It may seem like A-listers have the perfect lives, and in many ways, they do, as they are able to enjoy the finer things in life and live a financially stress-free existence. But for many of them, their lives were not always this simple and countless stars have an interesting story to tell about their childhood. Some grew up poor in a really rough neighborhood, others were raised by a solo parent after their mother or father abandoned them. But one thing all of the celebrities on this list have in common is that they were raised in a one-parent household, and they were raised well.
Alicia Keys and Charlize Theron were both raised by their mothers, and they have gone on to praise them for the incredible job that they did, and for teaching them how to be strong, independent women. While celebrities like Keanu Reeves and Leonardo DiCaprio claim they would not be where they are today, specifically in their careers, if it was not for the endless support from their mothers who believed in their abilities.
Below are 20 celebrities who were raised by hardworking and dedicated solo parents who wanted to afford them every opportunity in life.
20 Kevin Hart Has Praised His Mom For Being A Strong Woman
Kevin Hart has won over the public with his unique brand of comedy. That, and the fact that he seems to be a genuinely nice guy. Perhaps we have his mother to thank. According to Simple Most, Hart and his brother were raised by their mother, Nancy, although his father was present at times during their childhood.
Hart believes he is the way he is thanks to his mama.
According to ESME, he said: “...My mom was such a strong woman. She said, ‘Look, regardless of whatever your father’s doing and where he is, I have a job to do raising you. You’re going to do what you’re supposed to do and you’re going to grow up to be two intelligent men.'"
19 Leonardo DiCaprio Credits His Amazing Mama For His Success
Leonardo DiCaprio has made it big in Hollywood and has starred in some of the most critically acclaimed films. But he may not have become the A-lister he is today were it not for his mother, Irmelin Indenbirken, who primarily raised him after she split from DiCaprio’s father.
In DiCaprio’s 2016 BAFTA Best Actor award acceptance speech, he took the time to pay tribute to his mother. He said, "One person without whom I wouldn't be here today is my mother, and today is her birthday. I did not grow up in privilege, I grew up in a very rough neighborhood, and this person drove me three hours every day to show me a better life."
18 Keanu Reeves' Mom Always Believed In Her Son And His Dreams
Keanu Reeves is another big star who was raised primarily by his mother, Patricia Taylor, after his parents split when he was a child. Reeves, who grew up in Toronto, voiced his appreciation for his mother in his acceptance speech for his Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
He let it be known that she has had a massive impact on his career, and according to People magazine, he said,
“When I was 15 years old and a kid in Canada, I asked my mom if it was okay to be an actor. She said, ‘Whatever you want.’ So thanks, Mom.”
17 Shaquille O'Neal Calls His Mama A 'Role Model'
Basketball pro, Shaquille O'Neal was raised by his mother, Lucille O'Neal, Ranker reports.
The two appear to be very close and Shaquille has commented on his mother and her influence on his life. According to ESPN, he had this to say about her: “She has always been the one whom I've called the remote controller of my life. A lot of times when I'm sitting and not doing anything she'll call me and say, 'You know you need to go to school. You know you need to get your master's [degree]. You know I don't like what you said on TV. You know you need to get your doctorate.'”
He added that she was a "role model" to him.
16 Adrian Grenier Has His Mom To Thank For Keeping Him Grounded
You probably know Adrian Grenier from his role as Vincent Chase in Entourage, but what you may not have known about him is that he was raised by a solo mom, Karesse Grenier, Ranker notes.
He also has a lot of respect for his mother, who has the ability to keep him grounded and not let his rising Hollywood star get to his head.
During an appearance on Good Morning Britain (via Daily Mail), Grenier said, “'If you're floating on top of the world you need to keep your feet on your ground. My mother does that for me. I ring her up and if she doesn't give it the pass then I don't do it.”
15 Kanye West's Mother Was An Influential And Strong Figure In His Life
Kanye West’s mother, Donda West, was a professor at Chicago State University English department, and she raised her son alone. West was incredibly close to his mother and VH1 notes that she has inspired his music, including songs, “Hey Mama” and “Only One.”
West has paid tribute to his mother in his music, but also in interviews and in concert. In Brussels in 2007, People notes that he praised his mother for always supporting him. He said, “And there’s nothing that she loved more than to come to the shows and scream louder than any fan, because she was my first fan that was screaming before anybody else, and my first manager.”
14 Julia Roberts' Mom Worked A Full-Time Job And Raised Three Girls On Her Own
Julia Roberts’ mother Betty Lou Bredemus was a woman who meant a lot to her, and she learned many lessons about life and motherhood from her.
In an interview with People magazine in 2017, Roberts reflected on her mother’s life and how she managed to juggle a job and raise children.
She said, “My mom worked a full-time job and raised three girls pretty much on her own. My brother [actor Eric Roberts] is older, so he was gone and out of the house. She never showed the strain of it.”
13 Jay Z And His Mom Are So Close, She Even Featured On His Album
Jay Z’s mother raised him in New York after his father left their family, Ranker reports. She did not only parent him; she also inspired him when she had the courage to reveal she was lesbian, something which Jay Z discussed on his album 4:44.
Jay Z spoke about his mother in an interview with Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, (via Marie Claire) saying, "For my mother, to have to live as someone she wasn’t and hide and protect her kids, [not] wanting to embarrass her kids, for all this time and for her to sit in front of me and tell me, ‘I think I love someone.’ I mean I really cried, that’s a real story...'"
12 Mary J Blige Has The 'Greatest Mother,' A Woman Who Is A Skilled Multi-Tasker
Mary J. Blige was eight when her father reportedly abandoned the family, Ranker reports. But her mother, Miss Cora, raised her and she did a great job, which Blige reflected on in her Dear Mama speech. She said,
“You were to us the greatest dancer, the greatest mother, the greatest cook, the greatest friend. I know I didn’t listen to you a lot when I was younger, but I can hear you so clearly now as a woman.”
Blige has shared her love for her mama multiple times, including a tribute post to her on her birthday. She wrote, “I love you so much and I’m so grateful for all of your unconditional love that you have given me!”
11 To Sean Combs, The Woman Who Raised Him Is A Real Superhero
Sean Combs, or P Diddy as he is often referred to professionally, lost his father when he was young, but his mother, Janice, worked hard to ensure that he had the best opportunities available to him.
She is a person Combs has called a “superhero” and told VH1’s Dear Mama: A Love Letter to Moms (via The Grio), “She sacrificed everything to make sure that we were well taken care of and that we received the best possible education. And that we would always have the opportunity to go on and be great. She taught me to believe in myself and trust in my dreams. She instilled in me the importance of family and the power of love.”
10 Angelina Jolie Always Has Her Mom On Her Mind
Angelina Jolie is reconnecting with her famous father, Jon Voight, in her adult years, but it was her mother Marcheline Bertrand who primarily raised her and her brother James.
Jolie and her late mother were incredibly close, and she has spoken about her on multiple occasions.
In an interview with Elle France, she revealed how much she missed her, saying, “I would give anything for her to be with me at this time. I’ve needed her. I talk to her often in my mind and try to think what she might say and how she might guide me.”
9 Mariah Carey Wants Us All To Know, She Got It From Her Mama
Mariah Carey has been criticized for her “diva” behavior, but she feels that’s an unfair comment because, after all, she’s just channeling her mother. Her mother, Patricia Hickey, was an opera singer, and according to Simple Most, she raised her daughter solo after splitting from Carey’s father.
In an interview with Paper magazine, Carey reflected on what she got from her mama, saying, "My mother is an opera singer. And that's a real diva, you know -- Juilliard diva. Other people that are like, 'I'm a diva,' it's like, 'Honey, you don't know what a diva is, you didn't grow up with my mom!' And I mean it as a compliment, or I wouldn't be the person I am without experiencing that."
8 Kelly Clarkson's Childhood Influenced The Way She Raises Her Kids
Kelly Clarkson was raised by her mother, Jeanne Taylor, Stars reports.
Clarkson spoke about her mother and her childhood, during an interview with Good Housekeeping, revealing how her unprivileged upbringing has affected the way she raises her own children.
She said, “I was a poor kid, and my mom was a single mother of three. My kids are obviously growing up very privileged, but I want them to have a servant's heart. We do community service as a family, and I also call them out on things like getting impatient when they stand in line — because they hardly ever have to. But that's just the reality of what they were born into.”
7 Eva Mendes Appreciates How Tough It Was For Her Mom To Raise Her Solo
Eva Mendes was raised primarily by her mother, although her dad was involved in her life, It was when she was filming Girl in Progress in 2012, that she really got a new appreciation for the struggles that her own mom went through. In the film, Mendes plays the character Grace, a solo mom who is trying to find a way through parenting, bills, and work.
She told Quinceanera, “During filming, I called my mom a few times to tell her thank you. Because it’s tough. Raising a child on your own is really tough.”
6 Alicia Keys' Mother Inspired Her And Continues To Be Her Mentor
Alicia Keys is thankful for the strong women in her life who raised her well. It was Keys' mother, Teresa Augello, who raised her from the time she was aged two, Stars reports, and now that the singer is all grown up she has reflected on her impact her mother and grandmother have had on her life.
According to Heart, she told People,
“My mother and grandmother inspired me and are the biggest mentors that I have in my life. They are very strong women and big supporters of whatever I do. I would have been a whole different way without them.”
5 Apolo Anton Ohno's Solo Dad Believed In Him From The Very Beginning
While most of the entries on this list have been about solo moms who raised their children, this one is different because it is thanks to his dad that Apolo Anton Ohno is where he is today. According to Simple Most, the Olympic speed skating competitor was raised by his dad, Yuki, after his mother left the family when he was aged one.
His father played an important role in his career, because it was his decision to channel his son’s energy into a sport, ABC News reports. Yuki told the publication, "At age three, he had shown me his unusual talent, especially in his mind, to be very, very daring. He shows lots of athleticism."
4 Halle Berry's Mom Gave Her Tough Love, And She Appreciates It Now
According to Stars, when Halle Berry was aged four, her father left her mother, and after this, she had little contact with him.
She did, however, have a dedicated mom raise her, although Berry did not always agree with her mother’s parenting techniques.
She recalled one particular story in an interview with People (via The Independent), saying, “I called my mother and I asked her to send me some money and she said no. And that subsequently led to a year of not speaking to her because I was so upset that she wouldn't help me. But again, that was probably one of the best things she did for me.”
3 Adele Knows Her Mom Did A Great Job Raising Her And She's Said So
Adele was raised by her mother after her father left the family when she was three. The singer has made her disdain towards her biological father, Mark Evans, clear, especially in one particularly damning Grammy's acceptance speech.
In the speech, Adele thanks her longtime manager, saying, “We’ve been together for 10 years, and I love you like you’re my dad. I love you so, so much. I don’t love my dad, that’s the thing. That doesn’t mean a lot. I love you like I would love my dad.”
In comparison, in an earlier Grammy speech she mentioned her mom, saying, “Mum, girl did good.”
2 Charlize Theron's Mom Has Taught Her Not To Let Awful Situations Define Her
Before Charlize Theron was an Oscar-winning actress, she grew up in a small town in South Africa with her father and her mother, Gerda. According to BabyGaga, in 1991, Theron’s mother shot her father in self-defense, and no charges were brought against her.
Theron is proud of her mother and the way she raised her and revealed as much in an interview with Howard Stern (via Just Jared).
She said, "I have an incredible mother. She's a huge inspiration in my life. Her philosophy was, 'This is horrible. Acknowledge that this is horrible. Now make a choice. Will this define you? Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?' That was it."
1 If You Like Stephen Colbert, Then You Have His Mom To Thank
Stephen Colbert’s family endured a tragedy when he was 10 years old, and his father and two brothers were lost in a plane crash, Simple Most reports. Colbert had his mother, Lorna, to raise him, and he believes she impacted his life greatly.
In tribute to her on an episode of his show, Colbert Report, he reflected on her life. According to Entertainment Weekly, he said, “When you watch the show, if you like this show, that’s because of everybody who works here, and I’m lucky to be one of them. But when you watch the show and you also like me, that’s because of my mom.”
References: Simple Most, ESME, Digital Spy, People, ESPN, Ranker, Daily Mail, VH1, People, People, Marie Claire, VH1, The Grio, Elle, Paper magazine, Stars, Good Housekeeping, IMDB, Heart, ABC News, The Independent, Stars, The Sun, BBC, Baby Gaga, Just Jared, Entertainment Weekly.