When we think of our favourite celebrities or social leaders we admire their success and what they have achieved. Yet, we don’t see the journeys they have been on to get to where they are now. These stories give us faith that no matter what obstacles you face you can always overcome the adversity with determination and passion. The following household names have amassed huge fortunes and gained international success, but you may not know about their less than glamorous beginnings. If they can make it, so can you!
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing was the wealthiest man in Asia for a generation of young people. He now boasts an estimated net worth of $32.8 billion, but there was a time before he had this fortune. Originally from China, Ka-Shing moved with his family to Hong Kong in the 1940s as a young boy, when tragedy struck the family and his father died. Ka-Shing had to leave school to support the household and provide an income. He found a job at a plastics trading company, where he worked exhausting 16 hour days for little pay. Despite his unfortunate start to working life he was later able to start his own company, Cheung Kong Industries. The company began manufacturing plastics, and Ka-Shing used the expertise he had gained in this field to his advantage. Over time the company slowly expanded into real estate. His business empire now spans many areas such as banking, real estate, retail outlets and hotels, to mention a select few. The magnate owns a portion of all major businesses in Hong Kong and has over 260,000 staff working for him in 55 countries. So what we have learned from this is….don’t stay in school kids?
Next is the beloved Oprah Winfrey. We all know Winfrey to be a confident and powerful woman, but these are traits she developed over time. Her tough life raised her to be strong. Like a true underdog, she exceeded all the expectations that anyone had for her. Born in rural Mississippi, Winfrey grew up in a single parent household with a mother who had given birth as a teen. She was brutally raped as a child at ages 9 and later 13. Like her mum, Winfrey too had a teenage pregnancy and delivered a son at age 14, who sadly passed away in infancy. Winfrey finally got a much deserved break when she became a co-anchor for a local radio show at just 19. Her natural prowess for the airwaves prompted her promotion to daytime talk shows in 1983, where she became a firm favourite of many viewers. This show later became ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ and became the highest rated of its kind. The show was picked up and went national and by 32 Winfrey was a millionaire. Perhaps it is the struggles she went through that makes her so empathetic and endearing to those whom she reaches out to on her show. Despite her staggering wealth and celebrity name she retains the down-to-earth aura that viewers fell in love with. Philanthropist Winfrey is speculated to be worth a cool $2.6 billion and has been named one of the richest self-made women in the America by Forbes.
Guy Laliberté is the brains behind the spectacle that is, Cirque du Soleil. The Canadian thespian began learning his trade performing in the streets for tourists, until he had an idea to create a travelling show full of talented acts who could do amazing things. This was entertainment that the world had not seen before. He co-founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984 and moulded it into a worldwide phenomenon. When it was began he only planned for the show to run for a year, but it was such a roaring success that the government convinced him to take the show outside of Canada. It now is a household name and travels around the world. Laliberté made the show one of the most profitable events in the theatre, while simultaneously making his dreams a reality. This fun loving guy is estimated to have a net worth of over $1 billion.
JK. Rowling grew up in a house with little income, but poverty wasn’t the only thing she fought to defeat. Rowling struggled with severe depression throughout her life and combatted this by turning to the only thing that made her forget her troubles, writing. Her form of release turned out to be a saving grace from all her problems. The ‘Harry Potter’ novels became mainstream fiction and turned the world into wizarding fans. Surprisingly, many publishers rejected her novel, until one finally agreed to work with Rowling. When her marriage broke down and her husband kicked her out of her home she struggled to care for their daughter alone. She claimed social welfare while writing her novel, which ended up turning her life around. As a young girl growing up with an overactive imagination Rowling used her daily life and the people in in it as inspiration for the famous wizarding world, which has gained her a fortune estimated to be $1 billion. The book series has become one of the biggest grossing movie franchises worldwide and has become an escape for children and adults alike.
Do Won Chang
Upon moving to the U.S. to make a better life for themselves Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook had to work to make ends meet. Originating from Korea, Chang worked three jobs at once for a period of three years to pay the bills. He discovered that America was far from the land of opportunity that he had expected. However, this was all about to change. In 1984 the couple got the breakthrough they were searching for and opened their very first retail store. This was the start of big things for the couple, as they went on to become founders of the internationally renowned clothing brand Forever 21. Their family brand grew rapidly and expanded across the country before opening branches overseas. It now boasts over 480 stores worldwide and is estimated to take in around $3 billion a year in sales. Chang’s days working as a janitor, coffee shop assistant and at a gas station are long behind him. With his daughters taking over the reins of the company, the future of the Chang family is in good hands.