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It seems like every other day we're learning something new about our favorite stars, from their connections to royalty (opens in new tab) to the celeb roommates they kept quiet (opens in new tab) to their custom Barbies (opens in new tab). And sometimes the most surprising facts come down to their roots. (opens in new tab) Ahead, 39 famous people you probably never knew were adopted.
The country star was adopted as an infant (opens in new tab) and raised outside of Jackson, Mississippi, with two older brothers. Her first foray into the music world was singing in the Baptist church her family belonged to. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nicole was raised in California by music legend Lionel Richie and his then-wife Brenda Harvey-Richie. Nicole's biological parents are often said to be friends of the couple and a one-time bandmate of Lionel (opens in new tab), but it's never been confirmed. She was legally adopted at age nine.
Chenoweth was adopted at five days old (opens in new tab) and raised by her adoptive parents, Junie and Jerry Chenoweth, in Oklahoma. The singing powerhouse started preforming at an early age in the church circuit before she even entered high school.
Marilyn Monroe was born to an unmarried mother and was soon placed in various foster homes (opens in new tab). At the age of 11, she lived with a family friend, Grace McKee Goddard, who eventually became her legal guardian. Monroe famously got married when she was 16 (opens in new tab) in order to get out of the foster care system.
The former Glee actress was adopted from Seoul, South Korea (opens in new tab), when she was three months old. She was raised in East Meadow, New York, with her older brother, Gregg. She's the co-founder of Kindred: The Foundation for Adoption (opens in new tab), which provides adoptees and their families with support, services, and resources.
The actor was adopted by his maternal grandmother (opens in new tab) after his parents split when he was just seven months old. He grew up in Terrell, Texas, and can trace his acting and singing career all the way back to singing in his local church choir.
The Blondie singer was adopted by Richard and Catherine Harry (opens in new tab) when she was three months old. Long before she made a name for herself as a punk singer-songwriter at New York institutions like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City, she sang in church choirs in Hawthorne, New Jersey, where she grew up.
McLachlan was adopted at a young age (opens in new tab) and grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. She took voice and guitar lessons (opens in new tab) while growing up. At the ripe old age of 17, she got her first recording contract offer with her band, October Game (opens in new tab). Even though that deal fell through, we all know she hit it big just a few years later.
The former Little House on the Prairie star was adopted at birth (opens in new tab) and raised in a show business family. Her adoptive parents (Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane) were both actors, so it's no surprise that Melissa became a child star when she was only 10.
Preston's biological father tragically drowned when she was only three years old, and her mother remarried Peter Palzis, who later adopted Kelly (opens in new tab). She was raised in Hawaii and Australia and eventually settled in California, where she attended the University of Southern California and studied drama and theater.
Actress Frances McDormand was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was adopted at a young age (opens in new tab). Her siblings were also adopted by the McDormand family, and they moved frequently (opens in new tab) as Frances grew up. Frances began acting in Pennsylvania, where she graduated form high school and went on to study at the prestigious Yale School of Drama (opens in new tab).
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was raised by adoptive parents Rick and Teresa Kaepernick (opens in new tab) after being adopted in 1987 at five weeks old. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his birth mother, Heidi Russo (opens in new tab), was only 19 years old at the time.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
The Jersey Shore star was born in Santiago, Chile (opens in new tab), and adopted at six months old by Helen and Andre Polizzi, who raised her in Marlboro, New York. Snooki has always known about the adoption and talked about it in a video on her YouTube channel (opens in new tab): "I was always meant to be with my adoptive parents—which I hate saying adoptive parents because they're my parents, it's weird."
Steven Paul Jobs was born to Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali in 1955. As an infant, he was given up for adoption and raised by Clara and Paul Jobs in California. At the age of 27, he was able to uncover more information (opens in new tab) about his biological parents, who he found out later married and had another child together.
At the age of three, Simone Biles and her sister, Adria, were placed in the foster care system. "Growing up, my biological mom was suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and she was in and out of jail," Biles said on Dancing With the Stars (opens in new tab). Shortly after Biles entered foster care, her maternal grandparents stepped in. Ron and Nellie Biles brought Simone and Adria to live with them (opens in new tab) in Texas and in 2003 they legally adopted their grandchildren.
Nelson Mandela was only 12 years old when his father passed away from lung disease. Afterward, as a tribute to his father, Mandela was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo (opens in new tab), the leader of the Thembu people. He moved from his small village to the Chief's residence in the capital, where he received his education.
By the age of two, both of Lee Major's parents, Carl and Alice Yeary, had passed away in separate accidents. He was adopted by his paternal aunt and uncle (opens in new tab) and moved to Kentucky to live with their family.
Born Tracey Lauren Marrow, Ice-T was eight years old when his mother passed away and 12 years old when his father suffered a fatal heart attack. Afterwards, he moved to Los Angeles to live with his aunt (opens in new tab), who later legally adopted him.
Born to Betty Smith in 1967, Tim McGraw grew up under the belief that his stepfather, Horace Smith, was his biological father. He was 11 years old when he found out that his father was actually professional baseball player (opens in new tab), Tug McGraw, who left his mother when she was pregnant.
Comedian Andy Dick was born in Charleston and adopted at birth by Allen and Sue Dick. Dick was 40 years old when he met his birth parents—his mother, an unwed teenager from Texas (opens in new tab), was sent to South Carolina to give birth. "There was a book about adoption called The Primal Wound," Dick told Hollywood News (opens in new tab) in 2014. "The first sentence says, just so you know, you have a primal wound that will never heal. I closed the book and never read it."
Sonny "Skrillex" Moore
Skrillex, whose real name is Sonny Moore, found out when he was 16 years old (opens in new tab) that he was adopted by family friends of his biological parents.
Growing up in New Jersey in the 1940s, Jack Nicholson was raised by Ethel May and John Nicholson, whom he believed were his parents. It wasn't until he was 27 years old and a Time (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)reporter interviewed him (opens in new tab) that he discovered that Ethel May and John were his grandparents and his mother was June Nicholson, who he believed was his sister. By the time the actor discovered the truth, both his grandparents and biological mother had passed away.
Keegan-Michael Key grew up in Detroit, Michigan, after being adopted at birth. His adopted parents divorced when he was young and his father later remarried. The comedian was 25 years old when he met his birth mother (opens in new tab) for the first time.
Gerald R. Ford Jr.
President Gerald Ford was 12 years old when he discovered that his "father" was actually his stepfather, who had legally adopted him as a child. He also learned his mother changed his name, which was originally Leslie Lynch King Jr. (opens in new tab) to Gerald R. Ford Jr., after his stepfather.
Child star Gary Coleman was adopted at birth by Sue and W.G. Coleman (opens in new tab). Sadly, the actor ended up suing his adoptive parents over mismanaging his money while he was working as a child actor and was not in communication with them at the time of his death in 2010.
Former NFL offensive tackle Michael Oher was adopted by the Tuohy family as a high school student in 2004. Oher came to know the Tuohys (opens in new tab) after attending their children's high school, Briarcrest, in Memphis. The family's story caught the attention of Hollywood and inspired The Blind Side (opens in new tab).
When Bill Clinton's father passed away three months before he was born, his mother turned to her family (opens in new tab) to care for her baby when she went to study nursing in New Orleans. When she returned, she was remarried to Roger Clinton, who raised the future president as his own. When Bill Clinton was 15, he legally changed his surname (opens in new tab) in honor of his stepfather.
Eleanor Roosevelt was 10 years old when she and her two younger brothers were put into the care of their grandmother, Mary Ludlow Hall, and sent to live with her in Manhattan, New York. Her mother died of diphtheria when she was eight and her father, the younger brother of Theodore Roosevelt, died two years after her mother passed away (opens in new tab).
Daunte Culpepper's biological mother was serving time in prison while she was pregnant with the future NFL star. When Daunte was only one day old, he was adopted by Emma Culpepper, who raised more than 15 adopted children throughout her life. "It was the best thing that happened to me in my whole life," Daunte said in an interview (opens in new tab) when his adopted mother passed away in 2007. "I never really had a man in my life. She was my mother and my father."
Lance Armstrong was born in Plano, Texas, in 1971 and was given the name Edward Gunderson. His mother, Linda, remarried when he was a young child and he was legally adopted by his stepfather (opens in new tab), Terry Armstrong.
Singer Liz Phair was born in New Haven, Connecticut, before she was adopted by Nancy and John Phair and raised in Illinois. Her brother is also adopted. "My parents were very responsible. They said, 'We wanted you more than anything in the whole world.' They were perfect about it," Phair told Women's Health (opens in new tab) in 2006.
Richard Burton was born Richard Jenkins to an impoverished family in South Wales. He was the 12th of 13 children and lost his mother at the age of two. His father, a coal miner, couldn't care for him, so he went to live with his oldest sister, Cecilia. In 1943, he was informally adopted by his teacher (opens in new tab) and guardian, Phillip Burton, and when he turned 18 he took the surname Burton.
After his mother became pregnant at 16, Eric Clapton's maternal grandparents stepped in to raise him. The musician grew up thinking his grandparents were his parents (opens in new tab) and they served as his legal guardians until he turned 18.
Hollywood film star Ingrid Bergman was only three days old when she lost her mother. Her father, Justus Bergman, was her primary caregiver until he passed away (opens in new tab) when she was 12 years old. Ingrid then went to live with her aunt and later with her uncle and his family.
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