When you work in the entertainment industry, there are certain advantages that come with having parents who are already famous or wealthy. However, as plenty of young celebs have proved, hard work and killer talent can also get you to the top.
Here are 11 Gen Z celebs who are self-made:
Already a popular figure on Twitter thanks to his funny posts and memes, he started making music out of boredom — and found his calling.
2. When Addison Rae was seven, her family moved into a camper on a lot her dad's employers owned because they "didn’t have anywhere to live." A few years later, they moved to a new state, where she was bullied for wearing off-brand shoes.
Speaking with her mom on her That Was Fun podcast, Addison said, "My mom, being the sweet mom that you are, was like, 'We're gonna buy you Uggs so that people aren't mean to you anymore.' She literally [took] me to buy Uggs that day. I remember we went to the mall…They were, like, $200 Uggs, which was not cheap for us."
Growing up, Addison felt that becoming an actor was an unattainable dream, so in college, she studied journalism so that she could still be on TV.
She told Elle, "Then I got super lucky with TikTok, and was so blessed with the chance to move to L.A."
3. When Bella Thorne was a preteen, she didn't want to be a Disney star, but she accepted the lead in Shake It Up because her family was "about to live physically on the street if [she] didn't have that role."
She told the Happy Sad Confused podcast, "We were living off Stouffer's coupons, and that's all we had to eat every day. That may not sound like a big deal to everybody, but when you're a single mom raising four kids with debt and you have nothing to your name, it's fucking shitty."
After her time on Disney Channel came to a close, she struggled to book more work because casting directors pigeonholed her as a "Disney actress."
She said, "It was like starting back at the bottom and working my way up all the way again."
4. Growing up in San Francisco, Emma Chamberlain was always "the one who struggled financially." Her dad is an artist, and "he got sick for a little bit and couldn't paint, so there was hard times for [their] family."
For Emma, watching YouTube videos was a source of escapism. Inspired to start her own channel, she taught herself to edit and began uploading DIY videos. However, she found more success after she shifted her focus to videos that felt more authentic to her.
She told Forbes, "Having no money at certain points was weird...so now it's so cool that I can make my own money and do whatever I want with it."
5. When Bretman Rock was seven, he immigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii with his siblings and mom, who worked several jobs to support them. In middle school, he "didn’t want to tell [his] teacher" that he couldn't afford to bring in ingredients for a cooking class, so he failed.
On the first episode of MTV’s Following: Bretman Rock, he said, "It taught me so many lessons about having nothing and only having dreams — that’s all we could afford."
As a teenager, he used social media as a creative outlet. His friends encouraged him to upload his Snapchat stories to Instagram, and after he made his account public, his videos began going viral. His follower count grew to millions while he was still in high school.
He told Teen Vogue, "I really don’t think there’s anything in my life right now or any accomplishments that I have that I didn’t manifest."
6. After The Kid Laroi's parents divorced, he and his mom struggled financially, and she sold drugs to make ends meet. They eventually moved into project housing in Sydney, but, after being kicked out over noise complaints, they couch surfed.
Laroi started making music by recording on his mom's phone. After upgrading to a studio, he uploaded his songs on Soundcloud and then grew an international fanbase.
In 2019, Grade A Productions executive, Lil Bibby, took notice and signed him to a joint deal with Columbia Records.
7. When Jenna Ortega was growing up, her mom wasn't sure about putting her in acting, but after she posted a video of her nine-year-old daughter performing a monologue on Facebook "as a joke," a casting agent reached out. She let her start auditioning, but Jenna "was constantly shut down because [she] did not have the look they were going for."
Jenna told PopSugar, "All of the nos I received just motivated me even more. I wanted to change the casting directors' point of view. I wanted to get rid of that description. That's what I did."
8. Though The Kissing Booth made Jacob Elordi an overnight celebrity, he struggled to book more roles afterward and ended up living in his car. While filming the Euphoria pilot, a producer, who found out about his living situation, helped him get a hotel room to stay in.
He told GQ, "I think I had – I don’t know, $400 or $800 left in my bank account – and Euphoria was my last audition before I went home for a little while to make some money and recuperate."
9. When Sydney Sweeney was 13, her family moved to LA to help her pursue her acting dreams. They "lived in one room," where Sydney shared a bed with her mom while her dad and brother shared the couch.
The financial strain as well as the judgment from their family and friends back in Washington took a toll on her family.
She told the Hollywood Reporter, "I thought that if I made enough money, I’d be able to buy my parents’ house back and that I’d be able to put my parents back together. But when I turned 18, I only had $800 to my name. My parents weren’t back together, and there was nothing I could do to help."
Her first truly successful audition was for 2018's Sharp Objects.
She said, "I had no idea getting into this industry how many people have connections. I started from ground zero, and I know how fucking hard it is. Now I see how someone can just walk in a door, and I'm like, 'I worked my fucking ass off for 10 years for this.'"
10. Iman Vellani's family moved from Pakistan to Canada when she was a baby. Her parents, "being immigrants, wanted [their kids] to try new things." With their support, she submitted her first audition tape for Ms. Marvel. On the last day of senior year, she got the part.
She told the Hollywood Reporter, "[Her parents] would never be the ones to be like, 'Just focus on your studies,' because you can do that anywhere. They brought their kids to a different country so they could have different opportunities."
11. And when Camila Cabello was seven, she and her mom immigrated from Cuba to the US. Her mom had been an architect but worked at Marshall's because her credentials didn't transfer. They lived in a house that belonged to Camila's grandpa's colleague.
Through two Cuban customers she met at Marshall's, Camila's mom found an architecture job.
Camila told PopSugar, "She learned how to use the program in a week and made enough to move us out of my godmother's house and into an apartment...[Then] my papá came over from Mexico a year and a half later...he started off washing cars in front of Dolphin Mall in the blistering Miami heat. But we kept moving on up."
Eventually, her parents started a construction company and named it after their daughters. Then, when Camila was in ninth grade, she convinced them to drive her to North Carolina to audition for The X Factor, which led to her spot in Fifth Harmony.