Rags to riches
Rags to riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty to wealth, and in some cases from absolute obscurity to heights of fame—sometimes instantly. This is a common archetype in literature and popular culture (for example, the writings of Horatio Alger, Jr.).
The concept of "Rags to riches" has been criticised by social reformers, revolutionaries, essayists and statisticians, who argue that only a handful of exceptionally capable and/or mainly lucky persons are actually able to travel the "rags to riches" road, being the great publicity given to such cases causes a natural survivorship bias illusion, which help keep the masses of the working class and the working poor in line, preventing them from agitating for an overall collective change in the direction of social equality.
Pre-20th-century fictional examples
- Fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Aladdin.
- The Dickensian novel Oliver Twist, whose protagonist rises from a workhouse to child labour to a gang of pickpockets to being adopted by a wealthy family.
- The Arthurian story of Sir Gareth, who rises from a lowly kitchen boy to a prominent Knight of the Round Table.
- The Roman Emperor Diocletian, born in poverty and whose father was a former slave (by some sources, the emperor himself was born in slavery).
- Genghis Khan, who was homeless with just his mother and his siblings. He went on to create the largest land empire in history (however, Genghis was the son of a Mongol chieftain).
- Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, born in poverty, founded the Medici bank, the Medici were a common family.
- Pope Leo III was of commoner origin and attained the high position in spite of violent opposition from the nobility, who considered the papacy as their preserve.
- George Thomas (soldier), born into a poor Irish farming family, Thomas became a mercenary in India eventually rising to become a wealthy Raja.
- Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand, was a commoner, perhaps the son of a blacksmith. His bad reputation was partially due to horror at his high social mobility.
- Chandragupta Maurya of India, who from a humble beginning founded the Maurya Empire.
- Mahmud of Ghazni, son of a Turkic slave, who founded the Ghaznavid Empire.
- Baibars, a slave who rose to become the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt through his military prowess.
- China's Emperor Gaozu of Han and Hongwu Emperor who were both born into peasant families, but eventually founded two of the nation's most illustrious imperial dynasties.
- Emperor Xuan of Han brought up a commoner despite royal blood, later rose to become a capable ruler.
- Emperor Guangwu of Han lived life as a peasant at one point in his life despite being a distant royal. He eventually restored the Han dynasty.
- Emperors Justin I, Justinian the Great and Theodora came from peasant families. Later became Emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire. Theodora was a courtesan and actress. Later became Empress.
- Nader Shah, founder of the Afsharid dynasty, was the orphaned son of a goat-herder who established the most powerful empire in modern Persian history.
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous example in late medieval times, helped unify pre-modern Japan.
- Wei Zhongxian of Ming Dynasty China, a gambler who castrated himself and entered the Imperial Palace where he ended enormous power under the reign of the Tianqi Emperor. He eventually committed suicide upon banishment by the Chongzhen Emperor.
Pre-Modern and Modern times
Thousands of people have risen from poverty to riches; some are:
- Iggy Azalea
- Conor McGregor – Was living on Ireland's social welfare before his UFC debut.
- Axl Rose
- Roman Abramovich
- Sheldon Adelson
- Dhirubhai Ambani
- AJ Styles
- Ursula Burns (Ceo of Fortune 500 company)
- Andrew Carnegie (Industrialist)
- Jim Carrey
- Sean Connery (rags: Royal Navy, bricklayer, coffin polisher, lifeguard - riches: Actor)
- Coco Chanel
- Charlie Chaplin
- Chow Yun-fat – Born and raised in a farming community on Lamma Island, Hong Kong. His family's house had no electricity. During mornings, he helped his mother sell herbal jelly and Hakka tea-pudding on the streets; during afternoons he worked in the fields. At age seventeen, he left school to help support the family by doing odd jobs including hotel porter, postman, camera salesman, and taxi driver. Eventually, he became one of the most well-known and highest-earning actors in Hong Kong.
- Tom Cruise
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Jose Fernandez[disambiguation needed]
- Chris Gardner – Lived in foster care with his sisters after their mother was imprisoned. Worked as a research lab assistant after serving in the U.S. Navy. He also became a medical equipment salesman. He gained a position in Dean Witter Reynolds' stock brokerage training program but did not have a salary. For a time, Gardner and his son were homeless. They ate in soup kitchens and slept in his office after hours, at flophouses, motels, parks, airports, on public transport, and at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church's shelter for homeless women. He eventually established Gardner Rich & Co. Gardner's memoirs, The Pursuit of Happyness, was published in May 2006. The 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith is based on his memoirs.
- John Gokongwei – He was 13 years old when his father died. He supported his family by peddling items along the streets of Cebu on his bicycle. From the age of 17 to 19, he traded using a wooden boat, shipping items to Lucena by sea, and then to Manila by truck. He is now one of the richest Filipinos. His business assets include: Universal Robina, Cebu Pacific, JG Summit Holdings, and Robinsons Malls.
- Zlatan Ibrahimović – Grew up in the Malmö ghetto of Rosengård. He eventually became one of the highest-paid football players in the world and Sweden's all-time leading goalscorer.
- Mahalia Jackson
- Steve Jobs
- Li Ka-Shing (businessman)
- Jan Koum (technology entrepreneur)
- Ralph Lauren (Designer: fashion)
- Stan Lee – His father was a dress cutter who worked only sporadically after the Great Depression. By the time Lee was in his teens, the family was living in a third-floor one-bedroom apartment where he shared the bedroom with his brother while his parents slept on a foldout couch. In his youth, he worked part-time jobs such as writing obituaries and press releases, delivering sandwiches, running office errands, ushering at a theater, and selling newspaper subscriptions. He went on to create Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, the X-Men, and many other fictional characters.
- David Letterman
- Martin W. Littleton (lawyer)
- Jack London - At age 14, he was working 12 to 18 hours a day in a cannery. He was also an oyster pirate, seal hunter, jute mill worker, and coal heaver before becoming a vagrant. At the age of 21, due to financial circumstances, he dropped out from UC Berkeley and joined the Klondike Gold Rush. He eventually had a successful writing career; his most famous works are The Call of the Wild and White Fang.
- Diego Maradona - Grew up in a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. He went on to score the "Hand of God Goal" for Argentina in the 1986 FIFA World Cup. He was named the FIFA Co-Player of the 20th Century, an honor he shares with Pelé.
- Jim Morrison
- Liz Murray (motivational speaker)
- Benito Mussolini
- Trevor Noah - Born in Apartheid-era South Africa to a Black South African mother and a White father from Switzerland. He had a poor upbringing in Soweto, just outside of Johannesburg. His challenges included not having indoor plumbing in his childhood home, separation from his biological father due to Apartheid, and having an abusive, alcoholic step-father. At the age of 18, he landed a starring role on the South African soap opera Isidingo. He later became an accomplished stand-up comedian, releasing seven specials. In the fall of 2015, he took over for Jon Stewart and became the host of The Daily Show.
- Manny Pacquiao – Dropped out of high school and left home at age 14 due to extreme poverty. For a time, he lived on the streets of Manila. He eventually became the first and only eight-division world champion in professional boxing and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world.
- Sarah Jessica Parker (actress)
- Elvis Presley
- John Rockefeller (businessman)
- Cristiano Ronaldo – His mother was a cook while his father was a gardener. He grew up in poverty and shared a room with his three elder siblings. He subsequently became one of the world's best-paid and most famous athletes. He is Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer and Portugal's all-time top goalscorer.
- J. K. Rowling – Was an unemployed single mother living on welfare benefits. She described her economic status as being "poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless." She found success after writing the Harry Potter novels, which have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies becoming the best-selling book series in history. She is the United Kingdom's best-selling living author and one of the richest people in the UK.
- Colonel Sanders – When he was 10, he began to work as a farmhand. He also worked as a horse carriage painter, streetcar conductor, teamster for the United States Army, blacksmith's helper, steam engine stoker, insurance & tire salesman, filling station operator, and secretary before founding KFC.
- Irina Shayk – Her father was a coal miner who died when she was 14. Her mother was forced to work two jobs to provide for the family. Shayk became a successful and internationally recognized model.
- Iosif Stalin (son of a drunken shoemaker, rose to become the Soviet Union's longest serving leader)
- Alan Sugar
- Henry Sy – Born to a poor family in Fujian province, China and migrated to the Philippines when he was 12 years old. His parents owned a small sari-sari store where the family slept at night. In 1958, he established a small shoe store in Manila which would become the first of his SM Supermalls. He eventually became one of the richest people in the Philippines.
- Lucio Tan – Worked as a janitor at a tobacco factory to pay for his school fees. He is now one of the richest Filipinos. His business assets include: Philippine Airlines, University of the East, Philippine National Bank, Asia Brewery, and Tanduay.
- Danny Trejo (rags: former California prison inmate –riches: Actor)
- Shania Twain – Her parents earned little money and food was often scarce in their household. She eventually had a successful singing career, becoming one of the best-selling music artists of all time
- Cornelius Vanderbilt – Born to a poor family and dropped out of school at the age of 11. At the age of 16, he began his business of ferrying freight and passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan. He went on to build his wealth in the railroad and shipping industries, becoming one of the richest Americans in history.
- Natalia Vodianova (supermodel, entrepreneur, philanthropist)
- Oprah Winfrey – Her mother was a former maid, and her father a former coalminer and barber. She is in possession of a sum total wealth, estimated by Forbes magazine (true on 6 December 2015) as, net-worth 3.2. billion dollars.
- Ronnie Wood
- Victoria Woodhull
Use in art and media
T.V. and films
- Movies, such as Rocky, Trading Places, The Wolf of Wall Street, My Fair Lady, Scarface, The Pursuit of Happyness, Goodfellas, Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, The Public Enemy, The Blind Side, Guru, Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Arm, and Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story.
- Game shows like The Price Is Right, Queen for a Day, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
- Reality television shows such as American Idol, The X Factor and Joe Millionaire.
- Rags to Riches (TV series).
- Video games such as Rags to Riches, a 1985 computer game released for the Commodore 64, or Grand Theft Auto: IV, wherein the character is a poor Yugoslavian-born immigrant who rises up in the criminal empire.
- Songs as "Rags to Riches", from 1953, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, popularized by Tony Bennett or "This Could All Be Yours", from 2010, by Guster.
- Guns and Roses' song "Paradise City" features the term in its lyrics.
- Vilayat Khan made an album with classical Indian music (Ragas) and named it "Ragas to Riches".
- Jay-Z's song "99 Problems" features the term in its lyrics.
- Rags to Riches, a comic book by Four Color Comics Edition #356
- Rags to Riches, a 1981 romance novel by Joanne Kaye (Rachel Cosgrove Payes)
- A term used in many team sports when a team goes from a poor finishing position one season to a strong finishing position the following season.
- Peña, Manuel. "American Mythologies" Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012. ISBN 9781409442745
- Taleb, Nassim N. "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets" Random House 2001 ISBN 0812975219
- Weiss, Richard. "The American Myth of Success: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale" Basic Books, 1969. ISBN 0252060431
- American Dream
- Horatio Alger myth
- Nouveau riche
- Ragged Dick
- Self-made man
- Self-Made Men
- Social mobility
- Starman Jones
- The Ugly Duckling
- Taleb, 2001. "Part II: Monkeys on typewriters; Survivorship and other Biases"
- Peña, 2012. Chapter 5 "From Rags to Riches"
- Weiss, 1969. P.35
- Diokletian U.tetrarchie
- i100 staff. article. published by The Independent 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Huffington Post. article. published by Huffington Post 14 January 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Smith, Ben (10 September 2013). "Zlatan Ibrahimovic: From teenage outcast to world great". BBC Sport. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- Crowell, Merle (December 1922). "The Amazing Story of Martin W. Littleton". The American Magazine. Springfield, Ohio: The Crowell Publishing Company. pp. 16, 78–88. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
- Flores, Wilson Lee (July 28, 2010). "Why Henry Sy cried when he saw his father". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- Imbd - bio [Retrieved 6 December 2015]
- Data-page published by Forbes magazine magazine 6 December 2015 [Retrieved 6 December 2015]
- The Pursuit of Happyness - Rotten Tomatoes
- Suskin, Steven (2010). Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-19-531407-6.
- Roosters storm into NRL grand final - www.smh.com.au