With the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the world so omnipresent in today's popular culture, it's tough to remember that success is possible without a rich dad and some nice connections.
Sure, the American dream isn't all it's cracked up to be, and rich people obviously have a nice head start, but there are also the wonderful exceptions to the rules -- the actors, CEOS, singers and average Joes who beat the odds and rose to the top on their own terms. It's because of such inspirational stories that so many Americans continue to strive for something more. Here are some of the best ones ever:
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