20 celebrities you didn't know were adopted

Gabbi Shaw
·10 min read
lionel and nicole richie
Nicole Richie was taken in by Lionel Richie when she was just 4. Brad Barket/Getty Images
  • November is National Adoption Month and November 21 is National Adoption Day.

  • According to the last US Census, one in 25 American families with children has an adopted child.

  • That means there are plenty of celebrities who are adopted, and who have adopted kids of their own.

  • Nicole Richie was unofficially adopted by Lionel Richie when she was 4 years old, and then officially when she was 9.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

November is National Adoption Month, a time to raise awareness for all the children seeking permanent homes.

The Adoption Network estimates that nearly 100 million Americans have experienced adoption in their immediate family, while the last US Census found that one in 25 families with children in America has 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 favorite famous faces were brought up by non-biological parents.

Keegan-Michael Key has said he has "a lot of parents."

keegan-michael key
Keegan-Michael Key. Theo Wargo/Getty

Key, on an episode of Pete Holmes' "You Made It Weird" podcast, told the comedian he had "a lot of parents." He was adopted at birth by a couple who would then soon divorce — his adopted father then re-married, and he became close with his step-mom as well.

At age 25, Key then "had a moving reunion with his biological mother."

Ray Liotta and his sister were both adopted.

Ray Liotta
Ray Liotta. Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP

The "Goodfellas" star told Larry King that, when he tracked down his birth mother, he "realized when I met her that she did it for very valid reasons and then realized that almost 99% of kids that are put up for adoption, it's for the betterment of the kid … The household, the situation, the age just dictate that's the best thing to do for the child."

He later told The Guardian, "I was really grateful that I was adopted."

Marilyn Monroe bounced around the California foster care system due to her birth mother's inability to care for her.

marilyn monroe
Marilyn Monroe. Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

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 neighbor, James Dougherty.

Steve Jobs never met his birth parents.

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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 traveled 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 Jobses his real parents.

Actress Frances McDormand was adopted by a pastor and his wife. She went on to adopt a son with her husband.

Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

McDormand was adopted by Noreen and Vernon McDonald when she was just 1 years old (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 6 months old.

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi is famous for being an Italian "guidette," but she was actually born in Chile.

nicole polizzi snooki
Nicole Polizzi. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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 traveling to Chile to meet them.

Fashion designer Nicole Richie's adopted father is famous singer Lionel Richie.

nicole richie
Nicole Richie. Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Richie was adopted by Lionel and Brenda Richie unofficially when she was 4, and officially when she was 9. 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 "Nikki Fresh" actress posted an adorable throwback photo on Instagram commemorating the day her adoption papers were officially signed.

Skrillex ran away after he found out he was adopted.

skrillex
Skrillex. Andy Sheppard / Getty

According to a Vice profile, the DJ, whose real name is Sonny John Moore, found out that his "family friend" was actually his birth mother when he was a teenager. Though at first it put a strain on their relationship — Skrillex left home and ran away to Georgia to join an emo band — he reconciled with his parents some time before his mother died in 2015.

Bill Clinton was adopted by his stepfather after his birth father died in an accident.

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton. Getty Images/Samir Hussein

The former president's birth father, William Blythe, died in a car accident three months before Clinton was born. Clinton went on to take his stepfather Roger Clinton's last name in his mid-teens.

Sarah McLachlan met her birth mother through "a complete coincidence."

sarah mclachlan
Sarah McLachlan. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

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 9, and considers her adoptive mother her real mom. "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."

At 37, 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.

jack nicholson
Jack Nicholson. Michael Buckner/Getty Images

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 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 traumatizing ... As a matter of fact, it made quite a few things clearer to me. If anything, I felt grateful."

Colin Kaepernick was adopted by his parents when he was just 5 weeks old.

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick. AP Photo/Ben Margot

He was adopted by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick when he was 5 weeks old. His mother, who was 19 at the time, had decided to give him up and the Kaepernicks were looking to adopt after losing two biological sons at birth due to congenital heart defects.

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.

Faith Hill
Faith Hill. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

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.

kristin chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth. Amy Sussman/Stringer, Getty Images

Chenoweth blogged about her adoption story in honor 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.

jamie foxx
Jamie Foxx. Getty

Foxx, born Eric Marlon 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.

eartha kitt
Eartha Kitt. Scott Gries/Getty Images

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 8.

Kitt never found out who her white birth father was.

Debbie Harry fantasized about being the "lost daughter of Marilyn Monroe."

debbie harry
Debbie Harry. Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

The Blondie frontwoman and '80s rocker was given up for adoption when she was only a few months old: When she was just 4, her adoptive parents, Catherine and Richard Harry, told her she was adopted.

She never met her birth parents, and she 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.

Nelson Mandela at the Mandela Foundation
Nelson Mandela. Associated Press

Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president of South Africa, was just 9 years old when his father died of lung disease. He was then adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo of the Thembu people as a favor, as Mandela's father had recommended Dalindyebo to be named chief.

Jordan Fisher was adopted by his grandparents.

jordan fisher
Jordan Fisher. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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.

Ice-T was orphaned at a young age and moved across the country to live with relatives.

Ice-T
Ice-T. Jason Davis/Getty Images

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.

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