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. A lot of the news focuses on tragic stores — kids hurt in foster care, or who are never adopted. To clear, those stories matter. Adoption Network also reports, “Of the over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S., 114,556 cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted. Among these children, males outnumber females, African American children are disproportionately represented, and over half are 6 years old or older.”
But it’s not all grim. Parentology readers were delighted with our National Adoption Month coverage, which spotlighted many beautiful stories of adopted families. And once we did some digging, we discovered a number of celebrities who were adopted as well — famous faces who take away the societal shame of adoption and show the beauty behind giving a child a good home.
So, with that in mind, we created a list of 30 stars who weren’t raised by their birth parents. Click through Parentology’s slideshow to find out more about your favorite celebrities who were adopted. Some of them may surprise you!
1. Steve Jobs
First up on celebrities who 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
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
Jamie Foxx was sent to live with his mother’s parents at a young age. Fun fact: Jamie’s mother was also adopted.
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
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
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. Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton is only the second president in US history to have been adopted (Gerald Ford is the other). He was born William Jefferson Blythe III in Hope, AK, in 1946. His father died in an accident three months before his birth, and his mother moved to New Orleans to study nursing, leaving her baby boy with family members. He was raised by his grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, until his mother returned four years later. She married Roger Clinton, Sr., who adopted Bill as his own.
8. John Lennon
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”