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Celebrities Raised By Single Parents

There is still a lot to celebrate about lone parenting, as JK Rowling discovered on TV this week. But the Harry Potter author isn’t its only success story. Check out our feelgood list of the great, good and famous raised by one parent – it includes new X Factor judges Tulisa Contostavlos and Kelly Rowland, two US presidents, Lance Armstrong and Jarvis Cocker.

It was great timing from JK Rowling… less than a week before lone-parent families were being blamed for the riots and looting that blew up in English towns and cities, the novelist appeared on TV discovering she descends from a long line of women who raised children on their own.

The Harry Potter author – now thought to be worth half a billion pounds – traced her French roots for BBC ancestry show Who Do You Think You Are?.

JK Rowling comes from a long line of single mothers.


She found her great-grandmother, Lizzie, her great-great-grandmother, Salomé, and her great-great-great-grandmother, Christine, were single parents. Her maternal grandmother, Louisa, was also believed to have been born out of wedlock.

‘What I’m very struck by is how many single mothers I’m descended from in this line of the family,’ she said on the show. ‘Twenty years ago, I was teaching and writing in my spare time and was very skint. And not long after that, I became a single mum, so I feel the connection.’

Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the riots by saying it was about time the country confronted its ‘slow-motion moral collapse’ adding the stinging rebuke that ‘children without fathers’ contributed to it.

But single parent charity Gingerbread, which boasts Rowling as its president, disagreed.

Director of policy Caroline Davey said: ‘It’s depressing to see old stereotypes being trotted out, with some commentators opting to blame single parents and family breakdown for last week’s riots. There are 1.9million single parents bringing up around 3million children and the vast majority are doing a great job, which is why single parents tell us they find it so frustrating that they’re still being stigmatised in this way.’

Rowling, 46, now a mother of three and married to her second husband, Neil Murray,  famously wrote her first book about the young wizard while on benefits caring for her daughter in Edinburgh. She was also battling depression.

She has said: ‘Women like me… were, according to popular myth, a prime cause of social breakdown, and in it for all we could get: free money, state-funded accommodation, an easy life. Between 1993 and 1997 I did the job of two parents, qualified and then worked as a secondary school teacher, wrote one and a half novels and did the planning for a further five. For a while, I was clinically depressed. To be told, over and over again, that I was feckless, lazy — even immoral — did not help.’

If, like Rowling, you are fed up with single parents getting the blame, take a look at this lot of talented, inspirational, successful, charismatic and downright beautiful people who have one thing in common – they were all raised by one parent.

Tulisa Contostavlos’s musician parents separated when she was nine. The new X Factor judge and N-Dubz singer then became a carer for her mother who was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. Now 23, she has spoken of growing up in Camden Town, north London, and her depression and suicide attempts as a teenager as ‘really hard, but I’m not sad about my life’.

Tulisa Contostavlos, a new X Factor judge.


Barack Obama’s father left his mother when the US president was just three. Obama Sr returned to his native Kenya and visited his son only once, in 1971, before he died in a car crash in 1982. The 50-year-old had an unsettled childhood with his mother’s second husband relocating them to Indonesia when Obama was a boy before he went to live with his grandparents in Hawaii. He went on to university and Harvard Law School before becoming US president in 2005.

Barack Obama’s father left his mother when the US president was just three.

Bill Clinton’s father died in a car crash three months before the former US president was born. He was sent to live with his grandparents while his mother studied nursing in New Orleans. His mother then married a car dealer and they moved to Arkansas in 1950. But Clinton, 65, has said he remembers his stepfather as a gambler and an alcoholic who regularly abused his mother and half brother. Clinton was elected US president in 1993 and left office eight years later with the highest end-of-office approval rating despite being impeached over a scandal with an intern.

Bill Clinton’s father died in a car crash three months before the former US president was born.

Julia Roberts’ parents divorced when she was five and her father died of cancer five years later but the 43-year-old went on to become one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses, making her name in Pretty Woman in 1990 and winning best actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich in 2000. She is one of the most successful actresses in terms of box office receipts.

Julia Roberts, the most successful actress in terms of box office receipts.


Angelina Jolie was raised by her mother following her parents’ divorce when she was a baby. She has admitted to a difficult relationship with her father and was estranged from him for years. The 36-year-old has spoken about self-harming and depression when she was a teenager. She appeared in many films before winning the best supporting actress Oscar for 1999 film Girl, Interrupted. Divorced from actors Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton, Jolie lives with actor Brad Pitt and their three adopted children and three biological children.

Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie.


Kelly Rowland’s mother left her father, an alcoholic, when the X Factor judge was seven. A year later she won a place in a girl group alongside Beyoncé Knowles. With Michelle Williams, they later formed Destiny’s Child and have sold more than 60million records worldwide.

Kelly Rowland, singer with Destiny`s Child, has sold more than 60million records.


Guy Pearce, 43, lost his air force test pilot father in an accident when he was nine. Six years previously, his mother had moved him from Cambridgeshire to Australia to run a deer farm. We first noticed him as Mike in Aussie soap Neighbours and now he is known for his starring roles in cult films Memento, LA Confidential and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to name but a few.

Guy Pearce went from Ausssie soap Neighbours to renowned film star.


Barbra Streisand lost her father when she was two, leaving her mother struggling to make ends meet in 1940s New York. While still a teenager Streisand, now 69, became a nightclub singer before becoming a global phenomenon and one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award.

Barbra Streisand has won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award.


Tom Cruise was beaten by his father who he has since described as a bully, coward and ‘a merchant of chaos’. But his mother didn’t leave him until the Hollywood star was 12. The family moved around a lot and Cruise, 43, was bullied at the 15 schools he attended. He made his name in Generation X film Top Gun and is now a global superstar with a well documented interest in the Kabbalah religion.

Global superstar Tom Cruise has starred in movies such as Top Gun.


Christina Aguilera‘s parents split when she was seven and she lived with her mother and sister her grandma’s house in Pennsylvania. She has told Rolling Stone magazine that her success was the result of her abusive father: ‘I think the reason that my drive was so strong and I was so passionate about music was because I grew up in an environment of domestic violence.’ She later sang about the experience in her songs, I’m OK and Oh Mother. She is dedicated to her charity work and is the second top-selling single artist of the 2000s behind Madonna. Now 30, she is a single mother herself to son Max after her divorce from Jordan Bratman last year.

Christina Aguilera is now a single mother herself.


Demi Moore’s father left her mother before the actress was born. Although her mother remarried, the family moved around 40 times. Her parents were alcoholics and often beat each other. When she turned 16, she dropped out of school in LA and became an actress making her name in St Elmo’s Fire in 1985 and Ghost in 1990. The 48-year-old has three daughters with the actor Bruce Willis and is now married to toyboy Ashton Kutcher.

Demi Moore has three daughters with actor Bruce Willis and is now married to Ashton Kutcher.


Alicia Keys, 30, was raised by her mother in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. She started to play the piano at the age of seven. Her debut album, Songs in A Minor, was a commercial success selling more than 12million copies worldwide and in 2001, she became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001.

Alicia Keys grew up with her mother in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City.


Lance Armstrong’s father left his mother when he was two. His mother went on to marry and divorce three times and Lance still refuses to meet his birth father. After the US road-racing cyclist, 39, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, he underwent extensive surgery and chemotherapy then  won the Tour De France for a record seven consecutive years from 1999.

Lance Armstrong won the Tour De France for a record seven consecutive years.


Ashley Walters was raised by his mother in Peckham, south-east London. He became famous as part of rap group So Solid Crew and was jailed for carrying a loaded gun. After his release the 29-year-old, also known as Asher D, reinvented himself as an actor and has appeared in BBC drama Hustle. He has spoken publicly in glowing terms of the job his mother did bringing him up.

Ashley Walters is in the BBC drama, Hustle.


Halle Berry‘s parents divorced when she was four and was, with her sister, cared for solely by their mother. The Bond girl, 45, has not heard from her father since he left and has said she is not aware if he is alive. Berry won the best actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball in 2001, the only woman of African-American descent to do so, as of 2011.

Halle Berry`s parents divorced when she was just four.


Pierce Brosnan lived his first 12 years in County Louth, Ireland, largely brought up by his grandparents after his father abandoned the family and his mother moved to London to work as a nurse. The James Bond actor has said he admires his mother’s ‘courageous’ step to build a better life. After Brosnan’s grandparents died he lived with an aunt and uncle then a woman named Eileen before the now 58-year-old moved to Scotland to live with his mother and her new husband.

Pierce Brosnan says he admires his mother`s courageous step to build a better life.


Jodie Foster’s father left his wife in LA before the actress was born. Her first film role was in the 1970 TV movie Menace on the Mountain before her notorious appearance in Taxi Driver in 1976 as a pre-teen prostitute, a role for which she won a best supporting actress Oscar nomination. The 48-year-old won Oscars for The Accused in 1989 and The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

Jodie Foster won Oscars for The Accused and Silence of the Lambs.


John Lennon’s father was an often-absent merchant sailor and his mother died when he was 17. As a child, the Beatle was handed into the care of his aunt before his father took him to live in Blackpool. His mother visited, forcing the five-year-old to choose between his parents, which resulted in a 20-year gap before he saw his father again. He returned to his aunt and uncle who fuelled his imagination with short stories. Lennon wrote and performed many songs with The Beatles, the band which has sold more records than any other, before he was murdered in New York City in 1980.

John Lennon’s father was an often-absent merchant sailor .


Madonna lost her mother to breast cancer and her Italian father raised six children in Bay City, Michigan, on his own. After her father remarried the young Madonna developed a rebellious streak and she moved to New York City to study dance. Now 53, she has sold more than 300million records worldwide and is recognised as the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records.

Madonna lost her mother to breast cancer when she was a child.


Jarvis Cocker was brought up in Sheffield by his mother from the age of seven after his father left the family and moved to Sydney, severing all contact with his son. The Pulp frontman, 47, went on to study art before the band’s album His ‘n’ Hers became a hit in 1994. Pulp were one of the main players in the Britpop movement of the 1990s. Cocker now hosts his own show on BBC 6 Music.

Jarvis Cocker`s father moved to Sydney when he was seven.


Russell Brand’s parents split when he was six months old and the star has described his Essex childhood as isolated and lonely. When he was eight, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and Brand went to stay with relatives while she was treated. He has battled eating disorders and addiction and has confessed to a strange relationship with his father who he didn’t see regularly. The 36-year-old found fame presenting a Big Brother spin-off and is making inroads in Hollywood, where he lives with his wife, the US pop singer Katy Perry.

Russell Brand’s parents split when he was six months old.


Al Pacino’s parents divorced when he was two and the youngster and his mother moved to the South Bronx in New York City to live with his grandparents. His father moved to California. Despite starting to smoke at nine and drink alcohol and use marijuana at 13, The Godfather actor, 71, battled to become make his name in films and in 1992 won a best actor Oscar for Scent of a Woman.

Al Pacino, Oscar-winning actor and star of The Godfather trilogy.



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