• BELGRADE, SERBIA - JULY 26: Novak Djokovic smiles during the press conference at Novak Tennis Center on July 26, 2017 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Poverty really can happen to anyone at any time, even people who grew up to be global celebrities.
By
Shannon McKeogh

23 Nov 2017 - 3:52 PM  UPDATED 8 Dec 2017 - 4:37 PM

Not every rich and famous international celebrity was born wealthy. Beyond the glitzy designer threads and glamourous lifestyles, there are real stories of well-known stars who experienced trauma and endured poverty before they made it big. Here are just some of the celebrities who know what hardship is really like.

Shania Twain

At a young age in Ontario, Canada, Twain was using her singing talent at bars to help earn money for the struggling family of five kids, according to her autobiography. She recalls that, at a young age, she witnessed experiences of domestic violence fuelled by arguments about money and being unable to buy food, pay for rent or bills. In an interview with ABC News in the USA, Twain spoke about this suffering and of being constantly hungry: "it's very hard to concentrate when you're stomach's rumbling”.

"I would certainly never have humiliated myself enough to reach out and ask for help and say, ‘you know, I'm hungry. Can I have that apple that you're not going to eat?’"

At 22, Twain’s parents tragically died in a car accident and she needed to continue singing to support and raise her siblings.

Five famous people you know who've been homeless
Before rising to fame and riches, some of the world’s best known celebrities were homeless.

Leonardo Dicaprio

It was through hard work, the support of his mother and talent that helped Dicaprio escape from a neighbourhood he called ‘Scumsville’ in Los Angeles. The Hollywood actor told LA Times: “I grew up very poor and I got to see the other side of the spectrum. I try to tell my godson, who lives close to that area, what it was like, how there used to be a major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere … And I’m not sure he believes me.”

It this upbringing and experience that DiCaprio has never taken drugs, and has a different perspective on privilege. His mother, a secretary and German immigrant dedicated her time between jobs to drive Dicaprio to auditions.

Nikki Minaj

The flamboyant rapper has spoken often with brutal honestly about her difficult upbringing when moving from Trinidad to Queens in New York City at the age of five. One account is documented in Rolling Stone where the rapper tells the music title that her ambition stems from a troubled childhood. "I would go in my room and and kneel down at the foot of my bed and pray that god would make me rich so that I could take care of my mother," she tells Rolling Stone.

Sarah Jessica Parker

“Dickensian” is how Parker has described her upbringing with eight siblings to Esme with hand-me-down clothes, often with no electricity and often skipping birthday and Christmas celebrations.

"That doesn’t mean they’re lazy or uneducated or have low standards. It’s just that they can’t manage at the moment and my family was a good example of that."

 “Some people have assumptions about who is dependent on our state and federal governments for need. I think sometimes people think it’s a lot of people of colour—but this is what welfare looks like.  …. That doesn’t mean they’re lazy or uneducated or have low standards. It’s just that they can’t manage at the moment and my family was a good example of that,” she told Esme.

Novak Djokovic

According to The Guardian, the Serbian-born tennis champion used journaling as a coping technique when living through war in Belgrade as a child. He often looks back on these entries to remember what he’s been through:

“[My parents] did everything they could to give me and my brothers a carefree childhood, despite the fact that we lived through two wars, 1992 and 1999, and in between times we had an embargo on everything, so people would have to queue for milk and bread. The economy was non-existent and often it was just a matter of survival … In the state of emergency we learned to appreciate and value life itself,” Djokvic told The Guardian.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @shannylm Facebook @shannonmckeoghfreelance


All six episodes of Struggle Street series two are available to view on SBS On Demand

Struggle Street series two is produced by KEO Films with funding support from Screen Australia and Film Victoria.

Is Australia still the 'lucky country'?
While Australia’s collective wealth is at an all time high, almost 3 million Australians currently live below the poverty line. SBS explores whether Australia is still a land of luck for all.
How childhood poverty affected me as an adult
Born into a loving but 'broke with a capital B household', Dilvin Yasa recounts the way her childhood has impacted her life as an adult and most importantly, as a mother.
Working but still doing it tough: The reality of modern poverty
When you think of poor Australians, do you picture highly-qualified academics with three degrees and teaching jobs? In these cases, you should.