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9 famous people who overcame childhood adversity

POSTED: August 13, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Katy Winn, ©istockphoto.com/EdStock/

HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 09: Actress Ashley Judd (L) and Premiere Magazine Publisher Paul Turcotte arrive at the Premiere Lounge "Come Early Morning" party during AFI FEST 2006 Presented By Audi held at Sideways Lounge on November 9, 2006 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Katy Winn/Getty Images)

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Adverse childhood experiences aren’t a rarity in the United States.

In fact, almost half of American children — 46 percent — have experienced an adverse situation in their childhood, according to a Child Trends report.

But these experiences — which are defined as things like witnessing a parent's divorce, living with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, or struggling with the economy, according to the report — aren't always a limiter of success. In some cases, people have risen above their adverse circumstances and achieved positive stability.

Here are 9 celebrities who have overcome the pain of their past:

Ashley Judd
Ashley Judd is a popular Hollywood actress who has been nominated for the Golden Globe awards in the past, but she comes from a troubled background, according to ABC News. She was abused by many men in her life, including a family member, ABC News reported. She had to rely on the strength of her mom to help her make it in the big time.

"When you are trying to make it in show business, everything else falls by the wayside,” said Amy Palmer, a magazine editor who wrote about Judd’s recent memoir “All That Is Better and Sweet.” “She was left alone so much with her mother and sister touring the country to make it. Something suffers and it was Ashley's childhood."

Shia LaBeouf
Shia LaBeouf wasn’t always the Hollywood hunk that he is now. The Telegraph ran a feature piece on his life story, highlighting how the eventual “Transformers” actor grew up in a poverty-stricken environment where he and his family traveled and sold hot dogs to make ends meet.

“After his parents divorced, LeBeouf later ended up accompanying his Dad to AA meetings, while trying to make it as a child actor, performing stand-up at local comedy clubs from the age of 10,” The Telegraph reported.

Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry may have a slew of movies sliding into movie theaters every year, but it wasn’t always that way. He suffered abuse as a child, both physical and sexual, and “he never felt safe,” according to oprah.com. But his rise into stardom started with a simple concept — he would think of his family.

"I could go to this park (in my mind) that my mother and my aunt had taken me to. ... I'm there in this park running and playing, and it was such a good day," Perry said to oprah.com. "So, every time somebody was doing something to me that was horrible, that was awful, I could go to this park in my mind until it was over."

Oprah Winfrey
But Oprah didn’t just offer an in-depth look into Perry’s life. She herself has suffered from a traumatic childhood. In an interview with David Letterman, Winfrey spoke about how she was both physically and sexually abused as a kid and that she needed to turn to a “power greater than herself” to persevere and make it through, Daily Mail reported.

Albert Einstein
Einstein is regarded as one of the smartest men of all time, but his background isn't entirely clean, as a Feel Guide article pointed out in 2011. Einstein’s parents were always worried about his development. Apparently, he had developed some odd tendencies, like pronouncing words to himself silently before saying them to an audience and learning to speak more slowly than others his age.

“His slow development was combined with a cheeky rebelliousness toward authority, which led one schoolmaster to send him packing and another to declare that he would never amount to much,” according to Feel Guide.

Mark Wahlberg
Wahlberg’s tough-guy persona commonly seen on the screen may be based off a true story. Not only was he a drug addict, but he was also physically violent to many of the people he interacted with, according to Daily Mail. But now, he wants to give the childhood he never had to his kids.

“I think the most important thing is to always be involved in every aspect of their life,” he said, according to Daily Mail. “To give them enough trust that they can share things with you.”

Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore started her career off on the right foot by being a hit actress in “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.” But she struggled in her teenage years, going to night clubs and arguing with her mother, according to her online biography.

“At 13, an enraged Barrymore became violent when she was unable to throw her mother out of the house,” the biography noted.

Eminem
Few others have spoken as openly about their troubled lifestyle as Eminem. Just read his biography, or listen to his songs. He grew up in a trailer home, battled domestic violence as a youngster and in his own relationships, and felt bullied among his peers. But Eminem has risen above that and become the best-selling artist of the decade.

Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson’s childhood might have been as mean as his crossover. The Washington Post profiled Iverson back in 1996, showing how the eventual NBA star grew up in a single-parent environment and struggled to stay away from trouble.

“My mom struggled,” Iverson said, according to The Post. “My dad struggled. Everybody in my family struggled. It was nothing new, the lights being cut off or anything. I mean, it was something I had been dealing with my whole life."

Iverson did go on to get picked at the top spot in the NBA, and though he did get into trouble again as an NBA star, Iverson still overcame adversity and found success.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com
Twitter: @herbscribner

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