Hard-Knock Past: Celebs Who Went From Rags to Riches
Weezy, Viola Davis and other stars who started at zero.
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These stars may be able to fly private jets and pop Champagne on a moment's notice now, but they grew up far from glamour.
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Viola Davis grew in deep poverty in South Carolina. Her love for acting eventually took her to Juilliard School, where she graduated in 1992. It took several years of grinding, but Davis eventually blew up. She is now an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and even Grammy winner.
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Lil Wayne rapped in his song "Trigger Finger," "I bought me a double R, because I went from rags to riches." Weezy wasn't just rapping. Wayne was raised by a single mother in the Hollygrove projects of New Orleans before he was effectively adopted by his mentor, Birdman.
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Oprah Winfrey was born to an unwed teenage mother, raised by her grandmother until she was 6, and later raised by her father. The small family relied on welfare to get by. But after showing promise as a journalist, Winfrey turned her gift of compassion into billions. (Photo: JDH Images / Splash News)
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"Someone said I never paid any dues," Mariah Carey once recounted. "My whole life was struggling, because we were poor. We were alone, we had nothing. I’ve been paying my dues all my life." Indeed, before she became the over-the-top diva we know and love, Mimi lived on the wrong side of the tracks in Long Island with a mom who held down several jobs. Money got even tighter when the aspiring singer moved to New York City, where she worked several part-time jobs and simultaneously went to beauty school. (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
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Raised in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles and a gang member with a record before he graduated high school, Snoop Dogg was on the path to self destruction before he met Dr. Dre. It took just one quadruple-platinum album to take him "from the streets to the suites." (Photo: Matt Carr/Getty Images)
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Before he was a businessman with an empire at his feet, Jay Z was another poor kid from Marcy Housing Projects in Brooklyn raised by a single mother and involved in crime. He has used his hard knock life as material for his rhymes since the beginning of his career. (Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
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New Edition was one of the hottest groups of the '80s and the precursor to the boy band movement, but the quintet formed not through a casting call of showbiz kids, but on the playground of Boston's Orchard Park housing projects. The elementary school friends hooked up with a local manager after a talent show, and the rest is music history. (Photo: Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
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Growing up in New Orleans, Tyler Perry's childhood was defined by abuse, suicide attempts and homelessness. But he turned his pain into gain when his plays — which he wrote as a means of dealing with his trying circumstances — started making millions. The rest is like a fairytale. By his early 30s, Perry was a millionaire many times over and Hollywood's most unlikely mogul. (Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
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Mary J. Blige grew up in a public housing project in the Bronx, dropped out of high school and worked as a directory assistance operator. At a karaoke booth in a local mall she recorded an impromptu cover of Anita Baker's "Caught Up in the Rapture," which turned her fate around. The demo got her a contract with Uptown Records and before long she was the toast of the hip hop world. Still, Blige never forgot her humble beginnings, paying homage to her job as an operator with her multi-platinum debut album, What’s the 411? (Photo: Koi Sojer, PacificCoastNews.com)