Adoption is often a good option for families who cannot have their own children or for families wishing to help children in need.
In the U.S. alone, nearly 400,000 children live within the foster system without having a permanent family. Over 100,000 of those children are eligible for adoption, but nearly a third end up waiting for several years before getting adopted. With so many kids living within the foster system, it’s no surprise that some of the world’s most famous people were, in fact, adopted.
There is still a small stigma about adopted children, as well as a misconception that they do not receive as much love as children who lived with their biological parents. However, those adopted children who eventually find families seem to have the same potential for success as anyone else.
These adopted celebrities are proof that adoption works, and, hopefully, their stories encourage families wanting to have children to consider it as a valid option. Many of these names might come as a surprise, but these celebrities and their many successes should inspire other adopted children all over the world, as well as families considering adoption.
Here are 16 Stars You Didn’t Know Were Adopted.
16. Tiffany Haddish
Funny woman Tiffany Haddish keeps audiences laughing with her stand-up routines and movie roles. She busted up the silver screen in Girls Trip, stealing almost every scene she was in from her co-stars.
However, the comedian’s home life as a child was not always good. She grew up in South Central Los Angeles, her father a refugee from Eritrea who left her when she was three years old. Tragedy struck again when Haddish was eight years old: her mother was in a car accident that left the woman with permanent brain damage.
Although Haddish took over the care of her siblings, child care services split the family up when she was 12, putting them all in the foster care system. Eventually, a court awarded her grandmother custody.
15. Jack Nicholson
When it comes to iconic American actors, Jack Nicholson is probably one of the most recognizable. He has a lot of awards to prove just how great he really is, and he has portrayed a lot of characters that remain infamous in pop culture, including his turn as the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman and his portrayal of Jack Torrance in The Shining.
Nicholson’s early life, though, is a bit convoluted. His maternal grandparents raised him. However, he later learned that the woman he thought was his older sister was actually his biological mother. At the time, no one knew who his father was, so her parents agreed to raise Nicholson as their own.
14. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs wasn’t just an inventor, an entrepreneur, a smart businessman and an all-around genius, he was also the mind behind one of the most important technological devices of all time: the iPhone. But what you might not know is that the man who gave the world such a wonderful piece of technology was given up for adoption shortly after his birth.
Although his biological father was a Syrian immigrant, it was Paul and Clara Jobs who raised the Apple icon, although, at the time, his biological father often made the adoption process difficult, worried about his son being raised in a lower income middle class family. When Jobs became an adult, his biological father even reached out to establish a relationship. However, Jobs refused to ever meet him.
13. Nicole Richie
Nicole Richie originally earned her fame by appearing on the reality show The Simple Life, which co-starred one of her closest friends Paris Hilton. On that series, the two ultra-rich society girls struggled to live like the rest of the world, taking on menial jobs, often with much hilarity.
Richie’s face has also often appeared splashed across the front of tabloid magazines, especially after several drug-related arrests. Since then, though, Richie has made a comeback as a fashion designer and philanthropist.
She is the adopted daughter of pop musician Lionel Richie. Her biological parents gave her up when she was three years old, trusting that the Richies would provide her with more opportunities and a better life. They legally adopted her when she was nine years old.
12. Jamie Foxx
When In Living Color first premiered in 1991, the world got its first introduction to Jamie Foxx, who garnered praise from fans and critics alike for his hilarious portrayals of that show’s many wacky characters.
Foxx rolled with his fame and soon began to star on other television shows, eventually making the leap to movies. He earned a slew of awards after that, especially for Collateral and Ray. He most recently starred in Baby Driver.
What most fans might not know, though, is that Foxx was an adopted child. His parents gave him up shortly after birth, after which his own mother’s adoptive parents adopted him and raised him. His birth parents had little to do with his life as a child and he had little contact with them.
11. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
She might have the real name of Nicole Polizzi, but most fans of MTV’s Jersey Shore know her as “Snooki.” She is also probably one of the most recognized reality TV stars on the planet, not just due to her time on that popular series, but also because of a video that surfaced where she got punched in the face. That bit of violence made Snooki an even more valuable asset and her fees for appearances jumped up drastically because of it.
Snooki was born in Santiago, Chile, but got adopted and raised by an Italian-American family when she was only six months old. Now she’s a household name, as well as a writer and producer. She currently has two children with her husband, Jionni LaValle.
10. Michael Bay
Michael Bay is one of those Hollywood directors that many people love to hate, but they can’t deny that he’s given the world some pretty awesome big budget movies, including Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and all the Transformers movies. Critics may diss him, but most of his movies earn a killing at the box office, and in the end, isn’t that all that matters?
What most might not know about the juggernaut director and producer is that he grew up in a family in Los Angeles that adopted him when he was only a baby. He did begin searching for his biological parents at one point, though, and even once believed that esteemed director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) was his father. DNA tests, though, proved that false.
9. Keegan-Michael Key
Funny man Keegan-Michael Key also makes the list of stars that grew up with adoptive parents. Key made a splash with his series Key & Peele on Comedy Central, but also made viewers laugh on both MadTV and Parks and Recreation. He currently stars on the USA comedy series Playing House. He also has some film credits under his belt, most notably Tomorrowland and Pitch Perfect 2. His funniest performance to date, though, was probably as President Obama’s anger translator at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Two social workers, Patricia Walsh and Michael Key, adopted him as a child and he grew up in Detroit. He later met his biological mother and discovered that he had two deceased half-brothers, one who was comic book writer Dwayne McDuffie.
8. George Lopez
George Lopez doesn’t seem to have much luck with television series lately, but he’s still one of the most successful comedians of our time, thanks to his ability to tackle race and ethnicity in his routines.
Like many comedians, Lopez had a difficult childhood. His father deserted him when he was only two months old. His mother left him when he was just ten years old. His maternal grandmother raised him, but Lopez often speaks about how he received very little attention from her.
7. Marilyn Monroe
One of the most beautiful women to ever live, Marilyn Monroe left such an impression on pop culture that she remains an icon, even 55 years after her death. As one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s, she also proved herself talented, starring in such classic films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot and Niagara.
Monroe was born as Norma Jean Mortensen, to a mentally unstable mother. Her father was absent. She spent much of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages until her mother’s friend, Grace McKee Goddard, became her legal guardian. However, Goddard’s husband molested the child: the young Norma found a more permanent home with Goddard’s aunt. Monroe married at 16 to escape the endless cycle of the foster system.
6. Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand is a one of those triple threat actresses: not only has she scored an Academy Award, but she also has an Emmy for a television role, as well as a Tony for a role on Broadway – a rare triple feat in the world of actors and acting. Fans began to take note of her after her award-winning performance in Fargo, and since then, she’s continued to wow audiences on film, on television and onstage.
What fans might not know, though, is that when McDormand was only a little over a year old, a Canadian-born couple adopted and raised her. Because her adopted father was a minister, the family moved around the Midwest a lot, although they eventually settled in Pennsylvania, where she discovered acting.
5. Faith Hill
Country music superstar Faith Hill has the distinguished reputation of being one of the most successful country singers of all time, with over 40 million albums sold worldwide. In addition to that, she has five Grammy awards, 15 Academy of Country Music awards, and six American Music Awards. She is also adopted, raised with two brothers who were biological children of that family.
Although her adopted parents originally told Hill that her birth mother had an affair with a married man and that’s why they gave her up, she later learned that this wasn’t true and that her birth parents went on to become married and have additional children. Hill, though, often speaks of her loving adopted family, although she eventually went on to meet her birth parents.
4. Kristin Chenoweth
Kristen Chenoweth is an actress that can do it all: sing, dance, and act. She’s also one of the most bubbliest personalities in the world, leaving a larger-than-life impression with every single role that she takes on.
From her onstage role in Wicked to her most recent portayal of Easter in the American Gods TV series, Chenoweth lights up every scene she appears in. She’s also got the awards and nominations to prove it.
She was only five days old when Junie Smith Chenoweth and Jerry Morris Chenoweth adopted her. The two mechanical engineers raised her in Oklahoma, where she got her start singing at local churches. She moved on to theatre in high school and studied musical theatre in college. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. Bill Clinton
One of the most popular and beloved world leaders in recent history is President Bill Clinton, in spite of the controversy that surrounded his time in the White House with a certain intern. People who met him (and those who voted for him) find him very charismatic, and during his time in office, he was just as comfortable playing sax on late night television as he was giving the State of the Union address.
Clinton’s early life, though, was tragic. His father died in a car accident three months before his birth and his mother left him to study nursing, leaving him in the care of her parents. Clinton lived with them until his mother returned from school and remarried. When he was 15 years old, he took his stepfather’s surname.
2. JC Chasez
Anyone who survived the 1990s did so with knowledge of one of the most popular boy bands to ever exist, *NSYNC. One of the members of that band was JC Chasez, who went on to have a successful career as a writer, producer, and judge on America’s Best Dance Crew.
Chasez was born in Maryland. His biological mother gave him up when he was just five years old, giving guardianship of her son over to her foster parents. That couple eventually adopted him into the family. Another interesting fact about Chasez is that his family were Mennonites.
Chasez was a shy boy, but after performing in a talent show, he decided to audition for The Mickey Mouse Club. He went on to do the show, which led to his fateful meeting of fellow *NSYNC member, Justin Timberlake.
1. Ray Liotta
When thinking of some of the most legendary movies about the mafia, it’s not just The Godfather that comes to mind. Another great mob movie is Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, which starred Ray Liotta as Henry Hill.
That movie launched Liotta to fame: he went on to star in many other films, including Field of Dreams, Something Wild, Cop Land, No Escape (which won him a Golden Globe nomination), Narc, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. A
t the age of six months old, Liotta was adopted. He knew early on about his adoption, and he later found his biological mother as an adult. He also had a sister that the family adopted. He studied acting in college and went on to become the star fans love and know today.
Are there any other celebs who weren’t raised by their biological parents? Share in the comments!
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