15 Celebrities Who Overcame Adversity To Get To Where They Are

Celebs December 20, 2017 By Hugo

We're led to believe celebrities' lives are free from stress and worry thanks to their ever-burgeoning bank accounts and millions of fans, and though that might be true in some cases, fame and wealth rarley equate to happiness.

However, judging by the adversities some stars faced before they attained fame, we can guess they are all the more grateful for their success.

Here are 15 stars who overcame adversity to get to where they are today. 

1. Russell Brand

The charismatic egotist candidly confessed in his earlier days to being enamoured by the idea of fame and fortune but later turned his back on Hollywood and became an advocate for grassroots political activism in his native England. Brand also volunteers for various charities dealing with drug addiction- something Brand suffered from for most of his young adult life.

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Setting up a news channel entitled Trews (True News), Brand regularly talks about his past experiences with addiction as well as his everyday struggles to kerb his addictions to drink and sex. 

Today, however, Brand is clean, and after making millions in Hollywood and settling down with just one woman and having a baby, it looks like Brand has finally found inner peace.

2. Tom Hardy

Wealthy middle-class parents raised Tom Hardy in the affluent London suburb of East Sheen but admitted in past interviews that his rebellious streak started as early as 11, with the actor hooked on hardcore drugs by the age of 13.

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Like Brand, the handsome actor was also addicted to drink and described waking up laden in his vomit at the age of 24. But he admitted that that moment was a rude awakening and proved to be a turning point in his career. 

Now 39, Tom is one of Britain's hottest exports in Hollywood and is widely considered an A-list star.

3. The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye, now known by his stage name, The Weeknd, was an enigma the moment he uploaded his first three tracks on YouTube shortly after turning 21. But the Toronto native's road to success, just like his louche music, is unique, and his transformation into the artist we know today makes for a spectacular story. A story that began at 17 when he and best friend Lemar left their respective homes and school with just a mattress and a hired removal van to their name.

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In the years that followed, Abel and Lemar would claim benefits and sell soft drugs on the side, all while partying to the extreme, a period that perhaps unwittingly served as a muse to the nihilistic lyrics that characterised his first three mixtapes. But it wasn't just the music. What ironically gained him notoriety was his refusal to give interviews and never include his face in his videos, and shortly after the word-of-mouth success, the singer was making his first live performance at Tronto's Mod Club.

4. Oprah Winfrey

If ever there was an article profiling the greatest rags-to-riches stories, then you'd be hard-pressed not to include Oprah Winfrey. Sexually abused for most of her childhood when her mother was away working, it was only after her father, Vernon Winfrey took her into his Nashville home that thing's started looking up. By her admissions, her father was a strict disciplinarian, but from his guidance, Oprah developed a love for learning, which would lead to Tennesse University offering her a scholarship.

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Upon graduating, Winfrey had her heart set on journalism, and quickly established herself in the local news scene, although she was demoted from an anchor role when she was 23 for being too emotionally invested in the stories, and it wasn't until AM Chicago gave her a talk show at the age of 28 that things took a life-changing turn.

5. 50 Cent

The gangster rapper 50 Cent- whose real name Curtis Jackson- was famously shot 9 times before landing a record deal with Eminem's Shady Aftermath label, with his hit song 'In the Club' cementing his status as one the genre's most respected artists.

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Years on and 50's life is now far removed from the one which involved selling crack at the age of 12, and though his success isn't what it once was, he's no doubt experienced his fair share of the good life over the years.

6. Christina Aguilera

While most known that Christina Aguilera's showbiz career started on Disney's Micky Mouse Club alongside the likes of Ryan Gosling and Britney Spears, few are aware of her troubles before she won a part on the show. In fact, Christina and her mum had to flee their family home due to the abuse her mother received from her father.

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Aguilera, who is one of the world's best-selling recording artists, was only 6 when her mother left her father, with lyrics in her song 'I'm OK" referring to that part of her life. 

7. Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher didn't have it easy growing up, and though his playful persona on his MTV show 'Punk'd' may suggest otherwise, his past is probably one he looks back on with sadness. Not only did he contemplate suicide to provide a kidney for his dying brother, but he was also kicked out of high school and ostracised by his local community after being caught stealing money from them. 

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Despite these hardships, Kutcher managed to gain a place at the University of Iowa, and upon returning home for the holidays, a 20-year-old Kutcher would sweep cereal off the ground of his father's factory before being scouted by a model agent who persuaded him to enter the "Fresh Faces of Iowa" competition. 

After the contest, which would see him finish runner-up to none other than Josh Duhamel, Kutcher signed with NEXT Model Managment before transitioning to acting.

8. Halle Berry

When Hale Berry was studying broadcast journalism, she would often take on shifts in the children's department at Higbee's to fund her course. However, with a face like Berry's, many beauty contests came calling, and she was winning many of them, which soon gave her the confidence to follow her dreams and pursue an acting career in New York.

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But it wasn't plain sailing, and up until the age of 23, the acting-student resided in a homeless shelter after running out of money until a successful audition for the ABC series, Living Dolls led to a paid part. Now 52, the Oscar-winning actress has certinaly overcome her fair share of obstacles to get to where she is.

9. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton may have the luxury of no longer working 9 to 5, but she grew up in a household where such hours would barely cover the cost of living.

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Indeed, the country songstress lived in a one-bedroom shack in rural Tennesse for most of her childhood, and it was only thanks to her musical talents that Parton managed to move to Nashville and get discovered. Now in the twilight of her extraordinary career, Parton has composed over 3,000 songs, amassing a staggering $500m fortune along the way.

10. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is an iconic figure in not just rock but the whole of music. Not only did his infectious talents light up any stage he performed on, but he was also one of the first African-American performers to win wide praise in a genre many considered traditionally white.

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Dispelling this myth, Hendrix rocked his way into the history books, though his road- like many rock stars- wasn't easy. Instead, it was marred in household violence and trauma, and Hendrix, whose father was in prison when he was born, would move around the country with his mother, often living in squalid conditions before leaving home aged 15 to join the military. 

11. Tina Turner

Tina Turner's infamous ex-husband Ike Turner is no stranger in regards to people knowing about the cruelty he bestowed upon Tina Turner, an unsavoury moment from the singer's past that was re-enacted on screen in the movie What's Love Got to Do with It.

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Thankfully, the songstress sought refuge when she began practising Buddhism, a religion she credits with giving her the strength to eventually leave Ike.

12. Axl Rose

Axl Rose's success in the music industry still fails to shake him of the ordeal he went through when his father abused him from the age of just 2-years-old onwards.

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Hauntingly, the lead singer of Guns N' Roses revealed to Rolling Stone Magazine in 2012 that he "picked up a lot of distorted views that I’ve had to live my life with."

13. Mary J. Blige

Bearing similar parallels to Oprah's childhood, Mary J. Blige was also abused by a family member, which in Mary's case, first occurred when she was five.

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Such a horrific and mentally scarring ordeal would envelop into a substance-abuse problem further down the line when Mary was a teenager, yet being the strong and independent woman she is, Blige managed to turn her talents into 9 Grammys and the much-coveted title "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul."

14. Michael Jackson

Out of every act on this list, it's probably common knowledge that Michael Jackson's childhood wasn't easy. For one, his father, Joe Jackson, was a ruthless disciplinarian who saw his children as much as performing commodities as he did his children, something that would strain Michael's relationship with his father when he morphed into an adult and a fully fledged solo star.

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Not only was Joe verbally abusive, his anger, if Michael and his siblings didn't perform to his liking, also manifested itself into physical violence which may have played a role in the late superstar's personal problems later in his life. 

15. Johnny Cash

One of country music's true greats faced addiction, trauma, and inner demons throughout his pre-fame days, and indeed his whole life, with his difficult upbringing playing an influential role in his sorrowful and often lachrymose lyrics.

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And it would be Cash's autobiographical stories from his pained memories that would make him one of the 20th centuries bestselling artists, with Cash selling over 90m records and labelled country music's greatest artist.

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