5 of The Best Rags to Riches Long-Reads

Walt Disney's wonderful world, Richard Branson's luck, Howard Schultz's empire, Ellen Pompeo's anatomy and J.K. Rowling's magical journey

Walt Disney
Walt Disney came from humble beginnings. (Getty)
By Ariel Scotti / June 8, 2019 6:00 am

In light of the news this week from Forbes that Jay-Z has officially surpassed the $1 billion mark, we decided to take a look at a few more super wealthy people who came from rough backgrounds to make something enormous out of themselves.

Read about the wonderful world Walt Disney created, Richard Branson’s luck, Howard Schultz’s empire, the anatomy of Ellen Pompeo and J.K. Rowling’s magical journey below.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney came from humble beginnings. (Getty)

A little boy born in Chicago on December 5, 1901, Walter Elias Disney had a father who was a carpenter and a mother who taught him to be sentimental and to cherish the joy of childhood despite what they didn’t have, as The New Yorker once reported in a story of his life. He grew up to be a man who tried, and failed to be shipped off to war in 1918 — luckily for the rest of us. He humbly began his career as a commercial artist and from that launch pad, created the fantastical world we know today.

Richard Branson
Richard Branson is a billionaire despite a learning disability. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/ FilmMagic)

Billionaire Richard Branson may have owned a music label, commercial airline company, island, private space company and likely much more over the course of his highly privileged life, but nothing has come easy for the Brit. As The New Yorker, again, reported, a lot of it had to do with luck. That’s not to take away from Branson’s achievements — he struggles with dyslexia and, as a result, never finished school — but you don’t become a billionaire without a few things going your way.

Howard Schultz
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had to grind his way to the top. (Stephen Brashear/ Getty)

Despite what appears to be a low level of support for his potential 2020 Presidential bid, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has led a wildly successful life. But that journey began in Brooklyn subsidized housing, as Forbes learned in a 2016 profile — and that humble beginning has stuck with him through his rise to the top of the world’s most recognizable coffee house. “I’m still this kid from Brooklyn who wanted to fight his way out,” he said.

Ellen Pompeo
Ellen Pompeo was raised in Boston by a single father.(Emma McIntyre for InStyle)

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo plays a character who comes from a cushy background when it comes to money, but Meredith Grey’s relationship with her mother makes her life not so easy. Pompeo can sympathize. Born into a blue-collar, mob-heavy Boston suburb, Pompeo was one of several siblings who were raised by their father and grandparents after their mother’s overdose death when the star was just 5-years-old, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But that all turned around for her when the scrip for TV’s longest-running medical drama landed in her lap and eventually led to her becoming the highest paid actress in dramatic television.

J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling only made four figures on her first “Harry Potter” advance. (Dominic Lipinski/ PA Images via Getty)

The scribe behind one of the most popular book and film franchises in the history of the entertainment industry — now a bonafide billionaire — is more thankful for the characters she created than we might assume. J.K. Rowling’s time spent writing Harry Potter was, “one of the longest relationships of my adult life,” she told Time. He was, “her rock through bereavement, a turbulent marriage and divorce, single motherhood, changes of country, fear of failure — and transcendent joy, on the day a wise man at Bloomsbury offered her $2,250 and agreed to print 1,000 books,” the magazine wrote when considering her to be its Person of the Year in 2007.