30 Celebrities Who Were Adopted As Kids
Adoption isn’t quite as common as you may think.
Despite the fact that more than one-third of all Americans have given thought to adopting a child, only about 2 percent have actually done it. According to the Adoption Network, there are more than 400,000 kids in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted. And, chances are, some very special people will come out of that group.
There are plenty of great stories of celebrities adopting children — but what about famous people who were adopted themselves? Looking back through history, it’s pretty easy to find stories of kids who went on to accomplish remarkable things after being adopted as children by complete strangers.
Listed below are 30 famous people who were adopted before they made it big.
The diminutive dramatic dynamo is one of the most vocal celebrities when it comes to talking about her experience as an adopted child. Days after Chenoweth was born, her birth mother — whom she’s never met — put her up for adoption and her adoptive parents, Jerry and Julie Chenoweth, gave her a happy home.
“Growing up, my parents explained my adoption by telling me, ‘We chose you,’” Chenoweth wrote in 2015. “It was a wonderful way to put it to an adopted child.”
As an infant, country music star Faith Hill was adopted by Edna Perry, a bank teller, and Ted Perry, a factory worker, in Mississippi. Growing up, she knew she was adopted but told Billboard magazine, “I used to dream I was Elvis’ daughter.” In her 20s, she tracked down her biological mother and found out she had a brother.
The Olympic diving icon was put into California’s foster care system when he was born, eventually being adopted by Frances and Peter Louganis when he was 9 months old. He eventually met his biological father in the 1980s and talked to his biological mother on the phone for the first time in 2017.
The former NFL quarterback was given up for adoption as a 5-week-old baby by his 19-year-old biological mother and adopted by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. In 2013, Colin Kaepernick told ESPN he wasn’t curious to meet his biological mother, even though she’d reached out to him before.
Alt-rock queen Liz Phair was adopted at birth by a wealthy couple in the Chicago area. In 1994, she told Rolling Stone being adopted made her feel “a little more liberated from my background from most people. I can invent my own legacy, because I don’t really have one.”
Before teen singer Rachel Crow became a fan favorite on Fox’s “The X Factor” in 2011, her first days were pretty rough. Her biological mother was addicted to drugs and she was put into the foster care system at 6 months old. Barbara and Kelly Crow took little Rachel in and eventually adopted her. At 13, Rachel said she had no desire to meet her biological parents.
Legendary Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton has been a champion for adoption his entire life — which makes sense given he was adopted as a 6-week-old boy. His adoptive parents, Dorothy and Ernest Hamilton, were professors at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University when he joined their family.
Wrestling icon Ric Flair was a baby when he was adopted from the now-notorious Tennessee Children’s Home. The orphanage was later revealed to have been at the center of an illegal operation that dealt in stolen babies. Flair’s adoptive parents, Dick and Kay Fliehr, likely had no clue this was the case and, to this day, it’s unclear if Flair was one of those stolen babies. He never met his biological parents and has said he didn’t care to.
The tech hero was born to a single mother in 1955 who was scared of the scandal of having a baby while unmarried, so decided to give him up for adoption. Steve Jobs’ adoptive parents, Clara and Paul Jobs, took him into their family and the Apple co-founder only ever referred to them as his parents, dismissing his biological ones. He reportedly never met his biological father.
At 18 months old, the future Oscar winner was adopted by Noreen and Vernon McDormand. She moved around a lot as a child due to her adoptive father’s work as a preacher. McDormand and her husband, director Joel Coen, have an adopted son of their own now.
The longtime TV host was given up by his biological parents at just a few weeks old in 1912. He was adopted by Mary and Fulton Linkletter, whose own biological children had died. According to The New York Times, Art Linkletter accidentally discovered he was adopted when he was looking through his dad’s desk at the age of 12.
When the legendary South African leader was 9 years old, his father died. At that point, Nelson Mandela was adopted by the tribal chief in his village.
When the singer was an infant, she was given up by her birth mother, who was a 19-year-old artist. She was adopted by Jack and Dorice McLachlan, who revealed to McLachlan that she was adopted when she was about 9 years old.
“I’m thankful that she gave me up,” McLachlan told Parents of her birth mother’s decision.
The founder of the fast food chain Wendy’s was a lifelong champion of adoption programs, stemming from the fact he was adopted as a baby himself. Sadly, his adoptive mother, Auleva Thomas, died when Dave Thomas was just 5 years old — but he was then raised by his adoptive father, Rex Thomas, and his adoptive grandmother.
The “Little House on the Prairie” star wrote in 2009 that she was adopted on the day she was born. Her biological parents already had six kids between them and “couldn’t afford a seventh.” Gilbert also wrote that her adoptive parents hadn’t even been looking into adoption but got a call that a baby was available and they said they wanted her!
The “Goodfellas” star didn’t meet his biological mother until he was in his 40s and has said, as a kid, “I used to wear being adopted on my sleeve. How could you give up a kid?” Over the years, Liotta realized that being put up for adoption is “for the betterment of the kid.”
As a child, the rock icon was adopted by a sharecropping family in his native Mississippi. His adoptive family moved to Chicago, where his career would ultimately take off after he switched from playing the violin to the electric guitar.
The director of blockbusters including “Pearl Harbor” and the Transformers series, Michael Bay found out he was adopted at about the age of 5. He spent the first two weeks of his life in an orphanage before being adopted, according to Rolling Stone. As an adult, he searched for his biological parents, eventually tracking down his mother.
The Run DMC rapper didn’t find out he’d been adopted until he was 35 years old. McDaniels spent the first five years of his life in foster care but his foster parents just decided to adopt him and raise him as their own child. “It saved my life,” he told Essence of being adopted.
The beloved TV star was adopted when he was just four days old. His parents have said they told Coleman he was adopted when he was about 5 years old. Unfortunately, he had a falling out with them shortly after he became successful, suing them for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from him when he was a child actor.
The Blondie singer was adopted when she was just a few months old and was told of her adoption when she was 4 years old. In 2014, she told AZ Central she used to fantasize that Marilyn Monroe was her biological mother.
Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi
The “Jersey Shore” star was born in Chile and adopted by an American family when she was 6 months old. In 2016, she revealed on Khloe Kardashian’s talk show that she was learning more about her biological family and that she wanted to meet them.
OK so this isn’t technically a case of adoption by a total stranger, but it’s definitely not your typical adoption story. Nicole Richie, the former reality TV star, was adopted by pop icon Lionel Richie when she was 4 years old. Her biological parents worked in the music business and were unable to support their daughter financially at the time. So, Lionel Richie, who knew the couple, asked them to let Nicole move in with he and his wife, eventually adopting her.
When the UFC and WWE star, born Ken Kilpatrick, was a 10-year-old boy, he ran away from home and eventually lived in seven different group homes in just a few years. When he was 13, he was taken in by Bob Shamrock, a California man who ran a home for troubled boys. Shamrock eventually legally adopted Ken, who took his last name.
Kitty & Peter Carruthers
Here’s a two-for-one adoption story! Way before the Shib Sibs skated to Olympic fame, Kitty & Peter Carruthers were a pair of American ice-skating siblings who became stars. Their chemistry on the ice made them seem like blood relatives but both were adopted into the Carruthers family as infants, from an agency in Boston.
One of Broadway’s most respected playwrights, Edward Albee was abandoned by his biological parents as an infant and was adopted by Frances and Reed Albee before his first birthday. Perhaps it was fate for the young child, as his adoptive father was an heir to a chain of vaudeville theaters in New York.
Acclaimed British journalist Kate Adie was given up for adoption as a baby by her biological mother, because Adie was born of an affair with a married man. She was adopted by Maud and Wilfred Adie, and said she always knew she was adopted and had a great childhood. She eventually became close with her biological mother after her adoptive parents died.
One of the most decorated professional surfers of all time, Australian Layne Beachley’s creation was a tragic one. As an adult, she learned her biological mother had been raped and she was born as a result of the attack. She was immediately put up for adoption and was taken in by her new family. She eventually met her biological mother, which she wrote about it in her book, “Beneath the Waves.”
When the former NFL quarterback was just a day old, Emma Culpepper adopted him. Daunte Culpepper was one of 15 children raised by Emma Culpepper, none of whom were her biological kids. Daunte has since said that being adopted by her was “the best thing that happened to me in my whole life.”
In the ‘70s/‘80s TV classic “The Dukes of Hazzard,” James Best became famous for his role as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. Born Jewel Guy, he was initially raised by his biological parents until his mother died when he was a toddler. He was then put in an orphanage and eventually adopted by Armen and Essa Best of Indiana.