A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

25 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Adopted

Families form in many different ways. These celebrities not only understand the beauty of adoption, they've lived it.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Stewart Cook/Shutterstock (9657494ez) Kristin Chenoweth NBCUniversal Summer Press Day, Los Angeles, USA - 02 May 2018
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Family matters

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of family is “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.” Of course, we know that family is so much more than that. It’s a dynamic full of ups, downs, triumphs, and struggles. And there isn’t a singular way to become a family, either. The path to finding one’s “people” can be a journey in and of itself. For these 25 celebrities, adoption led them to the folks who would be the most formidable of their lives. The stories of theseĀ 6 foster kids finding their forever home will melt your heart.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock (6411790a) JOBS Apple CEO Steve Jobs displays his company's new product, the Mini-Ipod, at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco APPLE IPOD, SAN FRANCISCO, USA
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Steve Jobs

Adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a couple who had been unable to have children, Apple founder Steve Jobs grew up in the part of Northern California now known as Silicon Valley with his adoptive sister Patti. Though he never met his birth parents, he did meet a biological sister, Mona Simpson, when he was 27. He even went on to describe Simpson as “one of my best friends in the world,” according to The Telegraph. However close he became with her, the tech icon was always quick to point out that Paul and Clara were the only parents he ever knew. This is the one quality Steve Jobs always looked for in employees.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/Variety/Shutterstock (9447411in) Frances McDormand, 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' - Best Female Lead 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 03 Mar 2018
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Frances McDormand

Academy Award winner Frances McDormand was adopted at 18 months of age. Her parents, Noreen McDormand and Rev Vernon McDormand worked as a nurse and an evangelical preacher, respectively, according to The Guardian. The McDormands adopted two other children as well and moved around the country frequently to help reinvigorate congregations that needed assistance. These stories about people who came from nothing and now give back will make your day.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10429461o) Keegan-Michael Key poses on the red carpet during the premiere of the Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, USA, 28 September 2019. Dolemite Is My Name Premiere in Los Angeles, USA - 28 Sep 2019

Keegan-Michael Key

A Michigan native, actor Keegan-Michael Key was adopted at a young age by two social workers and raised in Detroit. When he was 25 years old Key found his biological mother. “Finding her was something that had always been in my mind,” he told Chicago Now. “My parents always said, ‘That’s a possibility for you.’ That was one of the most unexpected and crucial and significant and foundational things that has happened in my life.” These 27 quotes about hope will instantly lift you up.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10372528cc) Nicole Snooki Polizzi. Nicole " Nicole Snooki Polizzi " Polizzi arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center, in Newark, N.J 2019 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals, Newark, USA - 26 Aug 2019
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Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi

Beyond her former hard-partying Jersey Shore personal, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi has an interview story to tell: She was adopted from Santiago, Chile at the age of 6 months old. “[My parents] flew all the way to Chile to come pick me up and they said that right when they saw me I was like, ‘Mama. Dada.’ So it was, like, meant to be. I could tell because, you know, things just work out that way. It’s called fate,” Polizzi shared in a YouTube video about adoption in 2018. These 15 stories prove that it’s never too late to change your life.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10439412f) This photo shows singer-songwriter Liz Phair posing for a portrait to promote her memoir "Horror Stories," in Los Angeles Liz Phair Portrait Session, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Oct 2019
Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Liz Phair

Musician Liz Phair has been very vocal about being adopted, applauding the way her parents relayed the information to herself and her brother, also adopted. “My parents were very responsible,” she told Women’s Health. “They said, ‘We wanted you more than anything in the whole world.’ They were perfect about it.” Phair has never tried to find her biological parents.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9241571sg) Faith Hill arrives at the 52nd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas 52nd Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards - Arrivals, Las Vegas, USA - 2 Apr 2017

Faith Hill

As a child, Faith Hill’s parents told her she was adopted, but the story behind how and why that happened was misconstrued, likely to spare her feelings. Hill’s biological parents went on to marry and have another child after she was given up for adoption. “I was adopted into this incredible home, a loving, positive environment, yet I had this yearning, this kind of darkness that was also inside me,” she told Good Housekeeping. She eventually did find and meet her birth parents as well as her biological brother. Read the stories of eight adoptees who found their biological parents through DNA kits.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9191631w) JC Chasez arrives at the Clive Davis Pre-GRAMMY Gala on in Beverly Hills, Calif 2013 Clive Davis Pre-GRAMMY Gala - Arrivals, Beverly Hills, USA - 9 Feb 2013
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JC Chasez

‘N Sync’s JC Chasez keeps a relatively private life, but he has quietly discussed being adopted at the age of five. “I was aware of the whole thing (the adoption),” Chasez said during a radio interview. “I know who my mother is. She raised me up until I was 5. I have a very clear idea of who she was. She knew who my parents were because she was actually fostered by them at one point because she had been through a lot in her life at a young age. That’s how I ended up being adopted. She reached out to the people she trusted.” These are 10 things parents of adopted children really wish you knew.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9921912cl) Nicole Richie arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Camping", at Paramount Studios LA Premiere of "Camping", Los Angeles, USA - 10 Oct 2018
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Nicole Richie

If you’ve ever seen the interactions between Nicole Richie and her dad Lionel Richie on her reality show Candidly Nicole, they are like two peas in a pod. The “Hello” singer adopted Nicole at a young age, when he noticed her biological parents, who weren’t getting along particularly well at the time, were seemingly struggle to care for the little girl. “I knew her mother and fatherā€¦ and I said, ‘While you are having difficulty the kid is sitting in limbo. Put her in my house, when the tour is over we will sort this out’,” Lionel said in an interview with Piers Morgan. Not more than a year after that he went on to legally adopt Nicole.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Dagley/Shutterstock (85780a) Debbie Harry on 'The Muppet Show' TV show VARIOUS - 1980
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Debbie Harry

At the age of four, Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry learned she had been adopted as an infant. In an interview with MOJO magazine, Harry admits that the relationship she shared with her parents wasn’t always smooth, particularly when she decided to pursue music as a career. ”Unfortunately for me, or unfortunately for my parents, I was determined to be an artist,” she says. “And of course they weren’t artists and the whole idea of it was barbaric. My mother came from a family that thought artists were the slime of the earth. I think it was frightening for them, because they, of course, were trying to protect me.”

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ibl/Shutterstock (223659b) Nelson Mandela F W DE KLERK AND NELSON MANDELA MEETING KING CARL GUSTAF OF SWEDEN IN STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - 1993 President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999

Nelson Mandela

Nine-year-old Nelson Mandela was adopted after his father passed away in 1927. He joined the family of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, a leader of the Thembu tribe who lived in the South African village of Mvezo. It was Dalindyebo who saw the potential in Mandela and encouraged him to become a young leader within the tribe. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Larry Levinson Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock (5884656y) Melissa Gilbert The Christmas Pageant - 2011 Director: David S. Cass Sr. Larry Levinson Productions USA Television Tv Classics The Christmas Pageant
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Melissa Gilbert

Actress Melissa Gilbert was adopted as a newborn. So new, in fact, she was only a day old when she became the daughter of Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane, both actors. The Little House on the Prairie star would eventually learn that her biological parents had come from previous marriages, each with three children of their own, and were concerned they could not financially support another, according to Biography.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10418465c) Sarah McLachlan attends WE Day Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena, in Toronto WE Day , Toronto, Canada - 19 Sep 2019
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Sarah McLachlan

When she learned she had been adopted, Sarah McLachlan recalls taking the news in stride. “I think I was about nine,” she tells Parents. “And even then it wasn’t a big deal. 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.” Later in life, McLachlan did meet her biological mother, an artist, who gave birth to her at the age of 19.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Stewart Cook/Shutterstock (9657494ez) Kristin Chenoweth NBCUniversal Summer Press Day, Los Angeles, USA - 02 May 2018
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Kristin Chenoweth

Impacted by the film Lion, which addresses adoption, Kristin Chenoweth chose to share her own adoption story in a personal essay. “Can honestly say being adopted was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” she wrote on Huff Post. “It was never something that was hidden from me and it is not something I have ever been ashamed of. I recognize how fortunate I am to have parents who love and support me unconditionally. The fact that they are not my biological parents does not change the fact that they are simply, my parents.” Find out the secrets of the happiest families.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Pierluigi Praturlon/Shutterstock (11453b) John Lennon in Ailsa Avenue, Twickenham The Beatles Filming 'Help' - 1965
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John Lennon

A prolific songwriter and beloved musician, John Lennon had a lot of life experience to draw from at an early age. According to Adoption.com, after his parents’ marriage failed around the time he was five years old, Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, who did not have any biological children of their own.

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Ray Liotta

For Ray Liotta, knowing he was adopted shaped some of the roles he has chosen throughout his acting career. For example, his part in The Identical appealed to him because of his personal history. “I found my birth mother and found out I have, not an identical twin, but a half brother, five half-sisters and a full sister that I didn’t know about until 15 years ago,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. Don’t miss the 16 myths about adoption you need to understand.

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Jamie Foxx

On his FOX game show Beat Shazam, Jamie Foxx brings the funny during the light-hearted (but tense) rounds of contestants trying to win money. During one particular episode, however, Foxx got teary-eyed by a couple trying to win money to send their adopted children to college. “You know what’s amazing?” he said. “I was adopted at seven months and I’m going to tell you what that means. My grandmother? That’s not actually my biological grandmother. That’s somebody who said, ‘I see something in that little boy that’s very special.'”

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9112189a) Comedian Andy Dick speaks onstage during the American Cinematheque 26th Annual Award Presentation to Ben Stiller 2012 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Los Angeles police arrested Dick on suspicion of grand theft late Friday night, Nov. 7, 2014, in Los Angeles' Hollywood district. The celebrity gossip website TMZ.com, which first reported the arrest, said Dick allegedly stole the necklace of a man he encountered on Hollywood Boulevard last week Andy Dick-Arrest, Beverly Hills, USA
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Andy Dick

Both comedian Andy Dick and his brother Jeff (who sadly passed away in 2016) were adopted by their parents Allen and Sue Dick. The family moved frequently because of Allen’s job as a nuclear submarine officer. This meant they set up households everywhere from Charleston, South Carolina to Yugoslavia. These are the triumphs and tragedies only military families will understand.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/Variety/Shutterstock (5765164ak) Scott Hamilton ESPY Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 13 July 2016
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Scott Hamilton

Figure skater Scott Hamilton was adopted as an infant, raised by a loving family that made adoption, to him, a wonderful experience. Because of this, Hamilton and his wife adopted two Haitian children, Evelyne and her brother Jean Paul, when they were 11 and 13, respectively. “We fell in love with these kids two years ago and it took us that long to bring them home,” he said in an interview on Today.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Kasson/AP/Shutterstock (6582617a) THOMAS Dave Thomas, is shown in this 1994 photo, died around midnight at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to Wendy's the company he founded. Thomas, whose homespun ads built Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers into one of the world's most successful fast-food franchises, had been undergoing dialysis for a kidney problem since early 2001. Thomas had quadruple heart bypass surgery in December 1996 WENDYS DAVE THOMAS, COLUMBUS, USA
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Dave Thomas

Perhaps one of the most public proponents of adoption was Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. He was adopted at just six weeks old. After experiencing career success with the fast-food chain named after his youngest daughter (Thomas had five children), he set up the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, helping to unite children in foster care with their forever families.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by AP/Shutterstock (9137518a) This Dec. 24, 2016 photo shows San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick talking during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams. Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL on alleging that he remains unsigned as a result of collusion by owners following his protests during the national anthem Kaepernick-Grievance Football, Los Angeles, USA - 25 Dec 2016

Colin Kaepernick

Teresa and Rick Kaepernick adopted son Colin Kaepernick when he was five weeks old. The NFL player’s parents came under fire when they initially remained silent about the controversy surrounding Colin’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem because of his views on the way the U.S. treats minorities. “As his parents, it pains us to read articles and tweets saying that his family does not support him; this could not be further from the truth,” Teresa and Rick said jointly. “We want people to know that we are very proud of our son and admire his strength and courage in kneeling for the rights of others.”

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aflo/Shutterstock (10443602cx) Simone Biles (USA) - Artistic Gymnastics : The 2019 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, Women's Apparatus Finals Floor Exercise at Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart, Germany. Gymnastics World Championships, Day 10, Stuttgart, Germany - 13 Oct 2019

Simone Biles

During a particularly intimate moment during her time on Dancing with the Stars, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles opened up about her own adoption, noting that her biological mother suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. Biles’ grandfather and his wife adopted her, making them her mom and dad. “My parents saved me,” she said. “They’ve set huge examples of how to treat other people, and they’ve been there to support me since day one. There’s nothing I could say to them to thank them enough.” These 13 Olympic moments changed history.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9242097br) Michael Bay attends the U.S. premiere of "Transformers: The Last Knight" at the Civic Opera House, in Chicago US Premiere of "Transformers: The Last Knight", Chicago, USA - 20 Jun 2017

Michael Bay

Movie director Michael Bay tells Rolling Stone he was about five or six years old when he found out he was adopted and didn’t find the news all that surprising. He recalls picking up his younger sister from an orphanage when he was three years old. And that, now that, was a different story. “Afterward, we had a big family party, and I was all upset,” he says in the interview. “I took my milk and poured it on the floor.” Find out more about 11 famous sibling rivalries throughout history.

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Ted Danson

Adopted at a young age, actor Ted Danson went on to later adopt children with his second wife Cassandra Coates. About his own childhood, Danson tells AARP he always felt like money was tight, the family didn’t own a TV, and he generally looked like a “ragamuffin.” But his parents had the important stuff down. “There wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t told that I was loved in one form or another,” he says.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (2229030f) Eric Clapton Eric Clapton in concert at Hard Rock Live, Florida, America - 30 Mar 2013

Eric Clapton

Music icon Eric Clapton did not know that the people he believed to be his parents were actually his grandparents (mother and stepfather to his biological mom Patricia, who gave birth to him as a teen) until later in life. Clapton wasn’t legally adopted by the couple, but that clearly did not impact the love he received growing up in the (not surprisingly) musical household. No matter how hard things might seem, make sure you never say these worst things you can say to your kids.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9084077b) Dr. Maya Angelou speaks on race relations at Congregation B'nai Israel and Ebenezer Baptist Church on in Boca Raton, Florida Dr. Maya Angelou - Florida, Boca Raton, USA
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Maya Angelou

Born Marguerite Johnson, treasured poet Maya Angelou lived with her parents in St. Louis, Missouri until they divorced when she was three years old. At that time Angelous was moved to the town of Stamps, Arkansas to be raised by her grandmother. Similar to Eric Clapton’s story, she was not legally adopted by her grandmother, however, experienced much of her childhood under her roof. Find out the best pieces of advice grandparents have ever given.