No. 3: J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling was always a storyteller. When she was 5 years old she wrote her first tale and remembers telling it to her sister. "She fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family," recalls Rowling.

She was a secretary in London in 1990 when, during a four-hour train delay, came up with the idea of Harry Potter. (Lesson: transportation delays can be inspiring.)

As soon as she made it home, she began to write.

But it wasn't happily ever after quite yet. Soon after this, her mother died, and after moving in with her sister, Rowling was diagnosed with depression. By 1994 she was a single mother living on welfare.

She contemplated suicide. But she also spent hours a day in a nearby coffee shop penning her novel. Sometimes our bottoms are firm ground. From this foundation, Rowling poured out her creativity introducing the world to Harry Potter.

Our next celebrity went from the trailer park to the red carpet ...

Hilary Swank, 2008 Fashion Rocks

No. 2: Hilary Swank

Swank's story is reminiscent of her Oscar-winning role in "Million Dollar Baby" -- a woman waiting tables while training to become a champion boxer, a goal that she will not let not happen.

Swank was born in Nebraska to a secretary and traveling salesman. At the age of 6, her family moved to a trailer park in Washington state. Here, she described much of her upbringing as feeling like an "outsider".

At 13, her parents divorced and she and her mother moved to LA for her acting aspirations. They lived out of their car until they scraped enough money to get an apartment.

She dropped out of school and started supporting the household with acting spots on shows like "Evening Shade" and "Growing Pains." Swank was very athletic throughout school and used this ability to land her breakthrough role in 1994's "The Next Karate Kid."

Our No. 1 rags-to-riches celeb went from one extreme to another ...


No. 1: Oprah Winfrey

The Queen of Media also proves to be the mother of all rags to riches stories, growing up poor (back when poor was really poor) and working her way to the top heights of wealth, power, and influence.

Winfrey hails from the deep south -- rural Mississippi -- born to a teenage mother. Later, she lived with her grandmother, who made dresses for her out of potato sacks.

Oprah and her mother moved to inner-city Milwaukee when she was 9, where she endured sexual abuse from her extended family. She ran away at 13 and became pregnant at 14, but her baby died shortly thereafter.

That same year, she was sent to live with family friend, Vernon Winfrey, in Tennessee. Here, things turned around for young Winfrey. She did well in school, became a student leader and started her career in media.