7 Celebrities Who Have Survived Incredibly Tragic Pasts

With all the the luxurious photo shoots, flashing lights, and seemingly perfect lives, it's easy to forget that celebrities are humans, too. And like the rest of the human population, despite the shiny exteriors, quite a few celebrities have survived tragic pasts and continue to be successful adults despite that fact. We all have some interesting stories to tell and the celebs below are no exception.

In the world of celeb gossip, celebrities' personal lives have become easy targets for attack and tabloids have brought up the harrowing moments in their lives in the past. Unfair as it may be for them, it highlights the important fact that we have all dealt with pasts- both good and bad- that we can grow from. Sometimes knowing that these almost untouchable entities have persevered through hardships as many other "normal" people is a source of inspiration for others, and some of the stars have taken on that responsibility by speaking publicly about their tough times.

Here are some top Hollywood celebrities who have faced tragedy in their lives, but have continued to follow their dreams and succeeded in face of everything that told them they couldn't — and shouldn't — have made it.

1. Joaquin Phoenix

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Joaquin Phoenix was present at the time his brother, River Phoenix, died in 1993 outside of The Viper Room in Los Angeles. A young Joaquin was the one to call 911 that night. The actor had this to say about his brother's death to the Toledo Blade in 2000, "After River's death, I felt like I was in an altered state. It took me over a year to get my life back... Dealing with death is always difficult, but suffering in public adds a whole new dimension."

2. Charlize Theron

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When Theron was 15 and returning from school, her alcoholic father threatened her and her mother and shot at the them with a shotgun. In self defense, Theron's mother shot and killed her father and wounded her uncle in front of her. Theron opened up to Diane Sawyer about the incident and said, "You always think it happens to somebody else." She has also healed since then: "For her to say go, go make something of your life, go, go do something — that was an extremely brave thing for her to do... Those are the sacrifices, you know, that I think you do for your children, and she always did that. She always put me first."

3. Keanu Reeves

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Keanu Reeves' father left his family when the actor was a toddler, and Reeves has since been surrounded by tragedy. He was a good friend of River Phoenix, who died in 1993, and his sister, Kim Reeves, has battled leukemia for over a decade. In 1998, Reeves met and fell in love with Jennifer Syme, who became pregnant with their child. The baby was stillborn at eight months, and Syme was tragically killed in a car accident a mere 18 months after the birth. Reeves told Parade magazine of his past, "Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, 'It's gone, and I'm better.' They're wrong. When the people you love are gone, you're alone."

4. Mariska Hargitay

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Olivia Benson is tough as nails on screen, and the real Mariska Hargitay has dealt with some pretty tragic events in her own life that show how tough she is, too. When Hargitay was only three years old, she was in the backseat of the car that killed her mother, iconic screen actress, Jayne Mansfield. Mansfield was only 34 at the time, and Hargitay says that event changed her life. She told Redbook in 2009, "Losing my mother at such an early age is the scar of my soul... But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I did to be here."

5. Shania Twain

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Shania Twain was born into poverty with five siblings in rural Canada. Throughout her childhood, she endured and witnessed abuse to her mother from her stepfather, who lived with the family. Aside from the abuse, her family often didn't have money to have food for lunch or shoes for the winter. Even more tragic, her parents were killed in a car accident when she was 22 years old, and Twain began singing gigs to provide for her siblings. She told Oprah Winfrey in a sit-down interview, "Coming from where I came from, it was unimaginable to ever be wealthy. That was just too far out of my reach." She then went on to become one of the best selling female pop and country artists of all time.

6. Demi Moore

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Moore was born to a 19-year-old mother and her biological father left before she was born. The actress' mom remarried a man who worsened her problems with alcohol, which led to violence and instability. The family moved many times throughout Moore's childhood and when she was 17, her stepfather committed suicide. In the early '80s, she embarked on her acting career and helped her mother stay in rehab throughout the years. In 1997, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and she reunited with her in the final months before her death.

7. Jennifer Hudson

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Jennifer Hudson told Glamour of the tragic event in her life in 2008, "I went from being an aunt, having a mom, and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom, and raising my own child." She is referring to the horrific shooting which took the lives of her mother, brother, and 7-year-old nephew, by her sisters' estranged husband, William Balfour. "It's frustrating as hell to me to have somebody who ain't lost nothing try to talk to me about it," she said, "I want to say, 'Don't even bother, because you know nothing.' But you never know how much you can get through until you're going through it."

These brave celebrities prove that only you have the power to react to a circumstance and make the life that you want for yourself.