The Adoption Network estimates that nearly 100 million Americans have experienced adoption in their immediate family, while the US Census claims that one in 25 families in America have an adopted child. Chances are you probably know someone who was – or has – adopted.
Obviously, celebrities are part of these statistics. From Nelson Mandela to Ice-T, see which of your favourite famous faces were brought up by non-biological parents.
Jack Nicholson was shocked to find out that the woman he believed to be his mother was his grandmother — and that his sister was actually his mother.
Nicholson’s birth mother was 17 when she had him, so she asked her mother and father to take Jack and raise him as their own. They agreed, and Jack didn’t find out the truth until he was 37, a decade after his his mother and grandmother had passed away.
He has since said of the potentially life-shattering revelation, “I’d say it was a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn’t what I’d call traumatising… As a matter of fact, it made quite a few things clearer to me. If anything, I felt grateful.”
Marilyn Monroe bounced around the California foster care system due to her birth mother’s inability to care for her.
Monroe’s mother struggled with mental illness, and her father was unknown, leaving her to bounce around between foster care and orphanages until the age of 11. While several families expressed interest in adopting her, her mother wouldn’t sign the papers. She ended up moving in with her mother’s best friend, Grace, and later her great-aunt Olive. At age 16 she married her 21-year-old neighbour, James Dougherty.
Steve Jobs never met his birth parents.
Jobs’ birth parents, Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian immigrant, were unmarried when he was conceived, and Schieble’s parents did not approve of their relationship. Schieble secretly travelled to San Francisco to give birth to Jobs, where he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.
At age 27, Jobs found out that he had a biological sister, Mona Simpson: his biological parents had married and given birth to a daughter two years after giving him up for adoption. The two became close, with Jobs calling her “one of my best friends in the world” in an interview with the New York Times. However, he never felt the need to meet his biological parents, and considered the Jobs’ his real parents.
Actress Frances McDormand was adopted by a pastor and his wife. She went on to adopt a son with her husband.
McDormand was adopted by Noreen and Vernon McDonald when she was just one (she called her birth mother “White trash”). The McDonalds had already fostered nine other children, but officially only adopted three. Her adoptive father was a pastor for the Disciples of Christ, and gave her a “moral barometer.”
McDormand and her husband Joel Coen (of Coen Brothers fame), adopted their own son Pedro from Paraguay in 1995 when he was six months old.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is famous for being an Italian “guidette,” but she was actually born in Chile.
Polizzi, a reality TV star, prides herself in being Italian American – it’s her whole claim to fame – but she was actually born in Santiago, Chile, and adopted six months later by Andy and Helen Polizzi (who are Italian American).
On Khloe Kardashian’s short-lived series “Kocktails with Khloe,” Polizzi opened up about her birth parents, telling Kardashian that she did some digging and found out she has “like 10 other brothers and sisters.”
“I guess they couldn’t afford me,” she said, adding that she was open to travelling to Chile to meet them.
Fashion designer Nicole Richie’s adopted father is famous singer Lionel Richie.
Richie was adopted by Lionel and Brenda Richie unofficially when she was four, and officially when she was nine. Her birth parents, Karen Moss and Peter Michael Escovedo, were friends with the Richies, and were going through personal and financial turmoil when Lionel offered to take care of their daughter.
The “Good News” actress posted an adorable throwback photo on Instagram commemorating the day her adoption papers were officially signed.
Bill Clinton was adopted by his stepfather after his birth father died in an accident.
Sarah McLachlan met her birth mother through “a complete coincidence.”
McLachlan, a Canadian singer and songwriter, was adopted by Jack and Dorice McLachlan along with two other children. She didn’t know she was adopted until she was nine, and considers her adoptive mother her real mum. “When I think about my mother who raised me, you know, she’s my mother,” she told Parents magazine.
That said, she is friendly with her biological mother, an artist who gave birth to her at age 19. They were introduced by a mutual acquaintance.
McLachlan holds no grudges. She told Parents, “She would have had to go and live in rural Newfoundland, and she wouldn’t have been able to pursue any of her dreams.”
Faith Hill’s parents told her that her birth mother had an affair with a married man, and that this was why she had been given up for adoption — this turned out not to be true.
The country star told Billboard that she always felt a little different than her family – that she was “a gypsy at heart.” When she found out her birth mother was a painter, Hill said it “helped her understand why she had felt like a misfit.”
Her adopted parents, Edna and Ted, originally told her that her mother had had an affair with a married man, which is why she had to give her up for adoption. However, she later found out that this wasn’t the case: her mother had been unable to care for her at the time of her birth, but later married her biological father and had another child with him.
Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth was adopted less than a week after she was born.
Chenoweth blogged about her adoption story in honour of National Adoption Day (November 21) in 2015. She wrote that she “knew that my birth mother loved me so much that she wanted to give me a better life,” going on to write that “If anything, I would thank my birth mother for loving me enough to make such a huge sacrifice.”
Jamie Foxx was adopted by his grandparents.
Foxx, born Eric Morlon Bishop, was adopted by his maternal grandparents when he was less than a year old, after his parents’ marriage fell apart. The actor got emotional while hosting the show “Beat Shazam,” when talking to two contestants about his adoption story.
Eartha Kitt moved around a lot during her childhood.
Kitt, one of history’s great triple threats (she was a singer, dancer, and actress, most famous for playing Catwoman in the 1960’s “Batman” TV show), was born on a South Carolina plantation in 1927, allegedly the product of a rape. Her mother abandoned her, and she was left in the care of relatives. Constantly being picked on for being of mixed heritage, she eventually moved to New York City to live with an aunt at age eight.
Debbie Harry fantasized about being the “lost daughter of Marilyn Monroe.”
The Blondie frontwoman and ’80s rocker was given up for adoption when she was only a few months old: her adoptive parents, Catherine and Richard Harry, told her that she was adopted when she was just four.
She never met her birth parents, and has been vocal about having fantasized about being the lost daughter of Marilyn Monroe.
Nelson Mandela was adopted by a chief of a different tribe after his father died of lung disease.
Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president of South Africa, was just nine years old when his father died of lung disease. He was then adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo of the Thembu people as a favour, as Mandela’s father had recommended Dalindyebo to be named chief.
Jordan Fisher was adopted by his grandparents.
Fisher, singer and winner of season 25 of “Dancing with the Stars,” shared his adoption story on the show.
Claiming that his mother was “not fit to raise a kid” when she gave birth to him at age 16, he was adopted by his grandparents. His biological mother had two more children, who were eventually also adopted by his grandparents due to his biological mother’s substance abuse problems.
Ice-T was orphaned at a young age and moved across the country to live with relatives.
The actor and rapper, famously from South Central Los Angeles, was actually born in New Jersey as Tracy Marrow. His mother died of a heart attack when he was in the third grade, and when his father also died of a heart attack just four years later he was sent to Los Angeles to live with his aunt.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.