Giving up your child for adoption can be a difficult decision to make, but it happens more often than you might think. For some it has taken decades to discover the shocking truth that the people who raised them are not their biological parents – and for one reason or another that their biological parents felt they could not raise them. Here are 10 celebrities who you might never have guessed were adopted – and who haven’t been held back by adoption.
10. Bill Clinton
Image: Bob McNeely, The White House
Bill Clinton’s family history is shrouded in intrigue. The former US president was born William Jefferson Blythe III in August 1946. While the identity of his biological father is unknown, it is thought he was a travelling salesman killed in a car accident three months before his son’s birth. In 1950 Clinton’s mother, Virginia, married Roger Clinton, who lent his name to and eventually adopted the future head of state. All in all, Virginia married five times, twice to the same man. Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, is the only previous US president to have been adopted.
9. Marilyn Monroe
Image: Milton H. Greene
The original blonde bombshell might have been immortalised in countless photographs as smiling and possessing a devil-may-care attitude, but she was plagued by unrest, perhaps owing in part to her troubled childhood. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles in 1926 to Gladys Pearl Baker, but was baptized Norma Jeane Baker in light of her father’s undetermined identity. Marilyn was shuffled between the care of her mentally ill mother, foster homes and an orphanage. At age 11 she was fostered by her mother’s friend, Grace Mckee Goddard, only to be abandoned five years later when Grace and her husband moved away. To escape a return to the orphanage Marilyn married the boy next door, James Dougherty, just weeks after she turned 16.
8. Eric Clapton
Though he was never legally adopted, the British Blues player was raised by his grandparents after their daughter, 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton, gave birth to him in their home. His father was a 24-year-old Canadian soldier, stationed in England but with a wife back home. With his father having returned to his wife before his birth, Clapton’s grandparents raised him under the pretence that he was their own, and his mother his sister. Pat eventually met another Canadian soldier, Frank McDonald, with whom she would move to Canada and have another son. Biographers of Clapton have said that his emotional world was shattered when, at age nine, she returned with his six-year-old half brother.
7. Debbie Harry
Image: The Heart Truth
Debbie Harry, punk icon and lead singer of new-wave band, Blondie, was born July 1, 1945. When she was three months old, Deborah Ann was adopted by New Jersey gift shop proprietors, Catherine and Richard Harry. She attended Hawthorne High School before gaining an Arts degree in 1965 from Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey. From there she moved to New York City, eventually launching a successful music career currently spanning nearly forty years. Though she has apparently never traced her biological parents, the surnames appearing on her birth certificate are the typically Scottish ‘MacKenzie’ and ‘Trimble’. She has said that her name prior to adoption was Angela Trimble.
6. John Lennon
John Lennon once admitted to exaggerating his Liverpudlian accent to court public favour. In fact, he had had a reasonably middle-class upbringing after his maternal aunt Mimi and her husband George raised him in comfortable circumstances. His father, Alfred, abandoned his mother Julia, after John’s birth in October 1940 – making a failed attempt at reconciliation a few years later. With his mother apparently unwilling, or unable, to care for him, Mimi and her husband became guardians of the future Beatle when he was five. As the Beatles garnered success, John bought Mimi a bungalow on the English coast, where she lived until she died in 1991. The actress Kristin Scott Thomas played Mimi in the 2009 film Nowhere Boy.
5. Ray Liotta
Broad Street, Newark – the town where Liotta was born. Image: Derek Jensen (Tysto)
Raymond Allen ‘Ray’ Liotta, the actor best known for his role as a gangster in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, was born December 18, 1954 in Newark, New Jersey. According to reports, Ray was adopted from an orphanage at six months old, having been the result of an unplanned pregnancy to his unmarried mother. His adoptive parents, Mary and Alfred Liotta, an appointed township clerk and auto parts storeowner respectively, evidently gave Ray a comfortable upbringing in Union, New Jersey. When he was 51, Ray hired a private investigator to track down his biological mother. Though he had always believed he was of some Italian descent, he discovered otherwise upon meeting her. He also learnt that he had a half-brother. On the separation he has said: “It has affected me since I was a little kid. When I was younger I felt like damaged goods.”
4. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, billionaire entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple, Inc., was born in San Francisco, February 24, 1955. But just one week later he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, who raised him in Mountain View, California. Steve apparently met Steve Wozniak, with whom he founded the Apple behemoth, while working for Hewlett-Packard during high school summer holidays.
3. Faith Hill
On September 21, 1967, Faith Hill was born Audrey Faith Perry to unmarried parents in Mississippi, and adopted just a few days later by Ted and Edna Perry. Although her birth parents went on to marry and have a son, Faith was given a devout Christian upbringing by Ted and Edna, who had two biological sons of their own. Faith, who always knew she was adopted, began her singing career in churches and local rodeos. Her debut album, Take Me As I Am, was released in 1993; her first marriage to Dan Hill ended in 1994. Since 1996, Faith has been married to fellow country artist Tim McGraw.
2. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former South African president and anti-apartheid activist, was born July 18, 1918 to a highborn family. Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, a nobleman of the Thembu Tribe, had been instrumental in helping his friend Jongintaba Dalindyebo ascend the Thembu throne. In recognition of this debt, Dalindyebo informally adopted the nine-year-old Mandela when his father died of tuberculosis. He was moved from the small village of Qunu to the Thembu provincial capital, Mqhekewenzi, seeing his mother (his father’s third wife) on occasional visits. Mandela’s given name – ‘Rolihlahla’ – means ‘to pull a branch of a tree’, which translates colloquially as ‘troublemaker’.
1. Priscilla Presley
Image: Lee Bey
Priscilla Presley was born Priscilla Ann Wagner to James and Anne Wagner, May 24, 1945. However, James, who was a US Navy pilot, was tragically killed in a plane crash when Priscilla was a baby. Anne was remarried in 1948, to US Air Force officer Joseph Paul Beaulieu. As the only father she would ever know, Beaulieu adopted Priscilla and the family would lead a typically peripatetic Forces existence. Having being posted to various states of America while Priscilla grew up, the family was eventually transferred to Germany in 1956. It is here that Priscilla met Elvis Presley, already into his rock n roll career, but serving in the US Army. She was just 14 at the time.