Top 10 Rags to Riches Success Stories

Script written by Sean Harris. They came from nothing, but they’ve got a lot more of something than the average person! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 rags to riches success stories! For this list, we’ve looked at those celebrities who made their millions despite more than modest beginnings! There are no criteria limits in terms of career paths; any celebrity with a rags to riches tale is in with a chance! Special thanks to our users Rico Goldstar, Mbux711, Mangesh Khapre, VMInHere, Richard L. Atas Jr., cloudy07, Lloyd Eksteen, jacobcauwels, darilliams and Joshua Drew for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Sean Harris.

Top 10 Rags to Riches Success Stories


They came from nothing, but they’ve got a lot more of something than the average person! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rags to riches success stories!

For this list, we’ve looked at those celebrities who made their millions despite more than modest beginnings! There are no criteria limits in terms of career paths; any celebrity with a rags to riches tale is in with a chance!

#10: John Paul DeJoria

He’s one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, but it hasn’t always been stocks, shares and squillions in the bank for this guy... Born in L.A., DeJoria and his brother spent time in the foster care system as kids, and the guy behind Paul Mitchell Systems was even part of a street gang at one point! A single father struggling to make ends meet in his early twenties, he’s now known as a leading philanthropist, rights campaigner, and all-round influential businessman - DeJoria did real good at life!

#9: Manny Pacquiao

There are plenty of ‘boy done good’ stories in boxing, but this man’s rise to the top is especially incredible! Forced to drop out of high school as a young teen in the Philippines due to ‘extreme poverty’, Pacquiao then moved to Manila and lived out on the streets... Brought to the ring as a boy, he proved a furious fighter winning title after title in all manner of weight divisions. Pacquiao also carries a career in politics, a side-project in basketball and a role within the Philippine Army - he’s an unstoppable success story!

#8: Jim Carrey

He’s one of the world’s most well known and well-loved comic actors, but life hasn’t always been layered with laughter for Jim Carrey! The Canada-born comedian dropped out of high school aged fifteen, such was the level of economic hardship heaped upon his family during Carrey’s teenage years. Working as a janitor while his peers were passing final exams, it’s difficult to see where exactly Carrey’s caring for comedy came from, but we’re sure glad it did!

#7: Larry Ellison

At nine months old, Larry Ellison was given up to his aunt and uncle for adoption... He didn’t meet his biological mother again for forty-seven years, but in that time he’d turned less than humble beginnings into big, big winnings! A pioneer within the digital age despite dropping out of university twice, Ellison found his fortune as a Silicon Valley software developer! With a reported $56.2 billion behind him, in 2014 Forbes listed him as the third richest man in America, and fifth richest in the world! In the league table of life, he’s winning!

#6: Guy Laliberté

Having acquired an array of alternative and entertaining abilities during his youth, Canadian entrepreneur Guy Laliberte started out a street performer and ended up a space tourist! As a young man he was reaching for the stars, but in his case the cliché actually came true! Co-founder of the Cirque du Soleil entertainment company, he brought busking to the big stage, and made big money by doing so! Money that he spent on a 2009 mission to the International Space Station, his riches truly are out of this world!

#5: Andrew Carnegie

A rags to riches story is often accompanied by some five star philanthropy, and for no-one is this more true than for Andrew Carnegie. The Scottish/American steel mogul is credited as one of the modern world’s first philanthropists who, at the time of his death, had donated almost ninety percent of his fortune - a massive $4.76 billion at today’s rate! Not bad for a chap who grew up in a one room cottage in Dunfermline, Scotland (dun-FIRM-lynne). Emigrating stateside in 1848, Carnegie’s was an industrialised American Dream, and it definitely came true!

#4: Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason

Another iconic entrepreneur within American history, Biddy Mason’s story started on the wrong side of the slave trade, in 1818. Born and then given to one Robert Smith and his bride as a wedding gift, Biddy was under ownership her entire life, until she escaped in 1856 and won freedom within the state of California... From that point onwards she was a nurse, midwife, businesswoman, a church-founder, rights campaigner and charity worker! She started from below bottom, yet she was still a higher flier than most. An incredible inspiration!

#3: Jay Z

We return to more modern times for our first podium finisher, and to a musician who made it big despite a very modest background. Jay Z was known more simply as Shawn Carter when he grew up in a Brooklyn housing project, was abandoned by his father and was allegedly involved in selling street drugs... He might’ve ended up on the wrong side of some very rough tracks, but Carter could make music, and that’s how he’d make his fortune. His is an ‘empire state of mind’ that made millions!

#2: J. K. Rowling

Unlike many to make today’s list, J. K. Rowling was not born into a bad situation, but rather suffered a string of bad situations in her twenties... A short marriage, divorce, joblessness, ensuing clinical depression and alleged suicidal thoughts dogged her young adulthood... However, ‘Harry Potter’ had announced himself into her imagination apparently fully formed during a delayed train journey from Manchester to London... Rowling wrote and wrote and wrote some more, and the rest is history... Magical, money-making, ‘hard times no more’ history!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

- Shania Twain
- Tom Cruise
- Walt Disney
- Coco Chanel
- Leonardo Del Vecchio
- Ursula Burns

#1: Oprah Winfrey

She’s been nicknamed ‘The Queen of all Media’, and she’s our rags to riches winner today! Oprah Winfrey suffered seemingly ceaseless hardships during her young life... Born to a single teenage mother, she was sexually abused by family members and close friends during childhood, had her poverty routinely rubbed in her face by other children, and lost a child of her own during her teenage years... She’s now one of the world’s most recognisable and influential personalities - a TV and film star, author, businesswoman and incredible philanthropist. World records of wealth have deservedly rained down upon her, against all the odds!

Do you agree with our list? Which working class hero did we forget? For more inspiring top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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