There’s an old saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s common for a grandparent to step in and raise a child when the parents can’t. These celebrities can thank their grandparents for having a major hand in raising them.
Jamie Foxx’s birth mother was adopted and shortly after he was born, her parents adopted the future Oscar winner. Foxx credits his grandmother Estelle Talley’s influence on his life with the success he’s achieved in the entertainment world. “My grandmother said, ‘I’m going to give you all the things I wanted to give my children, but they were a little too old to understand,'” Foxx said on Oprah’s Next Chapter. “She says, ‘I’m going to make sure you play the piano because I think that could get you on the other side of the tracks.’”
From an early age, rapper 50 Cent had to fend for himself. His mother, who had given birth to the future chart-topping rapper when she was just 15 years old, was killed when an unknown assailant drugged her drink, turned on the gas, and closed all of the windows in the apartment. Fiddy was just 12 years old. He moved in with his grandparents and eight aunts and uncles, and that’s when he turned to the streets. The former drug dealer used his hustling smarts to turn into a Hip-Hop mogul. Luckily, his grandmother Beulah Jackson lived long enough to see his success. She passed away last September. “If I had one person in the world that I could give everything that I have to and I’d be comfortable with it, it’ll be my grandmother,” 50 Cent said lovingly of her.
When Barack Obama first ran for president he captured a lot of attention because his childhood resonated with a lot of people. The Illinois senator turned commander-in-chief barely knew his father and he was sent to live with his mother’s parents in Hawaii at the age of 10. When he became the first Black president ever elected, it was a bittersweet moment because his grandmother had passed away the day before election day. “And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am,” Obama said in his 2008 victory speech. “I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.”
Barack Obama isn’t the only U.S. president to be raised by grandparents. Bill Clinton also came from humble beginnings. After his father’s death, Clinton was left behind to stay with his mother’s parents while she moved to another state to study nursing. His mother remarried, but Clinton’s stepfather turned out to be an abusive alcoholic. The future 42nd president of the United States had to intervene and protect his mother and younger half-brother, Roger. Clinton often spoke about his troubled childhood on the presidential campaign trail.
Tragedy struck Dylan McDermott’s home when he was just five years old. His mother was killed and her death was originally ruled as an accident. It wasn’t until years later that her live-in boyfriend was charged with her murder. The actor’s maternal grandmother stepped in and raised McDermott and his sister Robin. “It was my grandmother who raised me, and living with her and my sister is what I remember best,” the American Horror Story” star said. “It was the family unit that is special to me. My grandmother was the best.”
Television mogul Oprah Winfrey has always said her humble beginnings helped shape the person she became. Winfrey grew up poor, raised on her grandmother’s Mississippi farm. After her grandmother fell ill, Winfrey went to Milwaukee to live with her mother. “It is the reason why I am where I am today because my grandmother gave me the foundation for success that I was allowed to continue to build upon,” Winfrey said of her time in Mississippi. “My grandmother taught me to read, and that opened the door to all kinds of possibilities for me. And had I not been with my grandmother… I probably would not have had the foundation that I had.”
For the first 37 years of his life, Jack Nicholson was kept in the dark about a huge family secret. A reporter for Time magazine who was assigned to interview the Oscar-winning star informed him that the woman he thought was his sister was really his mother. His parents were actually his grandparents. By the time Nicholson had found out the truth, both his mother and grandmother were already dead.
Jack Nicholson isn’t the only celebrity who grew up thinking their grandparents were really their parents. Eric Clapton’s mother Patricia gave birth to him when she was 16 years old. They lived with her parents and the Hall of Fame rocker thought she was his sister instead of his mom. When Patricia met and married a Canadian soldier, she moved with her new husband to Germany leaving her young son behind to be raised by his grandparents.
A tragic incident happened early in Maya Angelou’s life and it left her traumatized for years. When she was a little girl, her parents divorced and she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother. Several years later, she was plucked from the home she knew and loved and was sent to live with her mother. It was under her mother’s roof that an eight-year-old Angelou was raped. She told her brother what happened and he told the rest of the family. The mother’s boyfriend was arrested but spent only one day in jail. Several days after his release, he was killed by one of Angelou’s uncles. Because of this, Angelou was mute for almost five years, refusing to speak. She was also sent back to live with her grandmother after the murder.
Willie Nelson was born during the Great Depression, a time when an extra mouth to feed could really put a strain on a family. Shortly after he was born, his mother disappeared. Nelson’s father soon remarried and moved away, leaving him and his sister to be raised by their grandparents. It was his grandparents who laid the musical foundation for his life. They were both music teachers and his grandfather bought a six-year-old Willie his first guitar. Nelson has gone on to become one of the most recognized musicians in country music.