The sometimes surprising & always inspiring stories of 10 celebrity adoptees


Written by:

It’s quite remarkable to think about the profound reach of adoption in the United States. According to The Adoption Network almost 100 million Americans have experienced adoption within their immediate family. And according to the US Census, one in 25 families in America includes an adopted child. With these statistics in mind, it’s highly likely that you personally know someone who has been adopted or has a family member who has gone through the adoption process, or maybe your favorite actor, singer, or political activist was adopted as well. We looked around adoption websites and found the inspiring stories of these 10 celebrities who were adopted

1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Born to an unwed graduate student and put up for adoption, Steve Jobs was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a couple from Mountain View, California. While Jobs never met his biological parents and considered his adoptive family his real parents, at age 27, he discovered they had married and given birth to a daughter two years after giving him up for adoption. His biological sister, Mona Simpsons, and Jobs became close, with the Apple Inc founder calling her “one of my best friends in the world” in an interview with The New York Times. 

2. Ray Liotta

Actor Ray Liotta attends the closing night screening of ‘Goodfellas’ during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre

Ray Liotta, best known for his roles in films like “Goodfellas” and “Field of Dreams,” has a unique and deeply personal adoption story. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Liotta was adopted when he was six months old by Mary and Alfred Liotta, a township clerk and an auto-parts store owner, respectively. Growing up in a loving, supportive environment, Liotta was always aware of his adoption but knew little about his biological parents due to the laws around closed adoption records at the time.

In his adult life, Liotta developed a curiosity about his biological roots. At the age of 40, he decided to search for his biological parents. His journey was a complex emotional process, but it ultimately led him to learn more about his birth mother. 

“At first, I didn’t understand how a parent could give up a child. So, I had that kind of energy of just being like, that’s just f— up,” he told People magazine. ” But in April 2007, he also told The Guardian, “I was really grateful that I was adopted.”

3. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe photographed by Sam Shaw

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe, born as Norma Jeane Mortenson, endured a tumultuous childhood spent in foster care and orphanages until she was adopted by her mother’s friend, Grace McKee. Despite the many struggles she faced early on, Monroe managed to turn the tide and become one of the most famous and enduring sex symbols in Hollywood history.

4. Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson’s life is not only characterized by his incredible acting prowess but also by a surprising and complex family secret. Nicholson was raised believing that his grandparents, John Joseph Nicholson, and Ethel May, were his parents and that his biological mother, June Frances Nicholson, was his older sister. June was a showgirl who became pregnant with Jack as a teenager. Given the societal norms of the time, to protect June’s reputation and provide a stable family environment for the baby, her parents decided to raise Jack as their own. This unconventional family arrangement was kept a secret from Nicholson for many years.

The truth about Nicholson’s family was revealed to him in a startling manner. It was not until a TIME magazine journalist was researching a cover story on Nicholson in 1974 that the family secret was uncovered. By that time, both June and Ethel had passed away. Despite the shocking revelation, Nicholson has often expressed his gratitude for the way he was raised and the love and support he received from his family.

5. Nicole Richie

Nicole Richie at the Teen Vogue Young Hollywood Party at Chateau Marmont Sept. 23, 2004, in Los Angeles, CA.

 Nicole Richie’s adoption story is one of friendship turning into a family. Her biological parents, who were close friends with Lionel Richie, faced financial difficulties and could not provide for Nicole.  Richie and his then-wife Brenda Harvey opened their home to young Nicole, initially serving as her guardians. By the age of nine, Nicole was officially adopted by the Richie family. 

Nicole has been candid about her adoption story, expressing immense gratitude towards both her biological and adoptive parents. She has often spoken about the love and stability that Lionel and Brenda provided her, which she believes was instrumental in shaping her life. Nicole has stated in interviews that she considers herself blessed to have four parents instead of two, valuing the unique perspective it has given her.

6. Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx

Born Eric Marlon Bishop, Jamie Foxx was adopted by his maternal grandparents, Estelle Marie Nelson and Mark Talley, when he was just seven months old. Growing up in a racially segregated community in Texas, Foxx has openly discussed his experiences of being adopted and his challenging relationship with his parents. In his autobiographical book titled “Act Like You Got Some Sense: And Other Things My Daughters Taught Me,” the renowned actor and comedian reflects on the fractured connections he had with his parents. In a poignant passage, Foxx reflects on his mother’s unpreparedness for parenting as he shares, “She was not ready for the responsibility.” He vividly recalls a Christmas when he eagerly awaited her arrival, only to be left heartbroken when she never showed up.

7. Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand at the 90th Academy Awards Awards at the Dolby Theartre, Hollywood

Frances McDormand McDormand was the last child to be taken in by Vernon and Noreen McDormand, a Canadian pastor with the Disciples of Christ and his wife. Noreen was never able to carry a pregnancy to term, which is the reason why the couple fostered children wherever they went. In the late ’50s, they adopted a 1-year-old named Cynthia and changed her name to Frances.

When she was a teenager, McDormand passed on the opportunity to meet her biological mother, which she calls “white trash.” 

In 1995, McDormand and her husband Joel Coen (of Coen Brothers) adopted their son Pedro from Paraguay when he was six months old. 

8. Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was adopted at the age of nine by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo after his father died of lung disease. This adoption not only provided him with an education but also a path to leadership. Mandela would go on to be a groundbreaking anti-apartheid revolutionary and serve as South Africa’s first Black president, leaving an indelible mark on the world.

9. Faith Hill

Faith Hill

 Adopted as an infant by a factory worker Ted and bank-teller, Edna Perry, Hill was raised with love and encouragement to pursue her passion for music. Hill has been outspoken about her adoption story and, in a 2017 interview with Billboard magazine, revealed she always felt a little different than her family. “I used to think there was some kind of conspiracy that I must be the daughter of one my aunts. And, of course I used to dream I was Elvis’ daughter.”  Hill later discovered that her biological mother had been a painter, a revelation that comforted her as she felt that her creative genes were inherited. 

10. Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan at the 2004 BMG Grammy Party, Avalon, Hollywood, CA 02-08-04

Sarah McLachlan was adopted at just a few weeks old. The Grammy Award-winning artist, who was adopted along with two other children, found out about it when she was nine. The Canadian singer holds no grudges towards her biological mother— an artist who gave birth to McLachlan at age 10. She told in an interview: “She would have had to go and live in rural Newfoundland, and she wouldn’t have been able to pursue any of her dreams.”  Her adoptive parents recognized and supported her musical talent, ultimately paving the way for her successful career.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.