Celebrities: They’re just like us! In this case, they really are. Much like your Average Joe carrying credit card debt, student loan debt, auto loan debt—you name it—there are many celebrities who’ve been famous (or infamous) for going into serious debt (some to the point of declaring bankruptcy) and rebounding from it. Here are 10 celebs who overcame the odds and dug themselves out of debt.
1. President Donald Trump
We know, we know. But we’d be remissed if we didn’t mention the lame-duck president. The former real estate mogul and reality TV personality reportedly filed for business bankruptcy six times from 1991 to 2009. That didn’t stop him from becoming president in 2016 despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Let’s not forget his record of chronic losses and at least a decade of avoiding taxes.
2. 50 Cent
Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, wasn’t kidding about Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The Queens-born rapper started his career in 1996 but rose to fame with the release of his debut album in 2003. By 2011, 50 Cent’s net worth reached $100 million and peaked at $155 million in 2015, according to Forbes. He filed for bankruptcy the same year after being found guilty of releasing a sex tape online. It took almost two years, but 50 Cent was discharged from bankruptcy after paying off nearly $22 million.
3. Mike Tyson
The former heavyweight champion of the world earned more than $300 million in his legendary boxing career that spanned two decades from 1985 to 2005 (and is about to enter a third as the 54-year-old is set to return to the ring for a bout with Roy Jones Jr. 15 years after his last fight). By 2003, Tyson filed for bankruptcy because he was reportedly $23 million in debt. Tyson returned to the public eye with a cameo appearance in 2009’s blockbuster hit The Hangover.
4. Walt Disney
Before Mickey Mouse made Disney a household name, the entrepreneur, animator, and producer created a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was his first success, under Laugh-O-Gram Studios. But Disney’s producer at the time took away his team of animators and the rights to Oswald, leaving Disney with no choice but to file for bankruptcy in 1923. Disney quickly rebounded with the creation of the legendary mouse who debuted in 1928. The Walt Disney Company generated total revenue of $69.57 billion in 2019, so Disney (and his estate) made out OK.
5. Burt Reynolds
Reynolds was among the biggest names of the 1970s, starring in films ranging from The Longest Yard to Smokey and the Bandit. And the actor turned sex symbol flaunted it with extravagant purchases like multiple properties across the United States—including a 153-acre ranch in Florida—a private jet, and a helicopter. Despite earning roughly $10 million a year in his prime, a messy divorce from Loni Anderson on top of bad deals led him to file for bankruptcy in 1996, with more than $10 million in debt. A year later, Reynolds earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Boogie Nights. When he died in 2018, Reynolds had a net worth of $5 million.
6. George Foreman
In 1977, Foreman took a 10-year hiatus from boxing after he said he went through a near-death experience following his loss to Jimmy Young. Foreman later became a born-again Christian and ordained minister in Houston, where he opened a youth center. At 38, Foreman returned to the ring to help finance his youth center, which he said he put most of his earnings into. Foreman, who went on to become the oldest heavyweight champion in 1994, went on a tear in his return, winning his next 24 bouts before losing to Evander Holyfield in 1991. But it was after his boxing career when Foreman really found success with the Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine. The entrepreneur now has a net worth of roughly $300 million.
7. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga became a household name in 2008 when her debut album The Fame was released. But The Monster Ball Tour, which ran from 2009 to 2011, left her $3 million in debt. She’s since won five Grammy Awards and an Academy Award for her original song Shallow from the movie A Star is Born, which she also starred in, Gaga’s net worth now stands at an estimated $275 million. Not such a bad romance with fame after all, eh?
8. Kanye West
What is it with 2020 presidential candidates and bankruptcy? The rapper has been a controversial figure since rising to fame in 2003 with the release of his album The College Dropout. West told BET in 2015 that he was $15 million in debt after trying to launch his Yeezy fashion line. Then in 2016, he made headlines after tweeting (and deleting) that he was personally $53 million in debt. His wife, Kim Kardashian West, presumably bailed him out a month later when she claimed in a tweet that she earned $80 million from her video game and put $53 million in a joint account. West’s net worth currently is $1.3 billion, according to Forbes.
9. Larry King
The iconic talk show host hadn’t quite reached national fame when he was arrested and charged with grand larceny in 1971 after allegedly stealing $5,000 from his then-business partner Louis Wolfson. Eventually, the charges were dropped, but King lost his radio gigs in the process and fell deeper into debt after spending several years without a regular job. In 1978, he was forced to declare bankruptcy after amassing more than $300,000 in debt. King’s bad luck took a turn that year as he was offered a talk radio show that went on to become Larry King Live, which ran from 1985 to 2010 on CNN.
10. Cyndi Lauper
Lauper’s career in the music industry got off to a rocky start when the manager of her band, Blue Angel, sued her and the rest of the band for $80,000 in 1981. As a struggling artist, Lauper was forced to file for bankruptcy. Just two years later, she released her solo album, She’s So Unusual, which included hits “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”and “Time After Time.” Lauper went on to win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and in 2013 she won the Tony Award for Best Original Score for Kinky Boots, becoming the first woman to win the award on her own.
11. Jerry Lee Lewis
The rock ‘n’ roll pioneer’s solo career took off in 1957 when he released a cover of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”and his biggest hit “Great Balls of Fire.”Two years after being inducted into the inaugural class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Lewis filed for bankruptcy with $3 million in debt in 1988. Nearly 20 years later, Lewis released his top-selling album of all time in Last Man Standing and followed that up with Mean Old Man in 2010.
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