Making It: Stars Who Were Once Homeless

November 7, 2011  |  

Anybody who’s ever achieved anything will tell you that realizing your dreams takes significant hard work and hustle. The word “hustle” may mean different things to different people; but it almost always means making moves, whether legal or…not so legal, to get where you need to go in life. While hustling, grinding and doing what you have to do, you might find yourself in less than comfortable situations. Which is what happened to the following celebs. On the path to their dreams they found themselves in some of the most uncomfortable predicaments as they were homeless, either on the street, or in their car, while they worked toward becoming the people we know them to be. Check out this list and use it as inspiration to go for what you want and deserve in life.


Tyler Perry

Best to start off with the obvious ones. Tyler Perry has told Oprah and the world that before he made it big, writing hit plays and eventually movies the writer, director, producer and actor lived in his car for three months in 1996- while he was using his rent and car payments to finance his plays. Perry says he rolled the dice one too many times but clearly it worked out pretty well… and that’s an understatement.


Halle Berry

When Halle turned 21 she decided to actively pursue this acting thing. Her mother drove her to Chicago but that was it as far as her commitment was concerned. When Berry called her mom asking for money after a month or two, her mother told her she was not sending her any money. She told her to figure it out or come home. At 21, Berry was a little bit hard headed and a lot determined. She didn’t go home but found herself in a homeless shelter for a little bit. She was infuriated with her mother and didn’t speak to her for a year and a half; but now, she appreciates the lesson she learned from the whole experience, “I’m actually grateful she did that, because it taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation, even if it meant going to a shelter for a small stint, or living within my means, which were meager.”


Lil Kim

Before Lil Kim became “The Queen Bee” she endured a pretty rough childhood. At eight years old Kim and her mother left her abusive father and slept in the backseat of a car.


Djimon Honsou

It’s no wonder Honsou spoke to Congress about renewing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act back in 2008. Honsou, himself was homeless for a couple of years as a teenager in Paris, after he’d left his native Benin. “I lived on the streets for some time – fighting for survival, searching out nothing more than my daily necessities for a meager existence,” Honsou said. This  was the early ’80s, all before Honsou was discovered by fashion designer Thierry Mugler, who undoubtedly changed his life. Honsou said that while he doesn’t like to talk about this period in his life it’s good to reflect on where he came from.


Kem

The world almost missed the chance to hear the enchantingly, hypnotic voice of soul singer, Kem. While others on this list experienced periods of homelessness because they invested their time and money into their dreams; Kem was homeless because he invested into drugs and alcohol. The singer was cut off from his family and living on the streets for nearly four years. That was his reality until one day he just got tired and sought help. “On that particular day, I realized that I was not living the life that I wanted to live. I’d always had these high hopes and expectations of what I wanted out of my life, and I was no where near achieving those,” Kem said


Tasha Smith

In her recent interview with Essence Tasha Smith speaks about her journey from homelessness to stardom. Hailing from New Jersey, Smith told the magazine that she worked as a bartender in a strip club and suffered from a addiction to coke before she got her big break.


Frenchie Davis

American Idol and the Fox network seemed to take issue with the nude pictures this vocal powerhouse took when she was nineteen years old, even though she claims she told them about the photos before the media got a hold of the information. Turns out she took those racy photos to help pay for her tuition while she was a student at Howard University. She was homeless during this time period.


Tiffany Evans

Considering this little one hit the entertainment scene at such a young age, it was obvious that she was living with her parents when she was homeless. The New York native and her family moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey where Tiffany snuck into a club and started singing “I Will Always Love You.” It was no stopping her from there. The little starlet went on to do major things, singing for Disney, starring in Tyler Perry films and appearing on Oprah’s show.


Ella Fitzgerald

History will write Ella Fitzgerald’s name down as one of the greatest jazz singers to ever do it. They wouldn’t be wrong. But Ella’s journey was not an easy one. Fitzgerald grew up in poverty and was homeless the year before she won amateur night at the Apollo.


Eartha Kitt

Kitt’s childhood was less than rosy. The daughter of a black Cherokee mother and white man Kitt was often ostracized for her lighter skin complexion. When her mother remarried, her stepfather refused to take in a mixed girl and her mother sent her to live with her aunt in Harlem. It was this aunt that got her started in show business. She gave little Eartha piano and dance lessons. By the time she was a teenager, Kitt was living with friends, sleeping in subways and on top of New York rooftops. She told the New York Times, “When I see the homeless now, I empathize. I know there but for the grace of God go I.”


Gordon Parks

Being the youngest of fifteen children, Parks knew first hand what poverty looked and felt like. When his mother died, the situation went from bad to worse and at sixteen he found himself homeless, scraping and scrounging trying to make money. His experiences with poverty and racism were the catalysts that caused the artist to buy a camera in the first place. He felt that he could use it as a weapon against these societal forces. Turns out he was right.


Tupac

Tupac was very open and honest about his homelessness, even after he’d made it. His sister expounded on the situation saying that they were completely homeless when he was 12 and 9 years old. Tupac landed an acting gig that allowed he and his sister to stay at the Apollo Theater. She’s said that theater and hip hop literally sheltered her family.

If all these stars have come from these less than humble beginnings, those of us with a bit more should have no excuse reaching our dreams right?

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  • Very good and well written article. Thank you, for sharing.

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  • Pingback: Ramona DeBreaux » Stars Once Homeless | MadameNoire()

  • Prissy

    The singer Jewel was also homeless at one point. 

  • Thank you so much for doing this article! Given the state of our economy, so many people are homeless. I was/am one of them. It feels good to know that I’m not alone. Like Eartha said, when I see a homeless person on the streets, I sympathize. It’s not a good feeling not knowing where you’re going to lay your head the next morning. Again, thanks. May we all learn to find strength in our struggle.