31 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Adopted

Adoption impacts everyone in the United States. According to the website Adoption Network, there are approximately 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, which is 2% of the population, or one out of 50 children. Those numbers include some famous faces as well — celebrities you didn’t know were adopted.

While every adoption story is important, it’s always a welcome addition when a celeb talks about their experience. That public admission takes away the societal shame of adoption, the stigma many people feel about it, and shows the beauty behind giving a child a good home. 

So, with that in mind, we created a list of 31 celebrities who weren’t raised by their birth parents. Some of them may surprise you!

1. Steve Jobs

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First on our list of celebrities who you didn’t know were adopted: the late Apple CEO. Steve Jobs’s biological father was Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian Muslim. Jandali’s girlfriend at the time was Joanne Schieble, but her parents objected to their mixed relationship, resulting in Steve Jobs’ adoption at birth by Paul and Clara Jobs.

2. Nicole Richie

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Nicole was adopted by singer Lionel Richie and his then-wife Brenda when she was 9 years old. She was born Nicole Camille Escovedo, and her biological parents are Peter Michael Escovedo, a musician who toured briefly with Lionel, and Karen Moss, an assistant to Nicole’s aunt, singer and drummer Sheila E. When Nicole was four, her birth parents agreed to let her move in with Lionel and Brenda, as they were unable to care for her financially. About being adopted, Nicole has said, “My parents were friends with Lionel. They trusted that they would be better able to provide for me.”

3. Jamie Foxx

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Jamie Foxx was sent to live with his mother’s parents at a young age. Fun fact: Jamie’s mother was also adopted.

4. Skrillex

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The DJ, born Sonny John Moore, was adopted at birth by family friends of his biological parents. He found out when he was 16.

Letting children learn the truth about their birth parents — or when and how to tell them — is a tricky road. We have some links that can help at the end of this article

5. Colin Kaepernick

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The American football player and activist was born to Heidi Russo in 1987 and was adopted three weeks later by a couple named Rick and Teresa Kaepernick.

6. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi

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The former Jersey Shore star was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1987. At 6 months old, she was adopted by Italian-American parents and raised in New York and New Jersey

7. Edgar Allen Poe

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Famous dark poet Edgar Allen Poe. Poe was born in 1809, but his mother died a year after conception. His father also abandoned the family, forcing Edgar to live with another family in Virginia.

8. John Lennon

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Next up on celebrities who were adopted: the great John Lennon! From the age of 5, John Lennon was raised by his maternal aunt and uncle in Liverpool, England, after his father went absent without leave in the military and his mother ran off with another man.

9. Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926. Her mother, Gladys Baker, was mentally unstable and financially unable to care for her, so she placed young Norma Jeane with foster parents whom she lived with until she was 7. Not long after her mother attempted to get Norma Jeane back, she suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized; Norma Jeane was then declared a ward of the state and her mother’s best friend, Grace McKee, became her legal guardian. That only lasted for a few years, and Norma Jeane was sent to the Hollygrove orphanage in LA — and then a series of foster homes — before returning to Grace McKee’s home.

Unfortunately, Grace and her husband were about to move to the East Coast and could not take Norma Jeane with them. They approached the mother of a neighbor, James Dougherty, about him marrying Norma Jeane. They tied the knot just weeks after she turned 16 so that she wouldn’t have to return to foster care or an orphanage.

10. Kristen Chenoweth

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The Tony Award-winning singer and actress was adopted in 1968 by Oklahoma couple Junie and Jerry Chenoweth when she was only 5 days old.

11. George Lopez

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When George was 2 months old, his father deserted their family, and he was later abandoned by his mother at age 10. He was later raised and adopted by his maternal grandmother, Benita Gutierrez, and her husband, Refugio, in Los Angeles.

12. Nelson Mandela

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Joining surprising celebrities who were adopted: Nelson Mandela. After his father’s death, Nelson Mandela was adopted at the age of nine by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu people.

13. Eartha Kitt

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Sultry singer and actress Eartha Kitt was born on a South Carolina cotton farm in 1927. She was raised by a black woman named Anna Mae Riley, whom she believed to be her mother. When she was 8 years old, Anna Mae began dating a man who refused to accept Eartha in his home because of her light complexion; she was soon sent to New York to live with Anna Mae’s sister, her “aunt” Mamie Kitt, who she later found was her biological mother. She never met or knew anything about her father, except that he was white and that his family owned the farm where she was born.

14. Babe Ruth

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Born George Herman Ruth, Jr. in 1895, Babe Ruth was sent to an orphanage at the age of seven: “Babe’s tavern-owning parents placed him and his sister in orphanages, sending Babe to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. It was there that Babe met Brother Matthias, who taught him how to play baseball.”

15. Michael Bay

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Celebrities who were adopted include directors and producers, too! The Transformers director was adopted as a child and spent his earlier years searching for his biological mother. Though Bay is unsure who his real father is, he jokingly claims that Steven Spielberg and Jerry Bruckheimer share his “creative DNA.”

16. Priscilla Presley

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Priscilla Presley’s father was a US Navy pilot who died in a plane crash when she was sixth months old. She was later adopted by her mother’s second husband.

17. Jack Nicholson

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Jack’s mother was 16 when she had him. Her mother decided to adopt Jack and raise him as her son. He didn’t find out until after they had both died, but his sister was actually his mother and his mother was really his grandmother.

18. Keegan-Michael Key

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The Key & Peele star was adopted at birth by a couple, and when he was 25, he had an emotional reunion with his biological mother.

19. Ice T

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The rapper and Law & Order: SVU star was born Tracy Lauren Marrow in 1958. When he was 8, his mother passed away from a heart attack, and just four years later, he lost his father the same way. He was then raised and later adopted by his aunts.

20. Sarah McLachlan

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The singer was born and adopted in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1968. Sarah spoke about finding out that she was adopted at age 9, saying, “It was like, ‘Oh, okay, good to know, you’re still my mom and dad.’ Perhaps I was too young to understand it really, but it just never was a big issue to me. I never had this empty place in me thinking that I’ve missed out somewhere, or that I was abandoned.”

21. Frances McDormand

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This Fargo star was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was later raised in Pittsburgh after being adopted by a Canadian minister and nurse.

22. Faith Hill

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This five-time Grammy Award-winner was adopted as an infant in Mississippi. It wasn’t until she moved to Nashville to embark on a singing career that she decided to search for her birth family. She has since said of the journey, “I have a lot of respect for my birth mother. I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give what she felt was a better chance.”

23. JC Chasez

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The former *NSYNC member was born in 1976, and his biological mother handed him over to her former foster parents, Roy and Karen Chasez, in the hopes that they could provide him with an education and stable home life. He was officially adopted at age 5.

24. Debbie Harry

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The Blondie frontwoman was born in Miami and adopted by Catherine and Richard Smith Harry, a New Jersey couple. Debbie grew up there, and after college, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a waitress, go-go dancer, and Playboy bunny before starting her epic singing career.

25. Eric Clapton

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Eric’s birth mother had him with a Canadian soldier when she was 16. Her parents raised Eric as their son, alongside his mother. He wasn’t told until he was nine that his sister was actually his birth mother. 

26. Tim McGraw

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When Tim was 11 he found out his father was actually his step-father who adopted him as his own. Tim’s biological father turned out to be professional baseball player Tug McGraw who denied being his father until Tim was 18. 

27. Trace Cyrus

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Joining celebrities who were adopted: Trace Cyrus. Trace was originally born Neil Timothy Helson to Tish Cyrus and Baxter Neal Helson. Tish eventually married Billy Ray Cyrus who adopted him. After being adopted, he changed his name to Trace Dempsey Cyrus. 

28. Keyshia Cole

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Keyshia was adopted when she was two years old by family friends Leon and Yvonne Cole. Her biological mother has been in and out of her life due to struggles with drug addiction. Keyshia was able to meet her biological father, well-known boxing trainer Virgil Hunter, in 2016 after getting a paternity test. 

29. Michelle Visage

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The RuPaul’s Drag Race judge (former singer in Seduction, as well as Big Brother UK and Strictly Come Dancing 2019 contestant) hs been very open about her adoption story. She grew up with her adoptive parents in South Plainfield, New Jersey, and years later met her biological mother. According to what she has shared on RuPaul’s What’s The Tee? podcast, Michelle has come to terms with her mother’s decision to put her up for adoption as a baby.