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As we grow up, it’s so important for many to know where they come from, so imagine what it’s like to find out that you have this whole other set of people that you’re connected to that you didn’t even know about before. Such is the case for those in this world who were adopted, whether at birth or perhaps a few years down the road. Celebrities are no different. While they’ve got all the fame and fortune that many of us wish we possessed, they go through the same life struggles we all do at times, and we can’t help but find it comforting to know that some of them may know what it’s like to walk in our shoes.
Here are 33 celebrities who were adopted.
1. Eric Clapton
Here’s a doozy as we kick off our list of celebrities who were adopted, as it’s not the typical adoption story most are used to hearing. Rock and blues guitarist Eric Clapton grew up believing that his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his older sister. Confused? Let us explain.
The future Derek and the Dominos member was born to 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton and 25-year-old soldier Edward Walter Fryer. His grandparents, Rose and Jack Clapp, raised him his entire life. Although it’s unclear whether a formal “adoption” took place, considering he went many years not knowing his true parentage, it makes us feel as though it counts.
Related: 38 Best Guitar Solos Of All Time
2. Nicole Richie
Nicole Richie gives us another exciting story for the celebrities who were adopted list. For the first three years of her life, she was raised by her biological parents, Peter Michael Escovedo and Karen Moss. However, due to financial hardships, she was left in the care of Lionel Richie and Brenda Harvey Richie, his first wife. While she remained with the Richies under their guardianship, the “Endless Love” singer and his family legally adopted her when she was 9 years old.
3. Raquel Leviss
Reality star Raquel Leviss first revealed her “adopted” status during an October 2021 episode of “Vanderpump Rules,” explaining how her aunt raised her.
“I was adopted at birth. My biological mom, Susan, gave birth to [my sister] before me. And then Susan accidentally got pregnant again right around the time my aunt, Laura, was trying to conceive. Susan was generous enough to offer to have me for my aunt.”
4. Faith Hill
Country star Faith Hill thus far is the most conventional story on this list of celebrities who were adopted. Adopted immediately as an infant by Edna and Ted Perry, she grew up alongside her parents’ two biological sons.
It took many years for the “Breathe” singer to have the whole truth of her upbringing, however, because her parents told her that her adoption came about because her biological mother had an affair with a married man. The truth revealed that it was actually financial hardship that led to her giving up the future superstar.
Related: Faith Hill’s Net Worth
5. Tim McGraw
It’s just one more thing that Tim McGraw has in common with his wife Faith Hill when it comes to finding out the truth about your lineage years later. While the “Don’t Take the Girl” singer always knew who his biological mother was – Elizabeth “Betty” Ann D’Agostino – it would take 11 years for him to find out that his father, Horace Smith, was actually his stepfather. His biological father was actually minor league pitcher Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw Jr. Although it would take seven years for the latter to accept the parentage, father and son were close from the time Tim was 18 until Tug’s death in 2004.
6. Trace Cyrus
Trace Cyrus has a similar story to his fellow celebrities who were adopted entry, Tim McGraw, although he knew about his adoption status early. The future backing vocalist and guitarist of Metro Station is actually the adopted son of “Achy Breaky Heart” singer Billy Ray Cyrus. The elder Cyrus adopted his son when he was 4 years old after becoming the second husband of Leticia “Tish” Cyrus.
7. Keyshia Cole
R&B singer Keyshia Cole, best known for being a former background vocalist for MC Hammer and the star of the reality show Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is, was adopted when she was 2 years old.
While little is known about her biological father, it is known that her biological mother was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol when her daughter was young, prompting Leon and Yvonne Cole, family friends, to adopt her.
8. Liz Phair
Rock singer-songwriter Liz Phair is another on our list of celebrities who were adopted whose adoption happened right at her birth. Her adoptive parents, Nancy and John Pahir, also adopted her elder brother.
The “Why Can’t I?” singer has said of her parents, “My parents were very responsible. … They were perfect about it. … I’ve never tried to find [my biological] parents. My friend, who was adopted from the same home, requested information and got back a four-page letter about her mother’s life. She said it was jaw-dropping.”
9. Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx has been one of the most popular actors in Hollywood, receiving critical acclaim for his roles in Collateral and as Ray Charles in Ray.
His adoption story is not all that dissimilar to our first entry on the celebrities who were adopted list, Eric Clapton, although it was less messy. Foxx was adopted and raised by his adoptive grandparents, Esther Marie (Nelson) and Mark Talley, shortly after his birthday. Sadly, his biological parents, Darrell Bishop and Louise Annette Talley Dixon, had little involvement in his upbringing.
Related: How Did Ray Charles Die?
Heavy metal and hip-hop rapper Ice-T’s story of adoption is perhaps the most heartbreaking one out of all our celebrities who were adopted. It’s so because his road to being adopted had to include the death of his biological parents, his mother Alice of a heart attack when he was in third grade, and his father Soloman also of a heart attack when he was only 13.
After the death of his parents, Ice-T went on to live with two separate aunts, the latter becoming his permanent home in Los Angeles.
11. Kristin Chenoweth
Famed actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, best known for her origination of the role of Glinda in Wicked, was just five days old when she was adopted by chemical engineers Junie Smith Chenoweth and Jerry Morris Chenoweth.
In recent years, Chenoweth has noted that she was never angry with her biological mother for giving her up. She wrote in a blog on National Adoption Day in 2015 that she “knew that my birth mother loved me so much that she wanted to give me a better life. … If anything, I would thank my birth mother for loving me enough to make such a huge sacrifice.”
12. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is the technological guru behind all the Apple products that we love, and he’s also a man who has been confident in his adoptive parents, Paul and Clara Jobs, never meeting his biological parents.
Reportedly, his birth parents, Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali, conceived him out of wedlock, and the former did not approve of the relationship. His mother then secretly gave birth to him in San Francisco, where the Jobs adopted him. While he hasn’t met his parents, he has met his sister, whom his parents gave birth to two years after him once they were married. Jobs has been known to call his sister “one of my best friends in the world,” in an interview with The New York Times.
13. Sarah McLachlan
Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan was another of the celebrities who were adopted almost immediately at birth, although she did not learn that she was adopted until she was 9 years old. She did eventually meet her biological mother when a mutual acquaintance introduced them.
The “Angel” singer doesn’t regret that she was adopted, though, telling Parents magazine, “[Her mother] would have had to go and live in rural Newfoundland, and she wouldn’t have been able to pursue any of her dreams.”
14. JC Chasez
JC Chasez, best known for his time with NSYNC, actually has a mother who knows what it’s like to be given up into the care of someone else, and perhaps that’s why she did it, too.
His mother, who had grown up in foster care, eventually entrusted him to the care of her former foster parents when he was just 5 years old. He was later adopted by the couple, as were his siblings Heather and Tyler.
In a 2004 interview with Blender, he said it was the happiest phone call he ever received. “I wasn’t in a home or anything; I was living with my [birth] mother. And then she was like, ‘Hey, how would you feel about moving in with these people?’… My folks are dope. They’re killer. I’ve been happy ever since.”
15. Kristin Davis
Actress Kristin Davis, best known for her role as Charlotte York Goldenblatt in Sex and the City, has one of the tamest stories of all the entries on our list of celebrities who were adopted.
After her parents divorced when she was just a baby, she was later adopted by her stepfather, Keith Davis, when she was 3 years old.
16. Ray Liotta
Ray Liotta, known for films like Field of Dreams and Goodfellas, was six months old when he and his sister were adopted after being abandoned at an orphanage. Later in life, he tracked down his birth mother, after which he told Larry King that he “realized when I met her that she did it for very valid reasons and then realized that almost 99 percent of kids that are put up for adoption, it’s for the betterment of the kid. … The household, the situation, the age, just dictate that’s the best thing to do for the child.”
“I was really grateful that I was adopted,” he also told The Guardian.
17. Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand is one of few actresses in Hollywood who has earned the “Triple Crown of Acting” with four Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and one Tony Award, but she is one of many celebrities who were adopted.
McDormand was one and a half when she was adopted by her parents, Noreen, a nurse, and Vernon, a Disciples of Christ Church pastor. She’s kept the family tradition alive in adulthood, adopting her son Pedro McDormand Coen from Paraguay in 1995.
18. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry, best known for being the lead vocalist of the rock band Blondie, was three months old when she was adopted by Catherine and Richard Harry. Four years later, she learned of her adoption for the first time. “They explained it to me in a really nice way. It made me feel quite special somehow.”
Like many, she initially decided against finding her biological parents. However, she changed her mind later in life, locating her mother, a concert pianist, in the late 1980s. Sadly, her mother did not want them to have a relationship. Harry didn’t let it get her down, though. She has admitted on more than one occasion that, as a teen, she fantasized about being the long-lost daughter of Marilyn Monroe.
19. Jordan Fisher
Actor, singer, and dancer Jordan Fisher, known for his roles on The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Liv and Maddie, is the youngest entry on our celebrities who were adopted list, and he’s also one of the most recent to qualify.
While his mother was 16, she gave birth to the future Dancing with the Stars winner but was “not fit to raise a kid,” according to Fisher. His grandparents graciously took him in and eventually adopted him when he was 11, along with his two other siblings who were born later.
20. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi may be known for being a “guidette” of Italy, but the future Jersey Shore reality star is actually from Santiago, Chile. She was six months old when she was adopted by Andy and Helen Polizzi, who were of Italian-American heritage.
Sadly, it seems her parents had no choice but to give her up, as Polizzi told Khloe Kardashian in February 2016 that after doing some digging, she has “like 10 other brothers and sisters. I guess they couldn’t afford me.”
21. Marilyn Monroe
It’s no secret that Marilyn Monroe may have looked like she had everything going for her on the outside, but inside, things were not easy. This remained true until her tragic death. What most might not know is the troubles began at birth.
Because of her birth mom’s struggle with mental illness and having no knowledge of her father, Monroe spent the first 11 years of her life in foster homes and orphanages. What’s even sadder is she never got her chance to be genuinely adopted because, while many families expressed interest in bringing her into their family, her mother refused to sign the papers.
Related: How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?
22. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was best known for being an anti-apartheid activist and the first president of South Africa, but many may be surprised to know that the future public figure was also adopted. The interesting part is that he was adopted later in life.
When his father died of lung disease when Mandela was just 9 years old, he was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo of the Thembu tribe. The adoption was done as a favor to his late father, who had recommended that Dalindyebo be made chief.
23. John Lennon
John Lennon is one of the celebrities who were adopted whose circumstances were sad in the beginning, just like they were unhappy at the end of life, too.
While his father, Alfred Lennon, was away a lot and eventually disappeared without a trace for six months, his mother, Julia, became involved with other men and was pregnant by the time Lennon’s father finally returned. While Alfred still offered to care for the family, his mother rejected the idea. Later, her sister, Mimi, was awarded custody and eventually adopted Lennon after complaining to Liverpool’s Social Services on two separate occasions.
Related: What Was John Lennon’s Net Worth?
24. Jenna Ushkowitz
Jenna Ushkowitz, best known for her time on the hit show Glee, was three months old when she became eligible for the celebrities who were adopted list.
She would later share her story in 2016 with The Straits Times. “I decided to share my story because it is so positive, and I feel that a lot of adoption stories can be negative, with the adoptees feeling that something was missing.” Ushkowitz is also the founder of the Kindred Foundation, which provides adoptees and families, both adopted and biological, with aid for travel, support, and translation as they reunite with each other. The actress, however, has yet to make that step herself, noting, “It’s not something that I’m ready to do just yet.”
25. Keegan-Michael Key
Keegan-Michael Key may not have been raised by his biological parents, but he has had more than enough parents to make up for it. The Key & Peele star was initially adopted when he was young by Michael Key and Patricia Walsh. When his adoptive parents divorced, however, he gained more parents thanks to his stepmom, whom he grew extremely close to.
If that weren’t enough, he said that when he was 25, he “had a moving reunion with his biological mother.”
26. Lana Condor
As far as our list of celebrities who were adopted is concerned, Lana Condor is one whose adoption didn’t happen right at birth, but it only took four months for her to find her permanent home.
The future star of the To All the Boys film series was originally born in Vietnam and immediately lived in an orphanage. Her parents, Mary Carol Condor and Bob Condor, eventually adopted her on October 6, 1997, and raised her and her adoptive brother (also adopted from the same agency) in Washington and New York City.
Condor told Elle magazine in 2018 that she loves talking about being adopted. “I like to make people feel more comfortable, and it’s great to have this platform to be able to shed light on adoption and how it’s a beautiful thing, instead of being tiptoed around.”
27. Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt was a triple threat as a dancer, an actress, known for her role as Catwoman in the final season of Batman in 1967, and a singer with songs like “C’est si bon” and “Santa Baby.” Her adoption story begins with a tragically violent conception, as it’s alleged that her birth mother was sexually assaulted when she was conceived.
Later, her mother abandoned her, and Kitt was shuffled around from relative to relative until she officially settled with her aunt in New York City when she was 8 years old.
28. Simone Biles
Simone Biles has continuously proved she is strong, as evidenced by her seven Olympic medals and 30 Gymnastic World Championships medals; however, her adoption story proves her strength goes even deeper than we realized. She and her three siblings spent many years in and out of foster care thanks to her mother’s drug addictions. It was only when her grandparents stepped in to rescue her and her younger sister that things changed.
“My road to success began the day my grandfather and his wife officially adopted my sister and me,” Biles wrote in a letter to CNN. “My birth mother suffered from drug addiction, and when I was just 3 years old, my siblings and I were removed from her custody.
“From there, we bounced around until I was 6, and my grandparents made the brave move to adopt us,” she continued. “Finding a family made me feel like I mattered. Finding a passion, something I loved and was really good at, made me feel like I mattered.”
Unlike many on our celebrities who were adopted list, Skrillex is one that took the news of his adoption rather hard. While the future DJ and music producer was adopted as an infant by friends of his biological parents, he did not know this to be the case until he was 15 years old. When he did find out, he ran away from home and headed to Georgia for several years. Heartwarmingly, he did eventually reconcile with his parents.
Related: Skrillex’s Net Worth
30. Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton was lucky to have two men who loved him dearly. While he never met his biological father, it wasn’t because he was a deadbeat but because he died in a car accident three months before the future commander-in-chief was born.
There’s a happy ending, though, as he was later officially adopted and took the surname of his stepfather, Roger Clinton Sr., when he was 15 years old.
31. Jack Nicholson
Actor and filmmaker Jack Nicholson, best known for his starring roles in films like Easy Rider, The Shining, and A Few Good Men, has a story like a few others on our celebrities who were adopted list. Because his biological mother, June, was only 17 when she fell pregnant, his grandparents raised him as their own. The problem was that he didn’t know this was the case for many years, having been led to believe for the first 37 years of his life that his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his older sister.
He took it in strides, though, as Nicholson has said of the discovery, “I’d say it was a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn’t what I’d call traumatizing. … As a matter of fact, it made quite a few things clearer to me. If anything, I felt grateful.”
32. Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick is one of the most recognizable names in the National Football League, both on the field and off. He’s also one of many celebrities who were adopted.
The future San Francisco 49ers quarterback was put up for adoption by his biological mother, Heidi Russo, who was only 19 years old at the time when he was born. He was five weeks old when he was adopted by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. He sadly had two adoptive brothers that he never got to meet as they died of congenital heart defects at birth.
33. Priscilla Presley
Priscilla Presley, best known for her high-profile marriage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, grew up with both her parents initially, even though her mother, Ann, had her when she just 19 years old. Although her parents eventually married, her father, James Frederick Wagner, a U.S. Navy Pilot, sadly died in a plane crash when she was only six months old.
Later, her mother married Paul Beaulieu, a U.S. Air Force officer, who officially adopted Presley.
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