Celebrities usually live a life of glitz and glamour, but just because they’re famous doesn’t mean they had an easy road getting there.
Some of our favorite stars have experienced some very heartbreaking childhoods filled with violence, domestic abuse and even murder.
Here are 10 celebrities whose childhoods were void of rainbows and butterflies:
1. Charlize Theron
The South African-born actress grew up in a household where her alcoholic father abused her mother. One night when Theron was 15, her alcoholic father came home after a night of heavy drinking and threatened to kill her mother with a gun. In an act of self-defense, Theron’s mother took the gun and shot back, killing him.
“I survived that, and I’m proud of that,” Theron said in an interview with New York Times. “I’ve worked hard for that, too. And I am not scared of that. I am not fearful of the darkness. If anything, I am intrigued by it, because I think it explains human nature and people better.”
2. Dylan McDermott
Dylan McDermott, whose real name is Mark Anthony, was just 5-years-old when his 20-year-old mother, Diane, was fatally shot in the head in 1967. For over 40 years, the mystery surrounding her death remained unsolved. Dylan did not visually see the shooting, but he heard the shouting and gun shots.
In 2011, McDermott, best known for his role in The Practice, got his mother’s cold case reopened and investigators eventually deemed his mother’s abusive boyfriend, John Sponza, as the killer. Sponza, however, was found dead in the trunk of car in a grocery store parking lot back in 1972.
“It shapes you forever,” he told Esquire. “And you don’t get over it.”
3. Woody Harrelson
Harrelson’s dad, Charles V Harrelson, left his family when the actor was just a few years old. It wasn’t until he was about 11 of 12-years-old that he found out about his father’s dark secret life.
“I was listening to the radio and it was talking about Charles V Harrelson and his trial for murder … and I’m sitting there thinking there can’t be another Charles V Harrelson,” he told The Guardian. “I mean, that’s my dad! It was a wild realization.”
Harrelson found out that his father was a hitman and he was behind at least 3 homicides. He was also a suspect in the JFK assassination.
4. Leighton Meester
The Gossip Girl star had it rough from the start. Meester was born behind bars while her mom, Constance, was serving a sentence in a federal prison for smuggling 1,200 pounds of marijuana from Jamaica in 1983. Leighton’s aunt, who was in cahoots with her mom, broke out of prison and became the first woman in the United States to get on the U.S Marshals 15 Most Wanted List.
Thankfully, her parents cleaned up their act after being released and helped Leighton become the successful actress and singer she is today.
“It makes me very nonjudgmental and open-minded,” Leighton told Us Weekly.