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Rags to Riches

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Same guy.

"They call me new money, say I have no class. I'm from the bottom, I came up too fast..."
50 Cent

Character of poor or even modest economic standing becomes wealthy and successful. Can be the gimmick of an entire series, or the plot of a single episode.

Could also be the backstory of a wealthy character- explaining why he acts the way he does. Such as explaining why a wealthy man is so frugal (i.e. cheap), or explaining why he feels more at home among the poorer class.

Originating in the 18th and 19th centuries, it had been a Forgotten Trope, but the advent of the lottery and prominent Real Life examples have breathed life back into this.

The classic "Horatio Alger" version of the trope is that the protagonist lifts himself (or rarely herself) up to economic success by a combination of hard work and virtuous behavior. And a walloping dose of luck, which comes to the protagonist because of their work and virtue. It fell out of favor around The Great Depression and has never quite recovered.

More modern uses of the trope are more cynical, and may feature the character getting their wealth through unethical or illegal means, and discovering that wealth doesn't make them happy, (e.g. The Great Gatsby) and might include an Anvilicious statement on why sudden wealth leads to corruption. If the plot for a single episode, will usually feature the character becoming haughty and vain and eventually losing his or her money and returning to normal, showing that they never needed money in the first place. Occasionally played, is the Aesop of preferring personal freedom over the trappings of success, especially when that success comes at the cost of compromising your pride and dignity. In such cases, the person who goes from rags to riches realizes that they are virtually owned by those to whom they owe their success; something that frequently happens in the entertainment industry. The darkest and edgiest versions of this trope sometimes overlap with From Nobody to Nightmare. In the "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc, the first half of the story will use this trope for the protagonist, and the second half will depict them losing everything, often including their life.

This trope is also popular with telenovelas, many of which star a dirt-poor Naïve Everygirl from the slums who is swept into the world of the super-wealthy, either through an interclass romance, finding out she's the long-lost daughter of a millionaire, switching places with a lookalike so the latter can run away with her secret lover, or other such shenanigans. In this case, the heroine is meant as an Audience Surrogate for viewers from the same humble origins. As such, these shows are often a form of Wish-Fulfillment and the girl usually keeps her fortune at the end of the series.

See also Prince and Pauper and Self-Made Man. When someone goes all the way from poverty to the throne it is Rags to Royalty. An Epic Warrior Prince who, by military conquest, goes from somewhat minor status to ruling an Empire is likely the Young Conqueror. A less noble example is the Nouveau Riche. Other variations can probably be thought of. One is for this to be done by focusing on a group (say a family, a nation, or a sports team) rather than an individual that does this.

When a character just as suddenly loses their fame and fortune, that might be the Fallen Princess, Princess in Rags, or Riches to Rags.

Not to be confused with the chestnut filly who won the 2007 Belmont Stakes.


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  • One African-American gentleman from an ad says that his great-grandfather was born a slave but died a businessman. Possibly not as rich as other examples at the end, but among the poorest of starting points.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Binbou Shimai Monogatari, Asu and Kyou briefly move in with their rich aunt, but choose to return to their normal lifestyle shortly afterwards.
  • Rukia Kuchiki from Bleach. From a Street Urchin who barely managed to survive to adolescence with her friend Renji, to the adoptive sister of the leader of the very noble and filthy rich Kuchiki clan.
  • Candace White aka Candy Candy is a Heartwarming Orphan brought into the Legan family to work as a maid and a companion to Spoiled Brat Eliza, but at some point, she catches the eye of the Andrees (a very high-class clan of which the Legans are a branch family). She first befriends the three boys of the Andree clan (Anthony, Stear, and Archie), and later she's adopted into the Andrees per the orders of one of the leaders, Great-Uncle William. (Actually the identity of the fourth young man of the clan, Albert, the uncle of the three mentioned boys.) However, Candy becomes the Rebellious Princess of the clan, refusing to bend over to the aristocrats and then deciding to become a nurse without their support.
    • A more straightforward case would be Annie, Candy's "adopted sister". She was adopted by the rich Brighton family several years before, and the Brightons keep this as a secret since they're afraid that the already pathologically shy and insecure Annie will be ostracized and bullied. (This turns out to be true, unfortunately). It takes Annie several years to fully develop into a stronger, more self-assured person.
  • Mariko Shinobu's family in Dear Brother. According to their child, Hikawa and Hisako Shinobu were very poor when they got married, then got progressively richer as Hikawa's novelist career flourished. (Though at the very high cost of them growing apart, as well as Hikawa having to stick to his successful erotica rather than the more meaningful (and genuinely good) literature he was fond of. Growing Up Sucks, indeed.)
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Kanao Tsuyuri came from an extremely poor and abusive family, so much her parents literally sold her as a slave; however, she got rescued by Kanae and Shinobu Kocho before her life as a slave could actually begin. The Kocho sisters came from a well-off family, and even after being orphaned they became Demon Slayers under the very wealthy Ubuyashiki estate, so with that the Kocho Mansion was kept well maintained by the fee earned through demon-slaying; Kanao is registered as the youngest sister of both Kocho girls, enjoying a resourceful life as a member of the Kocho family.
  • Expecting to Fall into Ruin, I Aim to Become a Blacksmith: Teen Genius Toto Gapp is from an impoverished baron family, and after Kururi notices how their academy's biology greenhouses are full of his experiments, he financially backs Toto for a cut of the profits. After a Time Skip, Toto is a medicine mogul with his own large company and private army thanks to this, never ceasing to get his hands dirty in the labs.
  • You Houki from Fushigi Yuugi comes from a very poor country family, and she is taken by the Royal Court due to her incredible beauty. She is then made into a membress of Hotohori's harem, and she eventually becomes his legal wife, the mother of his child, and the Empress Dowager.
  • Also used in Haou Airen, where a girl who has to struggle with a part-time job, her high school studies, and taking care of her sickly widow mother and her cute little siblings... until she is suddenly thrown into a world of fabulous riches and luxury in Hong Kong when it turns out that the handsome stranger whose life she saved is actually a high-ranked Triad leader who wants her as his mistress (and he also promises to send money to her family in Tokyo, so the girl's mom can have adequate treatment and she won't have to worry - and as far as we know, he keeps that part). Too bad this also brings HORRIBLE misfortune to the poor girl, as the dude is a massive Fetishized Abuser and the people in their surroundings are corrupted to the core.
  • Hello! Sandybell: Marc's mother is the Countess of Wellington, but his father squandered all their money, leaving them poor. However, his paintings were discovered by the art dealer Roussanne, and he won the Grand Prix at the European New Artist Paintings Exhibition, so he becomes rich and famous again.
  • Liechtenstein in Hetalia: Axis Powers; her backstory shows her as a Heartwarming Orphan dying on the streets because the Great Depression has crippled her country. She is rescued by Switzerland and adopted as his little sister, and is now one of the richest countries in the world.
    • For that matter, Swiss himself. Liechtenstein mentions that his own economic situation was not the best when he took her in due to the war and the GD, but some decades later he's living in a Big Fancy House with her and is a quite more wealthy nation. (Not that he spends a lot, though.)
    • Also the Netherlands. He's seen as a rather poor and struggling teenage nation (while his younger sister Belgium is a Child Prodigy businesswoman), then he's seen under Spain's wing (that he's not too happy about), and later he has become quite the overseas empire... and a stoic, penny-pinching Non-Idle Rich.
    • Luxembourg, Netherlands' younger brother, is a case of this; at first his status as a Non-Action Guy meant he was often bullied and pushed around by stronger countries, but his admiration of the Netherlands meant that he decided to emulate his ways, and he then captured all of Europe's finances.
  • Hidamari Sketch: Shortly after starting her senior year, the brother of the perpetually poor yet very talented Miyako- a cabbage farmer- lands a contract with a major restaurant chain, thus significantly improving her ability to afford to go to college.
  • Robert E.O. Speedwagon, from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, was a destitute street thug when Jonathan Joestar first met him. After changing his ways, he went on to accidentally strike oil and become rich in the time between Parts 1 and 2, using his newfound fortune to found the Speedwagon Foundation, which funded medical and scientific breakthroughs and would assist the Joestar bloodline even after Speedwagon, himself, passes away.
  • Yukiji from Kamisama Kiss used to be an ordinary farm girl before being adopted into nobility. The heroine Nanami also counts, though with her it is more of a case of Rags to Godhood.
  • Love Lucky: Fuuta goes from living in a small room paid for with his modest wages to Ippongi Hills, the most high-class, glamorous set of apartments in Tokyo so that he and his new pop-star wife Kirari can have easier access to each other in her off time.
  • Sheryl Nome from Macross Frontier was a homeless Street Urchin after her parents were assassinated until she was picked up by Grace O'Connor, who became her manager on the road to stardom. Ten years of hard work (and Grace's manipulations) later, Sheryl is the most popular (and probably the richest) Idol Singer in the galaxy with a credit rating high enough to hire an entire high-tech mercenary unit complete with their carrier flagship and Super Prototype fighters for a high-risk rescue mission with just her credit card.
  • Mayonaka ni Kiss: Widow Natori and her children when she marries a billionaire.
  • Naruto: The titular character grew up an orphan who was living on his own well before he was ten. As a result, Naruto was poor throughout much of his youth. Come several years later in Boruto and Naruto now lives in a lavish house with his wife and children. He is the leader of his village, after all.
  • A villainous example from One Piece: Coming from a family who's been persecuted for years, Kurozumi Orochi was originally picked up off the streets by Yasuie and was appropriately poor. Some years later, to kickstart his revenge upon the Kozuki clan, Orochi takes over Wano with the help of Kaido and some of his kin.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: During the "Seven Goodbyes" arc, Itsuki explains to Fuutarou that, while she and her sisters are well-off now, before their mother married their stepfather they used to be as poor as him.
  • Rebuild World: Akira and Sheryl. Akira started as a Street Urchin who would be astonished by small amounts of money until Mysterious Backer Alpha took him in and started training him as a hunter, and Sheryl was a shunned outcast in the slums until Akira took her in. As a Brains and Brawn duo, both end up slowly clawing their way up to living in a palatial fortress with an entire The Syndicate mixed with Private Military Company built around them.
  • Re:Monster: Rou goes from being a mere goblin with nothing but the clothes on his back and a few friends in basically a Barbarian Tribe, to leading and gradually uplifting his civilization through assimilating groups and technology until it's basically a city-state. Officially leading a Private Military Company Parabellum, that takes kingdoms as clients, operating several side ventures like tourism and trade.
  • In Roll Over and Die, Flum and Milkit start off in literal rags due to being slaves. After Flum manages to free them, she becomes an adventurer to support them. Over the course of the first volume, Flum successfully completes two important jobs. The first job allows them to afford nicer clothing. The second job earns a reward of a house and a significant amount of money. Flum continues to work as an adventurer, so they can live in relative comfort while Milkit takes on the role of a housekeeper to maintain the home.
  • In Sakura Gari, Dr. Katsuragi is implied to come from a low-middle-class family since as a teenager he lived and worked as a servant in the very rich Saiki clan's Big Fancy House while going through his studies. Now he both works in a famous hospital and is the personal doctor of his former protectors.
    • Souma Saiki, too. His Missing Mom was an Impoverished Patrician and his Princess in Rags maternal grandma made him work in the streets. Then he was found by the Saikis clan, and, since he was the most qualified to be the prospective heir (Youya was much younger and from an unhappy marriage), they took him in.
  • A major premise in Stepping on Roses (Hadashi de Bara wo Fume), in which the poor and uneducated protagonist Sumi Kitamura is offered the chance to live a life of wealth and extravagance... but only if she is willing to leave her family behind to enter into a marriage of convenience with Princely Young Man Soichirou Ashida.
    • Later we see that there's also a Rags to Royalty deal... since Sumi turns out to be Aiko Iijuin, the long-lost daughter of another rich family.
  • ViVid Strike!: This is part of Rinne Berlinetta's backstory, as an orphan who was adopted by fashion moguls.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: Parodied when Jason gets $10.00 - combined with his previous savings, he becomes a millionaire in Turkish Lira - 77,000 to the dollar. Sadly, his opulent lifestyle comes crashing down when he loses his entire fortune buying five comic books.
  • MAD: Subject of a gag in one Don Martin cartoon: a scruffy-looking panhandler hits up a man in a business suit. The suit-wearer snaps "Get a job!" as he stalks past. Cut to the panhandler, still sporting the same ratty outfit and hairdo, sitting behind a large desk in an office high up in a skyscraper.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "The Three Snake Leaves", the main character leaves his home because his father is too poor to support him. Afterwards, he joins the army, rises quickly in the ranks, earns the king's favor, and gets married to the princess.
  • In "Cinderella", the titular character is the daughter of a rich widower, who remarried and then died, leaving her daughter to the care of her new wife and her own daughters. They did not care for her at all and had her do all the chores and generally being totally evil. Things turned around for Cinderella upon meeting her Fairy Godmother, falling in love with the prince, losing her glass slipper, and finding it again.
  • In "The Nix in the Mill-Pond", a poor miller becomes wealthy after making a deal with a water spirit.
  • Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "The Three Flowers": Main character Katie goes from living in an abandoned cottage in the middle of a forest to becoming the lady of a castle.
  • "The Enchanted Quill": The main character, who comes from a poor background, becomes married to a prince and moves to a magnificent castle.
  • Alexander Afanasyev's "The Soldier And Death": The soldier serves in the army for twenty-five years and has only three dry biscuits to show for it. After frightening a band of demons out of a palace, though, the poor soldier becomes the tsar's adoptive brother.
  • "Little Master Misery": After finding a buried treasury and getting rid of Misery, Ivan -who was living in squalor and whose family had nothing more than the clothes on their backs- becomes very rich.
  • "Follow Me, Jodel!": The titular character, a simple farmer's son, becomes lord of a castle after uncursing a princess.

    Fan Works 
  • Diaries of a Madman: Nav initially starts with nothing, but gains a lot of money after winning a few tournaments, selling human inventions, and plagiarising human art. Not that he has much use for or understanding of just how wealthy he is.
  • 25m Distance Between Us: Pauline is depicted this way. From growing up in a poor Italian immigrant family and working as a showgirl when she was older, she eventually ended up the affluent mayor of New Donk City.
  • Lasting Fame: Harvey, Pizzazz's father, grew up poor but as an adult, he became a multimillionaire.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ratatouille: Depending on how much you read into Collette's claim that ratatouille is a "peasant dish". In any case, the flashback to Ego's childhood at the very least strongly implies that he comes from if not an outright poor, then at least a modest background.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A villainous example from Angels with Dirty Faces. William Sullivan starts out life as a dirty delinquent, but after he becomes a gangster, he's wealthy enough to spend weekends drinking with glamorous women in fabulous casinos and eventually steals one hundred grand.
  • Barry Lyndon: Redmond Barry, Irish commoner, ends up a rich English nobleman married to a beautiful woman. Then subverted: Barry dies "poor and childless" as prophesied by the narration.
  • Beyond the Lights: Noni grew up poor in Brixton, London (an impoverished area), raised by her single mother. She wound up rich and owns a huge mansion in LA after becoming a music star.
  • The Blind Side: Michael goes from the projects to the wealthy household of the Tuohys to a multi-million-dollar NFL contract.
  • Brewster's Millions is about a poor man who inherits $30 million with the condition that he spends all of it in a month in order to get $300 million.
  • The old Shaw Brothers movie, The Brothers (1979) concerns the story of two brothers growing up in the slums, and making it big. While the older brother became a lawful cop, the younger brother on the other hand ends up making millions as a ruthless mob enforcer after joining a triad, where he's capable of buying a mansion and a car for his mother... while lying to his family that he's in the shipping business. In typical Heroic Bloodshed fashion, inevitably both brothers have to face off against each other, with the outcome being a Downer Ending.
  • Cinderella Man showcased the Real Life rags-to-riches story of boxer Jim Braddock. Happened against the backdrop of The Great Depression, making it all the more heartening that the man climbed out of absolute poverty on mostly guts and perseverance.
  • In Deewaar, Vijay goes from shining shoes to being able to buy an apartment building as a gift to his mother out of spite (she had worked on its construction, but was fired for breaking a couple of bricks).
  • Ed Wood is a subversion. Ed and crew are in poverty and Ed always expects riches to come out of his movies, but anyone who has watched his terrible (albeit amusing) movies knows that riches would never come. That doesn't stop Ed from being perpetually hopeful and upbeat throughout the movie.
  • Envy: Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black) made himself a wealthy man by financing the development of a spray that vaporizes dog poop (hence the name "Vapoorize"). Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller), Nick's friend, best friend, and former co-worker, also becomes wealthy when Nick offers him partnership in exchange for Tim helping Vapoorize to be marketed in Italy. It seemed they'd no longer be wealthy when Vapoorize was recalled from the market but then Tim thought about inventing Pocket Flan. How much they made from the idea is never revealed.
  • Lonesome Rhodes of A Face in the Crowd, went from a drifter with only one spare shirt and a guitar to his name to having the top two floors of a New York hotel.
  • Forrest Gump:
    • In addition to shaping mid to late 20th-century pop culture and history, Forrest along with Lieutenant Dan become rich seemingly overnight in the shrimping business following Hurricane Carmen destroying every boat but theirs. As Forrest puts it:
      Forrest: Shrimping became real easy after that.
    • Forrest gives what would've been Bubba's share of the money to his family. Bubba's mother faints from seeing how much her check is worth. The very next scene shows her in a much nicer house and much nicer clothing, complimenting food cooked by her housekeeper.
  • The Glenn Miller Story is a biopic of the titular character, who goes from poor musical arranger and trombonist selling his instrument at the pawn shop every week to making millions in record sales.
  • Robert Ford goes through this in I Shot Jesse James, becoming a prospector who uncovers a fair amount of silver. He does this in a ploy to win the hand of Cynthy, but she leaves him for someone else.
  • In The Jerk, Navin Johnson becomes fabulously wealthy thanks to inventing the Opti-Grab but returns to rags thanks to a class action lawsuit. The tagline is even "A rags to riches to rags story".
  • Limitless: Having gained Super-Intelligence thanks to a pill, middle-class Eddie Morra invokes this trope. Sadly, it takes much more time than he wants to spend, so he asks for a loan from The Mafiya and takes a credit from the Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • McLintock! in the movie of the same name. When his daughter was a baby, his wife Katherine walked miles through the snow and traded her father's war medal for a case of condensed milk.
  • Mickey and her adoptive father Joe in Mickey, when Joe's gold mine finally pays off after 20 years.
  • Midnight (1939): From a penniless showgirl in Paris to a Baroness of Hungary. Of course, not a real Baroness...
  • The titular character of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town isn't exactly poor at the beginning; in fact he co-owns a tallow factory and rents property. But he certainly isn't prepared to have twenty million dollars (over $360 million in 2018 dollars) dropped in his lap.
  • In Napoléon (1927), Napoléon Bonaparte goes from being forced to fashion boots out of cardboard at his lowest point to being a war hero revered in all of France by the end.
  • Napoleon (2023) uses "He came from nothing. He conquered everything." as tagline.
  • Pretty Woman: Vivian goes from Hooker with a Heart of Gold to a life of luxury with Edward, her sugar daddy and white knight.
  • The Rocky movies are about a poor Philadelphian finding success and the attendant riches. It's particularly noticeable in the second and third movies.
  • Slumdog Millionaire has a call-center worker (and former orphan from the slums) win the grand prize of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Though the money isn't his real goal, he only goes on the show in the hopes that it will help him find his childhood crush Latika.
  • Trading Places: Both Billy Ray Valentine and Ophelia leave their rather humble Philadelphia roots to become absurdly wealthy by the film's end. Winthorpe's former butler Coleman ends up being able to afford a butler of his own. The most notable case is Winthorpe, who begins the movie rich, then is driven to homelessness and nearly suicide, and ends the movie having bankrupted the people responsible for his temporary destitution and it is implied he's far more wealthy than he was at the movie's beginning.
  • Mrs. Winterbourne: Connie is a young unwed mother, but after a train accident, she is mistaken for the wife of a man from a well-off family. The family takes Connie in and she continues the ruse.
  • The Young Rebel: The titular rebel comes from a poor family and is forced to work a minimum wage job as a delivery boy after his father's death to provide for his mother and younger sister. But then he joins a mob, becomes a hitman, and starts making millions. Again, in typical Shaw Brothers fashion, it all goes to hell at the end.

  • The Boundless: In chapter one, Will's father, James Everett, is a poor track layer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. In chapter two, it's revealed that James was promoted after an avalanche, and went on to get more promotions until becoming manager of a fleet of steamships for the railway.
  • Firefly The novel Carnival has Wash and River going to casinos in a desperate bid to win enough to free Zoe and Mal after the pair are captured. River uses her psychic powers to win big and when Mal and Zoe proceed to free themselves, they don’t have to pay and are briefly rich. But Zoe and Mal had run afoul of a human trafficking ring, and after helping free the girls involved, they agree to pass on the money to help the rescued girls.
  • The Lord of Bembibre: Don Álvaro decides to give up his lordship and leave Spain after his wife's death. Before going away, though, he divides his possessions and lands between his servants, who become very rich despite being commoners thanks to his largesse.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen series contains a highly ironic instance of this trope. Tehol Beddict came from a very prominent but impoverished family and worked his way up to become one of the richest men in the country due to his business genius. He then gave up his fortune because he was disgusted with the debt-slavery system the country runs on, but not without causing an economic crash that saw many moneylenders kill themselves. He then does it again during the course of Midnight Tides and Reaper's Gale, becoming insanely rich through fake companies while living in a hovel, then letting the economy crash to undermine Lether's new, even more oppressive regime. This time around, though, this leads to him being hailed as a hero by the common people, who make him king.
  • Virtually every Horatio Alger, Jr. story ever written follows this same plot. Poor boy works hard, is virtuous, and is helped by a kindly older man, and he eventually makes his fortune, relatively speaking.
    • In Alger's first book, Ragged Dick, Dick is able to elevate himself from homeless bootblack to... entry-level Clerk. While the "riches" part may seem a bit underwhelming, there's no doubt he's better off at the end than at the beginning.
    • Ragged Dick itself was followed up by a sequel book that went more in-depth on the "to riches" part.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Reynard started life as a street urchin, but has become fantastically wealthy due to his superior mind. The money doesn't satisfy him, though. By the end of the third book, this is starting to become a case of From Nobody to Nightmare.
  • In Neuromancer, the protagonist undergoes this, going from a broke former console jockey to living the high life while on a mission.
  • In Count Zero, Marly Krushkova is raised to wealth to perform a task by the incredibly wealthy recluse Joseph Virek.
  • The Great Gatsby shows the nasty side of this trope.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish's story is similar to The Great Gatsby. He was born into the poorest noble family in Westeros, but thanks to his financial talents and a severe Break the Cutie process in his childhood that inspired him to get back at the nobility, he is now possibly the richest man in Westeros besides the Lannisters.
    • And Bronn, who by his own badassery alone goes from sellsword to lord.
    • The Frey family made their fortunes through business, yet the other Great Houses see them as wannabe upstarts.
    • Ser Davos Seaworth grew up in Flea Bottom as the son of a crabber and was a smuggler. However, Stannis knighted him as a reward for smuggling food into Storm's End, then later gave him other titles like Hand of the King. In the TV series, Stannis tells him, "You'll be the first crabber's son to ever be the Hand of the King." All this before he even learns how to read.
  • Sweet Valley High book #16 is literally titled Rags To Riches. Roger Barrett was living with his poor, sick, single mother in a shabby house. She dies and it's revealed that he is actually Bruce Patman's cousin. He moves into the Patman mansion and changes his name to Roger Barrett Patman for the remainder of the original series. He dies in the earthquake.
  • The Sword Of Saint Ferdinand: In reward for serving him well and giving excellent advice, King Ferdinand III leaves the municipality of Alcalá de Guadaira to his court's jester and old soldier Fortún Paja.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha: poor girl eventually becomes a successful geisha.
  • In Citizen of the Galaxy: The main character, Thorby, goes from literal rags (as a beggar and slave) at the start of the book to infamous riches (when he's returned to his wealthy dead parents' estate) at the end. The wealth ends up being a burden as much as a wish fulfillment: although he still gets to fight slavers, he does so in the most effective way via decisions and investigations behind a desk rather than in the most cathartic way via action and excitement on a ship.
  • Lori starts Aunt Dimity's Death working as a temp and having lived in a succession of cheap apartments after her divorce. Most of her things are in boxes, and she sleeps on a mattress on the floor. She describes her feelings on seeing the Boston office of Dimity's American attorneys for the first time: "Great, I thought, Willis & Willis Meets the Little Match Girl." After coming into her inheritance, she at first displays a certain reluctance to spend money, but eventually is found consigning her old wardrobe to Oxfam in favour of items like silk-lined custom trousers, handmade Italian boots, and a sumptuous black cashmere swing coat. "I'd never been a clotheshorse, but I was learning fast."
  • Harry Potter: goes from wearing his cousin's ill-fitting hand-me-downs to learning that he has a vault full of gold that he has inherited from his well-off parents, and then he inherits Sirius Black's estate. We never really find out just how much he inherited from either, but the Potters and Blacks were both old, well-heeled, Wizarding families.
  • Pular Singe, from the Garrett, P.I. series, goes from browbeaten indentured servitude to a gang boss among TunFaire's lowest-of-the-low minority (ratpeople), to a junior partner in Garrett's investigations and up-and-coming investor in Amalgamated. Not rich by human standards, but an unprecedented success story by those of her own kind. And she's still young.
  • Discworld
    • Samuel Vimes stumbled his way into this and has managed to constantly stumble his way into more wealth, titles, and fame since the whole thing with the dragon. He's somewhat reluctant about the whole thing.
    • Harry King started as a street urchin who lived off other people's garbage. He realized that what is garbage to some people is actually valuable to others so he started a garbage collection and recycling business, dealing in everything from scraps to night soil. (It helps that for many things he's paid twice- once to cart it away, and once to deliver it to people that can use whatever it is.) By the time of Going Postal he is one of the richest men in the city. Then he decides to invest in the newly invented steam railway and becomes the Disc's first rail baron.
  • Eve Dallas of the In Death series goes from underpaid police lieutenant to beloved wife of Roarke, the richest man both on and off the planet. She tries desperately to ignore the millions that Roarke quietly keeps slipping into her bank account.
  • The nation of Cuba in World War Z, due to the onset of the Zombie Apocalypse and the (rather ironic) influx of North American refugees, along with a fortuitous change of heart from Castro.
    • The United States' devastated economy is trying to invoke this trope following the war.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the titular hero, a boy from a very poor family (they don't even have enough to eat!), becomes heir to Wonka's, well, chocolate factory.
  • Sharpe uses this as part of General Calvet's Back Story. Calvet proves to be no different from Sharpe, who also rose from humble beginnings, and even collaborates with him on occasion.
    Calvet: Would you care for some soup?
    Ducos: I eat soup for dinner, not breakfast.
    Calvet: I eat soup with every meal, to remind me of all the meals when I didn't even have soup.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund Dantes takes such a journey. Betrayed by three people he thought he could trust, partially due to his own naivete, Dantes winds up a prisoner in Château d'If on charges of treason. Another prisoner, Abbe Faria, makes Dantes his heir, if he can ever manage to escape; as a "forgotten prisoner" from the time of Napoleon's attempt to retake the throne of France, parole is impossible. But Dantes does escape, and he finds the hidden treasure Faria had directed him to. The sale of six of the diamonds, at a somewhat reduced price to avoid too many questions, is enough to buy him a small yacht-type ship. And that's just the beginning.
  • According to the The Histories of Herodotus, the famous courtesan Rhodopis of Naucratis was originally a Thracian slave sold into Egypt, where she was bought and set free by the merchant Charaxus on account of her beauty. She then becomes a 'hetaira' (courtesan), a business that makes her rich and so famous "that every Greek knew the name of Rhodopis". Some even say she was so fantastically wealthy that she had a pyramid built for herself, but Herodotus rejects this as a ludicrous exaggeration.
  • Wolf Hall opens with the boy Thomas Cromwell having to flee from his abusive father, an improvident brewer and smith. After a spell as a soldier in Europe, he becomes a cloth merchant in Holland, then returns to England, takes up the law, and enters the service of Thomas Wolsey, which opens the way for him to become one of the most wealthy and powerful men in the land. Cromwell raises the fortunes of his family in the process, raising his son to be a gentleman and paving the way for his wards, Rafe Sadler and Richard Cromwell (formerly Williams) to become powerful figures in their own right. From the standpoint of Cromwell's enemies, he goes From Nobody to Nightmare.
  • Journey to Chaos: After living on the streets, Zettai is adopted by Basilard Bladi, the chief of the Bladi Clan. This means she now has servants making custom-fitted clothes for her.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Kaladin is a darkeyed peasant, and while he is theoretically high-ranked in his town, the fact that his father refuses to charge money for surgery keeps their funds sharply limited. Then Kaladin goes to the army, gets made a slave, and gets made an even worse slave. When he saves Highprince Dalinar and his army, he is promoted to captain, a rank darkeyes aren't even supposed to have—and he's paid like a battallionlord. In the second book, he earns more in his first few weeks than he did in the entire rest of his life combined. It says a lot about Kaladin's depression that he spends most of the book wondering how this new fortune will be taken from him.
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge: Michael Henchard starts out as an itinerant hay-trusser, walking from town to town in search of work and lodgings, with no more than a few shillings in his pocket. Eighteen years later, he has become a successful grain merchant and mayor of his hometown, with a fine house and furniture to match. Unfortunately, he goes from riches back to rags after a series of bad decisions, and by the end of the novel, he has had to go back to being an itinerant hay-trusser.
  • This is Roo Avery's main character development in the Serpentwar Cycle of The Riftwar Cycle. He starts out as a fugitive on the run, then winds up the richest man in the Kingdom of the Isles. Turns out that money was needed to fund the war effort as Duke James confiscates most of it.
  • The Adventures of Strong Vanya: The titular character is a farmer's lazy son, born in a remote Russian village, who becomes Tsar.
  • Bazil Broketail: By the series finale, Relkin's managed to gather considerable wealth, indicating he is going to be a prospering landlord after his and Bazil's retirement, rather than just a mere struggling farmer.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries: Bebe Braddock and her sister Anna from Murder Gets a Makeover came to the US from Bosnia with their parents and just the clothes on her back.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!:
    • Catarina is the Spoiled Brat daughter of a duke until one day when she hits her head and wakes up to the memories of her past life, a middle-class Japanese tomboy, which becomes the dominant influence on her. Unable to take herself so seriously anymore, she stops acting so ladylike and bitchy and starts plowing fields for fun, climbing trees, making friends with lower-ranked nobles and commoners, and so on, much to the exasperation of several nobles around her, especially her mother. While she may call herself Catarina and recognize Catarina's parents as her own, she's still basically that middle-class tomboy called the "Monkey Girl".
    • Her adoptive younger brother Keith is a distant relative from the Claes branch family whose bastardry and his uncontrolled magic end up as a source of pain in his formative years. And should the events of the game have unfolded, his time when he is adopted to the main branch in which he is also treated like crap by Catarina and her mother. His strong earth magic allows him to be adopted by Duke Claes to become the duchy's next heir after Catarina is engaged with Geordo, risking the Claes house of losing its heir.
    • It's heavily implied that Maria Campbell, a commoner unlike the two examples above, will end up having higher status and fortune due to her genius intellect, pleasant personality, and her rare light magic. It's even noted by Sirius/Raphael, who like Maria is a commoner who wields magic and is also an example of this trope, of how foolish nobles are for abusing their power and throwing their weight on her when she's slated to elevate to a status that is equal to the ruling house of Sorcier by working at the Ministry of Magic in a few years. Even in the unaltered timeline, she will end up in this trope by marrying her chosen Love Interest (who are all members of the nobility) if she achieves the Good Ending route.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Acapulco: Maximo goes from working-class pool boy to an extremely wealthy businessman who owns several beautiful homes. His nephew even calls it a rags-to-riches story in the first episode.
  • In British comedy/drama series At Home With the Braithwaites, the mother of the family wins 37 million pounds on the lottery... and doesn't tell her family for weeks. Naturally, wacky hijinks ensue.
  • Implied with A-Train in The Boys when he gets into an argument with Starlight for exposing Compound V to the world and threatening their employers, by claiming the only people who believe money doesn't buy happiness are people who had privileged upbringings like she did:
    A-Train: You don't get it. You don't fuck with the money. You never fuck with the money. We're gonna lose everything. The cars, houses, bonuses...
    Starlight: There are more important things!
    A-Train: You know, the only people who say that.. are the people who grew up with money.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies has an example of this trope summarized in its Expository Theme Tune: Jed strikes oil on his property while hunting for game and becomes rich.
  • The 2014 revival of Cosmos features two examples from history. Tyson is sure to point out how luck and open-minded policy allowed these geniuses to make their discoveries.
    • Joseph Fraunhofer was an orphan and indentured servant in the Bavarian royal glassmaker's factory and house. Ironically, he got his break when the house collapsed and Prince Maximilian led the rescue efforts, subsequently giving Joseph money and an education. Fraunhofer eventually became the head of the Optical Institute because his genius with optical glass turned Bavaria into an economic powerhouse, and he also discovered Fraunhofer lines. (However, he died at the young age of 39; many glassmakers of the time met a similar fate due to the toxic fumes.)
    • Michael Faraday was a poor boy and a tradesman who never finished his schooling, but he impressed Royal Institute scientist Humphry Davy with a book of scientific notes on Davy's demonstrations. Faraday went on to make all sorts of discoveries in electricity and electromagnetism and wound up running the Royal Institution himself.
  • CSI: NY: Sid Hammerback, the coroner, is pretty much a working-class guy, managing okay but by no means wealthy — until his new pillow design is sold to a Japanese group for $27M.
  • Sun-ah The Devil Judge was a maid at Yo-han's mansion when she was a child. She somehow rose from poverty to become the chairwoman of a Foundation and now lives in luxury compared to how she used to live before.
  • Doctor Who: In "Spyfall", Daniel Barton, one of the villains, is said to have gone from growing up on a council estate in Britain to the head of one of the world's largest mega-corps. It turns out that still isn't enough for him.
  • Tom Branson of Downton Abbey is introduced as the family chauffeur but eventually marries Sybil, the youngest daughter of Lord Grantham. While they initially leave for a simpler life in Ireland, circumstances force them to return to Downton and Tom is slowly but reluctantly accepted into the family. Cue the initial awkwardness of a noble family having dinner with the man who used to work for them, served by his former co-workers. The series also deconstructs this type of scenario, as Tom was introduced as a highly political socialist who despises nobility, only to reluctantly become part of it himself.
  • On Empire, a major part of the Lyon family's backstory is going from rags to riches. Lucious and Cookie were selling drugs in the streets of Philadelphia to fund the titular record label, which eventually leads to Cookie spending 17 years in prison. Meanwhile, Lucious manages to make Empire into a multi-million dollar business, and the Lyons are obscenely rich by the time the show starts.
  • In Farscape, the crew of Moya starts off as a penniless band of escaped prisoners. They even come close to starving. However, after robbing the alien equivalent of Fort Knox, they're more or less flush with cash for the rest of the series. It doesn't hurt that half the time the traders they come in contact with don't survive to collect their fees.
  • Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air starts out a streetwise young man from Philadelphia but is forced to move in with his rich relatives in Bel-Air, California after pissing off some gangsters.
  • Game of Thrones universe:
    • Game of Thrones:
      • Davos grew up in Flea Bottom as the son of a crabber, worked his way up to smuggler captain, became a knight for smuggling Stannis food, and is now King Stannis' Consigliere and was even made his Hand. Stannis even tells him, "You'll be the first crabber's son to ever be the hand of the King." All this before he even learns how to read.
      • Littlefinger worked his way up from the very lowest of the nobility to Lord of Harrenhal and consort to the Lady of the Vale through his skill at moneymaking and Xanatos Speed Chess.
      • Xaro Xhoan Daxos rose from a penniless immigrant to one of the foremost men in Qarth.
      • Bronn begins the series as a grubby sellsword in the Riverlands and successively becomes Lord Commander of the City Watch, a knight, and finally is set to marry into a lesser noble house. The marriage deal is reneged upon by Cersei, although Jaime promises Bronn a better marriage when they return from Dorne. By the end, he's Lord of Highgarden, Lord Paramount of the Reach, and King Bran's Master of Coin.
      • Janos Slynt, a butcher's son, rose to Lord Commander of the City Watch and then Lord of Harrenhal until Tyrion banished him to the Wall.
      • A famed Westerlands story tells of how Lann the Clever, patriarch of House Lannister, managed to swindle the ruling House Casterly out of their castle of Casterly Rock.
      • The Cleganes' grandfather was the kennelmaster serving Lord Tytos, who knighted him for saving his life from a lioness.
    • House of the Dragon: Mysaria went from a youth as a Sex Slave to Prince Daemon Targaryen's courtesan, and years later she has worked herself up to a wealthy and influential figure within the King's Landing underworld, wearing fine threads, living in a large house and operating a massive network of spies.
  • In Longitude, John Harrison befriends an ordinary seaman named John Campbell while testing his first marine chronometer on a navy ship. Many years later, feeling disheartened and ready to give up on his efforts, Harrison opens his front door to John Campbell, now in a powdered wig and an officer's uniform—a promotion won in part due to the loss of officers on his ship thanks to poor navigation. Campbell convinces Harrison to keep going and becomes a staunch ally against the skeptics on the Longitude Board while rising to the rank of captain. (Campbell would later attain the rank of admiral and then became Governor of Newfoundland after his retirement.)
  • Ryan from The O.C. is a poor kid who is taken in by the very wealthy Cohen family. Sandy Cohen has this as his back story, as he was poor before he married Kirsten.
  • A Prince Among Men: Part of Gary Prince's backstory is that he was raised on an estate in the North before his talent in football was discovered. In the series' present day, he is a successful ex-footballer and entrepreneur and lives fairly affluently. Not that this has humbled him in any way.
  • Rags to Riches was a two-season musical show about five orphan girls adopted by a millionaire. Think Kids Incorporated meets Fresh Prince.
  • The final season of Roseanne has the Conners win a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot. Only to be retconned at the last episode where it's revealed Roseanne's just writing all of the season as a way to deal with the loss of Dan.
  • In Smallville it is revealed that Lionel Luthor's parents were drunken, abusive, and poor. He himself is one of the richest men on the planet thanks to a large number of not quite legal dealings.
  • Part of mankind's Back Story in Star Trek. A couple of centuries before the series begins, humanity has warred itself to near extinction following a third World War, complete with a wrecked Earth and barely any resources. Then a scientist builds the first prototype starship and attracts the attention of the Vulcans, and in the space of barely a century, disease, hunger, and poverty are eradicated. The turnaround is so drastic that the idea of "needing money" is a vague and distant memory. This complete 180 is a major defining plot point in human history, it's Rags To Riches on a planetary scale.
  • Martok in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a Klingon peasant who became ruler by being tougher than any Klingon in existence.
  • The premise of Windfall; twenty people share a lottery jackpot, to the tune of about 17 million each. It's played for drama.
  • Firefly Better Days has the crew getting a big payoff and daydreaming about what they’ll do with it. Jayne wants a ship crewed by pretty girls and named after his mom. Zoe and Wash want to settle down and Book has a hilarious Hookers and Blow prank that shocks his colleagues until they realize he’s kidding. They do get a nice vacation, but alas, the money is soon lost and they’re back to being poor.

  • Many, many, many Hip-Hop songs are about the rapper boasting about getting out of poverty to become wildly rich — whether through their musical career or through crime. Sometimes the actual "getting out of poverty" part is so vestigial that the songs can be just about being rich — see Glam Rap for more.
  • Elton John's "Levon", to the extent that anyone can make sense of the lyrics, is apparently one of these stories; Levon's father, Alvin Tostig, is a poor man with high expectations for his son, Levon himself has apparently made a fortune selling party supplies (especially cartoon balloons), and his son Jesus has ambitions far beyond the party store that Levon can't quite accept.
  • Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy", later famously Covered Up by Reba McEntire, is all about a young woman, the titular Fancy, who after her poverty-stricken family is left destitute after the father abandons them, and her terminally ill mother forces her into prostitution, buying her a red dress with the last of their money, to ensure her daughter's survival. With no other choice but to sell herself, Fancy uses her beauty and charm to climb the social and financial ladder with backing from her johns, to become a wealthy woman with a mansion in Georgia and a stately townhouse in New York. Through it all, Fancy also comes to terms that her mother, who died from her illness shortly after sending her child to the streets, did everything she could to give Fancy the best chance she could have.

    Myths & Religion 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Billy Lee Promotions touted Sweet Georgia Brown as a rags-to-riches success story made possible by pro wrestling but despite being popular enough to have her own trading cards, she saw very little of the money, wasn't allowed to open her own bank account, and remained in rags.
  • Dusty Rhodes claimed to be "the son of a plumber" and bragged that he "wined and dined with kings and queens, and slept in alleys chewin' on pork-n-beans."
  • After failing in the NFL, Bob Sapp skirted the poverty line until the promoters of All Japan, K1 and Pride Fighting Championships saw his matches from NWA Wildside and decided they wanted him. He wound up being a decently paid pro wrestler, better-paid kickboxer, and the highest-paid mixed martial artist.
  • During August 2013, Magnificent Championship Wrestling put tryouts in a 'Rags To Riches' battle royal, giving the winner a title shot whenever they wanted.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ronald Singh was an impoverished, juvenile delinquent who went on to become Kade Merek, the most popular player in The Splinter; an enormous, ever-changing, labyrinthine world that's used for gladiatorial combat and dungeon crawls. It has made him fabulously wealthy.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: The Kharadron Overlords' society, as a sort of plutocratic meritocracy, enforces this: No one is born rich, not even if your parents are admirals. Everyone must start from the bottom and claw their way up. But, if they're good, everyone can climb another step. Every admiral you see among them (which, as the "plutocratic" part explains, are filthy rich) was a simple crewman with a pistol, a sword, and a paltry couple of coins once. And they will kick you back down if you mess up too often.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing:
    • Tom Nook is a more somber example. He left to go to the city to earn money, promising to never lose his way but came back the Tom Nook we're most familiar with.
    • In a sense, the player character starts off with virtually nothing but the clothes on his or her back. As you continue to play though, you'll make a lot of bells. Some of it will go to Tom Nook, but you'll eventually end up with a mansion full of stuff if you keep up with the payments.
    • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has this for the game's entire setting. You start off on a Deserted Island occupied only by yourself, Nook and his two employees, an airport run by two dodos, and two other residents, with nearly everyone roughing it in tents. As you progress through the game and tame the island, the community grows, permanent homes are built, infrastructure is put in place, and the formerly-deserted island grows into a community just like in previous games.
  • In Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly, Lucas grew up in an impoverished family, with his late father struggling to make ends meet. After his father's death, Lucas refused to sell the family house to his older siblings and fled to Los Angeles. Desperate for money, he joined a production house, even if he was mistreated as a content creator, but he eventually rose to fame and became the successful influencer he is in the present.
  • Dishonored:
    • Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the first game and, conditionally, of the sequel, was born in a lower-class family but has proven himself badass enough to eventually become the Royal Protector (personal bodyguard and advisor) of two Empresses of the Isles, Jessamine and Emily Kaldwin, as well as the secret consort of the former and the father of the latter. In the non-canon High Chaos ending of Dishonored 2, he even takes the throne of the Isles for himself.
    • Dishonored 2 has a much more classical example in Aramis Stilton, who started off as an immigrant miner, but his people skills and tech know-how got him so rich that he was eventually able to buy out the very mines he worked in. Despite his attempts to fit in with the rich and powerful of Karnaca, however, the high society has never accepted him (except for the late Duke Theodanis, who was his secret lover).
  • Dragon Age:
    • This can happen in Dragon Age: Origins for a Dwarven Commoner Warden, who was born casteless (the absolute bottom-wrung of dwarven society) and was thus looked upon as less than a person before becoming a Grey Warden. In the time between the Warden leaving and then returning to Orzammar, their sister Rica moves up in society when she becomes the mother of a prince's son and becomes a royal concubine. After defeating the archdemon, the Warden becomes uplifted to a Paragon, a living legend among dwarves. It can also happen to a City Elf Warden who becomes the Bann of the Alienage, granting the elves a voice in Ferelden for the first time in history.
    • In Dragon Age II, the main quest line of Act 1 centers around Hawke, a refugee in the slums of Kirkwall, attempting to gather enough resources to become a partner in a Deep Roads treasure hunting expedition, which eventually earns them enough money to bring their family back into high society. It can go even further in the endgame, where a pro-Templar Hawke is appointed Kirkwall's new Viscount, although this is temporary.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
      • This can be the case for the Inquisitor. A human Inquisitor is already nobility (being the youngest child of a minor noble from the Free Marches), but the other three are a smuggling dwarf, a mercenary Qunari, or a nomadic elf who lives in the woods. Any of the four possibilities end up as a significant historical figure with a castle, a pile of gold, and their own personal army of devoted followers.
      • This is also Vivienne's backstory. She was the daughter of itinerant merchants who was taken to the Circle as a child when her magic manifested and went from that humble background to First Enchanter of Monstimmard and personal court mage to the Empress of Orlais. She can even end the game by being elected Divine.
  • Dragon Quest V: Harry goes from a spoiled obnoxious prince to a slave. Then back to royalty after ten years of slavery. Similarly, his wife Maria was a slave before meeting him.
  • The Elder Scrolls series Player Characters almost universally start off as penniless prisoners (or in one case, a penniless shipwreck survivor). As you progress through the games, you usually find enough Money for Nothing and more legendary artifacts than you can possible use, making you quite possibly one of the wealthiest individuals in all of Tamriel.
  • In Elite Beat Agents, you cheer on a pirate who has been left with practically nothing but his trusty bird, and he struggles to find lots and lots of treasures. If you succeed, the bird drops the trope title. In another mission, you cheer on an ex-oil tycoon who gets thrown out by his gold-digging wife after his oil wells run dry and is determined to dig his way back back to riches.
  • Pretty much every Final Fantasy game does this. At the beginning, you may have a few hundred Gil which can buy a Potion or two and perhaps slightly improved armor. By the end, you have hundreds of thousands of Gil and a full inventory of healing potions and equipment.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade:
      • Louise was a peasant girl that didn't have much aside from her archery skills, her kind heart, and her incredible beauty. However, after she told a local rich bachelor (Lord Pent) that she'd protect him with her bow and arrows, he chose her as his wife over many more graceful and prettier girls. Now they're very Happily Married.
      • Same goes for Louise's best friend and distant cousin Queen Hellene from Bern. It didn't work half as well in her case.
      • Also sorta happens to Serra, who grew up poor and lonely in a St. Elimine convent located in the Etruria/Ostia border before she was employed in the local court thanks to her healing abilities. She covers this up by acting like a Rich Bitch to hide her abandonment issues.
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War: Deirdre was a young girl living in seclusion and feeling that she was trapped in her forest village, then fell in love and married a local lord, and after her heritage as the long lost child of an imperial prince is discovered, she becomes an Empress. Too bad she had to be mind-wiped first and then have her first husband horribly killed by the second, though.
    • A much darker example is King Gangrel from Fire Emblem: Awakening, as a former Street Urchin who rose to the top of Plegian aristocracy and finally got the crown. And became The Caligula. And lost everything. And if you recruit him via Spot-Pass, he turns into The Atoner.
  • Don Genie, the wealthy businessman from the F-Zero franchise will state during an interview that "I've taken every chance that came my way, and clawed my way out of the slums."
  • Ningguang from Genshin Impact is an example of this trope as she was born to a poor family, which she eventually moved away from to start her own business. She retains some of her tastes from that time, such as a taste for simple grilled fish, and one of the branches of her Hangout Event has her and the Traveler reenacting her rise from nothing for fun. Zhongli, another character, even says he remembers her walking barefoot through a beach selling her wares.
  • The plot of pretty much every Grand Theft Auto game involves a small-time criminal going to the top. The worst example is definitely San Andreas, where CJ starts off as a gangbanger in a small ghetto with nothing but the clothes on his back and a bicycle, and within less than a year (In game time. In real time, people have completed the game in a day or less.) becomes a millionaire, manager to one of the greatest rappers in the world, owner of various properties, including an airfield and a share in a casino, and literally controls the entire state of San Andreas.
    • Rockstar has stated that they were tired of the implausibility of these plots, hence their decision to not rehash them in Grand Theft Auto IV.
    • They did have Franklin in Grand Theft Auto V who pretty much goes from Rags to Riches like CJ as well, but that game had multiple protagonists and they (along with various other characters) were all Deconstructions of how GTA protagonists were portrayed.
  • Every Harvest Moon game begins this way. The standard is to give you a couple of farming tools and a single bag of seeds. By end game, most players would probably have obtained a ranch, upgraded their home to a fairly comfortable living space, and make thousands of bucks a month off crop harvests and animal produce.
  • House Flipper starts the player out with barely any money, and living in a tiny shack. Through hard work, however, you'll end up flipping houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and being worth millions yourself.
  • Jones in the Fast Lane plays like this, especially if you choose a high money goal.
  • Played straight and inverted in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. There's a town called Windfall Island which contains a rich man and a poor man, both of whose daughters have been kidnapped by the Big Bad. You rescue the girls about halfway through the game, and their fathers switch wealth (the rich man spends his fortune trying to rescue his daughter, while the poor man makes his fortune overnight by selling rare necklaces his daughter brought back home after being rescued. They even move in to the rich family's old home). The formerly poor man even says that he's dreamed his entire life of taking part in this trope, while the formerly rich man doesn't seem upset about losing all of his money because his daughter has returned and that's everything that matters to him.
  • Like a Dragon:
    • Shun Akiyama, from Yakuza 4, was a hobo living on the streets of Kamurocho. Then an explosion broke out from Millennium Tower one night (at the end of the events of the first Yakuza) and money rained down upon the people. Akiyama snatched up all the money he could carry and used it to start his own successful money-lending business, Sky Finance.
    • Ichiban Kasuga starts Yakuza: Like a Dragon as a homeless ex-con dumped into Ijincho whose first goals are simply to find a place to sleep and a steady job. Then through circumstance, he becomes the President of the coincidentally-named Ichiban Confections which he can turn from a snack shop to a multi-million dollar holdings corporation through aggressive venture capitalism.
      The Bartender: So I see you brought a friend. You're smoother than you look.
      Ichiban: Come on, man. She's an employee of mine.
      The Bartender: Is she now? Weren't you homeless the other day? And now you're some corporate bigshot?
  • Mad TV (1991): Real estate agent H. G. Higwig starts off as a bearded hobo. If you keep giving him profit by buying and selling studios, he'll get richer and richer until he's a smug businessman.
  • NBA Ballers:
  • Overwatch has Lucio, who started off as a poor kid from a Brazilian ghetto before becoming an international music celebrity who also moonlights as a freedom fighter.
    • In the same series, there's also Lucio's rival, Symmetra. She also started off very poor until the Vishkar corporation recognized her light-bending talent. They proceeded to take her off from home and proceeded to groom her talent into their ace as she became proficient in constructing structures with Hard Light enough that she brought Vishkar into the top corporates in the world and making her rich in her attempt to help people... though it's only lately that she thinks that maybe Vishkar wasn't so benevolent in helping the people as she thought to be. (Answer: They really aren't that benevolent. Lucio's freedom fighter shenanigans started because of Vishkar oppressing his ghetto)
  • In the Commodore 64 game Rags to Riches (1985) you start out as a bum picking up loose change off the street and end up with a million dollars, if you're lucky.
  • The 1993 computer game Rags to Riches - The Financial Market Simulation from Interplay lets you make a fortune on the stock market with the money your parents have given you.
  • Rimworld: The default "Crashlanded" starting scenario is a collective example if the player does well enough. Three complete strangers (some of whom may be an inversion at first) clamber out of their lifepods in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes they stand up in and some extremely basic survival gear can bootstrap their way from a crude wooden shack and a few vegetable patches to a thriving town with a population of over a hundred and all modern comforts and conveniences.
  • The cutscenes in Rock Band 3 give off this vibe (something that wasn't present before, by the way): your band starts off playing for enough money to share a single pizza, and along the way they become festival headliners, make a tour to Japan, and then one day they get sick of all the fame and Loony Fans harassing them, and so they vanish from the scene in a fake plane crash.
  • Saints Row 2 does this with both the Boss and the Third Street Saints. At the beginning of the game, the Boss is a prison escapee with no possessions besides a handgun and the clothes on their back who lives in a run-down studio in the basement of a run-down building while the Saints consist of them, Gatt, and a handful of other people. By the end of the game, the Boss owns multiple lavish condos with a fleet of vehicles, boats, airplanes, and helicopters while the Saints have become the effective rulers of Stilwater.
  • Shiro Okuda from Shining Song Starnova was born into poverty and joined the entertainment industry at a young age to keep her family from starving. In the years since then, she has become the leader of Quasar, Japan’s most popular idol unit, making her the wealthiest Idol Singer (if not the wealthiest woman, period) in the country.
  • This is literally a name of one of the scenarios in SimCity 3000, where you have to fix up a Crapsack Madrid.
  • Test Drive Unlimited 2 had the player character start off as a chauffeur who got fired sleeping on the job then after being offered a spot in a racing competition is given some money to buy a mobile home with a two-car garage and a cheap starting car. By the time the main story is finished, that same character has four mansions scattered on two islands, two yachts, 63 cars (most of them million-dollar hypercars), and a bank account of around seven figures.
  • In Third World Farmer, once you work out the strategy, it becomes fairly simple to start getting ahead and even becoming rich. There is some debate as to whether this is intentional or not.

    Visual Novels 

  • Izzy from Ennui GO! came from a very poor background (compounded by the fact that her mother was a drug addict who attempted to murder her and her twin sister), but she ended up becoming unbelievably wealthy as an adult when a video game she made became world-famous. But she's still not rich enough to afford Warhammer 40k figurines.
  • GF Serendipity: Fiddleford McGucket and Stanley Pines, who, when they first met, were an attempted inventor and an unemployed drifter respectively, became wealthy entrepreneurs thanks to the former's inventions and the latter's salesmanship.
  • I Love Yoo: Rand is shown to have been an orphan before eventually becoming a wealthy chairman.
  • The Order of the Stick: While they don't actually become richer in a monetary sense, Kazumi and Daigo are granted a title of nobility at their wedding (having formerly been run-of-the-mill infantrymen turned Mauve Shirts).

    Web Original 
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe pulls a Riches to Rags to Riches move, getting kicked out of a fabulously wealthy family for having the gall to turn into a mutant. By the middle of the first novel, he's living in a basement room with almost nothing to his name, and having to eat his sister-in-law's 'cooking'. By the end of the eighth novel, he's a billionaire (again).
    • In that particular example, much is made of the fact that he's got next to no poverty-level survival skills, having been trained nearly from birth to be a megabusinessman. It's only after his parents are forced to cough up three hundred million dollars in the first story that he's able to apply his elite financial skills and connections to once again climbing the billionaires' ladder. It's lampshaded by other students at Whateley on his first arrival that while he may have lost his family and 98% of his inheritance, he's still wealthier than almost all of the rest of the campus put together.
  • The SML Movie "Chef Pee Pee's Lottery Ticket" has Chef PeePee winning the lottery for a while.
  • A side effect of Nanny's Reality Warper effects on her victims in The New Narnia is that their family's well-being is improved overall, possibly to compensate for taking a person's capacity to become an adult. At the beginning, Tommy and his family were dirt-poor, only to become upper-middle-class when he and his sister started visiting Malacus.
  • Nightmare Time: The episode "Yellow Jacket" has the Fosters coming into money after Hannah wins a fight in an underground fighting ring. Ethan and Hannah immediately spend a large chunk of the money on flat screen TVs, go-karts, and pizza.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Kim Possible sees Ron pick up a cheque for $99 million of fast food royalties as a Continuity Nod. It doesn't last.
  • In the Futurama episode "Fish Full of Dollars," Fry becomes extremely wealthy after discovering that his old bank account is still active and has been accruing interest for 1,000 years. The status quo is restored after Fry spends it all on anchovies.
    • The main cast also briefly became millionaires in the episode "Future Stock." They return to rags, of course.
  • In the Rugrats episode "Chuckie is Rich," Chuckie's dad wins the lottery and they briefly become very wealthy. Of course, thanks to the poor investment choices of Corrupt Corporate Executive Drew, who handles the money, the status quo is restored in the end.
  • Gargoyles: David Xanatos once received an ancient coin from an Anonymous Benefactor (twenty years later revealed to be a future version of Xanatos himself), sold the coin and used the money to start his empire, eventually making himself a billionaire.
  • In Doug, Roger was originally ridiculously poor, to the point he had to live in a trailer. However, in the Disney reboot, his family struck big on a real estate deal, causing him to rival Bebe in terms of how rich he is.
  • Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue!: The first episode, "Shags to Riches," had Shaggy inheriting his missing Uncle Albert's estate.
  • The Top Cat movie, Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats, is precisely this to Benny.
    Spook: It's the old rags to riches story.
    Top Cat: Right, except Benny could never afford the rags.
  • Family Guy has the family win the lottery and Peter alienates his friends with his newfound snobby attitude because of it. Not only that, but the family foolishly spends their money on trivial things until they go broke. The Griffins then get rich again through the lottery, only to go broke again a week later. Quagmire helps the Griffins out with the profits he made in his investment and the family manages to get back to where they were before the lottery.
  • One episode of Tiny Toon Adventures suggests that this is Montana Max's backstory, and he became the wealthy Spoiled Brat he is today when his impoverished parents won the lottery. However, the episode in question is a Whole-Plot Reference to Citizen Kane, so it's unclear how much of it is actually canon for the character.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: Irina Kafka, once it was revealed one of her ancestors was the real author of the sonata stolen by Franz Duntcheck.
  • The Oggy and the Cockroaches episode "Saturday Black Fever" has Oggy striking oil and becoming this, well, until Joey decides to do the same thing.
  • Jem:
    • Jetta is from a modest background and Roxy is apparently from a poor one; however, they're currently in one of the most popular rock bands in America. Roxy tried to invoke this further in "Roxy Rumbles" when she wins the lottery and goes to her hometown of Philadelphia to brag but ends up losing the money.
    • One of their song montages shows The Stingers were like this when they first became a band. They played on the streets for pennies and lived on the streets because no one would let a new group play at their establishment. Eventually, The Stingers became more popular, eventually becoming rivals to Jem and the Holograms and The Misfits.
    • Averted with Jem and the Holograms themselves. Jerrica and Kimber's parents were decently well off; however, Jem is shown multiple times to be hard on cash despite being a world-famous pop icon. There's a good reason for this, though - Jem and her bandmates are foster mothers who run a home for orphaned and disadvantaged girls, and the bulk of their income goes toward supporting the kids.
  • Steven Universe: Greg Universe was given $10 million for royalties when his old manager sold one of his songs as to a burger company for use as a jingle. Aside from a few indulgences here and there, and promising to set aside some for Steven's college fund, he remains a multi-millionaire, and chooses to continue living in his van because he's perfectly content with his life as it is.

    Real Life 
  • Oprah Winfrey is probably as much of a living example of this trope as physically possible. Born into poverty, she eventually started working in television. Now she's a multi-billionaire and even has her own network, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
  • Chris Gardner, whose rise from homelessness to top stockbroker was chronicled (rather loosely) in The Pursuit of Happyness.
  • Due to the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling went from living on state benefits to being one of the richest women in the world.
  • Tyler Perry, at one point, lived in his car. His plays/movies about Sassy Black Woman Mable "Madea" Simmons enabled him to move from the car... to a multi-million dollar mansion in Atlanta.
  • Roman Emperor Diocletian worked his way up the military and ultimately became emperor. It wasn't that uncommon in Rome, actually. If you were a really good member of the military and kept yourself away from the dangers in such an environment (injury, backstabbing, etc.), you could work your way up constantly and enact the trope. More than one Emperor aside from Diocletian arrived to power this way. (Now, whether they stayed there... that was something else)
  • In the Eastern Roman Empire, the position of Emperor was literally open to everyone, allowing this to happen:
    • Justin I was a swineherd from Macedonia who arrived in Byzantium with nothing but the clothes he wore but ended up making a career in the legions. He later had his sister move to Byzantium as well with her children, and when he became emperor he made his nephew Justinian his closest advisor and successor. Justinian ended up marrying a nightclub dancer who ruled with him as Empress Theodora and they were without question among the most powerful people in the entire world at their time.
    • Basil the Macedonian was born a peasant. In spite of his lack of education and limited experience in military and administrative matters, he became a favorite courtier of Byzantine Emperor Michael III and eventually succeeded him as emperor. He reigned successfully for 19 years, founded the Macedonian Dynasty, and started the Macedonian Renaissance.
  • Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He was born as a sandal-bearer named 'Tokichiro Kinoshita'. Then he joins Oda Nobunaga, works his ass up to the point that he became Nobunaga's right-hand man, avenges his death, and finished what Nobunaga couldn't accomplish: actually unifying Japan and becoming the most powerful man in the nation. Although the immediate downfall of his clan immediately after his death can partly be contributed to his status; he couldn't even forge a Minamoto/Taira lineage as everyone knew his background, which made his family ineligible for the top posts in the country. He ruled as kampaku— not a shogun— because he was adopted by a Fujihara just before the fact, and his legitimacy was only sustained through his own power. (On the other hand, Tokugawa Ieyasu had been able to forge himself a Minamoto lineage and make himself eligible for shogun.)
  • Young Dave Thomas was born to a poor, single woman, who gave him up for adoption. His adoptive mother passed away when he was six and his father was then left to move around (with Dave in tow) while he sought work. Thomas began working at the age of 12 (to help support the family), dropped out of high school, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, learned how to cook, came back home, worked at a diner, married the daughter of the diner's owner, and got his big break by meeting Colonel Sanders and setting up a few Kentucky Fried Chickens to own and operate. When Thomas sold his KFCs, which had become very successful because of his hard work, he earned enough money to settle down, but invested it instead in his own fast-food chain, and named it after his ginger-haired daughter: "Wendy's". (And he did go back to get his G.E.D.)
  • Shania Twain had to help support her family when she was a teenager, after growing up very poor. She had to live out of her car when trying to break into the music business.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker was born into poverty in Ohio, but was able to become a well-known actress as a teenager (Square Pegs) and a wealthy star through Sex and the City. She's even kept her family relatively close, as she bought her mother a house in New Jersey.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger was a kid growing up in post-WWII Austria, with all the limited sources this implies. He got interested in bodybuilding, and once he moved to Munich to train in a better gym, he lived there! Once Arnie finally fulfilled his dream of visiting the United States, attending the Mr. Universe in New York City, a famous gym owner in Los Angeles asked him to move there to train (and he accepted, despite all his possessions being in Europe). And his attempt at The American Dream, which included working on construction in the off-hours, saw Arnie become the greatest bodybuilder of all time, an action film hero with the biggest paycheck in Hollywood, and Governor of California.
  • Basically anyone listed here. This list includes one of the best examples of a "rags to riches" president in American history, Bill Clinton, who was able to go from being a poor kid raised by a single mother (who would later marry and provide Clinton with a stepfather and his younger stepbrother Roger) to becoming a Rhodes Scholar and a successful lawyer, eventually becoming Arkansas governor and then president. Also on that list was Andrew Johnson, whose wife actually had to teach him to read. Johnson went on to become a U.S. Senator, and given that the house of Congress was even more elite at the time than it is now, he obviously was a good study.
  • Independent Minnesota author Amanda Hocking was penniless while living in a sparse apartment. Then she started self-publishing her own books and selling them on Amazon, making 2.5 million dollars within twenty months.
  • Justin Bieber. He went from a poor kid with a single mother in low-income housing to one of the most well-known celebrities of today.
  • Choi Sung-Bong. Contestant who went from being in an orphanage and on the streets to international fame on Korea's Got Talent, and is widely considered to be a male Susan Boyle.
  • Susan Boyle went from an unemployed charity worker by the start of her Britain's Got Talent audition to selling over 19 million records as of 2021.
  • The example from The Blind Side up in the Film section really happened; Michael Oher is a real person, and one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL.
  • Although he was the son of a Mongolian chieftain, Genghis Khan was raised by a single mother (his father was murdered), his family was outcast and left to die in the steppes. He then went on to conquer more land than anyone in history.
  • Hideaki Anno was an out-of-work animator and university dropout when he and some peers made opening animations for a sci-fi convention called DAICON. The opening animation for DAICON IV proved so popular that, even though they couldn't profit off of the video due to the unlicensed use of "Twilight" by the Electric Light Orchestra and myriad cameos by anime and comic characters, they soon started finding work in the anime industry. Anno, himself, would go on to work on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind before founding Studio Gainax, which became one of the biggest names in anime with such popular series as Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
  • Andrew Carnegie went from being a very poor Scottish immigrant in his childhood to telegrapher in his youth to one of the richest men in the history of the United States (and the world) in his adulthood. He spent most of his last years in big-scale philanthropic work: you will see his name in many different places in the USA and the English-speaking world (e.g. Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Medal).
  • Common among founders of Chinese dynasties. For example, Liu Bang (Han) and Zhu Yuanzhang (among many others) began as peasant bandit leaders who eventually became successful.
    • The Han Dynasty was full of those, with two emperors, Xuan (brought up a commoner, later became emperor) and Guangwu (lived as a peasant at one point despite being a distant royal, eventually restored the dynasty), and one empress (Wei Zifu, she was born the fourth child of a family of peasants, but ended up being employed by a princess and ended up marrying her older brother, Emperor Wu, being his second empress and the second longest-serving empress in Chinese history, losing only to the wife of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty)
  • Stephen King was an underpaid school teacher who couldn't afford a telephone. Then he wrote Carrie and now his name is synonymous with the horror genre.
  • Yelawolf was at one point homeless due to a crippling skateboard accident in Berkeley, CA, which crushed his dream of being a pro-skater. Then he became a rapper and is now worth about $5 million.
  • More or less everyone in some rapid-growth countries. "Tiger economies" such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong transformed from poor farmlands to world-leading business centers within a generation. The same thing goes for the oil-exporting countries of the Persian Gulf, such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, where standards of living have skyrocketed.
    • Having to live on the land bordering the Persian Gulf was a Fate Worse than Death once upon a time, because there was literally nothing other than desert and the sea. Virtually everyone were nomads. Some could sustain themselves through pearl hunting, but it was rather unprofitable.
    • Then there is South Korea. Unlike Singapore or Hong Kong, the country really didn't have a longstanding service sector and used to depend solely on agriculture. It was a complete backwater. Back in the 1950s, its GDP per capita was lower than some of the poorest African countries. Before the Miracle of the Han River happened, it was outclassed by North Korea in everything. In a bit of irony, defections used to be from south to north, rather than the other way around as it is today.
  • Ringo Starr was raised in low-income housing in a single-parent family in Liverpool, England; his abusive father having abandoned the family when Ringo was very young. Ringo missed a lot of school as a boy as he was sickly; during one hospital stay, he was given a snare drum and drumsticks to play with. He fell in love with the instrument, took up drums note , and joined Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a popular local music group. As a fan and friend of The Beatles, he was asked to join the group not long after they signed to EMI, replacing longtime drummer Pete Best. He became one of the most successful musicians in the world, providing the band with a solid backbeat and subtly innovative tone and fills, received the most fan mail of all four members, had a few lead vocals along the way, and even contributed a few songs of his own towards the end of the band's career. He was among the first Beatles to have success as a solo artist and had some success as an actor and session musician.
  • Chinese actor/singer/songwriter/model Kris Wu went from barely being able to afford a car, having to live completely alone multiple times throughout his childhood since his mother had to work in China, and joining SM so his mother wouldn't need to care for him to one of China's most successful and popular celebrities.
  • Henrik Ibsen went from rags to riches rather fast. Before his Brand breakthrough, he had been on the poverty level for years, and pr 1866, he was known for owning only one coat, and at this point, it was rather worn. The famous playwright slobbed around in Rome, looking like a bum, with an unkempt beard, holes in his boots and on his coat, wearing an old Mormon hat. Then the money poured in - and the author's first purchase was new clothes and a haircut.
  • Tiffany Haddish went from living in many foster homes and living in her own car to being one of the most known actresses from her breakout film Girls Trip.
  • Chris Pratt was homeless in Hawaii before getting his first big break in Parks and Recreation.
  • Idris Elba had a hard time finding work as an actor after first coming to America, eventually leading to him selling drugs while living out of his van before making it big in Hollywood.
  • Supermodel Irina Shayk came from a small poor village in Russia. In the September 2016 issue of GQ Italy, she said that she had nothing to wear and nothing to eat when she first arrived in Paris and that she felt embarrassed in front of the other models because of how she was dressed. Today, she's been on numerous magazine covers and is one of the most sought out models in the business.
  • While she was a student at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, Russian operatic soprano Anna Netrebko was working as a janitor at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg when she was discovered by the prominent conductor Valery Gergiev, who then became her vocal mentor. She then went on to sing many prominent roles with the company, and then made her Met Opera debut as Natasha Rostova in Prokofiev's War and Peace in 2002, right as the Met was introducing their Live in HD series. Today, she has performed with many prominent opera companies like the Met Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and the Royal Opera House, and has been awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation.
  • Olga Borodina, a Russian operatic mezzo-soprano, was born into a poor family of music lovers in Leningrad, and after three tries, she was accepted into the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1987, her third year in the conservatory, she was recruited by the Kirov Opera, and became a student of Valery Gergiev, a prominent Russian conductor who recognized her talents. From then on, she's won two international competitions, and after making her European debut as Dalila in Saint-Saën's Samson et Dalila alongside Plácido Domingo, she has now become an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano well-known for her roles in Russian operas, and has performed with many famous opera companies like the Met Opera, the Royal Opera House, and the San Francisco Opera. In addition, she has been awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation and has received recognition as a People's Artist of Russia.
  • Having been born in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé grew up in a family that couldn't afford to send her to school, so they made a deal with a wealthy family to have them finance her studies in exchange for her appearing at the Barcelona opera house every season. Her big breakthrough came in 1965 when she replaced Marilyn Horne in a production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall in New York, which earned her a 25-minute standing ovation. Since then, she became an internationally-acclaimed soprano who has performed with prominent opera companies such as the Met Opera, received several international awards, and collaborated with Freddie Mercury.
  • Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a Russian baritone, was raised by his grandmother and step-grandfather for most of his childhood since his parents had very busy schedules. At first, he went from being involved with street gangs and drinking vodka to studying music at the conservatory in his hometown of Krasnoyarsk, then went on to win the Concours International de Chant competition in Toulouse in 1988. And while he suffered from alcoholism in the 1990s, he quit in 2001, which allowed his career to be revived in 2003, when he performed as Giorgio Germont in the Met's production of La traviata, and he then went on to become an internationally-acclaimed baritone up until his death from cancer in 2017.
  • Anita Rachvelishvili, a mezzo-soprano from Georgia, had grown up in a poor family in Tbilisi during the violent War for Independence in the 1990s and often had no food, water, or electricity. After making her breakthrough as the title role of Bizet's Carmen in 2009 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan alongside Jonas Kaufmann, she has become a widely-acclaimed mezzo-soprano and has performed with various leading opera houses including the Met Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Royal Opera House. In addition, she has also become very well-regarded in her home country, and frequently performs charity concerts on TV.
  • French tenor Roberto Alagna is the son of Sicilian immigrants who moved to Paris in the 1950s, and he often busked and sang in Parisian cabarets when he was a teenager. Even when he switched to opera, he was mostly self-taught. After winning the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition in 1988, Alagna made his professional debut as Alfredo Germont in Verdi's La traviata with the Glyndebourne touring company, which led him to sing with various European companies. His breakthrough, however, came in 1994, when he sang the role of Roméo in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette in Covent Garden. Since then, he has sung with numerous prominent opera companies, has become an advocate for restoring neglected French operas, and has been awarded a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 2008.
  • Famous Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson was born on a farm in rural Sweden but had a real talent for singing from a young age. After a not-so-successful debut in von Weber's Der Freischütz at the Royal Opera in Stockholm (a failure that made her contemplate suicide shortly afterwards, due to the conductor being fairly harsh to her), she made a more successful debut as Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth in 1947, before making her international breakthrough at the Vienna State Opera. Her rise to stardom came from her debut as Isolde in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at the Met Opera in 1959, after which she became the most celebrated Wagnerian soprano of the 20th century, even starting her own foundation to award major contributions to opera, and her portrait is now featured on the 500 kronor banknote in her home country.
  • When Halle Berry first moved to New York to start her acting career, she briefly lived in a homeless shelter.
  • Richard Burton grew up in poverty in a Welsh mining village. Acting saved him from working down a coal mine.
  • When he was a boy, Jim Carrey and his family lost their home and had to live in a van. He quit school at age 15 to help support the family.
  • According to his high school yearbook, Ralph Lauren’s goal was to become a millionaire. At the time, he was living in the Bronx as the youngest child of poor, Jewish immigrants. He enlisted in the Army and worked as a clerk at Brooks Brothers before becoming a business icon.
  • Dolly Parton was raised in a one-room cabin in the woods with dirt floors and little money. Her parents worked hard to stretch a dollar.
  • Jay-Z grew up in housing projects near Brooklyn and sold drugs to get by.
  • Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer park in Washington. At 15, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles and lived in a car for a few weeks while Swank chased her acting dream.
  • Charlie Chaplin grew up in Dickensian poverty. When he was seven, he and his brother were sent to a workhouse. He abandoned his education at thirteen and worked odd jobs in between stage appearances.
  • Kirk Douglas had an impoverished childhood, with immigrant parents and six sisters. Growing up, Douglas sold snacks to mill workers to earn enough to buy milk and bread to help his family. Later, he delivered newspapers and during his youth, he had more than forty jobs before becoming an actor.
  • Salvador Perez, the catcher for the Kansas City Royals, was raised in Venezuela by a single mother. She got him into baseball to keep him occupied; he is now one of Major League Baseball's most decorated players, including six All-Star Game appearances, five Gold Gloves, and the MVP of the 2015 World Series.
  • Sean Connery was born into a working-class family in Edinburgh, Scotland, quitting school at age 13 and working many jobs, including as a milkman, a coffin polisher, a lorry driver, a lifeguard, serving in the Royal Navy, then working as an artist's model and then a bodybuilder before entering acting and eventually landing his Star-Making Role of James Bond and becoming an international superstar.
  • Before getting into comedy, Jennifer Saunders was on the dole, often spending all day in bed.
  • William of Wycombe was born a medieval peasant, but he ended up founding Winchester College. William never forgot his humble origins, so the college was more open to peasants than other institutes at the time.
  • Madonna. Before hitting it big, in 1978 she moved to New York City with $35 to her name into a rat-infested tenement, lived on simplistic food like popcorn for months at a time, and worked at Dunkin' Donuts and in dance troupes to support herself.
  • Manny Pacquiao grew up in abject poverty and experienced living in the streets and enduring hunger during his early boxing days, on occasion having to moonlight as a construction worker just to get by and send some cash to his mother. A decade or two later and he's now regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time and an influential person in both his native Philippines and overseas, having taken up careers in both show business and politics as well.
  • Filipino LGBT vlogger Jessica Absalon grew up in poverty and experienced having lived in a ramshackle shanty for most of their life. After they made it big as part of the "Bakla ng Taon" vlogging collective, Jessica earned more than enough from their YouTube revenue to invest in a new house in Cavite, a far cry from the shanty they used to reside in.
  • Louis Armstrong grew up in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of New Orleans. He ended up an internationally famous musical superstar.
  • Both band members of Tears for Fears were from single-parent families and lived on a Council Estate. Curt Smith described his impoverished background as "We had nothing, so I would go and steal things. It was a very poor, basic upbringing." Roland Orzabal recalled that when he and his then-girlfriend (and later wife) Caroline Johnston were living together, their financial situation was so dire that "Even Curt brought [us] food, we were that poor." Once the band became famous, "[we] had money beyond the dreams of working-class kids like us."
  • Naomi Judd struggled to make ends meet and raise two daughters while harboring dreams of making it in country music. Then she managed to convince one record producer whose daughter she cared for as a nurse to give the duo she formed with one daughter a chance, and The Judds became a smash hit, with said daughter, Wynonna Judd, saying "I literally went from the outhouse to the White House". The other daughter, Ashley Judd, also made it big as an actress.
  • Viola Davis had a childhood so bad that in a special with the aforementioned Oprah, she said Davis' autobiography made her think her own poor upbringing wasn't that miserable: after being born in a one-room house with no running water or indoor toilets, at the age of two she spent some time in prison when her mother was arrested, and grew up living in rat-infested and condemned apartments, without clean water, soap, heat or electricity (and that's not counting the racism, bullying, and abuse she suffered). Then her acting talent landed her a college scholarship, and Davis was on the way to becoming one of the most acclaimed actresses ever.


Video Example(s):


Gazillionaire Gump

Forrest Gump uses his expanded fortune to give to those who helped him along the way, including the family of deceased best friend, Bubba.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / WealthyPhilanthropist

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