Former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Women are like teabags. You don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.” And this is certainly true of the women in this article.
As we salute all mums this Mother’s Day, we also pay tribute to 10 celebrities who have had to deal with some very tough times but have lived to tell the tale – and become an inspiration to others too.
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You might refer to her as the Goddess of Pop or the Queen of Reinvention but did you know that Cher struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia for many years? It was so traumatic for her that she avoided reading for most of her childhood (and yet she reads many movie scripts now!) and left school when she was 16, after getting mostly Fs and Ds on her report cards over the years. In fact, it was only when Cher was 30 and her daughter Chastity (now son Chaz) was getting tested for dyslexia that she went through the test and was diagnosed along with her child too. Despite the odds, Cher has managed to have a very successful singing and acting career and still performs to adoring crowds today, at the age of 72.
Who can forget the adorable blonde girl in movies such as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Firestarter? She might have been born into an acting dynasty (the Barrymore family of actors is renowned) and been a star at the age of seven but Drew had to go through a lot of hardship before she achieved success again as an adult.
Her father was a violent alcoholic and her mother didn’t exactly behave like a responsible adult. She took her eight-year-old daughter clubbing with her friends and, by age 12, Drew was in rehab. Her mother later put her in a mental institution for a year and a half and she emancipated herself from her parents when she was 14. It took a few years of being a Hollywood outcast to get her foot firmly in the door again but what a career this 44-year-old has had.
Her latest project was Netflix comedy Santa Clarita Diet, which ran for three seasons before it got cancelled. Drew also has her own make-up collection, Flower Beauty. Drew married art consultant Will Kopelman (her third husband) in 2012 but divorced in 2016. They have two daughters.
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This British writer is best known as the woman who penned the Harry Potter series but J.K. Rowling (full name Joanne Rowling) is also often mentioned as an example whenever a ‘rags to riches’ story is told. During the seven-year period when she turned boy wizard Harry Potter from a concept in her head into her first book (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), she also had to cope with her mother’s death, giving birth to her first child and getting divorced from her first husband.
As a struggling single mum, Joanne signed up for welfare benefits; she also suffered from clinical depression and contemplated suicide. Years later, thanks to the success of the Harry Potter books and movies, the mother of three became the world’s first billionaire author.
She has since lost her billionaire status, as she has given away so much of it to charity and also because of the high rate of British taxes she has had to pay.
Beauty blogger and influencer Tsang revealed in her book, A Beautiful Mind, A Beautiful Life: Guide To Being Unstoppable, that she was bullied when she was younger, because of her mixed-race parentage. The Chinese-Northern Irish beauty, who has 767K followers, also suffered a miscarriage in 2016.
And pregnancy wasn’t easy for this mother of two. She suffered from polyhydramnios – a condition where there’s an excess of amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac – and pubis symphysis dysfunction, which causes a lot of discomfort and pain in the pelvic area and made it extremely difficult for her to sleep.
This Canadian songstress has been singing since she was very young but she had a difficult childhood. Her mother and stepfather were poor and there was often violence between the couple too. She sang in bars when she was eight so she could earn some extra cash for the family. Shania – real name Eileen Regina Edwards – sang in various bands when she was in her teens and made forays into the country music scene through performances, demos and connections in the industry.
Unfortunately, when she was 22, her mother and stepfather were killed in a car accident and she put her career on hold to look after her younger siblings. She earned money by performing in a resort and it was only when her youngest brother left school that Shania moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career.
She released her self-titled debut album in 1993, at the age of 28, but it saw little commercial success. Her second album, The Woman in Me (1995), kickstarted her widespread success, but it’s her third album, Come On Over (1997) — with famed singles such as”You’re Still the One”, “From This Moment On” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” — that really cemented her status as a star.
While growing up on her parents’ farm near Johannesburg in South Africa, Charlize had an alcoholic father who often threatened his daughter and physically abused his wife. When Charlize was 15, her dad came home drunk one night – and he had a gun.
After firing a few shots around the house, he ended up at his daughter’s bedroom door, banging and shouting that he was going to kill her and her mother. Her mother grabbed her own gun and shot her husband dead. Charlize has said that she knew her mother had no choice and that she would do the same thing if her daughter were in danger. Her mother escaped any charges as it was seen as an act of self-defence.
Her mother has always been supportive of Charlize’s career and, in fact, bought her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles when she was 19, to pursue her acting dreams. She made it, of course, and is now an Oscar-winning actress. Because of her experience, Charlize has often spoken out about the danger of firearms in homes.
The local actress and her thespian husband Randall Tan struggled to conceive for nine years. After suffering a miscarriage in 2012 and a failed IVF attempt in early 2017, Melody conceived naturally and announced she was four months pregnant in July 2017. In November 2017, the couple announced the arrival of their twins Reuben Michael and Maegan Riley.
The babies arrived prematurely a few weeks before that, through an emergency C-section at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, and were then transferred to Singapore General Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Chen said in her Instagram post that “it truly was a harrowing start to our parenthood journey from the emergency C-sect to the constant worry about their survival”.
The babies are now happy and healthy and the couple often posts about them on their social media accounts.
She’s the lovable, funny and always fashionable Gloria Pritchard on Modern Family but Sofia has had her fair share of challenges in the past. The Colombian-American stunner started out as a model and made her first professional appearance at 17, in a Pepsi ad that was aired in Latin America. She married her high-school sweetheart at 18 and had a son the year after. They divorced two years later and she became a single mum. Sofia has mentioned in interviews how being a young single mum motivated her to be responsible and work hard to give her son a good life. She has certainly come a long way, having been named the highest-paid actress on TV for her role on Modern Family for the seventh year in a row in 2018.
The natural blonde often posts about her son, Manolo, on her Instagram account, and is no doubt proud of his success as a model and actor. She has also gone on to find love again — she married True Blood star Joe Manganiello in 2015.
She might be best known as the bratty, bitchy – but likeable – rich girl Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl but Leighton’s own upbringing was very different. Before she was born, her mother Constance was arrested for helping to smuggle shipments of marijuana out of Jamaica, together with her then-boyfriend (Leighton’s dad), her sister and her father.
Leighton was born in a hospital but her mother had to serve time in prison after her birth and was transferred to a halfway house for three months in order to nurse her newborn. Mum was then sent back to prison for 16 months and Leighton’s paternal grandparents looked after her. Leighton has spoken about her unconventional childhood and insists she had happy, fun times too, but that she had to grow up quickly.
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She’s a beautiful, talented actress with a gorgeous English accent but you might not know that she struggled with a stutter when she was a child. From the ages of seven to 14, Emily had such a debilitating stutter that she could barely hold a conversation and even speech therapy classes didn’t help.
She used to talk in funny voices or accents as she felt that she could speak better if she wasn’t doing so in her own voice. When she was 12, a teacher asked her to be in a class play because he had heard her impersonations and thought she was funny. Emily performed well in it and it sparked her love for theatre and acting. Since finding fame, the mum of two girls (she’s been married to American actor John Krasinski since 2010) has worked with the American Institute for Stuttering and has also said that her stutter returns at times, when she’s extremely tired and also when she was pregnant.
The former actress and model was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer in 2015 and did four rounds of chemotherapy. While she has admitted that it was a brutal experience (her hair fell out as a result of the chemotherapy), her positive mindset and family support helped her get through it.
The mum of two boys was also motivated by the thought that she wanted to see her kids grow up. She also said that the experience taught her to manage stress better and showed her who her true friends were.