childhood that was filled with wholesome outdoor activities like hiking, being in nature, dirtbiking, and chores – very un-Hollywood!
In addition to having an active and healthy childhood mostly spent running around, Hudson has also stated that communication was a huge part of their family dynamic, which may help explain the close relationship she still maintains with Hawn. “Manner, politeness, working hard: Those were all things they took very seriously.” As the mom of two sons, Hudson has clearly passed on the solid parenting, making her childhood – and adulthood – seem pretty pristine and scandal-free.
6 DARK: Charlize Theron
Charming and beautiful, it’s hard to imagine that Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron has led anything but a charmed life, but her childhood is actually darker and more depressing than some of the films she’s starred in!
Growing up in South Africa as a child, Theron was frequently victimized by her father, who was an abusive and aggressive bipolar alcoholic who often tortured both Theron and her mother, mentally and physically. One time, her father, Charles, pulled a gun on her mother, Gerda, threatening to kill them both. Theron’s mother was also armed, though, and fatally shot Charles – with 15-year-old Theron as witness! Naturally, Theron kept pretty quiet about the incident, which did not see her mother charged, since it was determined to be in self-defence. The actress only spoke out about what happened for a PSA about the r*pe crisis in her home country, saying, “I know that if my daughter was in the same situation, I would do the same thing.”
5 ANGEL: Chloe Sevigny
Chloe Sevigny might have bashed her hometown at one point (she later took it back) and admitted to smoking marijuana as a teenager during an artsy theatre phase, but by all accounts, the actress had a pretty idyllic childhood.
Born into a small town in Connecticut, Sevigny declared that she has a very close-knit family and that, while her father passed when she was young, she grew even closer to her mother, who she says she speaks to every day. Even now, the closeness between Sevigny’s family has stuck around, with the actress’s brother living three blocks away from her!
In addition to the tight family unit, Sevigny was lucky enough to attend theatre camp every summer, where she honed her indie girl cred, but there wasn’t much elitism to her choice: the camp was held at the local YMCA and then her elementary school. Pretty simplistic, pretty idyllic, and pretty boring if you ask us!
4 DARK: Drew Barrymore
Another cautionary tale about growing up in the spotlight, we have Drew Barrymore, who has come out from under the shadow of her adolescence so cleanly that few remember her as a wild child star and 14-year-old drug addict.
You read that right: 14.
Thanks to her mother acting as more of a friend than an authority figure, access to clubs, drugs, and alcohol since she was a child, and a history of family addiction, Barrymore began smoking cigarettes at the age of nine, drinking alcohol at 11, smoking marijuana at 12, snorting cocaine at 13, and finally entering rehab the following year. Barrymore even detailed her experiences in a memoir, Little Girl Lost.
Barrymore’s relationship with her mother has mended a little, but the two are still far more distant than they were when the actress acted as provider for their little family. Since her troubled past, Barrymore has been married and divorced three times and is now the mother to two beautiful little girls of her own.
3 ANGEL: Gwyneth Paltrow
Did anyone ever doubt that Gwyneth Paltrow had a pretty gorgeous childhood? Probably not, since the creator of GOOP has spent the better part of her adult career telling others how to live their lives as perfectly and as aesthetically-pleasing as possible.
Born to actress Blythe Danner and director Bruce Paltrow, Paltrow had a silver spoon in her mouth pretty much since birth – something she’s been able to pass on to her own children, Apple and Moses. According to one interview, Paltrow “grew up in a nurturing household in which reading the great works of English literature was a priority.” If that doesn’t sound like some WASP sh** that perfectly defines Paltrow in a sentence, we don’t know what does! Living in California soon segued into attended school in New York City before moving back to attend the University of California. She later dropped out, but any post-secondary education (instead of getting into drugs or worse) for the child of Hollywood royalty shows an angelic core to us!
2 DARK: Oprah
To come from what Oprah did to become arguably the most successful woman in the world says a lot about the media mogul and philanthropist’s spirit. Born the daughter of a single teenage mom, Oprah spent the first six years of her life in poverty under the care of her grandmother. Apparently, Oprah was so poor that she wore dresses made out of potato sacks, of which she was made fun by the other children.
Then, things took a turn for the worse, as Oprah endured s*xual abuse at the age of nine at the hands of her 19-year-old cousin. She was also repeatedly abused and m*lested by other relatives and family friends, and turned to illegal substances to cope with her struggles. By the age of 14, she was pregnant and later lost the baby, who was born two months premature and passed away at just two weeks old. Having come from so little to become such a triumph speaks volumes about her abilities and determination, and we can’t think of anyone more deserving of her success.
1 ANGEL: Beyoncé
Considering how impossible perfect Beyoncé is in all aspects of her life, we almost expected her to rise from the ashes of some type of awful childhood, but no, instead her childhood was pretty spotless in comparison as well!
Queen Bey has always had a taste for the finer things in life, which makes sense since the singer grew up wanting for nothing. She attended a private school and dance classes, lived in a very nice house with nice cars. The Knowles family even had a housekeeper! Beyoncé moved from private school to art schools, to further develop her singing and dancing talents, and at the age of eight, auditioned to be in a girl group – which, naturally, she scored a spot in. Unlike some of her peers, Beyoncé never entered into music out of a desire to better her means or the lives of her family member. Instead, it came out of a deep-seated need to be the best that she could be – and boy, has she done it!