6 Famous, Successful People Who Were Once Wards of the State

Foster care systems strive to find supportive and loving families for thousands of children. Positive role models can provide stability for kids in foster care and help them achieve unbelievable success.

A number of celebrities, CEOs, and entrepreneurs have flourished in the care of their foster families. They’ve grown up to make their mark on the world. Take a look at these former foster children who became successful professionals.

1. Bruce Oldfield

This foster child grew up to be a world-renowned dress designer, with outfits gracing the figures of major celebrities and historical figures from Princess Diana and Barbra Streisand to Taylor Swift and Catherine Zeta-Jones. His foster mother may have instilled a passion for clothing in Oldfield; she supported him through her work as a seamstress and dressmaker.

Today Oldfield works in England, crafting fine bridal wear and high-couture fashion for international clients. He serves as an icon of creative inspiration for foster children who hope to develop their passions into a future profession.

2. Tony Shellman

You may recognize Shellman’s iconic clothing brands, Enyce and Mecca, which have resonated throughout the hip-hop community. He co-founded these fashion companies and worked closely with P. Diddy to ensure his trendsetting fashions became legendary.

Shellman’s innovative sportswear has led to new business endeavors, such as Parish Nation. Shellman, who’s from Seattle, relied heavily on social services during his youth. He has advocated for many foster care programs and appeared in NPR to discuss how families can positively influence children’s lives.

3. Dave Pelzer

This nationally acclaimed author, veteran, and Centennial flame holder for the Olympics has succeeded through immense challenges and overwhelming adversity. Dave Pelzer is known for his candid and painful memoir, A Child Called It, which details a personal history fraught with child abuse and neglect.

Concerned teachers and social workers managed to remove Pelzer from a dangerous domestic situation and place him in foster care. Despite the deeply traumatic experiences he endured during his childhood, Pelzer has achieved great success throughout his life. Pelzer’s writings and achievements impart positivity and wisdom for other children who are survivors of abuse and neglect.

4. Charlotte Ayanna

This well-known actress and author is also a survivor of childhood neglect. Her mother suffered from mental illness and was considered unfit to care for children. Ayanna entered the foster care system with her siblings, and found a foster mother who encouraged her to pursue her goals.

After initial success in beauty pageants, Ayanna went on to become an icon for foster children everywhere. She has appeared in a variety of TV shows and films, including Beverly Hills, 90210, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Kate and Leopold, and The Insatiable.

5. Steve Jobs

After the CEO and founder of Apple passed away in October 2011, many were surprised to learn that he had been adopted as a child. Author Walter Isaacson revealed details about Jobs’s upbringing in a biography of this immensely successful technology innovator and businessman.

Jobs developed strong ties with his adoptive parents, and he was inspired by his father’s electronic experiments in the garage. These activities led to a passion for technology and the eventual creation of Apple Inc.

6. Alonzo Mourning

NBA champion and Sports Hall of Fame member Alonzo Mourning entered foster care when he was twelve years old, after his family was torn apart by a painful divorce. A former schoolteacher and family friend named Mrs. Threet took the aspiring athlete in, pushing him to train hard and take basketball seriously. Mourning has never forgotten her influence. He has since founded the Alonzo Mourning Charities to raise money for children and families.