22 Famous People You Didn’t Know Are Middle Children
In honor of August’s National Middle Child Day, let us bust a pervasive myth for you: No, middle children aren’t worse off than their older and younger siblings! In fact, middle kids have some pretty special talents. Just check out these crazy-inspiring, ultra-successful folks.
Billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett
Investment genius Warren Buffett has a net worth of $84 billion. More impressive: He’s donated nearly $28 billion to charity. He started out life as a middle child, and a brother of two sisters, in Omaha, Nebraska. Buffett was already running a business at age 13, selling a horse racing tip sheet and delivering newspapers on his bike (which he claimed as a $35 tax deduction that year), according to the researchers at the Biography channel. Middle children don’t like conflict and learn to manipulate and negotiate in order to avoid it, says co-author Katrin Schumann says in her book The Secret Power of Middle Children. Those talents can come in very handy later in life, allowing them to finesse deals and get things done.
Social networking guru Mark Zuckerberg
The founder of Facebook grew up as the only boy nestled in between three sisters. “Unhampered by set parental expectations and willing to try new things, middle children are more likely to be innovators than firstborns,” writes Schumann. Zuckerberg has been an innovator from the start—the company he started in college has since changed the way people all over the world communicate, and make or maintain friendships. Middleborns may prioritize friendships over family, says Lisa Lewis, MD, a pediatrician. “Middle children, probably because they feel overlooked, will have a tendency to create stronger friendships and long-term relationships.”
Actor Jaden Smith
The gender-fluid actor shares famous dad Will Smith with older half-brother Trey and younger sister Willow. Jaden and other middle kids have a tendency to “break the mold” and are unconventional or rebellious. On her Facebook talk show Red Table Talk, Jaden’s mom Jada Pinkett Smith told a story about how her husband Will reacted when Jaden was tapped to star in an unusual ad campaign. “When Jaden got asked to do the women’s campaign for Louis Vuitton, this kind of gender-fluid fashion, Will called me,” she said. “‘My son is not supposed to be in a Louis Vuitton ad wearing skirts…Is this a good idea?’ [She answered] ‘Well you know what, Will? This is what he wants. It’s his expression.’ And he said OK. But it was tight. He was afraid, it was uncomfortable.”
Singer/dancer/actress Jennifer Lopez
Lopez grew up in the Bronx with two sisters—older sis Leslie and younger sis Lynda. Lopez started out as a backup dancer on the comedy sketch show In Living Color in the 1990s, then moved on to singing and acting. For middle children, “becoming a performer is a surefire way of assuring that you won’t be lost in the crowd,” writes Schumann. Lopez also embodies some of the other classic traits of middle children, like being self-motivated and resilient.
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Diana grew up as the second-youngest of five kids. After marrying Prince Charles and becoming Princess of Wales, she was beloved in England and around the world and was known for her kindness, generosity, and charity work. Many middleborns are natural peacekeepers who are focused on fairness. Middle children learn how to manage conflict among younger and older siblings, says GinaMarie Guarino, a licensed mental health counselor and family therapist in New York. “A middle child will hold a special relationship with each sibling, which helps him or her be able to mediate between the two and provide a balance between the oldest and youngest.”
Basketball Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan
The famous athlete is the second-youngest of five kids, three boys and two girls. Older brother Larry was also Jordan’s teammate in high school. “We played one year of varsity basketball together when I was a senior and Michael was a junior, and that’s when his play just went to another level,” he told ESPN. “His level of play was just so much higher than the rest of us. People ask me all the time if it bothered me, but I can honestly say no, because I had the opportunity to see him grow. I knew how hard he worked.” If you’re a parent and have kids that do get jealous of each other, try these tricks to stop sibling rivalry before it starts.
Comedian and actress Amy Schumer
Schumer is little sister to half-brother Jason Stein, and big sister to writer/producer Kim Caramele. Schuman became a mom in 2019, and some research suggests that her status as a middleborn may give her a leg up on parenting. “Middles want to give their children structure and rules, but also want them to be free to make choices,” says Schumann.
Honest Abe Lincoln
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The president who ended slavery in the United States and helped reunite the nation after the Civil War was the second child of parents Thomas and Nancy. After his mother died, his father remarried—to a woman named Sarah who would go on to become his biggest champion—and he gained three more siblings. Seeing how much Lincoln loved to learn, his stepmom pushed for him to have time off of chores to study. “I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study at home as well as at school,” she said, according to an 1895 biography of President Lincoln in McClure’s Magazine. “At first he was not easily reconciled to it, but finally he too seemed willing to encourage him to a certain extent.”
Guardians of the Galaxy actress Zoe Saldana
The acting business is a tough one, often filled with stiff competition and rejection. But middle children like Saldana are tenacious. “Having staying power in a work situation is critical to success,” writes Schumann. After making it big, Saldana also roped her siblings into working with her, posing with younger sister Cisley and older sister Mariel in an ad for Gap and a spread in W magazine.
“Father of Evolution” Charles Darwin
Darwin was the second-youngest of six children. Although he was an average student in school, Darwin went on to become one of the most influential natural scientists in human history with his theory of natural selection and evolution. He “showed above-average drive and passion for the things he did find interesting, a trait shared by many middles,” wrote Schumann.