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10 Celebrities Who Were Once Homeless Before Becoming Famous

Updated on March 6, 2015
Angelica N Sumter profile image

Angelica N. Sumter is a digital news journalist (freelance) who also writes about careers, business, and lifestyle, among other topics.

The face of the homeless is often misconstrued. They’re either looked upon as the lazy bunch that chose to live on the streets rather than get a job like the rest of the world. Or they’re looked upon as unkempt, uneducated, and futile beings without a care in the world.

Although some homeless people really are lazy, unkempt, and uneducated; however, not all of them share the same traits. In fact, some of the most successful celebrities you see on the big screen have walked in their shoes. They may not have been unkempt and lazy, but they have, however, hit rock bottom and were homeless before they became famous.

Take a gander at the provided list of 10 celebrities that were once homeless before becoming famous.


1. Halle Berry

The Academy Award winner Halle Berry rose to stardom after playing a small role as a crack head in 1991’s Jungle Fever. Her impeccable performance landed her major movie roles, such as Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Monster’s Ball, and Losing Isaiah.

However, life wasn’t always glitz and glam for the Hollywood beauty. Before seeing her face on the big screen, Halle Berry reached hard times when she first moved to Chicago to pursue her acting career. With no luck in landing gigs, she eventually ran out of money and had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.

When her mother refused to send her money, the former pageant queen was forced to sleep at a homeless shelter in New York City.

Tyler Perry at the All-Star Grammy Awards
Tyler Perry at the All-Star Grammy Awards | Source

2. Tyler Perry

In the 90s, Tyler Perry put aside money so that he could move to Atlanta, Georgia to pursue his dreams as a writer and actor. While working on the play I Know I’ve Been Changed, he ran out of money and became homeless for six years – on and off.

Forced to live in his car and sometimes a pay-by-the-week hotel, Tyler Perry stopped at nothing to see that his dreams came into fruition. In 1998, he got his big break when the play I know I’ve Been Changed was a success. From there, he went on to creating more plays, publishing books, acting, and producing television shows and movies.


3. Jim Carrey

When Jim Carrey was a teenager, he and his family underwent financial hardships after his father lost his ‘safe job’ as an accountant. As a consequent, the family had no choice but to call their VW camper bus home for the next few years.

Unable to pay for lot fees, Jim Carrey and his family parked their VW camper bus at various locations in Canada until his older sister purchased a house. They were then able to park in her driveway.

With an urge to escape his reality, Jim Carrey resorted to comedy and executed stand-ups at Toronto comedy club at the age of 15. Wanting to take his career to new heights, the then-18-year-old quit his job as a janitor and moved to Los Angeles where he landed a major movie role in the 1994 comedy, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.


4. Jewel

The singer and songwriter, Jewel, became homeless for a year after being fired from a computer warehouse for refusing to sleep with her boss. She ended up homeless and had to visit convenient stores and gas stations to wash up.

In lieu of feeling sorry for herself, she kept working. Jewel used her writing and singing talents to get her by. She performed at local coffee houses where she was later discovered and given her big break. She now has a platinum album, Pieces of You.


5. Suze

When best-selling author and personal finance guru, Suze Orman, graduated from college in 1973, she moved to Berkley, California and took a job as a waitress. The position paid $400 per month, which wasn’t enough money to make ends meet; therefore, she was forced to live out of her car.

However, her life turned around when she published her first self-help book You've Earned It, Don't Lose It in 1995 that sold over 700,000 copies. She then went on – two years later – to publishing another book The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom in which she sold over three million copies. She is now well-known as a best-selling author and personal finance guru.


6. Steve Harvey

After splitting with his first wife, Marcia, in the late 80s, Steve Harvey hit rock bottom and had no other option but to live in his Ford Tempo for three years. With most of his income going towards his ex-wife and children, Steve could only afford to rent hotel rooms when he’d land a well-paying gig, which didn’t happen too often. Thus, he was stuck having to the use the facilities at gas stations and community swimming pools to wash up.

But in 1993, Steve finally got his big break when he was called for a hosting gig at Showtime at the Apollo, which lasted for seven years. He then went on to pursue other endeavors, such as the Steve Harvey Show, a morningradio show based in Orlando, Florida, publishing several books, and the latest, a talk show based in Chicago, Illinois.


7. David Letterman

David Letterman became homeless when he moved from Indiana to Los Angeles, California. He lived in his 1973 Chevy pickup truck for a short period before landing a job writing jokes for the comedian Jimmie Walker.

8. Kelly Clarkson


Before Kelly Clarkson was named the winner of the “American Idol” in 2002, she fell on hard times when she moved to Los Angeles to focus on her career. As soon as she moved into her new apartment, it caught fire and burned down. She was forced to live out of her car and at times, sleep at a homeless shelter.


9. Drew Carey

The “Price is Right” game show host Drew Carey grew up with an absentee father and was a part of the big brother program. Although he had a support system, Drew Carey still struggled and at some point, he wanted to take his own life.

At the age of 18, Drew Carey took a greyhound bus to California to be with his brother, but unfortunately ended up on the streets. To survive, he’d sell plasma for $40 and would eat Kraft macaroni and cheese because he couldn’t afford anything else.


10. Hilary Swank

By the time Hilary Swank reached the age of 15, she was already a high school drop-out and a product of divorced parents. Soon after her parents’ divorce, she and her mother left the trailer park she grew up in and moved to Los Angeles with $75, a mobile card, and a dream of becoming an actress.

Hilary Swank and her mother lived out of their car for a couple of weeks while Hilary auditioned for acting gigs. She would use payphones to book auditions but shortly after, they were able to save enough money to move into an apartment and purchase a phone of their own.


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