40 Celebrities Who Were Born Into Privilege
Some people have to bus tables in Los Angeles while going to gig after gig and waiting for their next big break. These celebrities didn’t have to do that. They came from wealthy or influential families, the best schools money can buy and sometimes even long lines of nobility.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily take away from what these men and women have accomplished. These are (for the most part), amazing actors and singers who would not have gotten as far as they did without talent and ambition. But the early privilege didn’t hurt.
Salma Hayek apparently grew up with three tigers, including one named Rambo. The New York Post reported she said, “One [tiger], caught in the air conditioner, died. One sweet cub developed a temper and had to go. My third, Rambo, the tiger of my life, was a little baby doll. Three years we played inside our house. I can't talk of how he died. It's too upsetting.''
The actress grew up in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Her father, Sami Hayek Dominguez, is an oil industry executive and industrial-equipment firm owner in Mexico who pampered his children. “I thought I was a princess. I lived in a castle and my father was a king. I wore tiaras. I was born diva-ish,” she once said.
Now, she’s even wealthier than ever. Even though she has made millions during her acting career, that wealth is nothing compared to her billionaire French husband, Francois-Henri Pinault, whose company owns Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent.
The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas’ first impressions of Earth were vastly different than most other New Yorkers. The 41-year-old singer was born to Danish supermodel and former 1965 Miss Denmark Jeanette Christiansen and the late John Casablancas, who founded the global chain modeling agency Elite Model Management. He attended a prep school in Switzerland and Dwight School (current tuition: $51,000 for grades 1-12), but he dropped out and received a GED.
Adam Noah Levine is the lead singer of the pop band Maroon 5, occasional actor, “The Voice” coach and owner of the production company 222 Productions. His father founded the clothing boutique M. Fredric, and Levine attended the Brentwood School in Los Angeles, a K-12 school with tuition currently ranging from $37,275 to $44,058. But he certainly doesn’t need his father’s money now. In 2013, Hollywood Reporter estimated that Levine was making over $35 million a year from his own business empire.
Similar to his character Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones,” Christopher Catesby Harington shares a direct lineage with Charles II, who ruled England during the 1600s. His great grandfather was a baronet and he is named after the Elizabethan-era playwright Christopher Marlowe, according to the Guardian. His father owned a company that ran trade shows and his mother was a playwright and creative writing teacher at Birmingham University. However, Harington’s blue blood does not necessarily translate to riches. As he told the Guardian:
“I think I was one of only two in the cast [of “Game of Thrones”] who didn’t go to private school. My dad went to Westminster, so I was vaguely aware of that kind of thing, but I hadn’t experienced it myself. We weren’t a particularly low-income family, but at the same time I’m not sure my parents would have been able to support me trying to make it as an actor.”
Kit Harington’s wife and “Game of Thrones” co-star, Rose Leslie, had a much wealthier background than Harington. She was born into the Clan Leslie and the family owns several castles. This includes Lickeyhead Castle, where Rose grew up, which sold for only $807,000 in 2019 – the 460-year-old castle was repossessed due to a loan repayment dispute. Her father is Sebastian Leslie, a politician whose role was suspended by the Tories in 2018 for refusing to pay taxes.
Throughout the centuries, the family has owned several castles throughout Scotland including Leslie Castle, Wardhill Castle, Leslie Castle, Rothes Castle and Fettemear Place. Harington and Rose were married in 2018 at Wardhill Castle, which is also available to rent on Airbnb for a kingly sum of $3,054 per night.
Gwyneth Paltrow is an Academy Award-winning actress and founder of Goop, a natural health company with some seriously questionable products — the company was fined $145,000 in 2018 for making over 50 erroneous claims that its products and products it recommends could cure ailments like depression and anxiety. Like these healing stickers. She also entered Hollywood armed with connections. Her mother is Blythe Danner, an award-winning actress, and her father, Bruce Paltrow, is a producer and director. And her godfather is Stephen Spielberg.
Swift may have grown up on a farm in Reading, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t the kind of farm you might be imagining. According to the New Yorker, “Her mother worked in finance, and her father, a descendant of three generations of bank presidents, is a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch.” The farm she grew up on was a Christmas tree farm, and according to Swift, “it mattered what kind of designer handbag you brought to school.”
According to Salon, her dad switched offices to Nashville so he could help his daughter’s career. She drove a Lexus as a high school sophomore and her dad purchased a part of Big Machine, the label to which she signed (years later, it would be the label that would screw her over).
Creator of the surreal sketch comedy show “Kroll Show” and co-creator of Netflix’s “Big Mouth” comes from an extremely wealthy family. Nick Kroll is the son of Jules B. Kroll, a corporate intelligence industry pioneer and founder of Kroll Associates, which was sold for $1.13 billion in 2010. Nick attended Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (now the Leffell School), which currently has a tuition of $26,000-$42,000; Rye Country Day School (current tuition: $37,250 - $45,500); the Mountain School (tuition: $31,000) and Georgetown University (current tuition: $71,580).
“I’m from Rye, New York. The tough streets of Rye, New York.” Nick once said. “It was tough. We didn’t even have our own tennis court growing up.”
“Doctor Strange” and “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch is the son of Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton, both of whom were actors in film and television. He grew up in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, an exclusive inner London borough where the average home price is $2.7 million.
Cumberbatch’s family has modern ties to high society and he is also related to King Richard III, albeit a distant one — Cumberbatch is a second cousin 16 times removed to the 15th-century King of England. Cumberbatch read a poem at Richard III’s reburial in 2015.
“American Sniper” star Bradley Cooper didn’t graduate from the school of hard knocks. He attended the private, pre-12 Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania (yearly tuition costs currently range from $23,065 for pre-K to $36,580 for grades 9-12) and studied at Villanova before transferring to Georgetown. His mother worked for a local NBC affiliate while his father was a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch.
“He had to carry a knife to f****** school, so he just wanted to get the f*** out of there and make money," Cooper told GQ, about his father’s tough youth. "In another world, my father would be doing the same thing I'm doing."
London-born Tom Hiddleston, best known for playing Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, attended the exclusive boarding school of Eton (which currently has a yearly tuition of nearly $50,000) and then studied at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His father ran a biotech company that worked with Oxford University, although he likes to point out that his paternal grandfather was a shipyard worker in Sunderland.
The star of “Seinfeld” and “Veep” has received 11 Emmys and a Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus was born into an insanely wealthy family. Her father was Gerad Louis-Dreyfous, chair of the Louis Dreyfus Company who had an estimated net worth of $3.4 billion.
While Julia’s father and mother divorced just one year after she was born, her mother married the dean of the George Washington University Medical School. She graduated from the prestigious Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland (current tuition: $44,610 per year, with students in grades 5-12 requiring “additional expenses” according to the school’s website) and then attended Northwestern University in Illinois (current tuition: $78,654 per year).
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta didn’t have to become a fame monster with her Lady Gaga persona and singing career. She grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and her father, Joseph Germanotta, was an Internet entrepreneur and CEO of a company that installs Wi-Fi in hotels.
As a child, she was given piano lessons. Her schooling includes the Manhattan-based Roman Catholic private school Convent of the Sacred Heart (current tuition: $53,240) and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, although she dropped out of college after one year to pursue singing full-time.
Armand Douglas Hammer gained recognition for his dual role of the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network” (for which he won a Toronto Film Critics Association Award) and then for playing the Lone Ranger in “The Lone Ranger” (which lost between $105 and $210 million at the box office). He’s the great-grandson of the Occidental Petroleum owner, Armand Hammer. When the patriarchal oil tycoon died in 1990, he left $42 million to his heirs. Armie’s father is Michael Armond Hammer, who was the sole executor of the Hammer estate at the time of his grandfather’s death.
Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal are the children of Stephen Gyllenhaal and Naomi Forner, both of whom work in the entertainment industry. Stephen is a television and film director who graduated from Harvard and Naomi is a screenwriter and director who graduated from Barnard College and holds a masters from Columbia University. The Gyllenhaal family also has roots in Swedish nobility dating back to the 1600s. Just don’t ask Jake about it. He’s so private that he doesn’t even want to talk about what kind of sandwich he recently ate or pretty much anything about his private life.
At the age of 14, Emma Stone rushed home from school and, using a PowerPoint presentation, convinced her parents to send her to Hollywood .
“It's the last period of the day, and I have a revelation that I needed to move to Los Angeles as soon as possible because that's where I needed to go. I know, it was crazy,” Emma told Hollywood Reporter. Her plan was dubbed Project Hollywood. It entailed Emma moving to L.A. accompanied by her mother while her father, Jeff Stone, would stay in Scottsdale, Arizona, to keep running his successful construction company (and also keep her fledgling career afloat).
As insane as it sounds, the parents agreed to it, and it’s hard to argue that they didn’t make the right choice.
Edward Thomas Hardy grew up in the affluent enclave of East Sheen, London. His early schooling included the Tower House School (with a modest annual tuition of about $6,400) and Reeds School (tuition: $8,700-$14,000 per year), although Hardy was expelled from the latter for stealing. “I grew up around people carriers and cardigans and the deer in Richmond Park, but behind those Laura Ashley curtains there are a lot of demons. East Sheen is a middle-class area, Trumpton or Sesame Street, but there’s trouble if you want it,” Hardy told the Guardian.
Hardy’s young adult life would be troubled by alcoholism and addiction to crack cocaine, but he overcame these troubles to become one of this generation’s finest actors. He also produced one of the most embarrassing MySpace pages.
Lana Del Rey
Grammy-nominated singer Lana Del Rey may sing a melancholy tune, but money was never one of her woes. Her father, Robert England Grant Jr., is the millionaire CEO of a real estate company in New York and a web domain developer. In 2012, fans were outraged when there was speculation that Del Rey’s rise to fame looked inorganic, although her first record label denies that her career was funded by her father.
While a common joke about the Kardashians is to question why anyone is talking about them to begin with, the family was born into fame and privilege. Kim Kardashian was born to Robert Kardashian, a wealthy attorney who represented O.J. Simpson during his murder trial. Kim’s mother, Kristen Jenner, divorced Robert in 1991 and then married the decathlete Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner), who used that fame to become a spokesperson for products like Wheaties and Tropicana.
Miley Cyrus’s father is Billy Ray Cyrus, whose song “Achy Breaky Heart” topped the charts worldwide when it released in 1992, the same year that Miley was born. Billy Ray is also an actor. He got Miley her first bit roles in the show “Doc,” in which Billy Ray was the lead star, when Miley was nine years old. She would go on to star in “Hannah Montana” before launching an incredibly successful music career.
Chevy Chase, star of “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Community” and someone who may or may not be a terrible person to work with, was born into a wealthy New York family. You can see it in his real name — Cornelius Crane Chase. His mother, Cathalene, was adopted by Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane and his father was a scholar, painter and prominent book editor.
But Chevy did not inherit the Vanderbilt family fortune because Cornelius disinherited his daughter after she remarried. But Chase spent his early years summering and vacationing in New England, attended private high schools and graduated from Bard College. However, even if he grew up with wealth, his childhood wasn’t easy — he revealed that he was often physically abused and sometimes locked in a closet for hours on end as punishment.
Jamie Lee Curtis
The scream queen actress of “Halloween” fame was born into an acting family. Her father was Tony Curtis, a popular actor in the 1950s who starred in “Some Like it Hot” and “The Defiant Ones.” Her mother was Janet Leigh, a 1950s actress who starred as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” But Jamie and her father had an estranged relationship, and Tony divorced Janet when Jamie was about four years old. And the two never reconciled. She was reportedly written out of his several wills by the time he died in 2010.
Tori Spelling, daughter of the late Aaron Spelling, grew up in the largest house in Los Angeles, a 56,500 square-foot megamansion that her father built in 1988 for his wife, Candy Spelling. Aaron Spelling, a prolific television producer, brought Tori into the limelight by casting her as Donna Martin in “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Drew Barrymore’s family consists of a long line of actors that stretches back to the 1700s, with her great-great-great-great grandmother and grandfather having been in theatre groups. Drew’s father was the Hollywood actor John Drew Barrymore, who started acting at the age of 17. His father was an accomplished stage actor and a silent film star.
This all helped Drew receive her starring role in “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” when she was just seven years old. But she started in show business early — her first role was in a Puppy Chow dog food commercial when she was 11 months old.
Carly Simon, singer of “You’re So Vain” and “Nobody Does it Better,” comes from a bookish background. Her father is Richard L. Simon, the co-founder of book publishing giant Simon & Schuster. She went to Riverdale Country School (current tuition: $56,210) in Bronx, New York, and briefly attended Sarah Lawrence College before dropping out at 19 and heading to France.
“House” star Olivia Wilde was born to two prominent journalists. While journalism isn’t a career path known for its path to riches, her parents are the exceptions. Her mother, Leslie Cockburn, is an investigative journalist,filmmaker and Yale graduate who won an Emmy and Alfred I duPont-Columbia award. Her work has appeared on PBS Frontline, NBC and CBS. Her father, Andrew Cockburn, has written for some of the nation’s most prominent publications and is an editor at Harper’s Magazine. Olivia, whose real name is Olivia Jane Cockburn, attended Georgetown Day School (current tuition: $37,000-$43,000) in Washington, DC; Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts (tuition: $57,800); and the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin.
Born to the actress and socialite Teri Shields and Revlon executive Frank Shields, Brooke Shields received some of the best schooling available in the New York City area. She attended a private (but now defunct) grade school and then enrolled in the Dwight-Englewood School, a private school that currently charges $47,680 in tuition for grades 6-12.
She graduated from Princeton with top marks. And her acting career started early. She first debuted as baby model for Ivory Soap and had a starring role in the controversial 1978 movie “Pretty Baby.”
Anderson Cooper did not have to head to war-torn areas around the world to make his mark in the world of journalism. Cooper was born to the fashion designer Wyatt Emory Cooper and the late Gloria Vanderbilt, heiress to the Vanderbilt fortune. She died in June; Cooper had an emotional talk with Stephen Colbert about grief that’s worth a look.
Paris Hilton’s venture into fame was probably more of a hobby than anything else. She’s an heiress of the Hilton fortune, which started with her great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton, who created the chain of Hilton Hotels.
Paris’s parents are estimated to be worth $300 million, although the socialite and reality TV star did not receive her grandfather’s fortune when he passed away in 2007. Instead, Barron Hilton donated 97 percent of his $2.3 billion to charity. Although 3 percent of $2.3 billion is still $69 million, which must have been inherited by someone in the family.
Nicole Richie was born to Peter Escovedo, a musician, and Karen Moss, a backstage assistant. But the couple were having financial issues and gave their daughter away to Lionel Richie, a family friend. Nicole was just three years old when she moved in with the “Hello” singer and was nine by the time Lionel officially adopted her.
Paul Giamatti, the award-winning actor from “Sideways,” “Cinderella Man” and “American Splendor,” was born into a well-off and highly educated New England family. His paternal grandfather was a lauded professor of Italian at Mount Holyoke, and his father, Bartlett Giamatti, was a literature professor at Yale before becoming the university’s president for eight years. Bartlett left his position at Yale to become the seventh commissioner Major League Baseball in 1989 (he was the commissioner who banned Pete Rose from baseball), but unfortunately died five months after assuming the role at the age of 51.
Jeff Bridges has much more in common with Jeffery Lebowski than the Dude. Bridges’ father is Lloyd Bridges, a theater, film and television actor with a career that spanned from the 1940s through the 1980s (his biggest role during that period would be in “Airplane!”). Lloyd’s wife, Dorothy, is a poet and former actress.
Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, actress Glenn Close’s father was William Close, an accomplished surgeon who helped stymie the spread of Ebola in the Congo. His work in the Congo also helped researchers further understand the AIDS virus during the 1980s.
Gigi and Bella Hadid
Modeling superstars Gigi and Bella Hadid were born to Mohamed Anwar Hadid and Yolanda Hadid. Mohamed is a millionaire luxury Los Angeles real estate developer (who recently sold his personal $56 million mansion), and Yolanda is a former model and reality television star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
Nicola Peltz, an actress with roles in films such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “The Last Airbender,” is the daughter of billionaire Nelson Peltz. Nelson is a founding partner of Trian Fund Management and a non-executive chairman of Wendy’s Company. Her casting in 2014’s “Affluenza,” a modern take on “The Great Gatsby,” makes sense.
Sigourney Weaver started her illustrious career with connections and money. Her mother was an actress in the 1930s, and her father was an advertising executive who was president of NBC from 1953 to 1955. She attended the girls-only private college prep school, Ethel Walker School (current tuition: $39,000-$67,000), and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English before receiving an MFA from the Yale School of Drama in 1974.
Best known for the 2012 hit “Gangnam Style,” Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy, was born into a wealthy family. It’s even in the song. Gangnam is a district in South Korea, which is basically that country’s Beverly Hills, with property costing three and a half times more than average; its 15 square miles account for 10 percent of South Korea’s entire land value.
Psy’s father is a controlling shareholder at Di Corp, a semiconductor manufacturing company that received an 800 percent stock boost after “Gangnam Style” became a global phenomenon.
Bryce Dallas Howard
Bryce Dallas Howard is the first daughter of actor-director Ron Howard and her childhood included being babysat by Tom Cruise. The star of “Jurassic World” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” was educated at the very posh Greenwich County Day School (current tuition: $40,000-$45,000) and the upscale Byram Hills High School. She attended New York University but ditched the books to pursue an acting career.
Kyra Sedgwick, star of TNT’s “The Closer” and films like “Born on the Fourth of July,” grew up in the Central Park West neighborhood of New York City. Her stepfather was an art dealer and their posh pad was filled with sculptures and paintings from Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Her father, Harry Sedgwick, was a venture capitalist. Kyra attended the exclusive Friends Seminary school in Manhattan (current tuition: $49,700-$51,000), Sarah Lawrence College (current tuition: around $70,000) and graduated from the University of Southern California (current tuition: $77,500).
Rashida Jones, the comedic actress and star of “Parks and Recreation” and “Angie Tribeca,” is the daughter of “The Mod Squad” star Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones, one of the most acclaimed music producers in the world. His net worth is estimated to be around $400 million.