Huffpost Fifty

8 Celebs Who Were Raised By Their Grandparents

Posted: Updated:

Our childhood forms us and sets us on a distinct path for the rest of our lives. As a child, nothing matters more than the people we look up to and the love we receive.

But the face of the modern family is changing, with single parents, joblessness, and whatnot, and grandparents are stepping up to the plate more often. A recent study estimated that one in 10 children in America are being raised by their grandparents.

While it's not the most traditional setup, grandparents are older, wiser, and apparently doing a pretty good job of parenting later in life, by the looks of it. Here are eight wildly successful celebrities and the stories of the incredible grandparents that made them who they are today:

  • Barack Obama
    Little did Stanley and Madelyn Dunham know they were raising a future president. A 10-year-old Obama was sent to Hawaii to be raised by his grandparents after his parents divorced and his mother moved to Indonesia. Over 35 years later, Obama was elected the first black president in American history -- but it was a bittersweet moment. Obama's grandmother passed away on the eve of election day. "And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure," Obama said in his 2008 victory speech.
  • Dylan McDermott
    Getty Images
    The "American Horror Story" star was raised by his grandmother after his mother was murdered when he was just 5. His grandmother, Avis Marino, stepped in to raise him and his sister, Robin. "It was my grandmother who raised me, and living with her and my sister is what I remember best. It was the family unit that is special to me. My grandmother was the best," McDermott told The Hartford Courant.
  • Oprah Winfrey
    Getty Images
    While Oprah's mother had to move to the Midwest for a job, Oprah stayed on a Mississippi farm and was raised by her grandmother Hattie Mae Lee. She stayed there in Mississippi until she was 6 but then her grandmother fell ill and Oprah had to move to Milwaukee to be with her mother. "It actually probably saved my life," Oprah said of her time in Mississippi. "It is the reason why I am where I am today because my grandmother gave me the foundation for success that I was allowed to continue to build upon. My grandmother taught me to read, and that opened the door to all kinds of possibilities for me. And had I not been with my grandmother...I probably would not have had the foundation that I had."
  • Jack Nicholson
    Getty Images
    Nicholson's childhood was seemingly normal. He grew up with parents John and Ethel May, and a sister, June. June passed away when Nicholson was 26 and a decade later her received some shocking news. A TIME Magazine reported discovered that June was in fact Nicholson's mother, not his sister. She had gotten pregnant as a teenager, and not knowing who the father was, her parents agreed to raise the child as their own. "I'd say it was a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn't what I'd call traumatizing. After all, by the time I found out who my mother was, I was pretty well psychologically formed," Nicholson said of the discovery. "As a matter of fact, it made quite a few things clearer to me. If anything, I felt grateful."
  • Carol Burnett
    Remember Carol Burnett's signature ear-tug at the end of every show? Bet you didn't know what it meant. The gesture was a way of saving "Hello, I love you," to her grandmother who raised her. Burnett moved in with her grandmother after her parents divorced when she was young. Living in Hollywood with "Nanny" as she called her grandmother, Burnett discovered her love of entertainment. Each week her grandmother would save up so they could go to the movies.
  • Bill Clinton
    Getty Images
    Born in a sleepy Arkansas town, Clinton's grandparents took over his care when his father died in a car crash and his mother had to leave him to attend nursing school. Clinton who's known for his academic prowess, thanks his parents for instilling a love for education in him at a young age. By the time he was 3, he was already counting and reading. "My grandparents had a lot to do with my early commitment to learning," Clinton said.
  • Willie Nelson
    Getty Images
    The country music legend got his first taste of music, growing up with his grandparents. His parents divorced before while he was an infant so his grandparents took over his care. Nelson attended church with his grandparents and they encouraged him to sing and play instruments. By age 6, he was able to play the guitar! "They sang the old-fashioned shape notes, you know, and we’d sing in church: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. And I feel like that the education that I received in Abbott, Texas, was as good and as general as one that I could have found anywhere in the world," Nelson said.
  • Maya Angelou
    The author, who is now herself a great-grandmother, was raised by her grandmother, after she and her brother were abandoned by their parents. "I loved my grandmother...I try to be the same kind of grandparent I had," Angelou said. "My grandmother was the best."

Earlier on HuffPost50:

What Celebrities Learned From Their Grandparents
Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

Celebs Raised by Their Grandparents - iVillage

Famous people raised by their grandparents - The day in pictures

Celebrity Grandmothers - Grandparents -

More African American grandparents are raising grandchildren ...

Celebrities Raised by single Moms | MSN Arabia