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.
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. Don’t miss the 10 powerful ways the world still honors Nelson Mandela.
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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. This adopted woman searched for her birth mother for 33 years.
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. McLachlan is also a huge animal advocate, and these are animal adoption stories that will melt your heart.
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.
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.
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.
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.’” This is how one mother helped her adopted son find his “missing piece.”
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.
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. Find out how one book helped to feed 30,000+ orphans in Haiti.
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. See what his daughter Wendy looks like in real life.