Does an unhappy childhood mark you for life? Not necessarily, and these celebrities are proof you can overcome a traumatic start in life and do well for yourself.

Let’s look at some the shocking childhood experiences of some of the most celebrated names in showbiz.

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10 /10 Woody Harrelson

The famous actor’s early life seems like a movie plot, for Woody Harrelson is the child of a professional killer. Many believe Harrelson Sr was involved in the JFK assassination, as he once claimed, and photographs put him in Dallas that day.

Fortunately, he wasn’t much around when Woody Harrelson was a kid, but that left his mother struggling to raise her three children independently.

They barely made it from one paycheck to another, but at least she gave them a good education making sure none followed in their father’s footsteps.

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9 /10 Eminem

The rapper’s real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, and one of the reasons he never cared for his family name is that his father split when he was just a baby.

As a young boy, Eminem wrote many letters to his absent father, only to have them returned unopened.

His mother wasn’t very stable as she was a drug addict, frequently changing jobs and moving from one place to another, which did not allow Eminem to forge any real friendship.

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8 /10 Oprah Winfrey

Oprah has the answer to all the problems and is trusted by millions of followers. She had no answers for herself when she was a young girl. Her misfortune was being born to teenage parents hardly able to care for a child.

Oprah was sent to live with various relatives and was raped by one of them when she nine. The abuse continued as other family members sexually assaulted the little girl.

Unable to cope with her life of misery, Oprah turned to drugs and alcohol. When she was 14, she became pregnant, a pretty traumatic experience. Even worse, her baby was born prematurely and died after two weeks.

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7 /10 Missy Elliot

One of the best known American female rappers, Missy Elliot, spent most of her childhood in fear of her abusive father, Ronnie, a US marine who was very violent.

According to her, her father once threatened her with a gun. Can you imagine a little girl fond of singing refusing to go to a sleepover?

That’s because Missy Elliot was afraid her father might kill her mother while she was away. On top of that, she was sexually abused by a cousin when she was 8. Things took a turn for the better when she was 14.

Her mother decided they should flee, and although that meant living in extreme poverty for a while, at least they were safe.

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6 /10 50 Cent

A rapper coming from a criminal background, that’s hardly surprising. Rapper 50 Cent managed to survive a tough childhood in Queens, where his teenage mom sold drugs. She was very good at it, which is why a rival gang had her killed when she was 23.

Her child, Curtis James Jackson III, was only eight at the time. In the following years, he followed the family tradition and started dealing with drugs, too. According to him, he never touched the stuff himself.

As a teenager, 50 Cent was in and out of jail, but as he developed an interest in music, he managed to turn his life around and started a highly-successful career as a rapper in his early 20s.

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5 /10 Rihanna

Popstar Rihanna had a decidedly unglamorous start in life in her native Barbados. Her folks were low, and she helped her father sell clothes at a market stall.

Not that bad, you’d say, but the real problem was that her father was an alcoholic and a drug addict, so the family life was strained, to put it mildly.

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4 /10 Christina Aguilera

For Christina Aguilera, the problem was also with her father. He was in the US Army and traveled a lot, taking his family with him.

He was also an abusive man, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, her parents separated when she was six. However, childhood trauma is a recurring theme in her songs.

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3 /10 Charlize Theron

South-African actress Charlize Theron grew up on a farm near Johannesburg, and although her parents were wealthy enough, her childhood was marred by her alcoholic father’s frequent violent outbursts.

When Charlize was a teenager, her father pulled a gun on her and her mother, threatening to kill them both. Her mother managed to grab her gun and killed her husband. It was ruled as self-defense, so she didn’t face charges.

Although a very traumatic event, it was the end of a nightmare, and the calm period that followed allowed her to lead an everyday life and start studying acting.

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2 /10 Leighton Meester

The Gossip Girl star had a rough start in life, quite literally. Leighton Meester was born in a prison hospital. Her mother, Constance, and her father were serving time for their involvement in a drug trafficking ring.

The young mother was allowed to nurse her infant in a halfway house for three months before she was sent back to jail, and her grandparents raised Leighton.

However, after they completed their sentences, her parents managed to provide a suitable environment for their daughter.

“It made me realize that you can’t judge anyone—especially your parents—for what they’ve done in their past because people change,” Meester said in an interview.

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1 /10 Dylan McDermott

Talk about shocking childhood; actor Dylan McDermott never managed to come to terms with the tragic events in his life.

Born to a teenage mother, he spent his early years hiding from his mom’s boyfriend, a violent drug addict. When Dylan was 5, this junkie shot his mother died while the boy was playing outside.

The man claimed she had shot herself, leaving the child wondering for most of his adult life whatever happened that tragic day.

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