There are so many ways to create a family— especially with all of the new reproductive technology we have access to nowadays. Whether you build a family the old fashioned way, you adopt, or you use IVF or surrogacy, family is family. All of these celebrities were raised by people other than their biological parents.
Keep reading to find out which celebrities found out that water can sometimes be thicker than blood. Also, find out which adopted celebs decided to adopt children of their own.
Steve Jobs’ biological parents were Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Schieble. His biological father, Abdulfattah, grew up in Syria. He was the son of a self-made millionaire. Steve’s mother, Joanne, was a Catholic woman from Wisconsin. Joanne’s parents didn’t approve of her relationship with a Muslim man, and after Joanne got pregnant, she decided to give her child up for adoption.
Steve Jobs was adopted by Paul Jobs and Clara Hagopian. They were Calvinists, and Paul Jobs was an alcoholic who could sometimes be abusive.
John Lennon’s life story is eventful from beginning to end. John was born in 1940 to Julia Stanley and Alfred Lennon. Alfred was a sea merchant who worked away from home and wasn’t even in Liverpool at the time of John’s birth. Alfred would stop in at home every so often until he went completely AWOL in 1944. He came home six months later, but by that time, Julia was already pregnant with another man’s child.
Julia’s sister Mimi took custody of John for a while. He didn’t see his biological father for 20 years after that.
Marilyn Monroe was the third child of Gladys Monroe. When Gladys was fifteen, she married a man nine years older than her and had two children. They divorced, and the children’s’ father took the kids back to his hometown in Kentucky. Gladys then got pregnant again. The identity of Marilyn’s father is unknown.
Marilyn (then Norma Jean) moved from foster home to foster home. When Gladys was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to a mental hospital, Marilyn became a ward of the state.
Jamie Foxx was born Eric Marlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas in 1967. His biological father was stockbroker Darrell Bishop (later renamed Shahid Abdula following his conversion to Islam), and his mother was Louise Annette Talley Dixon. Shortly after he was born, Foxx was adopted and raised by his mother’s adoptive parents.
His birth parents didn’t really help raise him. Foxx says that his grandmother’s influence in his life is one of the biggest reasons for his success.
Nicole Richie’s biological father, Peter Michael Escovedo, is the brother of drummer Sheila E. When Nicole was three years old, her parents decided to let her move in with their friend Lionel Richie because they couldn’t afford to provide for her.
Lionel and his wife legally adopted Nicole when she was nine. Shortly after, the public became aware of Lionel’s affair with another woman. Lionel and his wife split, and Lionel remarried and had two more kids.
Ingrid Bergman was born in 1915 in Stockholm to Justus Samuel Bergman and Friedel Henrietta Augusta Louise Bergman. When Ingrid was two years old, her mother died. Her father, who was an artist and photographer, died when she was 13.
After his death, Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt, who died of heart disease only six months later. She then moved in with her Aunt Hulda and Uncle Otto, who had five children.
Eric Clapton was born in England in 1945. His mother, Patricia Molly Clapton, was just sixteen years old at the time. His father was Edward Walter Fryer, a 25-year-old soldier from Montreal, Quebec. Fryer shipped off to war before Eric was born and then returned to Canada.
Eric grew up believing that his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband, Jack Clapp, Patricia’s stepfather, were his parents and that his mother was actually his older sister. Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier and moved to Germany. She left Eric with his grandparents in Surrey.
Malcolm’s biological father died when Malcolm was six years old. The circumstances surrounding his death are pretty shady. Officially, he died in a streetcar accident, but Malcolm’s mother believed that he’d been murdered by the Black Legion.
In 1937, Malcolm’s mother Louise had a mental breakdown after a man who she thought she was going to marry left her while she was pregnant. She was committed to Kalamazoo State Hospital and her children were placed in foster care.
Keegan-Michael Key was born in Southfield, Michigan on March 22, 1971, to Leroy McDuffie, who was black, and Carrie Herr, who was white. He was adopted at a young age by an interracial couple from Detroit, Michael Key and Patricia Walsh, who were both social workers.
Key has said that being biracial is one of the reasons that he turned to comedy. In an interview with NPR, Key said, “I think the reason Jordan and I became actors is because we did a fair amount of code-switching growing up and still do.”
Tim McGraw actually didn’t know he was adopted until he was eleven years old. He was raised by his mother and his stepfather, Horace Smith. Tim believed that Horace was his biological father until he found his birth certificate when he was eleven. Before then, McGraw went by the name Tim Smith.
Tim’s mother took him to meet his biological father, minor league baseball pitcher Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw, Jr., who denied paternity for seven years, until Tim turned 18. After that, the two McGraws formed a relationship.
McGraw’s wife, Faith Hill, was also raised by people other than her biological parents. Faith Hill was born in Ridgeland, Mississippi, which is a small town north of Jackson, Mississippi. She was adopted when she was a baby and given the name Audrey Faith Perry.
She was raised in the nearby town of Star, 20 miles outside of Jackson. Her adoptive parents, Edna and Ted Perry, raised her with their two biological sons.
Bill Clinton’s biological father was William Jefferson Blythe Jr., a traveling salesman who had died in a car accident three months before Bill was born. His mother was Virginia Dell Cassidy. Virginia decided to study nursing shortly after Bill was born, so she left her son in the care of her parents (Bill’s grandparents).
In 1950, Bill’s mother returned from nursing school and married Roger Clinton Sr. Bill started using his stepfather’s surname even though Roger was an abusive alcoholic.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Nicole Polizzi, better known as “Snooki,” was born in Santiago, Chile. She was adopted when she was six months old and was raised by Italian-American parents. Snooki took an at-home DNA test to find out more about her genetic background — she is part Romani, Iberian American, South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Jewish with roots in North Western Croatia, Macedonia, Slovakia, Russia, and Spain.
She was surprised to learn that while born in Chile, she is not genetically Chilean.
Nelson Mandela’s father died of lung disease when he was just nine years old, so Nelson was raised by tribe Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo and his family. Mandela thought that he inherited his biological father’s “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness.”
Mandela grew up with two sisters in his mother’s kraal (or homestead) in the village of Qunu, where he tended herds of cattle and spent a lot of time outdoors with other working boys.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons to 17-year-old Lillie Mae Faulk and Archulus Persons, who divorced when he was four years old. After the divorce, he was mostly raised by his mother’s relatives.
He quickly bonded with his mother’s distant relative, Nanny Rumbley Faulk, whom Truman called “Sook”. Capote was pretty lonely as a child. He taught himself to read and write and he often walked around carrying a dictionary.
Ice-T’s mother died of a heart attack when he was in third grade. His father raised a then eight-year-old Ice-T as a single father for four years, with help from a housekeeper.
When Ice-T was twelve years old, his father died of a heart attack. After his father’s death, Ice-T lived with an aunt who lived nearby. Then he was sent to live with a different aunt and her husband in an upper-middle-class black neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Ray Liotta was born in New Jersey and he was adopted at the age of six months by Mary Liotta and Alfred Liotta. His adoptive parents both ran for local office and lost. He has a sister, Linda Liotta, who is also adopted.
Ray always knew he was adopted, and as a young child, he did a show-and-tell report on it for kindergarten. He found his biological mother in the 2000s. He has one half-brother, five half-sisters, and a full sister.
Frances McDormand was adopted when she was one-and-a-half years old by Noreen (Nickelson) and Vernon McDormand. McDormand has said that her biological mother, who she lovingly calls “white trash,” may have been one of the parishioners at Vernon’s church.
She has a sister, Dorothy A. “Dot” McDormand, who is an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and chaplain, as well as another sibling, both of whom were adopted by the McDormands. Frances and her husband Joel Coen adopted a son, Pedro, from Paraguay.
Lance Armstrong was born Lance Edward Gunderson on September 18, 1971. His mother was Linda Gayle (née Mooneyham), a secretary, and his father was Eddie Charles Gunderson, a route manager for The Dallas Morning News. His parents divorced in 1973 when Lance was two years old.
The next year, his mother married Terry Keith Armstrong, a wholesale salesman, who adopted Lance that year. Eddie Gunderson died in 2012. Lance took Terry’s last name and the rest is history.
Andy Dick was born on December 21, 1965, in Charleston, South Carolina as Andrew Thomlinson. He was adopted by Allen and Sue Dick shortly after he was born and renamed Andrew Roane Dick. He was brought up Presbyterian and his father was in the Navy.
After his parents died, Andy found his biological mother. Dick told Hollywood News, “I met my mom. We got into a great relationship. Then I said, ‘Mom, do you know who the dad is?’ (She said) ‘It was a one-night stand.’ She was 16. She got shipped off from Texas to South Carolina. She had me. Then she went back.”
Sarah McLachlan was born on January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She was given up by her biological mother when she was born and she was placed with the McLachlan family, who later legally adopted her.
Sarah started playing music at a very young age. She started playing the ukulele when she was just four years old. Sarah has said that she’s thankful that her birth mother gave her up because she’s had such a good life with her family.
Nancy Reagan’s parents separated soon after she was born and then they divorced in 1928. After their separation, her mother traveled the country to become an actress and Nancy was raised by her aunt and uncle for six years.
Nancy later described longing for her mother during those years: “My favorite times were when Mother had a job in New York, and Aunt Virgie would take me by train to stay with her.” Nancy’s mother later remarried and Nancy was legally adopted by her stepfather.
Michael Bay was adopted at birth by Harriet, a bookstore owner and child psychiatrist, and Jim, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Bay would live in Los Angeles and he was raised Jewish.
His cousin, Susan Bay, is the widow of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy. Bay traces his interest in stunts and explosives back to his childhood. He says that as a boy, he attached some firecrackers to a toy train and filmed the explosion with his mother’s 8-millimeter camera.
Gary Wayne Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois, outside Chicago. On February 8, 1968, he was adopted by W. G. Coleman, a fork-lift operator, and Edmonia Sue, a nurse practitioner.
His adoptive parents made sure that he received the best medical care for a congenital kidney disease that caused his short stature and childlike appearance. Colemen went through two unsuccessful kidney transplants and was on dialysis for most of his life.
Kristin Davis was born in Boulder, Colorado. She is an only child, and her parents got divorced before she was a year old. When her mother got remarried, her stepfather adopted her.
Kristen has two adopted children of her own: a daughter named Gemma Rose and a son. Davis told People magazine, “This is something I have wanted for a very long time. Having this wish come true is even more gratifying than I ever had imagined. I feel so blessed.”
Kelly Preston’s biological father worked for an agricultural firm. He drowned when Kelly was just three years old. Kelly’s mother, Linda, later married Peter Palzis, a personnel director. Palzis adopted Kelly and Linda and Peter went on to have another child, Kelly’s half-brother, Chris Palzis.
Preston later married John Travolta. She had three children with him, but unfortunately, their oldest son, Jett, died in 2009 from a seizure. In 2020, Preston lost her own battle with cancer. She was 57-years-old.
Richard Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins Jr. He was the 12th of 13 children born to Edith and Richard Jenkins Sr. After Edith died six days after the birth of the 13th child due to postpartum infections, Richard was taken in by his elder sister Cecilia, whom he called “Cis,” and her husband Elfed Jones. Richard was barely two years old at the time.
Cis and Elfed raised him alongside their two daughters.
Eleanor Roosevelt was raised by her grandparents after both her parents died when she was ten years old. Her mother died from diphtheria on December 7, 1892, and her father died of the same disease the following May. Her father, an alcoholic confined to a sanitarium, died after jumping from a window during a fit of delirium tremens. He survived the fall but died from a seizure that occurred after the incident.
Roosevelt’s tragic childhood left her prone to depression. Her brother Hall later struggled with alcoholism.
Priscilla Presley’s mother had her when she was just nineteen years old. Her biological father died in a plane crash when Presley was six months old. Priscilla’s mother later remarried and never told Priscilla or her younger children that Priscilla had a different biological father.
Presley found out this family secret when she was looking through a keepsake box. Her mother told her not to tell her younger half siblings. She thought the news would endanger their family closeness.
Simone Biles’ birth mother, Shanon Biles, was unable to care for Biles or her other three children due to her drug and alcohol addiction, so the children were in and out of foster care. Simone’s birth father, Kelvin Clemons, abandoned his family and struggled with his addictions. Simone’s grandfather, who had two nearly-adult sons, began temporarily caring for Shanon’s children in 2000.
In 2003, her grandfather and his wife officially adopted the two youngest children, Simone and Adria. Simone’s uncle adopted her two older siblings.