30 Celebrities Who Were Once Homeless

Celebs January 25, 2019 By Hugo

Celebrities are heralded for their talents and luxurious lifestyles that many of the public aspire to have as well. However, life wasn't always easy for these celebrities.

Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

While many of the rich and famous had humble beginnings, some spent their formative years trying desperately to break into the industry as homeless artists.

Read on below as we list 30 celebrities who were once homeless. 


1. Chris Pratt

Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

The hottest actor on the block right now, Chris Pratt has starred in Guardians of The Galaxy and  Jurassic World as well as the Parks and Rec TV show that launched him into the mainstream but it wasn't always multi-million dollar roles and glitzy award ceremonies for Pratt who took a one-way ticket out to Hawaii on offer from a friend and then spent a period living out of a van whilst waiting tables.

When a director took note of his good looks, he was cast in Cursed Part III and was flown out to Los Angeles where he continued to struggle for a while longer but at least had a foot in the door.


2. James Cameron

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The man who brought us two of the biggest films of all time in Titanic and Avatar was once living out of his car as a destitute scriptwriter struggling to make ends meet. When trying to pitch his screenplay of The Terminator, he was offered money for it but he refused to sell it unless he was made the director of the projector and many studios refused to take the risk.

Eventually, he sold the screenplay for just $1 to producer Gale Anne Hurd in return for him being named the director and the film went on to make $77m worldwide and spawn a huge franchise and launch Cameron's ridiculously successful career.


3. Jim Carrey

Roypack via Wikimedia Commons

Canadian-American comedian and comic film star Jim Carrey saw his father lose his job and the family having to move into a VW camper van due to financial struggles that also led to a period where they camped on his elder sister's front lawn. Despite this, the family was always supportive of Carrey's showbiz aspirations although sometimes lacking the finances to help out.

Eventually, the family resolved their issues and Carrey's career took off after his father would drive him to comedy clubs and help him come up with an act. Getting TV recognition, he then shot to fame as a film star in pieces such as Dumb and Dumber, Man On The Moon and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.


4. Halle Berry

Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

In 2002, Halle Berry won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball, which made her the only woman of color to win a Best Actress Academy Award to date, as of 2016. A massive movie star known for her roles in the X-Men franchise, the James Bond film Die Another Day and the thriller Swordfish.

Although critically acclaimed and with fame and riches to her name, Berry spent a period in a homeless shelter as a young 21-year-old, she had just moved to New York and run out of money and had to spend a stint in the shelter.


5. Dr. Phil

Shutterstock/ Joe Seer

Phil McGaw is best known as TV psychologist Dr. Phil but when aged 12, he lived out of a car with his father who had little money to support the pair as he interned as a Psychologist. Eventually, his father got full-time paying work and Phil followed him into the same line of work and joined his father's firm after acquiring his own bachelor's degree and Ph.D.

It was during this time that he was invited onto Oprah's daytime TV show due to his expertise, friendly demeanor and charming Texan drawl. Eventually, he got his own syndicated show and became the star he is today.


6. Suze Orman

Shutterstock/Albert H. Teich

An Emmy-award winning financial advisor who has had several best selling books published leading to her becoming a multi-millionaire, Suze Orman once had to spend a few months living out the back of her van in 1973 as she took jobs clearing trees alongside a friend who also shared the van with her.

Now she tells people how to spend their money wisely and avoid getting into tough situations that she found herself in.


7. Daniel Craig

GlynLowe.com, via Wikimedia Commons

Current James Bond and critically acclaimed actor Daniel Craig may now be one of the top-earning actors in the world and a huge name to boot but whilst living in London, he was a struggling actor who was waiting on tables and occasionally spending nights on park benches as he had nowhere else to go.

Now rubbing shoulders with the Queen of England herself in a skit for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, Daniel certainly has come a long way since those early days and cold nights.


8. Ella Fitzgerald

Arguably the finest Jazz singer of her time, Ella Fitzgerald lived a life that involved her winning 13 Grammy awards and receiving medals from presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush having sung for Ronald Reagan in 1981. However, she ran away from home in early life and spent a period homeless until she debuted at the Apollo Theater in 1934.

So lauded was she that 9 years after her death she received a US postal stamp with her face on.


9. Chris Gardner

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Millionaire Chris Gardner spent years pursuing a career in finance despite having no experience in the field or even a college degree. He received a spot in the Dean Witter Reynolds training program but the salary was not enough to support himself, his wife or his young son and so his wife left him.

Now he as two New York Times bestselling books under his belt: his autobiography "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be." A film of his life was made, starring Will Smith called The Pursuit of Happyness and now he is a motivational speaker and CEO of Gardner Rich LLC.


10. Jewel

The American singer-songwriter who is now a multi-platinum and award-winning singer was fired from her job by her boss because she refused to sleep with him and so she couldn't afford to pay rent. Continuing to write songs, she would perform at coffee shops and gained a loyal following until she ended up securing a record label deal.

Her first album Pieces of You went on to become one of the biggest-selling albums of all time shifting 12 million copies.


11. Michael Oher

Wikipedia/ Jeffery Beall

NFL football player Michael Oher spent time living on the streets whilst his mother fell into crack addiction and lived in public housing. Eventually adopted by a wealthy family, Oher was encouraged to pursue his football dreams by his foster parents and went on to play college football at the University of Mississippi, and drafted into the NFL in 2009 for the Baltimore Ravens.

His story was made into a book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game before going on to become a movie called The Blind Side which won Sandra Bullock an Oscar for the portrayal of his foster mother.


12. Jennifer Lopez

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Jenny from the block was living with her mother who wanted her to go to college but when she refused, saying she wanted to become an actor and dancer, she moved out at 18 and slept on the sofa of the dance studio where she practiced. A few months later she managed to land a job dancing in Europe.

Later she would perform in several stage shows singing, dancing and acting and eventually landed film roles as well as launching a hugely successful music career.


13. Harry Houdini

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Arguably the most famous escape artist and magician to ever have been, Harry Houdini knew he wanted to perform magic tricks and stunts at a very young age and, as such, ran away from home by hopping onto a passing freight train and eventually making it to Missouri. He was reunited with his father eventually and they moved to New York.

Out of work, his father and he had to panhandle on the streets and it wasn't until he was 17 that Houdini began his professional career.


14. Charlie Chaplin

Wikipedia/ Keystone Studios

Considered the world's first movie star, the silent actor Charlie Chaplin was one of the first icons to rise from modest beginnings and become a wealthy respected member of the upper classes. And thanks to the birth of Hollywood, this was possible for people who weren't from wealthy backgrounds.

Just take Chaplin's rise to fame. Before he found fame in Tinseltown, Chaplin's life in his native London saw him sleep rough after his died and his mother suffered a subsequent mental breakdown. 


15. Hilary Swank

Shutterstock/ Everett Collection

Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer park in California and was eventually left homeless after her mother couldn't afford to pay rent and she was pursuing and acting career so they stayed in their car or in an empty house a friend was trying to sell at night but having to be gone during the day.

Winning two best actress Oscars before she was 30, Swank is now a highly lauded and in-demand actress.


16. Natasha Lyonne    

Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

Finding fame in the hit 90s movie American fame, Natasha Lyonne's rise wasn't plain sailing. Before her break she was a drug addict who spend many of her earlier years on the streets looking to get high.

Thankfully, Natasha Lyonne overcame her addiction and she is now an actress in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”


17. Drew Carey

Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

Living on the streets of Las Vegas for some time, Drew Carey would sell plasma for $40 a time so he could buy food. Eventually, his comedy career took off and he used that as a launch pad to get into television and writing and now he is a multimillionaire and philanthropist with his own sitcom and a share in a Major League Soccer Team.

He also has a best-selling book about his early life and career.


18. The Weeknd

Shutterstock/ Christian Bertrand

The Weeknd has come a long way since his days surviving the harsh Toronto winters as a homeless teen. Now one of the wealthiest recording artists in the world, The Weeknd has touched upon is plight in many of his tracks, including the hit single Sidewalks in which he boasts, "Homeless to Forbes Lists."

Explaining his past plight in more detail, he wrote in a rare Q & A with Reddit fans: “I left home when I was about 17 dropped out of high school and convinced Lamar [XO crew member] to do the same lol. We grabbed our mattresses from our parents threw it in our friend’s s****y van and left one weekend and never came back.” 


19. Ed Sheeran

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It may sound rather odd that a middle-class country boy had to sleep rough but such was Sheeran's dogged determination to make it on his own he often didn't tell his parents how little money he had, and for the vast majority of his time as an unsigned artist he would sleep on people's sofas.

The 26-year-old hitmaker even admitted in an interview with the Daily Mail that he slept by a heating duct outside Buckingham Palace when he couldn't find a place to crash, which made for a fairytale story after Sheeran was asked to perform outside Buckingham Palace only a few years later for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert. 

Speaking about that time in his life, the Give Me Love singer said, "There was an arch outside Buckingham Palace that has a heating duct, and I spent a couple of nights there. That’s where I wrote the song Homeless and the lines “It’s not a homeless night for me, I’m just home less than I’d like to be.”


20. David Letterman

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One of America's finest television and chatshow hosts didn't get an easy start in show business. In his earlier years, Letterman lived out of his 1973 Chevy pickup truck when looking for work and he'd be the first to tell you that the infancy of his career was littered with rejection.

However, things began improving when he landed a job writing jokes for the great Jimmy Walker. It wasn't long before Walker recognized Letterman's talents, and he soon became a star in his own right.


21. Shania Twain

Shutterstock/ lev radin

The country songstress may look a million dollars every time she sets foot on stage, but we as fans didn't see the less glamorous side of her road to stardom. Like many struggling recording artists, Twain was once homeless and had to rely on the handouts of a Toronto shelter.

She was only 16 at the time- her mother and siblings were in the same predicament. When there weren't any hostels available, Twain's family would squat in abandoned homes or sleep on buses.


22. Tyler Perry

Shutterstock/ Roid Ranger

One of the highest-paid directors in Hollywood history was once living rough in his car when he was a struggling playwright in Atalanta. Today, the esteemed comedian is one of Hollywood's richest men.

Most of Perry's success in directing has come in the lucrative American market, but Lions Gate Entertainment recently announced plans to distribute his films to the United Kingdom.


23. Carmen Electra

Shutterstock/ Tinseltown

Carmen Electra had recently caught her first break following a successful tour with the late Prince when her boyfriend took all her money and left her stranded and homeless.

The Australian's formative years in LA were also sometimes spent in homeless shelters but she quickly landed roles in Baywatch and Singled Out allowing her to support herself fairly early on in her career. 


24. Sylvester Stallone

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The industry veteran has done it all in Hollywood, despite countless critics wondering if he has even improved his craft as an actor in the last 30 years. Nonetheless, Stallone is a national treasure to Americans, and his rags-to-riches story makes his success even more celebrated.

A man who made a name for himself playing a fighting underdog, Stallone's battle with homelessness saw him spend three weeks sleeping in a bus station. After applying to various jobs. Stallone responded to an ad that was offering $100 a day for an adult film. Two days later, he managed to get himself out of the shelter. 


25. Kelly Clarkson

Shutterstock/ Debby Wong

While Kelly Clarkson of American Idol fame never intended to sleep rough when she first moved to Los Angeles, her apartment that she had arranged to move into then caught fire on her first day there, leaving her with nowhere to sleep.

Having nowhere to go, she lived out of her car and spent time in various shelters before finding somewhere new.


26. Kurt Cobain

Shutterstock/ Fabio Diena

The lead singer and guitarist of the era-defining grunge band Nirvana, Kurt was thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight as the leader of a new generation, a life far at odds with his days as a homeless teenage tearaway following his parent's divorce. 

This had a great impact on deep-seated mental problems that he had had since childhood, and these underlying issues only developed as his fame increased.


27. Jim Morrison

Wikipedia

Jim Morrison was known for his poetic lyrics and unique singing style, a craft he would hone on the streets sleeping on rooftops or under the pier at Venice Beach. But it would be these attributes and early life experiences that would serve him well as the controversial frontman of the Los Angeles rock band, The Doors.

Jim also had widespread popularity and notoriety for his onstage antics. His drug and alcohol abuse worsened with the mercurial rise of The Doors. He was found dead in his bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971. The cause of death was attributed as heart failure due to a heroin overdose. His body was buried in Paris, near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.


28. Patti Smith

Shutterstock/Ben Houdijk

Patti Smith was one of the first female rockers to hit the big time with her smash record "Because Tonight." But in Smith's brilliant memoir, she revealed that her first forays as an artist saw her come to New York with nothing more than a suitcase.

"No one noticed me. I could move freely," she recalled. "There was a roving community of young people, sleeping in the parks, in makeshift tents, the new immigrants invading the East Village. I wasn’t kin to these people, but because of the free-floating atmosphere, I could roam within it. I had faith. I sensed no danger in the city, and I never encountered any. I had nothing to offer a thief and didn’t fear men on the prowl. I wasn’t of interest to anyone, and that worked in my favor for the first few weeks of July when I bummed around, free to explore by day, sleeping where I could at night. I sought door wells, subway cars, even a graveyard. Startled to awake beneath the city sky or being shaken by a strange hand. Time to move along. Time to move along.

Smith would eventually be taken in by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. 


29. Sam Worthington

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The Australian thespian was just another jobbing actor looking for any roles that would help him pay for fuel so he could continue living in his car.

His car remained his home for some time until he landed his breakout role in the James Cameron animated movie, Avatar.


30. Steve Harvey

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One of America's most famous talk show hosts was homeless following a lengthy divorce battle with his wife. While his predicament was different from the others in the sense that he still had enough money to afford hotels, he recalls feeling a sense of nomadic, depressive ennui. 

“It was so disheartening,” Harvey said in an interview with People Magazine. “A week is really the maximum you can do. This was three years! It was rock bottom. But even in my darkest days, I had faith it would turn around.”


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