Tabloids want you to believe stars are just like us, but one look at some celebrities’ lavish lifestyles should tell you pretty quickly that most stars aren’t. You probably aren’t jetting around in private planes or dining with A-list guests, and when you go to the grocery store, you’re probably not followed by twenty photographers. Still, before they were famous, the biggest stars had childhoods like the rest of us.
Today, megastar Demi Moore lives an extravagant life, but before she ever stepped into Hollywood’s bright lights, she struggled through her early years. It was fighting through those painful years, however, that helped her make an inspirational decision about her family later in life.
Few movie fanatics would debate Demi Moore’s star power. With over 62 acting credits to her name, she’s proven herself a bonafide talent. But her fight to the top of Hollywood didn’t come without serious personal struggles.
See, before she was even born, Demi’s birth father, an Air Force pilot named Charles Harmon Sr., abandoned his family. His wife, Virginia, was devastated but resolved to do whatever it took to keep her family intact.
She found love again with advertising salesman Dan Guynes, so, not wanting to upset her daughter, Virginia told Demi he was her birth father while she was growing up. Demi had no reason to believe otherwise.
But when Demi was 13 she discovered the truth by stumbling upon her parents’ marriage certificate. She knew something was amiss when she noticed the wedding date was a year after she was born.
Texas Wedding Ministers
Demi has always been defensive about her family, saying, “My dad was Dan Guynes. He raised me. There is a man who would be considered my biological father who I don’t really have a relationship with.” Still, Dan wasn’t perfect himself.
He couldn’t keep a steady job and constantly sought new jobs. As a result, Demi’s family relocated so often that, by her 14th birthday, she’d moved over 30 times. Moving so much obviously made it difficult for her to keep long-term friends, and she often felt isolated. And Demi’s troubles didn’t stop there.
Both her parents were alcoholics and were often violent with each other. When Demi was 15, her mom and stepdad finally filed for divorce. Virginia packed her family up and moved one final time: to Los Angeles.
Along with her familial troubles, Demi struggled with a physical ailment while growing up. See, she had a condition called strabismus, which left her with eyes that didn’t line up correctly, affecting her eyesight. In other words, she had a lazy eye.
Demi was always self-conscious about her eyes growing up and took extreme steps to remedy the problem. Two surgeries and a couple of eye-patches later, both her eyes were aligned and looking toward the future. But it wasn’t smooth sailing from there.
Photo by Stephane Cardinale
See, Demi also suffered from severe kidney dysfunction, a condition called nephrosis. At its worst, fluids were building up in her body, preventing her from even standing up. It’s a potentially fatal disease, but Demi survived. Unfortunately, her struggles were far from over…
When she was just 17 and still in high school, Dan committed suicide. Demi’s mother was devastated and leaned even more heavily on alcohol. With an absent mother, Demi had to stand up and act as the parent in her family, particularly to her younger half brother.
But before graduating, Demi dropped out of high school to pursue a career as a model. She quickly signed with an agency and eventually moved to Europe for work, and it was there she began to seriously consider acting.
Demi started auditioning and finally got her first big break in 1982 when she nabbed a role as a recurring character on General Hospital. From there, she catapulted into movies and quickly became one of the most recognized actresses in the world.
By the mid-’80s, Demi was a verified star and had joined the “Brat Pack,” a group of rowdy young actors who appeared in movies together like The Breakfast and St. Elmo’s Fire. But things behind the scenes weren’t going as well for the new celebrity…
Even as her star was rising, she found herself struggling with substance abuse. It got so bad that director Joel Schumacher told her to get her act together or else she wouldn’t be welcomed back on St. Elmo’s Fire. She checked into rehab and returned sober.
St. Elmo’s Fire
But it was too late to stop the rumors about her that were running rampant through the tabloids. One, in particular, stuck — that her real name was Demetria! She’s disputed this, but that hasn’t stopped people from believing it.
Once the ’90s arrived, Demi was the highest paid actress in Hollywood, headlining box office hits like Ghost and Striptease. In fact, she was so in demand that she became the first actress to ever make more than $10 million for a single movie role. Would that kind of fame go to her head?
People thought so, and with good reason: Her entourage was so large that at one point it included an assistant, an assistant’s assistant, a stylist, a bodyguard, a cosmetician, a masseuse, and a fashion consultant. Here’s a tip, Demi: sometimes less is Moore!
The New York Times
But she’s more than just a pretty face. Demi’s also a successful producer and director. She was, for instance, the executive producer of all three Austin Powers films (shagadelic!), but her professional successes were sometimes overshadowed by her personal life.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
When Demi and her then-husband Bruce Willis hit the rocks, the tabloids couldn’t seem to stay away from rumors of cheating and other nastiness. But the couple worked through it, divorcing amicably for one very important reason.
While the marriage to Willis didn’t work out, it did produce three beautiful daughters. Together, Bruce and Demi have worked hard to become loving, attentive co-parents. For Demi, it’s a chance to undo the mistakes of her childhood.
Those past struggles don’t impede her — the opposite, actually. “If I look back at my past, I look at those things as my gifts,” she said. “Some of my lowest points were the most exciting opportunities to push through to be a better person.”
Over decades, Hollywood has rewarded those who’ve battled through adversity and came out even stronger on the other side of it. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood could relate to Demi Moore.
It’s hard to picture Meryl Streep, for instance, in any line of work other than acting, but a number of setbacks early in her career threatened to snuff this star out before she appeared on red carpets.
At first, Streep wanted to be a singer. She enrolled in voice classes with the famous soprano Estelle Liebling. The teacher was incredibly strict, and Streep didn’t enjoy all her lessons, but she felt it was pertinent to her singing career.
Streep performed in school musicals where she could unveil all the hard work she put in with Liebling. She eventually went to the Yale School of Drama but still wasn’t entirely sold on acting.
In fact, there was a period of time she wanted to be a translator for the United Nations. For the sake of movie lovers everywhere, it was a good thing she opted not to pursue that particular career path.
The first professional theatrical bow Streep took came in 1975 for a play titled Trelawny of the Wells. Even though she felt a rush of excitement, she still wasn’t sure if she craved a life in Hollywood.
After she was turned down for a number of roles, Streep stuck with the acting. In 1976, she was in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and that was where she fell head over heels for an actor named John Cazale.
Cazale was already a major player in Hollywood after his role in The Godfather. Streep and Cazale hit it off almost instantly, and before anyone knew it, they were living together in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood.
The couple had been dating for about a year when Cazale was hit with a long period of illness. He finally brought himself to a doctor where he and Streep received the worst news: he had terminal lung cancer.
Streep wanted to be by his side as much as possible while he slowly succumbed to his illness. It’s said that the whole reason she accepted her Oscar-nominated role in The Deer Hunter was so she could be close to him, as he was already cast in the film.
Fortunately, the cast and crew of the film also pitched in to help Cazale. The director, Michael Cimino, played a large role in the decision to cast him, and Robert De Niro paid for the costly insurance he required.
Despite everyone making him comfortable, Cazale eventually became so weak he was transferred to the hospital. An emotionally-devastated Streep said goodbye to Cazale on March 12, 1978.
After news of Cazale’s death got out, tributes from all over poured in full of praises about the gifted actor. One of his good friends published a eulogy stating: “John Cazale happens once in a lifetime. He was an invention, a small perfection.”
Although wrought with grief, Streep returned to work. She was in demand after her role in The Deer Hunter, and the year after Cazale passed away she starred alongside Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer.
Streep performed so well opposite Hoffman she actually took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the 1980 Academy Awards. While all this was happening, someone new had made quite an impression on her life.
A sculptor named Don Gummer, who was a friend of Streep’s brother, helped the two of them move the actress’s belongings out of the Tribeca apartment. Gummer offered Streep a place to sleep while she apartment hunted, and their relationship picked up speed.
It only took six months before Streep and Gummer exchanged vows in the backyard of her parents’ house. Friends and family were alarmed she fell so fast and were quick to chalk her decision up to rebounding.
But they proved the critics wrong. The two found true love out of Streep’s heartbreak. Although she still lived with the grief from Cazale’s passing, Gummer patiently stood by her side the whole time.
In fact, when Streep won an Oscar for her portrayal of the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 2010’s The Iron Lady, she opened her speech with a massive shout out to Gummer.
The couple has currently been married for over four decades and is still going strong. It’s amazing to think that out of such a dark and emotionally turbulent time after Cazale died the light of love shined through.