On the outside, it seems as though many celebrities lead the perfect life. But some of these very same celebrities have had to deal with long periods of financial instability – even homelessness – in order to achieve success.
In the article below, we’ve brought you thirty famous celebrities who have either been homeless in the past or are currently experiencing a financial meltdown. Some of the names will really surprise you, especially when you think about just how much money is currently piling up in their bank accounts. Here are the hidden stories behind some of the world’s most recognisable celebrities.
30. Halle Berry
Halle Berry shot to stardom with roles in movies such as Monster’s Ball and Catwoman.
But before the Oscar winner was gracing the red carpet at glitzy awards events, most people don’t realise that the actress had actually been homeless for a while before earning her big break. Like many aspiring young actors, Berry moved to NYC from her native Ohio.
However, not long after arriving in the Big Apple at the age of 21, Berry ran out of money and her mother decided to stop sending money to fuel Berry’s acting dream.
Instead, the actress was forced to stay in homeless shelters to survive. One magazine reported: “Berry’s first weeks in New York were less than auspicious: She slept in a homeless shelter and then in a YMCA.”
However, the actress has said that this experience of homelessness taught her a lot about life: “It taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation, even if it meant going to a shelter for a small stint, or living within my means, which were meager.”
“I became a person who knows that I will always make my own way,” she said. In 2002, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball. She was the first African-American woman to do so.
29. Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt is a global superstar known for big-name franchises such as Jurassic Park and Guardians of the Galaxy.
So most people will probably be surprised to learn that for a long time, Pratt was living the life of a drifter down in Hawaii. At the age of 19 years old, Pratt took a one-way ticket to Maui to live with his friend. The only problem? Neither of them had enough money to rent an apartment.
Instead they had to sleep in a flea-ridden and mice-infested van. Pratt once explained: “We just drank and smoked weed and worked minimal hours, 15-20 hours per week, just enough to cover gas, food, and fishing supplies. You know it was a charming time.”
Pratt took a job as a waiter at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Maui, which is where he ended up being discovered. An actress named Rae Dawn Chong spotted him and after taking note of his good looks, she promptly cast him in her directorial debut, Cursed Part III.
In the photo above, you can actually see Pratt holding a script for his first ever movie while showing off the van he used to share with his friend. It turns out that the film project would change the youngster’s life forever.
“The moment she told me she was bringing me to LA, I knew,” Pratt said. “I was like, ‘This is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.'”
28. Randy Quaid
Remember Randy Quaid? He’s probably best known for starring in the National Lampoon: Christmas Vacation movies.
But before that, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in The Last Detail (1973). Sadly things haven’t been going so well for the actor in recent years.
Back in 2009, Quaid and his wife Evi were arrested after skipping out on a whopping hotel of bill of over $10,000 – despite managing to pay for most of the bill, the couple were eventually awarded community service after repeatedly failing to appear in court.
Quaid has since had a mountain of troubles with US and Canadian border officials. Long story short, the actor now appears to be homeless as he was recently found to have been squatting in the guest house of a property that he and Evi used to own.
Rumour has it that the American actor is now making a home for him and his wife in Vermont, where Evi is originally from.
All we can say to Randy is – good luck! Maybe he has his fingers crossed that they’ll make another National Lampoon movie soon?
27. Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank is a two-time Oscar winner who is best-known for her role in Million Dollar Baby (2004).
But did you know that Swank had a difficult upbringing, which resulted in homelessness for her and her mother? Swank grew up in a trailer park in Nebraska until she was 16 years old. Eventually, she decided to move to California with her mother to try and become an actress.
However, this meant that she and her mother had to live in a car for several months. Eventually they managed to sleep in an empty house that their friend owned. Swank told CBS :”We had a friend who was selling their house. And so they said, ‘You know, there’s no furniture, but you can stay there at night.
“And then, during the day, you have to leave so we can try and sell it.’ So we got air mattresses. Blew the air mattresses up. Slept on the air mattresses. And left in the morning.” Eventually this experience would make its way into one of Swank’s Oscar speeches.
After winning her second Oscar in 2004, Swank simply stated: “I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve this. I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream.”
She certainly did achieve her dream – Swank won both of her Academy Awards by the time she was 30 years old.
26. John Drew Barrymore
John Drew Barrymore is the father of actress Drew Barrymore and son of the actor John Barrymore.
But it looks as though the pressure of being born into an acting dynasty hindered Barrymore, rather than helped him. It seems hard to imagine that somebody who came from such a prestigious background could end up homeless, but that’s exactly what happened to Barrymore.
Barrymore found himself constantly being compared to his father and grandfather, which helped fuel his inner demons. In particular, like his daughter Drew, the actor struggled from drug and alcohol abuse.
After failing to clinch any really big roles in Hollywood, Barrymore gave up on the world of acting and became a drifter instead.
His family said that he used to disappear for months at a time, only to be arrested on charges of public drunkenness or drug abuse.
His health began to worsen and he never managed to overcome his addictions, but luckily daughter Drew came to the rescue by buying him a house close to hers in 2003. Sadly Barrymore passed away from cancer the following year.
25. Gary Glitter
Gary Glitter is the disgraced former singer who is now known for his child sex assault convictions rather than his musical legacy.
So nobody will really be shedding a tear to know that before his latest stint in prison for historic sex crimes, the performer (whose real name is Paul Gadd), was unable to find anywhere to live due to the publicity surrounding his offences.
Gadd moved back to the UK in 2008 after serving jail time in Vietnam for raping children as young as eleven years old. However, despite denying that he was a child sex offender, Gadd received a hostile reception in his home country and struggled to find anywhere to live.
He tried moving into several different areas but was pushed out of each home by neighbours and complaints to the council.
His homeless troubles ended in 2015, when he was sentenced to 16 years in jail for attempted rape and four counts of indecent assault.
The former entertainer is now serving time in a sex offender’s facility in HM Prison Albany, on the Isle of Wight.
24. James Cameron
It’s safe to say that James Cameron is a very, very rich man.
He’s directed some of the most popular films in movie history, from Titanic to Avatar. But before he was creating hit after hit at the box office, Cameron actually used to live in his car. That’s right, while he was writing Terminator, Cameron was “barely making ends meet, even living in his car for a time.”
Cameron is known as a strong-willed director who sometimes rubs people up the wrong way. And it seems as though he’s always been like that – despite being homeless, Cameron was determined to direct the Terminator screenplay himself, despite having limited experience.
The aspiring director would pitch the movie in meetings with executives, after coming from sleeping in his car. The companies all agreed that they really liked the script, but didn’t like the idea of a nobody with no experience being in charge of directing as well.
Cameron continued to persevere with his dream and eventually partnered with Gale Anne Hurd, a producer who has since worked with the director on several projects.
Hurd bought the rights to the script for $1 and named Cameron the director. Fortunately the film was a huge success and Cameron definitely earned himself enough money to buy a house – Terminator grossed $77 million worldwide. Not bad at all!
23. Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey struggled to find his way to the top – but he now hosts a successful daytime TV show and has become one of America’s best-loved stand-up comedians.
He also presents the popular quiz show Family Feud, as well as a number of other programmes. But things weren’t always so rosy for Harvey, especially in the early days of his career.
The TV personality once revealed to People magazine that when he was trying to make it as a comedian in the late 80s, “one or two gigs fell through” – leaving him completely homeless.
In the end, he was forced to live out of his car for a whopping three years. The comedian slept in his 1976 Ford Tempo and used to shower in hotel bathrooms or swimming pool showers. The only thing that managed to get Harvey out of this rut was when he got a phone call asking him to appear on Showtime at the Apollo.
The Showtime event would launch Harvey’s rise to stardom and introduced him to a national audience. Harvey now has two homes, splitting his time between Chicago and Atlanta.
22. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey wasn’t always a successful comedian and film star. In fact, he had to struggle for many years before making it to the top.
Carrey’s financial problems started during his teenage years – his father lost a high-paying accountant job which plunged the family into some serious debt.
The Carrey family ended up living out of a VW bus, with the Dumb & Dumber star taking a job as a janitor in order to help support his relatives. Eventually they moved into a tent on his older sister’s lawn and would park the VW camper in the driveway.
This experience naturally had a marked effect on Carrey and he has since said that the experience helped him to develop a sense of humour about life. In fact, throughout this time, a young Jim Carrey was constantly doing stand-up gigs and impressions, eventually getting his big break in the early 80s.
After opening for the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Carrey decided to pursue his dreams and promptly moved to Los Angeles in 1983.
He starred in In Living Colour before becoming a household name thanks to hilarious lead appearances in hits such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Liar Liar. His net worth is currently estimated to be around $150 million.
21. Jennifer Lopez
Did you know that ‘Jenny from the block’ had a brief stint of homelessness during her rise to fame?
After growing up in the Bronx, Lopez decided at the age of 18 years old that she wanted to be a dancer. Like most parents, JLo’s mum and dad insisted that she go to college instead, but Lopez refused. Instead they told their daughter that it was a “really stupid” idea and that “no Latinos did that”.
After one particularly big fight with her mum, Lopez moved out of the family home and slept on the sofa at the dance studio she used to practice in.
“I was homeless, but I told her, ‘This is what I have to do,'” Lopez told W magazine.
Fortunately the risky move paid off, because only a few months later Lopez came back from a European tour and became a Fly Girl on In Living Colour.
The singer, actress and producer now has a net worth of $380 million. Wow.
20. Thomas Jane
Before Thomas Jane made his name as a movie star in Evening Raga of the West, Boogie Nights and Deep Blue Sea, he was a homeless busker and school dropout, new to Los Angeles.
His signature songs were Hey Joe and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, he said in a 2004 interview.
He also made ends meet through casual gay sex work. Although Jane identifies as straight, he’s said his experiences around this time were eye-opening.
“Hey, you grow up as an artist in a big city, as James Dean said, you’re going to have one arm tied behind your back if you don’t accept people’s sexual flavours,” he said in a 2011 interview with the LA Times.
“You know, when I was a kid out here in L.A., I was homeless, I didn’t have any money and I was living in my car,” he recalled.
“I was 18… And for me, being a young artist and broke in Los Angeles, I was exploring my sexual identity,” he added.
19. Jim Morrison
Rockstar Jim Morrison was a millionaire by today’s standards at the time of his death in 1971.
Frontman of The Doors, Morrison was once a keen film and literature student at UCLA.
But after graduating, he suffered homelessness, sleeping in cars and under piers at Venice Beach.
He also used to sleep on the rooftop of the home of his college friend, Dennis Jacobs.
It was during these difficult times that Morrison developed his song-writing talent, and he formed The Doors with keyboard player Ray Manzarek.
The band took its name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which in turn was named after a quote from the English Romantic poet William Blake.
18. Tyler Perry
Media moghul Tyler Perry is a multi-millionaire, who at one point became the highest-paid man in entertainment.
He’s famous for creating and performing as Madea in plays, films and TV shows. This celebrity is known as a close friend of the rich and famous, including Janet Jackson, Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey.
Yet Perry was raised in a severely abusive home in New Orleans, and he worked incredibly hard to escape poverty.
An aspiring playwright, he moved to Atlanta in 1992 when his first musical, I Know I’ve Been Changed, reached the stage.
At this time, he was living out of his car, and when he fell behind on payments he ended up on the streets.
But the writer persevered, picking up odd jobs and keeping up his writing. He was soon creating sold-out shows, and he set up his famous sitcom Tyler Perry’s House of Payne in 2006.
17. Drew Carey
Sit-com star Drew Carey was raised in Ohio and was a keen marching band member. But after his father died when he was eight and he experienced turbulent teenage years, Carey attempted suicide.
Aged 18, he resolved to visit his older brother in California – but ended up running out of funds on his journey to the state.
He became homeless in Las Vegas, where he started selling plasma and struggled to afford a box of mac and cheese.
Commenting on this difficult period, Carey said at a 2010 event for the social charity Friends of Youth, “I have been in a lot of desperate situations.”
“But it is nothing compared to what some of these kids go through,” he said of the charity’s target groups. “Just thank God that you or your kids don’t have to go through it.”
Carey went on to study at Kent State University. He served as a field radio operator with the Marines for six years, before making his name in show business.
16. Cary Grant
This English-American Hollywood star was beloved for his comic timing and dapper, debonair style.
Born in Bristol, UK, Grant was unhappy at home as a child. He took backstage work in theatres, building a lighting set for the magician David Devant at the Bristol Empire when he was only 13.
Reportedly, Grant deliberately got himself expelled from school so that he could join the Pender stage troupe, who were about to embark on a tour of the USA.
Grant’s mother was placed in a mental institution, and Grant was wrongly told that she had died. Meanwhile Grant’s father remarried and moved away for a job in Southampton – leaving the expelled Grant, who was a boarder at a Bristol school, without a home.
The police even paid a visit to Grant’s father to ask why his 16-year-old son was not living in the same city as him.
Grant’s father agreed that Grant could join the Pender troupe, and helped to negotiate Grant’s first contract. The young star was guaranteed room, board and dancing lessons with the troupe until he turned 18.
15. David Letterman
TV star David Letterman has lived on a Massachusetts ranch and a 108-acre estate in North Salem since his rise to fame.
But one of his earliest homes in Los Angeles was his 1973 Chevy pickup truck – which now rests among the star’s extensive car collection.
Letterman and his then-wife, Michelle Cook, moved from Indiana to California so that he could become a comedy writer. The young couple lived in the truck while Letterman searched for stand-up gigs.
He began writing jokes for Jimmie Walker, and became a cast member for the variety show Mary.
Letterman was eventually scouted for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Carson reportedly viewed Letterman as his natural successor – although it was Jay Leno who took the host spot in 1992.
This emboldened Letterman to start his own, hugely successful late night show, which debuted in 1993.
14. Kurt Cobain
Nirvana star Kurt Cobain changed the face of rock music – but before he won international fame, he struggled with homelessness.
When Cobain dropped out of Aberdeen High School, his mother gave him an ultimatum: he had to find a job or leave the family home.
He moved out and stayed with friends, although he would occasionally shelter secretly in his mother’s basement.
He often lingered under a bridge of the Wishkah River. His song Something in the Way was inspired by this muddy and downcast setting.
When Cobain secured a job at The Polynesian Resort in Washington in 1986, he was able to start renting a modest apartment.
Along with bassist Krist Novoselic, Cobain formed Nirvana just a year later. The band released its first single, a cover of Love Buzz, with the independent label Sub Pop in 1988.
13. Jim Cramer
Jim Cramer – the former hedge fund manager and often controversial CNBC host of Mad Money – first took an interest in financial markets when he was only nine years old.
After he graduated from Harvard Law, Cramer suffered a break-in at his apartment. With all his possessions stolen, he resorted to living out of his car.
“I was living hand to mouth, and people would take me in now and then so I could get a shower, change, get a good night’s sleep,” he recalled to CNBC.
Cramer has said his changes in fortunes – as he went on to join Goldman Sachs and create his own hedge fund – have left him with complicated feelings about success.
“I don’t want to say I feel guilty about the wealth I have,” he said in a 2005 interview with The Harvard Crimson.
“But I’m ashamed that we’ve gotten to the point in this country where we believe that being poor is just your own damn fault,” he said.
12. Suze Orman
Multi-millionaire Suze Orman is a financial advisor. She’s won two Emmys for her self-titled advice show, and she’s also written ten New York Times bestselling books.
Raised in Chicago, Orman was almost penniless when she first moved to Berkeley, California – and she lived out of her van.
For two months, Orman and her friend lived on the road, clearing trees for a salary of $3.50 an hour.
She worked as a waitress in the city before raising funds to open her own restaurant in 1980.
This ambitious young entrepreneur managed to persuade her friends to lend her $52,000 for the project.
When her investment plan fell through, Orman trained as an account executive, forming her own financial group in 1987.
11. Kelsey Grammer
Best known for playing Dr Frasier Crane for two decades, Kelsey Grammer is a critically acclaimed screen and stage actor.
Before he turned 25, Grammer’s life was shaped by tragedy, as his father and sister were murdered in separate incidents, and his two half-brothers died in a scuba diving accident.
But his road to stardom began when he won a scholarship to Julliard School. In the summer before he began studying, he worked in construction while picking up night shifts at a New York hotel.
In between shifts, he slept in Central Park, all so that he could fund his dream of training as an actor.
“It was only a few weeks really, but I could sneak behind a certain bush and cover myself with newspaper,” he’s recalled. “And I was fine, and I showered over in Julliard.”
“It taught me to be pretty frugal,” he added. “I am a bit of a spendthrift in my heart.”
10. Sam Worthington
Star of Avatar, Terminator Salvation and Clash of the Titans, Sam Worthington won his most famous role of Jake Sully when he was homeless.
Raised in Perth, Australia, the teenage Worthington began a nomadic lifestyle when his father sent him across the country to Cairns, Queensland with $400, and told him to “work his way home.”
Worthington worked as a bricklayer before winning a scholarship for the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
He won fame in Australia as the male lead in the TV drama Love My Way, and even auditioned to play James Bond in Casino Royale.
With his heart set on Hollywood, Worthington eventually sold all his possessions and moved Los Angeles. He was living in his car when he secured the role of Jake Sully in Avatar. And he’s still famous for his drifting lifestyle, moving frequently for international roles.
“The white picket fence at home in Australia has never really appealed to me,” he’s since said to Cosmopolitan. “I’m not very responsible when it comes to mortgages, bills, paperwork. I could have had that years ago and I chose not to. Maybe when I’m 60 I’ll settle down. At the moment I like my lifestyle.”
9. William Shatner
William Shatner was one of 60s TV’s greatest stars, playing Captain Kirk on Star Trek for three years.
But when the show was cancelled in 1969, the actor really struggled to find work – no one could imagine him as anyone but Kirk.
As his fortunes tumbled and he divorced the Canadian actress Gloria Rand, Shatner wound up losing his house.
He moved into a pick-up truck in San Fernando Valley, taking odd jobs and occasional party appearances to make ends meet.
“‘It had a little stove, a toilet, and I’d drive from theatre to theatre,” he recalled in 2014. “The only comfort came from my dog, who sat in the passenger seat and gave me perspective on everything. Otherwise, it would have just been me counting my losses.”
Reprising his role of Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Shatner rebuilt his career with six more Star Trek films, and he later became a successful novelist.
8. Sylvester Stallone
In his self-made role of Rocky, Sylvester Stallone made his millions. But before he became a star, he suffered serious financial hardships.
As a recent graduate of the University of Miami, Stallone couldn’t find work and was evicted from his apartment in 1970.
For three weeks, he slept in New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal while searching for work.
Amid this spell of homelessness, he starred reluctantly in the softcore porn film The Party at Kitty and Stud’s.
In a 2011 interview with Playboy, Stallone said: “In a way… it was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end — the very end — of my rope.”
“Instead of doing something desperate, I worked two days for $200 and got myself out of the bus station,” he recalled.
7. Phil McGraw
Best known as Dr Phil, Phil McGraw is TV’s most famous psychologist. This show host and author has an estimated fortune of $460 million.
But he experienced some serious poverty while he was raised by his alcoholic father, who was at times wildly unpredictable.
When his father was offered a psychology internship, the pair moved from North Texas to Kansas City – leaving behind Phil’s mother and two sisters.
Aged only 12, Phil lived in a car with his father. “We eventually got a room at the downtown YMCA for five bucks a week, and then we put together some money for a deposit on a one-bedroom apartment that had no running water, electricity, heat, or air-conditioning,” he said to Parade Magazine in 2009.
Dr Phil shuns alcohol as an adult because of his turbulent early experiences. But he later followed his father into psychology, and eventually joined his father’s practice in Texas.
The TV personality found his breakthrough when he joined the Oprah Winfrey Show in the 1990s. He went on to create his own advice show, simply named Dr Phil, which is now in its 18th season.
6. Michael Oher
Michael Oher is a former football star, playing in the NFL for eight seasons. His amazing life story was recorded in Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game.
His tale was eventually made into an Oscar-winning 2009 film of the same name, starring Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock.
Oher was one of 12 children, and his mother was addicted to crack cocaine. His father was murdered in prison when Oher was still at school.
The aspiring footballer attended 11 schools in nine years of early education, and he spent time in foster care as well as experiencing homelessness on-and-off throughout his childhood.
With the support of his headmaster and foster parents Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, Oher worked with tutors for 20 extra hours a week, raising his grades enough to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Four years after graduating, Oher signed a $13.5 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens and launched his incredible football career.
Four-time Grammy nominee Jewel first fell in love with music when she formed a yodelling duo with her father.
But when she tried to kickstart her solo career, the Alaskan-born singer spent a year living out of her van, searching for gigs around Southern California.
“I was homeless for a year when I was 18 – absolutely terrified, having panic attacks, shoplifting,” Jewel said in a 2020 virtual town hall about mental health.
“I wrote down my values,” she elaborated on her difficult past. “I looked at them every single day. When I was faced with an interaction, I tried to face them with my values.”
She made ends meet by working as a warehouse phone operator and a barista, before she signed her first deal with Atlantic Records.
Jewel’s debut album, Pieces of You, sold over 12 million copies in the USA and earned her a massive following.
4. Steve Jobs
It’s well-known that Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, was once a university drop-out. But he also suffered homelessness as he ran out of funds after leaving Reeds College.
“It wasn’t all romantic,” Jobs commented at a commencement speech for Stanford University in 2005.
“I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with.
“I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple,” he recalled.
He found work as a technician at Atari Inc, where he saved up for a seven-month trip to India.
On his travels, Jobs camped and trekked down a dry riverbed to meet with Hindu teacher Haidakhan Babaji. The future Silicon Valley CEO also shaved his head and adopted traditional Indian clothing on his return to the USA.
3. Carmen Electra
A model, actress and TV personality, Carmen Electra won fame with Baywatch, starring as lifeguard Lani McKenzie.
Electra also had a brief singing career when she was talented-spotted by Prince. But around this time, she was left penniless when a partner robbed her.
“I had $5,000 in cash,” she recalled to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “That’s all I had. And then my boyfriend at the time stole that.”
“I had moments where I almost gave up and went home to Cincinnati,” the actress also recalled.
“I thought to myself, ‘I either need to make it on my own, or I need to go back,” she remembered.
Electra ended up finding work in TV shows, and she became a glamour model for Playboy Magazine shortly afterwards.
2. Shania Twain
Five-time Grammy winner Shania Twain was often very elusive about her personal history, until she published her 2011 memoir From this Moment On.
In this book, she recalled an abusive childhood, when she began supplementing her family’s income by singing in bars at the age of eight.
At one point, Twain, her mother and siblings moved into a homeless shelter in Toronto.
“Mom got out of the car to use a pay phone while we sat and waited in the car, returning a few minutes later with a piece of paper on which she’d scribbled the address of a homeless shelter,” she noted in her memoir.
“That night, we slept in a crowded, sweltering place on cot-like beds spread out along the walls of a series of spacious, open rooms designed for large groups,” she wrote.
Nicknamed the “Queen of Country Pop”, Twain has sold over 100 million records. She rose through the charts to become one of the best-selling artists of all time.
1. Kelly Clarkson
The first ever winner of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson has won three Grammys and currently hosts her own talk show.
After graduating from Burleson High School in Texas, Clarkson turned down several university scholarships, choosing instead to pursue a career in singing.
But disaster struck when her apartment caught fire in 2002, leaving her homeless and living out of her dented Ford Explorer.
Unfazed, Clarkson returned to her hometown, finding work as a Red Bull promoter, telemarketer and cocktail waitress.