Celebrities aren’t invincible, and many of them have had to deal with the pain of growing up without a father in their lives. Whether they were abandoned, a victim of a messy divorce or lost a parent when they were small, these 20 famous faces, for example, all coped without their dads during childhood – and yet managed to come out the other side.
British superstar Adele was abandoned by her dad Mark when she was two. The pair’s already strained relationship deteriorated yet further in 2011, though, when he sold his story to a British tabloid, admitting there that he was a “rotten,” alcoholic dad. Adele responded to the piece by saying that she would “spit in his face” if she ever saw him again; by 2015, however, Mark claimed that they had reconciled.
19. Pierce Brosnan
Irish-born James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan had a sad childhood: his father deserted the family when he was two, with his mother also leaving him two years later in order to train as a nurse in England. The star has, understandably, described his formative years as “fairly solitary,” but still understands why his mom did what she did. “My mother was very courageous. Basically wanting a better life for her and myself,” Brosnan has remarked.
18. Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale was left bereft when her actor father Richard died of a massive heart attack at the age of 31, when Kate was just five years old. As the Underworld actress told the Daily Mail in 2008, despite her young age at the time, she still has memories of her dad – and she also revealed that she now finds it “moving and impressive” that his legacy lives on in British culture.
17. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey was only three when her parents divorced; after her Afro-Venezuelan father left, her mother raised her single-handedly. The singer faced racist comments for her mixed heritage while growing up, and she continued to have a strained relationship with her father during that period. Sadly, Carey’s dad died from cancer in 2002 – but as she had reconciled with him a few years previously, she was fortunately able to spend time with him shortly before he passed away.
16. 50 Cent
50 Cent’s childhood was plagued with tragedy: not only did he never meet his father, but his mother Selena died when he was eight, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother. And, as of 2013, the rapper had still not reconciled with his dad and has no intention to; as he explained in an interview with Larry King that year: “The mistakes I made early on… he could have been there to help me not make those mistakes.”
15. Sean Combs
Sean Combs spoke about his father’s murder for the first time in 2013 when he posted a video on his cable network, Revolt TV. Tragically, the future hip-hop mogul was just three years old when his father was shot dead at the age of 33. “There’s definitely been times as I’ve gotten older that I’ve missed my father,” he said in the candid clip. “There’s things that you would ask your father.”
14. Jodie Foster
Double Oscar winner Jodie Foster’s parents divorced before she was born, which meant that she never established a relationship with her father, Lucius. The actress excelled regardless – and would go on to tell Rolling Stone in 1991 that she couldn’t imagine her childhood as being any different. “The single-parent family obsesses me in some ways because it’s all I’ve ever known. It wasn’t horrible. It was just – what it was,” Foster explained.
In 2001 Entourage actor Adrian Grenier reconnected with his estranged father after 18 years apart through his documentary, A Shot in the Dark. The star had lost contact with his dad when he was six; however, as Grenier commented to People in 2007 shortly before the documentary’s release, “I didn’t necessarily think I needed a father, but you start to wonder, ‘Who am I? Does a father really matter?’”
12. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson was raised by his mother and only met his alcoholic father twice before he passed away. One of those meetings came after Jackson became a dad himself but, as the legendary actor told Howard Stern in 2016, the occasion was decidedly “strange.” His own single-parent upbringing has encouraged him to do the best he can for daughter Zoe, however.
11. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne’s father deserted the family when the future rapper was just two years old. The star has no relationship with his dad, and he never intends to have one: as he explained to GQ in 2011, “He don’t give a s**t about me. And I don’t give a s**t about him. I don’t want to look like his ass, but I do.”
10. Alicia Keys
Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys’ parents divorced when she was two, and she was estranged from her father until she became a mother herself. When speaking to Britain’s You magazine in 2012, though, Keys opened up about the reunion with her father, saying, “I would say in the process of growing up, you realize you’ve been holding on to anger. I feel both me and my father have grown up.”
9. Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino has no inclination to connect with his father Tony, who divorced his mother soon after he was born. That was made clear in an interview the acclaimed director gave to The Telegraph in 2010, in which he said, “[Tony] wanted to be an actor. Now he’s an actor only because he has my last name. But he was never part of my life. I didn’t know him. I’ve never met him.”
8. Guy Pearce
When he was just eight years old, Guy Pearce’s childhood was torn apart, as his RAF pilot father passed away in a plane crash. Naturally, that tragic event had a considerable effect on the future actor; as he would tell the Daily Mail in 2009, “Dad’s death probably made me afraid of any unpredictability in my life. Of course, life contains nothing but unpredictability, and so, as a kid, my nerves were jangling constantly.”
7. Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves was abandoned by his father when he was three, and the Speed star subsequently had minimal contact with him growing up. They last met, in fact, when Reeves was 13. When speaking to Rolling Stone in 2000, the actor duly explained, “The story with me and my dad’s pretty heavy. It’s full of pain and woe.”
6. Kanye West
Kanye West spent long periods of time apart from his father Ray after his parents divorced when he was three. The rap star still respects his papa, however, as evinced by comments he made to DJ Zane Lowe in a 2013 interview with the U.K.’s BBC Radio 1. In it, West said, “My father was a photo journalist. Seven years ago, he lived in a homeless shelter, not because he was homeless, because he wanted to help the ex-drug addicts, he wanted to get that close.”
5. Halle Berry
Halle Berry grew up watching her father abuse her mother, even though the pair divorced when the future Oscar winner was just four years old. Berry has declined to reconcile with her absentee dad; perhaps understandable given that, as she remarked in a 2015 speech, she has “suffered the damage of being a child of domestic violence.”
4. Kelly Rowland
Former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland has had no contact with her father – who was an abusive alcoholic – since she was seven. In 2011, however, the singer said that she was open to the idea of reconciling with her dad, explaining: “I do have a desire to speak to him. But I have to be ready when I make that decision, and I don’t want to hurry myself.”
3. Jet Li
After his father passed away when he was just two years old, Chinese actor Jet Li became a martial arts star against all the odds. The Romeo Must Die actor persevered with his training despite the family’s financial hardships. Eventually, though, he became a movie star in his own country – before crossing over to Hollywood and becoming successful there, too.
2. Gene Simmons
When Gene Simmons was just eight years old, his father Feri Witz left his family – and the two were never to meet again before Witz died in 2002. It’s something that the KISS frontman bittersweetly reminisced about on on his reality series Gene Simmons: Family Jewels in 2011. On the show, he said, “I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else and to my father that I didn’t need him… unfortunately I didn’t see my father until I stood over his grave, and that was not easy.”
1. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera has alleged on many occasions that her father Fausto was abusive towards her growing up – something he has always denied. Aguilera’s parents divorced when she was six, with her dad virtually absent from her life since then; nevertheless, she expressed an interest in reconciling with him in 2012. “Maybe one day we can do lunch,” she told Latina magazine. “I’m 31 years old now. Maybe it’s time.”