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26 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Raised by Working Mothers

Working Mother logoWorking Mother 17/3/2017 Lauren Ramakrishna

Liam Hemsworth

Liam Hemsworth
© Photo: Dick Thomas Johnson/Wikimedia Commons

These moms showed their high-achieving offspring how to work hard.

Today these celebrities earn recognition for their tireless efforts on screen and in the studio, but the hardest worker each of them knows goes by the name, “Mom.” These 26 driven mothers paved the way for their kids’ stars to rise.

1. Steve Carell

Long before the hilarious actor took up his post as Michael Scott on The Office, his mother, the late Harriet Theresa Carell, worked as a psychiatric nurse. She spent more than 30 years working at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA. Even after retiring, Harriet Carell continued to work with the Acton Nursing Service in Acton, MA.

2. Anna Kendrick

In 2016’s The Accountant, the actress played an accounting clerk opposite Ben Affleck. When prepping for the role, Anna didn’t have too much trouble finding someone to ask advice. Her mom, Janice Kendrick, is a real-life accountant. The actress told Good Morning America, “[My mom] is a math whiz, and she’s been working as an accountant for her whole life. So she was explaining all the financial aspects of it because it’s kind of a puzzle.”

3. Dave Chappelle

Perhaps the comic genius inherited his smarts and charisma from his mother, Yvonne Seon. The Ph.D. holder was a college professor and later a parish minister, the first African American woman ordained for the Unitarian Universalist Church.

4. Miranda Lambert

If this country singer had gone into the family business she would be a private investigator. According to the Washington Post, Beverly Lambert, Miranda Lambert’s mother, opened up a private detective agency with the singer’s father, Rick Lambert, following his retirement from police work.

5. Liam Hemsworth

Leonie Hemsworth, mom to both Liam and his famous big brother Chris, has “teacher” on her resume. But she didn’t instruct only in the classroom. In 2016, Liam told The Daily Telegraph about his mother’s lessons at home: “Mum taught a personal development class that covered sex. She did this exercise where she handed out different cards with STDs. She picked me first, ‘What have you got, Liam?’ ‘I’ve got chlamydia!’ Oh yeah, that was bad.”

6. Viola Davis

These days Viola Davis is no stranger in the glitzy, glamorous world of Hollywood, but she had a very different life growing up. While her father worked as a horse trainer, the actress’s mother, Mary Alice Davis, worked as a maid and factory worker to help support her family. Davis has spoken candidly about living in poverty in Rhode Island as a child.

7. Johnny Galecki

Mary Lou Galecki isn’t an experimental physicist like Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, the character Johnny Galecki plays on The Big Bang Theory. But the experienced Hollywood mom is used to working with formulas and numbers. Before her son’s big break on Roseanne, Mary Lou Galecki worked as a mortgage consultant.

8. Jim Parsons

Johnny’s castmate, Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, knows the importance of a good education. His mom, Judy Parsons, is a first-grade teacher. While Jim didn’t follow in her footsteps, his sister, Julie, did. She teaches at the same school as her mom!

9. Lucy Liu

While the actress has donned some beautiful outfits on the red carpet, her mom may feel more comfortable in a lab coat. Cecilia Liu, who hailed from Beijing, China, was a biochemist.

10. Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum is used to the jet-set lifestyle now that he’s a household name, but he grew up with a more down-to-earth connection to the open skies. Kay Faust, the actor’s mother, is an airline worker. In 2016, Channing posted a sweet tribute to his mom on Instagram, saying, “She has put up with a lot over the years. Wow. Don't [know] how we got here mama. But I know it's cause of you. I be lovin you.”

11. Mila Kunis

Before Mila Kunis and her family left Ukraine in 1991 to come to the United States, her mom, Elvira Kunis, worked as a physics teacher. The two appeared on screen together at the conclusion of Kunis’s hit movie, Bad Moms.

12. Tom Hanks

Janet Marylyn Frager, who passed away in July 2016, spent her working years as a hospital worker. Following her death, son Tom Hanks posted a vintage photo of her to Instagram with the message, “This beauty? My mom. She was the difference in many lives. Many lives,” he wrote. “We say goodbye to her today. Safe crossing, mom!”

13. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio’s mother, Irmelin Indenbirken, worked as a legal secretary and in a number of jobs to support herself and her son while they lived in several Los Angeles neighborhoods during DiCaprio’s youth. While accepting an award for best leading actor at the 2016 BAFTA awards, DiCaprio praised his hard-working mother. He said, “Lastly, there's one person I have to thank. I would not be standing up here if weren't for this person. I didn't grow up in a life of privilege. I grew up in a very rough neighborhood in East Los Angeles and this woman drove me three hours a day to a different school to show me a different opportunity. It's her birthday tonight. Mom, happy birthday, I love you very much.”

14. Jennifer Lawrence

Before she moved to Santa Monica to help her daughter pursue her acting ambitions, Karen Lawrence ran Camp Hi-Ho, a summer camp in Louisville, KY. While Karen still owns the camp, Jennifer’s brother Blaine now runs it.

15. Ed Sheeran

He’s made a name for himself as a singer-songwriter, but he’s not the only creative person in his family. His mother, Imogen Sheeran, followed up a career running an independent art consultancy alongside Sheeran’s father with a new gig making jewelry. In fact, the crafty mom even began selling her wares at some of her son’s shows in 2010.

16. Reese Witherspoon

The Oscar winner has played a number of strong, driven women in her career, and her best inspiration for those roles may have been her own mom, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Witherspoon. Betty Witherspoon earned a B.S. and a master’s degree in nursing, as well as her Ed.D. (doctor of education). Following her work as a nurse, Betty Witherspoon taught nursing at Tennessee State University, then finally worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University. While accepting the Outstanding Alumna award in 2012 at the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Betty said, “I have always been fascinated by the health care industry, and I knew nursing was a profession that would bring great satisfaction and meaning to my life.”

17. John Legend

Phyllis Stephens worked as a seamstress while also periodically homeschooling John Legend and his siblings in Ohio. John Legend has talked openly about his mother’s struggles with drug addiction when he was a teenager in an attempt to push forward legislation for prison reform. In a 2015 article for Time, Legend wrote, “I watched my mother disappear into more than a decade of drugs and despair after my maternal grandmother—a person who filled our whole family with love—passed away … My mother didn’t need punishment; she needed help. Criminalizing drug abuse only further shatters people and families that are already in pieces.”

18. Matt Damon

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Matt Damon’s mom, is serious about education. She taught as a professor of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, for 30 years, and has also authored numerous books on the subject of childhood development.

19. Halle Berry

This Academy Award winner has her mom’s career path to thank for her very existence. Judith Ann Hawkins worked as a psychiatric nurse, and met Halle’s father at the ward where she worked (he was an attendant). The two later married and divorced, but not before bringing Halle into the world.

20. Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt wasn’t the only kid to get a dose of his mom’s advice from time to time. Jane Etta Pitt, who is now retired, used to work as a school counselor.

21. Will Smith

You probably know that it was in West Philadelphia where he was born and raised, but did you know that he was raised by an administrator for the School Board of Philadelphia? That’s the title his mom, Caroline Bright, held.

22. Tom Cruise

Mary Lee South, who passed away in February 2017, told Rolling Stone in 1986 that she was always interested in theater but never pursued an acting career. Instead she worked as special-education teacher—a job she held when she met Tom Cruise’s father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III. Although Mary Lee South never saw her name up in lights, she was able to pass her passion for the acting craft down to her son.

23. Samuel L. Jackson

The late Elizabeth Harriet Montgomery Jackson, mom to Samuel L. Jackson, worked in office jobs. According to Variety, she also worked as a buyer for a Chattanooga, TN, clothing store. For a number of years, Elizabeth Jackson worked in Washington, D.C., while Samuel’s grandparents and aunt raised him in Chattanooga. In 2012, Jackson told The Telegraph that he was surrounded by hard workers, including all of the women in his life. He said, “People in my house got up to go to work every day. My grandmother was a domestic, like the women in The Help, and my grandfather was a doorman/elevator operator/furnace maintainer. My aunt was a schoolteacher and I was reading by the time I was three.”

24. Nicole Kidman

This seasoned actress has her roots in Hawaii. That’s where she was born to Australian parents. Nicole Kidman’s mother, Janelle Ann Kidman, was a nursing instructor.

25. Josh Radnor

We spent nine seasons wondering how Josh Radnor’s character on How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby, actually met his kids’ mother. But if asked how most people have met his own mother, Radnor might say through high school. His mom, Carol Radnor, worked as a high school guidance counselor.

26. Bruce Willis

The actor has always given off a bit of a blue-collar vibe, and there’s a good reason for that. Following a stint in the army, Bruce Willis’s father moved his family to New Jersey where he worked in a factory and as a mechanic. Mom Marlene worked in a bank.

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