30 Celebrities Who Were Rich Before They Were Famous

By Michael Kasian
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Photo Courtesy: @ParisHilton/Twitter

In 2012, Taylor Swift wrote “The Lucky One”, a song about the dangers of fame. Lyrics like, “Another name goes up in lights. You wonder if you’ll make it out alive. And they’ll tell you now, you’re the lucky one,” read like a warning to stay away from the trappings of celebrity.

But Swift and many other celebrities chased fame like it was their destiny. Was it solely their talent that got them there, or did they have some help reaching the top? Many easily recognizable actors and singers had a leg up in the fame game thanks to wealthy relatives who helped finance their way to stardom. Check out these pampered prodigies and decide for yourself if family money paved their way.

Bradley Cooper

On camera and in interviews, actor Bradley Cooper cultivates a scruffy, salt-of-the-earth persona. In reality, Cooper is nothing like the roles he plays on screen. Cooper had plenty of financial backing growing up; you only have to look at his education to get the real story.

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Photo Courtesy: Showalter Wain/Abominable Pictures/Principato-Young Entertainment/IMDB

As the son of a successful stockbroker and TV news producer, Cooper's education was pricey from the start. At the exclusive Germantown Academy, a year's tuition can run you $35,000 a year. In college, he attended Villanova and Georgetown, both of which can cost $50,000 a year. Add all that up and you've got yourself one very privileged child. 

Ariana Grande

The 5-foot powerhouse vocalist made a name for herself from an early age. Her breakout role on Nickelodeon's Victorious earned Grande an army of young fans. A few years later, Grande evolved from a tween actress into a successful adult pop star, selling over 4 million records and counting.

Ariana Grande
Photo Courtesy: lindsay neilson photos/Flickr

The talented singer also comes from a very successful family. Her mother, Joan Grande, is the CEO of Hose-McCann Communications. Her father, Edward Butera, owned a graphic design firm in Boca Raton. While she was acting, she received her education from North Broward Prep, which can cost anywhere from $24,000 to $50,000 a year. 

Miley Cyrus

Ah, Miley Cyrus. The ultimate chameleon in the music industry. She regularly evolves her aesthetic and sound from pop to country to hip-hop to psychedelic and beyond. Perhaps she's searching for a sound that distracts us from knowing how privileged she grew up?

Miley Cyrus
Photo Courtesy: @MileyCyrus/Twitter

Before becoming the pop star Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, Cyrus grew up with her family in Tennessee. Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, is a successful country crooner, who holds a massive $20 million fortune, mostly from his hit "Achy Breaky Heart".

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is hands down one of the most recognizable names in pop music. She’s sold over 50 million records worldwide and won an impressive 10 Grammy awards among countless other trophies. Hits like "Shake It Off," "You Belong with Me," and "Blank Space" have been anthems for fans young and old for years.

Taylor Swift
Photo Courtesy: Eva Rinaldi/Flickr

Her parents, Scott Kingsley Swift and Andrea Swift, both acquired plenty of wealth on their own. Swift’s mother was a marketing executive, while Swift’s father was a Merrill Lynch financial advisor. When they relocated to Nashville to help her musical career, it was her father's money that launched Swift’s record label, Big Machine Records. Who knows where Swift would be without the help of her family. 

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton. The OG and originator of the term "famous for being famous". As the great-granddaughter of Hilton Hotels founder, Conrad Hilton, Paris had a very pampered upbringing. So pampered, in fact, she gained access to exclusive clubs and social circles until she became a tabloid obsession and media socialite.

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Photo Courtesy: @ParisHilton/Twitter

It may seem easy to poke fun at Hilton for not having a talent other than being born rich, but Hilton has built an empire all her own. She's a world-renowned DJ, owner of her own fragrance collection, and has 19 other product lines, amassing a fortune of about $300 million. 

Nicole Richie

Nicole Richie was the other half of the foul-mouthed pampered duo on The Simple Life. Blonde hair extensions, ill-fitting outfits and a general distaste for the common man helped Richie launch herself into reality-tv royalty. She has since parlayed her fame into comedic roles on TV and in films.

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Photo Courtesy: Little Stranger, Inc./Bevel Gears/Big Wig Productions/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal Television/IMDB

Of course, playing a spoiled brat on TV came naturally for Richie, as her father is living legend Lionel Richie. At age three, Nicole moved in with Lionel's family and was adopted by them six years later. Once the tabloids caught wind of an affair of Lionel's, the family indulged Nicole's every whim to keep her happy, and the rest is history. 

Kim Kardashian

Before the makeup and perfume lines. Before her marriage to Kanye West. Before her marriage to Kris Humphries. Before Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Before the sex tape. Heck, even before serving as Paris Hilton's assistant, Kardashian led a privileged life.

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Photo Courtesy: Francois G. Durand/Getty

Growing up in Los Angeles to successful lawyer Robert Kardashian, her family was thrust into the spotlight at an early age. Kardashian gained national recognition as O.J. Simpson's friend and defense attorney during the Simpson murder trial in 1995. 

Armie Hammer

This film actor comes from money. A lot of money. He gets his name from his grandfather, oil tycoon Armand Hammer. His grandfather's company became one of the largest energy and gas corporations in the country. His father is also an owner of a successful film/television production company. Sounds like Hammer had some help in carving an acting career for himself.

Armie Hammer
Photo Courtesy: Frenesy Film Company/La Cinéfacture/RT Features/M.Y.R.A. Entertainment/Water's End Productions/IMDB

Hammer claims to have little connection to his family's wealth. In case he needs a reminder of how privileged he really is, all he needs to do is drive around Los Angeles. His family's name is frequently featured on landmarks all across the city. 

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is the kind of singer that you can't escape. You'll hear his music at weddings, in grocery stores, elevators or anywhere that needs to fill an empty void. Filling empty voids with harmless music pays off, and has made him one of the most successful musicians of his generation.

Ed Sheeran
Photo Courtesy: Kamil_Took/Flickr

His parents were likely very influential in his artistic endeavors. His father, John, was an art curator, while his mother was a culture publicist turned jewelry designer. They later merged their talents and ran Sheeran Lock, a successful independent art consultancy for twenty years. 

Allison Williams

It takes a trained, talented actor to pull off a role like Peter Pan in a production of NBC's Peter Pan Live. But sometimes the part goes to someone whose father is NBC's top news anchor. It's not hard to follow the breadcrumbs here, folks.

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Photo Courtesy: Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment/Monkeypaw Productions/IMDB

Girls star Allison Williams comes from a family of major wealth and influence. Her father, NBC and MSNBC newscaster Brian Williams, is an acclaimed journalist, with a net worth of over $40 million. Love her or hate her, it's undeniable that she played a psychotic, spoiled daughter in Get Out very, very well. 

Adam Levine

If you’ve listened to an adult contemporary radio station in the last 15 years, you’ve likely heard Maroon 5’s songs. The band, fronted by The Voice coach and perpetually shirtless wonder Adam Levine, is full of that vanilla charisma that always wins over soccer moms.

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Photo Courtesy: karina3094/Wikimedia Commons

Levine, a former student in L.A.'s $34,000 a year Brentwood School, is the son of Fred Levine, founder of retail chain M.Fredric. The clothing store has nine locations scattered throughout Los Angeles and appears in several airports. 

Lady Gaga

Stefani Germanotta grew up very privileged in New York City. Her mother was a business executive and her father was a successful Internet entrepreneur. He made his millions installing Wi-Fi in major hotels and restaurants. It helped pay for her $46,000 a year education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart school in Manhattan, the same school Paris and Nicky Hilton attended.

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Photo Courtesy: Something For Kate/Flickr

Her father later funded her thirst for fame and connected her with top music industry professionals. They helped create a persona that stole the aesthetic and sounds of original queer talents like Grace Jones, Freddy Mercury and David Bowie. Sorry, little monsters, she was born that way.

Nick Kroll

Nick Kroll is the foul-mouthed creator of the Netflix hit Big Mouth. On the show, a group of kids from a suburban town face the horrors of puberty to the delight of viewers. Kroll even included a character that represents his own struggles growing up.

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Photo Courtesy: Chicken Sticks/FX Productions/IMDB

The major difference between Kroll and his character on Big Mouth is that Kroll grew up very wealthy. His father, Jules B. Kroll, founded Kroll, Inc., a risk consulting firm located in Manhattan. His father is worth an estimated $1.5 billion. That's a big difference from little Nicky's upbringing on Big Mouth

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey broke the internet in 2011 with her haunting video for “Video Games”. Fans loved its Instagram-filtered American nostalgia and haunting visuals of pursuing Hollywood notoriety. The “self-styled Nancy Sinatra” cultivates a unique sound that pays homage to the '50s and '60s but combines it with lyrics any Brooklynite taking swigs of Pabst Blue Ribbon could conjure.

Lana Del Rey
Photo Courtesy: Jaguar MENA/Flickr

Del Rey, born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, is the daughter of Robert England Grant, Jr. who founded the publishing company Web Media Properties. Rumors abound that he financed her career. But the producers and musicians who knew her at the beginning of her climb to stardom claim his involvement wasn't financial. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is an American television legend. From SNL to Seinfeld to The New Adventures of Old Christine to Veep, Louis-Dreyfus has brought laughter to our TV screens for over 30 years. While she has clearly amassed a fortune of her own, she wasn't the first family member to bring home the big bucks.

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Photo Courtesy: HBO Entertainment/Dundee Productions/IMDB

Louis-Dreyfus was living the high life even before she was famous. She is the daughter of the late billionaire, Gérard Louis-Dreyfus. The former businessman was the grandson of Léopold Louis-Dreyfus, founder of a global merchant and shipping industry currently valued at $36.5 billion.

Anderson Cooper

American journalist Anderson Cooper is the host of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°. His focus helps him navigate difficult conversations with controversial celebs and politicians alike. People also tune in to admire his platinum hair and blue eyes, but he may have gotten those features from his family.

Anderson Cooper
Photo Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Other things he may have gotten from his family? Money. Lots of money. His mother was the fashion designer, writer, and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. His grandparents were millionaire equestrians, socialites and business magnates. Quite the prestigious pedigree for a supposed salt-of-the-earth journalist. 

Brooke Shields

As Rita Glossner on The Middle, Brooke Shields played a reckless, foul-mouthed mother with very little money and a whole lot of attitude. But don't let her impressive performance fool you, because Shields comes from a long line of prestige, privilege and even royalty.

Brooke Shields The Middle
Photo Courtesy: Blackie and Blondie Productions/Warner Bros. Television/IMDB

Shields' mother was Teri Shields, a successful actress and model. Her father, Frank Shields, was an executive at Revlon cosmetics. Her extended lineage has ancestral links with noble families from Italy. Her paternal grandmother was noblewoman Marina Torlonia di Civitella-Cesi, the daughter of an Italian prince and socialite. 

Jake Gyllenhaal

Some children have their Tinseltown futures laid out for them. All it takes is to have two parents already involved in the throng of Hollywood. Take Jake Gyllenhaal, for example, star of hit films like Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko, and Velvet Buzzsaw.

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Photo Courtesy: Netflix/Dease Pictures Inc./IMDB

Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles and is the son of film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner and film director Stephen Gyllenhaal. Even though he had easy access to fame, his parents made sure he volunteered at homeless shelters and worked summer jobs to give him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle. 

Rooney Mara

Rooney Mara is an actress known for her prim, timid demeanor and challenging film roles. From The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to Carol, to Tanner Hall, Mara brings a focus and precision to her roles comparable to a professional athlete on the court.

Rooney Mara
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She must have learned her precise delivery from her parents, who both have their own National Football League teams. Mara's mother's family founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, and her father's family founded the New York Giants. So yeah, it's safe to say she knows how to deliver a stellar performance. 

Kyra Sedgwick

Sedgwick is a successful actress, producer and director. She is most recognizable for her Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning role in the crime drama The Closer as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. While her work in Hollywood has earned her a nice living, her childhood was way more elegant than average.

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Photo Courtesy: Fred Hayes/Getty

Sedgwick's father was a successful venture capitalist in NYC, and they lived in a posh apartment on Central Park West. When her parents divorced, her mother remarried a successful art dealer who also lived on Central Park West. 

The only difficulty she ever had as a child was not disturbing any of the original Pollock, de Kooning or Rothko paintings that hung in their museum-style home. 

Giada De Laurentiis

De Laurentiis is a successful television chef and writer, with a Daytime Emmy and best-selling cookbooks on her resumé. Originally born in Rome, Italy, De Laurentiis moved to Southern California before studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris for $40,000 a year.

Giada De Laurentiis
Photo Courtesy: Evan Eggers/Wikimedia Commons

TV success runs in her family for sure. Her maternal grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, was a famous movie producer. Her mother, Veronica De Laurentiis, and her father, Alex De Benedetti, were both successful Italian actors. Looks like her family lineage had the right recipe for success and stardom. 

Emma Stone

Emma Stone is the A-list starlet with big eyes and an even bigger ambition for stardom. She won America's hearts in La La Land, a story about a struggling L.A. actor. Later, she embraced a more complex role in The Favourite, a wealthy debutante down on her luck.

Emma Stone
Photo Courtesy: Scarlet Films/Element Pictures/Arcana/Film4 Productions/Waypoint Entertainment/IMDB

Stone didn't need much preparation for her role in The Favourite, as her father was the President and CEO of a commercial construction company. After collecting numerous government contracts in Arizona, Emma's father was valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones is an actress, writer and producer. She's most recognizable for her role as Ann Perkins on the comedy series Parks and Recreation. She's also known for her work in films like The Social Network, Our Idiot Brother, and Friends with Benefits.

Rashida Jones
Photo Courtesy: New Line Cinema/Broken Road Productions/IMDB

Jones comes from one of the coolest families on this list. Her father, Quincy Jones, is the legendary musician behind hits like "Soul Bossa Nova" and "Just Once". Her mom, Peggy Lipton, was a successful film and TV actress who played the iconic Norma Jennings in David Lynch's Twin Peaks

Bryce Dallas Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard has the distinction of being in one of the most memorable movie scenes ever. It involves Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek, and a slice of pie. Yes, that slice of pie. Howard played the villain of all villains in The Help who's comeuppance became instant cinema history.

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Photo Courtesy: DreamWorks Pictures/Reliance Entertainment/Participant Media/Image Nation/1492 Pictures/Harbinger Pictures/IMDB

Cinema history actually runs in her family. All you have to do is catch her smiling to instantly recognize her famous father, Ron Howard. Her mother is writer Cheryl Howard, and her godfather is Henry Winkler, Ron's costar on Happy Days

Salma Hayek

Actress Salma Hayek is recognizable for her fiery performances in films like Frida, Beatriz at Dinner, and Desperado. Each role required her to portray a confident, eclectic persona. Based on her upbringing, it's not hard to see why she could pull off such roles.

Salma Hayek
Photo Courtesy: Archimede Film/HanWay Films/Recorded Picture Company/IMDB

Hayek's father, Sami Hayek Domínguez, owned an industrial-equipment firm and was an oil company executive. Her father took very good financial care of his family. When he discovered Hayek's love for animals, he bought her three pet tigers. That's right, Salma Hayek grew up with pet tigers. Let your teeth sink into that privileged tidbit. 

Tori Spelling

Tori Spelling is an actress, television personality, and woman with serious family drama. She is most known for her first major role as Donna Martin on Beverly Hills, 90210. The teen drama was a major success and lasted for ten seasons.

Tori Spelling
Photo Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Here's where things get interesting. Her father, Aaron Spelling, produced the show, and likely had a hand in casting his daughter. After his passing, his $500 million estate wasn't evenly divided by Spelling’s wife and two children. Instead, his wife left their daughter less than a million dollars due to their estranged relationship. That is some seriously expensive Beverly Hills drama.

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston is a household name thanks to her role as Rachel Green on Friends. Everyone wanted her wardrobe, her haircut, heck, even her fake apartment in Greenwich Village. She's still a mainstay in tabloid fodder and at the box office thanks to America's continued devotion.

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Aniston had a leg up in achieving fame and fortune, thanks to her famous parents. Her father is John Aniston, star of Days of our Lives. Her mother, Nancy Dow, was an actress in several TV series in the '60s. Anniston also attended prestigious performing arts schools, furthering her leg up in Hollywood. 

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams is a child actor success story. Many young actors can easily go down a path of self-destruction. But Williams was able to carve a career for herself as a respected and award-winning adult actress. From Dawson's Creek to My Week with Marilyn, Williams has a career wannabe actresses dream of.

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Photo Courtesy: Hunting Lane Films/Silverwood Films/IMDB

William's father, Larry R. Williams, may not be a movie star himself, but he is still wildly successful. William's father is an author, financier, and political powerhouse, having run for Senate twice. Needless to say, his work supplied his offspring with all the support they needed to achieve their own success. 

Darren Criss

Darren Criss has already established himself as a threat in the entertainment industry. He started out as a stage performer in plays like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and A Christmas Carol. He later moved onto award-winning performances on TV in Glee and American Crime Story.

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Photo Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Television/Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision/Ryan Murphy Productions/IMDB

Darren Criss was born wealthy in San Francisco to Cerina and Charles William Criss, a successful investment banker. His father later relocated the family to an affluent area of Hawaii to start EastWest Bank, serving as its chairman and CEO. 

Cara Delevingne

Model. Singer. Actress. Cara Delevingne can do it all. In a few short years, she climbed the social ladder and became a full-fledged Hollywood star. A closer inspection of her background reveals she may have had some help in her climb to the top.

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Delevingne grew up in Belgravia, London, one of the wealthiest districts in the world. Her ancestors were all very successful, achieving wealth in publishing and through involvement in British royalty. Even her grandmother was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. So it's safe to assume growing up royal and wealthy helped boost her to the front of the line in several auditions. 

Gwyneth Paltrow

Ah, Gwyneth. Before diving into her family's wealth, take a quick glance at her GOOP website. A knit tank top can run you $225. How can a top that doesn’t even have sleeves be so expensive! Only a woman from extreme privilege could possibly run such a pretentious website.

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Photo Courtesy: Maguire Pictures/IMDB

Paltrow grew up in a Hollywood household. Her mother, Blythe Danner, is a successful star of stage and screen. Her father, Bruce Paltrow, was a producer-director for the TV series The White Shadow and St. Elsewhere. His last production was the film Duets, which shockingly starred his daughter Gwyneth.