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Self-Made Man
aka: Self Made Woman

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Herb: Why did I ever hire you Harvard deadheads?!
Board Member: Because you went there, sir?
Herb: Yeah, but mommy and daddy didn't pay my way! I had to work my way through washing your dishes and scrubbing your toilets!
Board Member: Oh yeah, now I remember you.

This person owes very little to anyone for their success. The few advantages that they possessed are disproportionate to the scale of their achievements; the principal cause of the latter being their own skills, talent, and merit. Be it through hard work, dedication, commitment to their work, a little cunning, some business acumen, and a dollop of serendipity, they have gone from unimportant to important. This is usually who you get at the end of Rags to Riches, but this is not that trope because the Self-Made Man is often there right at the start of the story, whereas Rags to Riches follows the course that leads a character here.

Often the conflict of this kind of story revolves on societal acceptance and reputation. Typically, in works set further back in history, they are looked down on as upstarts, a reflection of the dislike a lot of the nobility had for the power shift following the Industrial Revolution. In more modern settings they might be respected to the point of Cult of Personality, basing their ascent on how they had to climb the ladder from the bottom. In other kinds of stories, the story have characters looking back on the process by which they made themselves, wondering if the rest of their lives are going to be as exciting and adventurous, or if what they built and sustained can last, or if it has any meaning in wider society and history beyond their own personal success. Expect them to show fewer social graces but often more political savvy than the more traditionally wealthy, except when he is feverishly trying to imitate and become socially accepted by the Blue Bloods, when he generally comes off the worse. The Arranged Marriage for the Impoverished Patrician is often to a Self-Made Man, or his daughter (or any situation where Nobility Marries Money), though it also is possible that his rise was because he was Unable to Support a Wife, and she did indeed Wait For Him. In Passed-Over Inheritance, the will-making character is often this trope, because refusing your children the inheritance you got comes across as petty.

The archetype of self-made men can involve politicians, clergy, soldiers, scientists, artists and of course, businessmen. In the case of artists, novels like Bildungsroman and Kunstlerroman often serve as a coming-of-age story for how people make themselves into these kinds of individuals. In the case of scientists, it deals with the times they spent until they found the "Eureka!" Moment. A Self-Made Man can appear as a protagonist, a Tragic Hero, a Tragic Villain, a hero or anti-hero. They can also be supporting-characters, where their interesting plot is mostly over and at times serves as backstory or foundation in which one can mine for dramatic gold, guilt, baggage, Dark and Troubled Past or Glory Days. A less positive spin on this trope is the stereotypically boorish Nouveau Riche. As this character tends to Default to Good, it can be seen as an inversion of Ambition Is Evil. A second variant of this trope is that of a character who, for whatever reason, chooses to change their basic nature in defiance of normal expectations of what they are "meant" to be or are likely to become — a naturally selfish or evil-inclined character, for example, forcing himself moment-to-moment to act generous or good because he has decided to make himself that way. This archetype is similar to Übermensch. They might be the middle generation of the Three Successful Generations. What is necessary for self-made also differs. Doing well after graduating at the top of your cause and maintaining high academic standing (all of them being markers of merit) is somehow not as remarkable as achieving something without going to university, either by being self-taught or being a "savant".

As the gendered trope name suggests, this trope has generally been Always Male. Indeed the trope Never a Self-Made Woman, explains how successful women have historically had their achievements tied to connections with men, who had to make it possible for them. This is more how the trope is portrayed than it is in reality since there are indeed quite a number of women whose achievements are no more over-advantaged than that of men. And of course what seems self-made in one era and context changes from another.

If he forgets that it's not always just a simple matter of effort and determination, that's the Hard Work Fallacy. Not to be confused for the book by Norah Vincent, a chronicle of immersive journalism in which she passes for a man for more than a year.

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  • Referenced with an old Tim Horton's commercial. An old man is speaking to his grandson (or perhaps great-grandson), saying that when he came to Canada he had only two dollars, but by working hard and saving his money, he was able to provide for his family, and now things were good for them. In turn, he gives his descendant two dollars, to use to make his family proud. Subverted when the child promptly buys a 20-pack of Timbits, though of course, the grandfather is not disappointed with the gift of pastries.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fujioka Yukari, the female protagonist of Billionaire Girl, amassed a fortune of 170 billion yen by the age of 18 working as a day trader.
  • Fujitaka Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura. He was orphaned at a young age, pursued a schoolteaching career on his own, fell in love with an Uptown Girl and was accused of being a Gold Digger, married her anyway despite her disownment, worked hard alongside his wife to make a living for themselves and their children, and by the time we meet him he's a rather successful archeologist and uni professor. In his mid-to-late 30s, and did it all without realizing he is one of the reincarnations of the most powerful mage in the CLAMP meta-universe.
  • Marianne from Code Geass can be seen as this. In a society where you only matter if you're from a noble lineage, she manages to get into the most elite knight order of the empire and eventually becomes a consort to the Emperor. A position usually reserved for daughters of important noble families. Her son Lelouch may also count. He obtained half the world on his own, later, the entire world for himself, without relying on his royal lineage.
  • Hello Sandybelle: Mr. Shearer was born into poverty, but worked his way up to become one of the wealthiest men in Scotland. Unfortunately, his daughter is a Spoiled Brat who treats everyone around her with contempt.
  • Kiri no Mori Hotel has Makio Shidara and Kalen Hasumi, two characters who worked themselves to the bone, to get where they are today. Makio is studying to become a lawyer, all while working part-time to pay for his student loans and living expenses. Kalen became a model and successful actress, after leaving her small hometown behind.
  • Medabots: Dr. Aki sold patents of some medabot models to other companies to have the money to start Medabot Corporation.
  • As part of his being the poster boy for Eagleland (both versions), Mobile Fighter G Gundam's Chibodee Crocket was an orphan who built himself up from street urchin to the Heavyweight Boxing Champ as well as America's representative in the 13th Gundam Fight. This is the reason why he believes so fiercely in the concept of the American Dream — he's living proof that it's possible.
  • Jack Rakan of Negima! Magister Negi Magi; the reason that he's a beloved invincible war hero is that he literally fought his way to the top despite starting out at rock bottom as a gladiatorial slave. Tohsaka, Mama Bear and Vargas have very similar backstories.
  • One Piece: Franky, Self-Made Man in a... different sense, still related to making himself by himself, but in a more literal manner. The original definition could still apply to him — despite being the son of a pirate, he managed to be one of the few apprentices of Tom, the closest person to an ultimate shipwright there was, by proving his skill to him, then managed to gather a sizable gang, becoming just about the most infamous person of the city — certainly not helped by anyone in the endeavour.
    • Iceberg, Franky's "Brother student" is also this; when he started, he bore the stigma of being the student of the man who built the Pirate King's ship, but through his own hard work, managed to unite the competing shipyards in Water-7 into a massive corporation called Galley-La and eventually became mayor of the city.
    • Surprisingly, Wapol actually manages to become this eventually. He started off as the King of Drum Kingdom, but as a major example of The Caligula. However, after fighting Luffy and being forcibly exiled from there, he uses his Devil Fruit powers to make toys from garbage. From that starting point, he eventually becomes a business tycoon, becoming so successful that he is even allowed to create a new kingdom for himself.
  • In The Secret Agreement, Yuuichi is an orphaned Street Urchin who eventually builds his own business. Even when he found out he had an uncle he didn't go to him for anything he needed.
  • Voltes V: This is ultimately what sets Prince Heinel apart from Emperor Zambajil. While both are evil, unabashed Fantastic Racists and supremacists, Emperor Zambajil was given everything to him by virtue of birthright, while Prince Heinel chose to work hard to get where he was. This is emphasized in the Grand Finale, when Heinel chooses to stay and fight for a crumbling Boazania while Zambajil tries to flee with a wagon full of riches.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Seto Kaiba stole his adoptive father's company from him, then rebuilt it from the ground up, leaving his own stamp on it. Regrettably, he just about broke himself in the process, becoming nearly as bad as his father. If what his father says is to be believed, he too was an example of this.
    • Priest Seto (whom Kaiba is a reincarnation of) was also an example, who managed to work himself up from humble beginnings to becoming a member of the Pharaoh's court. While he was technically a member of the royal family (and was eventually crowned Pharaoh himself), the only one who actually knew that had nothing to do with his ascension.
    • Katsuya Jonouchi/Joey Wheeler of the same show is an unusual example. Starting out with a mediocre Duel Monsters deck and a smattering of chance cards, Jonouchi enters one tournament after another and with a combination of skill, luck, and being thoroughly underestimated by his opponents, manages to be a success. Flashforward five seasons — he's been the runner-up at Duelist Kingdom, a finalist at Battle City, and is the third-ranked duelist on the planet. Interestingly, Joey and Kaiba hate each other.
  • Kaiba's Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Expy Jun Manjoume comes from an incredibly rich family, but decides he wants to be this character instead, and resolves to achieve success via his own merits and not his brothers' money or fame.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's:
    • Jack Atlas started as a rat from Satellite. But once he had a chance to escape from there, he became the King of Duelists not shortly after. However, this is subverted much later, as it is revealed that Goodwin and Yeager paid strong duelists to lose against Jack on purpose when Jack's career began.
    • It is revealed that Rex Goodwin himself was the Legendary D-Wheeler from Satellite. Somehow he managed to become the CEO of Public Security of Maintenance Bureau and Neo-Domino City's most famous man.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: ARC-V's version of Jack Atlas plays it straight in contrast to his original counterpart. Everything started when a single card, that was probably discarded as a trash card by someone from the Tops, fell from the sky and a very young Jack found it. Years later, the boy from the Commons became the man who won the Friendship Cup and earned the title of King, being the hero of the entire City.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, Infidel started off as a poor boy from Kenya and grew to become the most fearsome Evil Sorcerer and Mad Scientist in the 'verse simply through his boundless intellect.
  • Batman: Bruce Wayne's ancestor Solomon Wayne arrived in Gotham with nothing but a law degree and a Bible and worked as a judge. He then started a number of businesses and quickly became the wealthiest person in town. Down the line, that money became the now enormous Wayne fortune.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • This is the defining positive attribute of Scrooge McDuck, as established by his creator, Carl Barks: he may be an incredible miser, but he started at the bottom as a shoeshine boy on the streets of Glasgow and worked his way up to become the richest duck in the world through years of struggle, toil and bold adventure, all whilst adhering to a personal creed of being tough-but-fair in his dealings. Thus, he's not just a skinflint, but somebody who actively appreciates what it means to work for what he has, and who believes others should do the same. He even acknowledges this fact with his favorite saying about himself:
      Scrooge: I made it by being tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties! And I made it square!
    • The Carl Barks one-shot Somethin' Fishy Here (remade as Something Fishy) has Scrooge start over and rebuild a small fortune in a single day after being convinced that paper money was now worthless and the economy was being switched over to using fish as currency instead.
    • It bears mentioning that this trait is subject to Depending on the Writer, especially in European countries that tend to play Scrooge up as a villain. Even in Barks' works, there is an infamous story in which Scrooge is shown to have once behaved like a ruthless robber baron in his past. Ascended Fanboy Don Rosa squared this off by depicting that event as the culmination of years of Scrooge losing sight of his morals, and something that formed an almost permanent wedge between Scrooge and the rest of his family when he chose at the last moment to focus on his wealth than on making amends with his revolted siblings.
    • Scrooge's Evil Counterpart Flintheart Glomgold zigzags the trope. Like Scrooge, he also started out from humble beginnings... but he rose to wealth and power by lying, cheating, stealing, swindling and dirty-dealing.
    • Subverted with Scrooge's more obscure rival John Rockerduck, who inherited his money. Played straight in that Howard Rockerduck, John's father, was a humble miner who struck it immensely rich with a series of lucky strikes and never lost sight of either his roots or his love for making his money through honest dealings.
    • Rosa also depicted Theodore Roosevelt as a man who aspired to make his own career, despite being from a wealthy family. His words inspired a young Scrooge in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Buckaroo of the Badlands:
      "Being born wealthy is no accomplishment! That's why I became a cowboy! To find the life I missed by not being born poor like you!"
    • This is also often the reason given why Scrooge considers Donald's cousin Gladstone Gander an Inadequate Inheritor. Being Born Lucky, Gladstone has always relied on his luck to coast through life, making him something of a Lazy Bum. Although Gladstone's luck could probably multiply Scrooge's vast fortune several times over, the fact that Gladstone actively looks down on honest, hard work offends Scrooge to his core.
  • Iron Man: Though Tony Stark was born into wealth, it's been taken from him multiple times, causing him to build it back up by himself every time, the most notable being when Stane took his entire company from him and Stark built a new one from the ground up. However, he did retain his education and decades of business experience and contacts.
  • Judge Dredd: Martin Sinfield is proud of the fact that he wasn't cloned or fast-tracked to the top, but instead worked his way up from the bottom. The fraud, bribery, and criminality were completely for the good of the city. Absolutely.
  • Mickey Mouse Comic Universe: In the story "Once Upon a Time in America", this is revealed to be true of many of Mickey's ancestors, who, for whatever reason, abandon the wealth left them by their ancestors only to become wealthy on their own efforts. The best example is Mickey's own father, who had lost his wealth due a scam and, after loaning some money from his future wife, became one of the richest men in America (he later sold his economic empire when he realized that he had become a jerk and almost a villain, and gave most of his money to charity during The Great Depression).
  • Moon Knight'': Marc Spector was a soldier of fortune who used the bottomless pit of blood money he earned over the years as a mercenary to protect the travelers of the night. He is also a successful treasure hunter, as the treasures of Khonshu now belong to him.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The Kingpin is sometimes shown as coming from a poor family in a rough neighbourhood, though that fits for a career criminal.
    • Variation with the Green Goblin. While Norman Osborn's family was initially very wealthy, Norman's incompetent, abusive father nearly wiped out the family fortune, until Norman founded Osborn Industries and rebuilt the family wealth from the ground up.
  • Superman:
    • In Post-Crisis continuities, Lex Luthor is sometimes shown as coming from a poor family in a rough neighbourhood, or a sleepy farmtown (Smallville).
    • Legion of Super-Heroes' main backer and benefactor R.J. Brande was an amnesiac time-tossed shape-shifting alien Durlan frozen in human form who became the richest man in the galaxy. In Superboy (1949) #258, after Earthgov embezzles his dough, he lets them keep the money saying he'll just have to go and make the journey again.
  • Watchmen: Ozymandias gave away all his money to charity at a young age to prove that he could get to the top without any help. Being the smartest man on Earth with a drive to match, he pulled it off, becoming both a superhero and super-wealthy.

    Fan Works 
  • 25m Distance Between Us: Pauline grew up poor with Italian Immigrant Parents in New Donk City. She began working as a showgirl but dreamed of more, so she eventually worked her way up the political ladder until she became mayor of NDC.
  • Code Geass: Cornelia of the Defection: Marianne wasn't only a commoner, but a street urchin who got caught stealing food from a military camp. Not wanting to shoot a little girl, the soldiers tried to subdue her by hand only to get their asses kicked. She was promptly enlisted in the army as a Private First Class and the rest is history
  • Daughter of Fire and Steel: Lex Luthor founded Lex Corp on his own when he was just 19 years old.
  • The King Nobody Wanted: Drogo's father Bharbo started life as a goatherd, a position that the Dothraki do not greatly respect, and rose in time to become one of the greatest Dothraki khals.
  • Somos Familia: The entire Rivera clan (and blood brother) gets this treatment. Imelda, Héctor, Ernesto, Oscar, and Philippe all grew up in an orphanage together, with little more than their friendships, talents and minor bits of history to their names. But thanks to some determination, hope, talent and a lot of luck, they all ended up in a VERY good place as the richest people in Santa Cecelia and Beyond.
  • Truth and Consequences: Gabriel Agreste went from a poor orphan with no prospects to a world famous fashion designer and head of an internationally successful fashion company he himself founded, and he did this primarily because his beloved Emilie's old-money father would never permit them to marry otherwise. It's very sweet, but also deconstructed: firstly, it made him a Workaholic and Control Freak, seriously straining his relationship with the family he starts with Emilie. It also required him to make some serious moral compromises since, as Tikki points out, no one climbs that far, that fast, without stepping on a few people along the way, which made his decision to become Hawk Moth easier.

    Film — Animation 
  • This is the backstory of the Rivera family in Coco; After Imelda's husband abandoned her (or so everybody thought), she taught herself shoemaking in order to support herself and her young daughter. The family business has been successful enough to support her living descendants for four generations and counting. Ernesto De La Cruz also came from humble origins and became rich and famous thanks to his songs. It turns out he actually stole the songs from Imelda's husband Héctor and killed him.
  • In Mulan this is ultimately the source of Chi Fu's Jerkass behaviour: he became a member of the Emperor's counsel by passing the Imperial Examination (itself no mean feat) and working his way up from the bottom, and for most of the movie he's dealing with people who were just given their positions, be it Li Shang being promoted to captain straight out of training by his father the commander of the army or Mulan being offered a position in the Emperor's counsel for her heroic deeds without even passing the Imperial Examination.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Arthur (1981): The father of the titular character's arranged bride.
  • Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) from Back to School is a man with little education and class (well, it's Rodney!), but he possesses uncanny financial skills. He built his fortune selling a plus-sized line of clothing to obese men. This comes to a head when he takes an economics class. The professor speaks in terms of pure theory, but Melon keeps interrupting him to talk about all the messy realities of actually running a business, like paying out kickbacks.
  • Biff Tannen looked like one to outsiders in Back to the Future Part II. In reality, he got immeasurable help when his self from 2015 traveled in time to give his 1955 self an almanac with sports results from 1950 to 2000 so past Biff would become wealthy from gambling. Sure, it ended up being for naught, since Marty and Doc undid the damages to the timeline but, he was quite wealthy in 1985 until then.
  • Al Czervik from Caddyshack. He has all the traits of Nouveau Riche: gaudy clothing, obnoxious behavior, but he is more likable than Judge Smails (because he's generous and friendly where Smails is stingy and mean).
  • In Canyon Passage, Logan Stuart built up his freighting business from almost nothing to become one of the richest men in the Oregon territory. At the end of the film, most of his fortune is destroyed when his business is burnt down, but he just views this an opportunity to start over and do it all again.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: In the 2005 version, Willy Wonka had to make his own way in the world at a very young age since he had no help from his dentist family; his father punted him out on the street and transported their house out of the block when he heard his son wanted to be a chocolatier.
  • Parodied by Grouch Marx in The Cocoanuts:
    When I first came here, I didn't have a nickel in my pocket. Now I've got a nickel in my pocket.
  • Cleo McDowell in Coming to America spent his early life in a slum. He went on to open a successful (but obviously plagiarized) restaurant. While he tries to marry off his daughter to a rich guy, part of it is because he doesn't want her having to struggle like he did.
  • Cool Runnings: Junior says his father "started off in a one-room hut" and "now he lives in one of the biggest homes in Kingston".
  • Employees' Entrance: When the board of the department store tries to demote manager Kurt Anderson for being too much of a hardass, Anderson spits back at them that while they're all Old Money fat cats, he worked himself up from nothing to become manager of the store. His first job at Monroe's department store was on the loading dock.
  • Nick Vanderpark, the character portrayed by Jack Black in Envy, used to be the average working man until he invested four thousand dollars on the development of a spray that vaporizes dog poop. The investment made himself wealthy. The film never stated how much Dmitrioff, who invented the spray, got from the deal or how it changed his life.
  • Happy Gilmore: Though not in the most conventional manner, Happy Gilmore goes from a down on his luck man with an incredibly short temper to a nationally acclaimed golfer who wins a national golf tournament and becomes famous all around the country and winds up pretty wealthy.
  • Mostly Kingo Gondo in High and Low, who started out as a cobbler's apprentice and rose to become factory manager for National Shoes, but he also got help from his wife Reiko's dowry.
  • High Society: George, the Disposable Fiancé, is very proud of being this, in contrast to the ex-husband.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: It's mentioned that the Big Bad Richmond Valentine grew up poor and made his money by starting his own tech company.
  • Relentlessly lampshaded in Knives Out. Most of the Thrombeys like to claim they're self-made, but they've clearly all spent their lives leeching off the family patriarch, an actual self-made man who now regrets spoiling them their entire lives. The closest might be Linda; despite taking out a million-dollar loan from her father to start her own business, she paid it back, doesn't need his money, and her main stake in the will is wanting the house out of sentimental reasons. At one point, Ransom rants about Marta "stealing away our ancestral home" and Blanc literally laughs that Harlan only bought the place from a Pakistani millionaire in the 1980s, so even the family's house was never truly built by them.
  • The eponymous serial killer in Mr. Brooks founded, owns and runs a successful box-making company.
  • Mr. Rockbottom from No Kidding became a millionaire by dealing scrap metal.
  • The Richest Cat in the World: Oscar Kohlmeyer was merely the owner of a roadside diner until some land developers decided to buy it. They granted his request to let him keep all rights over minerals found on the land. They found oil.
  • Niki Lauda as depicted in Rush (2013): His family is rich, but he becomes a Defector from Decadence to race in Formula One (which is viewed as a low-class job by his father). Even before he starts, he claims to his teammate he can build his own economy out of the job.
  • Palpatine from Star Wars counts. Born a minor noble on some backwater world, he clawed his way to Senator, Chancellor, and eventually got voted in to be galactic Emperor through trickery, deceit, and tactical maneuvers. He wasn't born an Emperor, but he sure as hell worked his way up the top, whether the perspective be simply from the movies or including the Expanded Universe.
  • Titanic (1997): A self-made man's widow is disliked by some of her fellow first-class passengers because of this trope.
  • 2 Days in the Valley: Art dealer Allan Hopper regularly makes deals in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and grew up in a trailer park, and his mother couldn't afford to send him to college.

  • The Hamilton Mixtape:
    • "My Shot (Rise Up Remix)" celebrates the ability of people to rise up from circumstances of poverty and societal opposition to become something great.
    • "Wrote My Way Out" centers around the ability of writing and song to help downtrodden people make a name for themselves.
    • "Washingtons By Your Side" calls out people for complaining that successful people have it easy, even when they've had to work hard all their life to earn their wealth and acclaim.
  • "Where did you go to my lovely" and "Last of the Breed" by Peter Sarstedtis this story but Marie-Claire is a woman.
  • The song "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel is sung to one of these, as the second part of the chorus has the line "Well, you started off with nothin' and you're proud that you're a self-made man."
  • This is a very common theme in Gangsta Rap both new and old, as most artists of that genre had to work hard, usually on the other side of the law, to actually get through life. It would be easier to list gangsta rap songs that don't talk about this trope than those that do.

  • In Capcom's unreleased Kingpin, the Kid becomes this throughout the course of the game.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Surprisingly relevant in the role-playing game Paranoia. The setting of Alpha Complex is a grinding dystopia, but it has no hereditary aristocracy (due to having no hereditary ' anything'' in a society made up of Expendable Clones); even the most powerful of Ultraviolet High Programmers started his/her existence as an anonymous drugged-up Infrared drone. On the other hand, they probably reached their current position not by being a good programmer or even a good citizen, but via lying, bootlicking, bribery, blackmail and backstabbing treachery.

  • Yermolai Alekhseevich Lopajin from Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, who became rich despite starting as a peasant, as a direct contrast with Impoverished Patricians like Madame Ranevskaya, Gaiev or Simeonov-Pischik.
  • Mr. Birling from An Inspector Calls made his way up the social ladder from a lower-class background and intends to become even more successful; this is the ulterior motive behind his support of the engagement between Gerald Croft, from a richer and more prestigious family, and his daughter Sheila. He firmly believes that "a man has to make his own way" and expresses disapproval of "community and all that nonsense".
  • Just like the real man, Alexander Hamilton of Hamilton is born "the son of a whore and a Scotsman" in the remote West Indies, getting to America only by virtue of his talent for writing, and the play chronicles his rise to become the first U.S. Treasury Secretary.

    Visual Novels 
  • Deconstructed with Satomi Kijima in Spirit Hunter: NG. After her parents died, she struck out on her own to try and make a living as a house-keeper. This ended up with her becoming pregnant with a child who grew up in poverty, until eventually, she passed away from her weak constitution, leaving him in the care of his aunt. Had she allowed herself to be taken in by relatives, like what happened with her sister, then she might still be alive.
  • In contrast to demon princes Kakeru and Meguru, Satoru Kamagari of 10 Days with My Devil clawed his way up from nothing to a respectable status in the demon realm's Decadent Court entirely on his own steam. It's greatly informed the way he sees his world: he doesn't believe in trusting others, and instead views the people around him entirely on the basis of whether or not they'd be able to facilitate his further advancement.

  • GF Serendipity: A Gravity Falls Alternate Universe has this as the premise: Fiddleford McGucket and Stan Pines meet in a bar and Stan uses his business savvy to market Fiddleford's laptop and they become multi-millionaires and captains of industry in a couple of years.

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner: Bubs claims to be a self-made man. That's debatable.
  • RWBY: Weiss' grandfather, Nicholas Schnee, was this years before the series began. He not only founded what would become the largest Dust mining company on Remnant but he also personally led each expedition and helped protect them from Grimm attacks. Unfortunately, people in the present tend to forget this and instead associate the Schnee name with Weiss' Corrupt Corporate Executive of a father, Nicholas's son-in-law Jacques. Weiss' main-motivation for becoming a Huntress is to follow in her grandfather's footsteps.
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe. After being thrown out of his wealthy family, he used a payoff from his father and his knowledge of Goodkind Enterprises to make money using derivatives in the stock market; then he put together a consortium and bought out a series of corporate units that he realized would work better when consolidated. As of spring of his freshman year in high school, he's a billionaire.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: With his surfing skills, Tweeg's father earned enough gold to fill a bucket.
  • Arcane: As he himself puts it, being a cripple from Zaun, Viktor didn't have the benefits of a patron or nobility, but nevertheless managed to work his way up to being Heimerdinger's assistant.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes retcons Simon Williams into one. Instead of inheriting Williams Innovations from his father, he built it from nothing.
  • Long Feng from Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's mentioned briefly that he worked his way up to head of the Earth Kingdom's Secret Police from a middle-class childhood. Part of Azula's Breaking Speech is insisting that he could never match her "divine right".
  • DC Super Hero Girls 2019: Implied, as judging by Lex Luthor's parents' clothing style and mannerism, they are country farmers. So Lex may have created his company out of nothing, a rather impressive feat for someone who is still a teenager.
  • DuckTales (2017): Scrooge McDuck made his fortune through hard work, and becomes offended when it is implied that it was due to luck. Unlike his enemies (and Goldie), he never cheats or steals. He had a little help from his dad, Fergus. Scrooge wasn't having any luck with his shoe-shining business so Fergus gave an American dime to a ditch-digger friend, muddied his boots and sent him Scrooge's way. Scrooge never found out until centuries later.
  • Xanatos in Gargoyles likes to call himself a self-made man, but does abusing a time trip and leaving himself a note really count as "self-made?" It does when it's a self-made causality loop. He turned a tenth-century coin that he sold for $20,000 into a multi-billion dollar company all on his own. He could have sent back future financial information on stock, commodity, real estate, and currency markets, but that would be too easy. Xanatos sent himself a coin that he earned for services rendered in the past, maximizing his bragging rights. That's just how he rolls. He drags his father into the loop specifically because he wants to prove to him that he's a Self-Made Man. His dad isn't impressed and gives him a penny as a wedding present (the coin Xanatos gave himself was roughly equivalent to a penny in its own time but priceless as a collector's item after centuries).
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Grunkle Stan had been kicked out of the house by his father for accidentally sabotaging his brother's chances of getting into a top university with only a car and a bag of clothes to his name. He was pretty much on the verge of poverty until Ford finally contacted him. After Ford's disappearance Grunkle Stan rebuilt his lab and turned it into the Mystery Shack, a moderately successful tourist trap.
    • Ford, while only being able to attend a third rate school, was able to complete his PhD and get a research grant. Three years ahead of time.
  • In the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode of I Am Weasel, Weasel is reduced to being a bathroom attendant after his brain is stuck in Baboon's body. Undeterred, Weasel!Baboon provides exemplary service (earning big tips in the process) and promotions. By the end of the episode, he has become just as beloved and successful in his new identity I.M. Baboon as he was prior to the switch.
  • The Stingers from Jem started out as Street Musicians living on nothing before slowly gaining popularity. When they're introduced they're one of the most popular up-and-coming bands. They act like Manipulative Bastards and jerks to anyone but each other.
  • Kaijudo: Alexander Carnahan is one if we can trust on what he said about building his fortune while fighting against Ray in "Gargle, Gargle, Toil and Trouble".
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Hiroshi Sato started out as a penniless kid in the slums of Republic City and became a millionaire by his twenties, all due to hard work and the foresight to see the then-untapped potential in consumer automobiles.
    • Eccentric Millionaire Varrick was a poor seal hunter's son who built up a global shipping business from a single canoe.
  • Virginia's father in Lola & Virginia.
  • Cornelius Robinson, brilliant inventor and industrialist in Meet the Robinsons who is responsible for just about all the amazing futuristic technology found in the year 2037. He is the future self of Lewis, the main character.
  • Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is one of these. From what we get from her parents, she didn't exactly grow up wealthy and refined. She got that way by working hard to improve her skills (she made five elaborate costumes using a sewing machine at the pony equivalent of 11 or 12), getting her own shop in Ponyville, and now sells clothes across all of Equestria. It isn't until Season 6 that she starts opening other stores and even then she helps start them up.
  • Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo: Curdles' background. He used to struggle with an ice cream cart and now, thanks to his hard work, owns a big ice cream business.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Frank Grimes in "Homer's Enemy" is a ridiculously exaggerated example. He was abandoned by his parents, worked delivering toys for rich kids which he would never get himself while studying in his free time, then was caught in a silo explosion, after which he had to rehabilitate himself, teaching himself to feel pain and hear again. His story touched Mr. Burns (another "self-made man"), who summoned him to work as Executive Vice President, only to give the job to a heroic dog at the last minute and send Grimes to sector 7G. Having to work with Homer (who, to put it mildly, doesn't share his work ethic) unhinges him, particularly once he learns of all the amazing things Homer had accomplished despite his laziness (having a big house, hanging out with Presidents, going on tour with The Smashing Pumpkins, going into outer space — would you like to see his Grammy? And the episode only begins to cover it.)
    • Parodied with Mr. Burns, who declares himself a self-made man, but Mr. Smithers responds by pointing out that Monty inherited his money. When Burns glares at him, he hastily adds, "Not That There's Anything Wrong with That." Of course, since Burns wrote on a medical form that the "Cause of Parents' Deaths" was "Got in my way", he still counts. He apparently had many older siblings who all died under "unfortunate" circumstances, mostly poisoned potatoes, leaving him the sole heir. He did, however, gain his entire fortune back in the course of one episode after it was taken away from him. He did this, of course, by recycling, which he still managed to make evil.
    • Herb Powell, Homer's illegitimate half-brother, grew up in Shelbyville Orphanage, washed cars for his college classmates to pay for his education and became a car manufacturer, with said classmates being now his board of directors. Homer ruined this, sending Herb to the poorhouse until he invented a device that translated baby talk. Despite the invention being a success back when it was made and the Simpsons having a baby, the device was never seen in any other episode. In later episodes, Herb was confirmed to be poor again.
  • Eugene Krabs, of SpongeBob SquarePants fame, was born poor, but thanks to the power of the Krabby Patty now owns a relatively small, but very profitable, restaurant in the Krusty Krab, which he converted from a failing retirement home originally named the Rusty Krab. His impoverished background partially explains his Money Fetish.
  • Mr. Ridgemount in Stōked — according to the "Golf Caddy Speech" that he gives to his kids whenever they've done something really bad (such as setting a boathouse on fire or throwing a huge party that got way out of control), he worked his way through college as a golf caddy, and the work ethic he developed ultimately led to him becoming the founder/owner/head of Ridgemount Resorts, an international chain of luxury hotels (the flagship of which is world-renowned surf resort).

  • Parodied in this joke involving Upper-Class Twit woman Pollak von Parnegg, trying to make small talk with an American.
    Frau Pollak: Do you have a father?
    American: No.
    Frau Pollak: Do you have a mother?
    American: No.
    Frau Pollak: Oh, you're a Self-Made Man!
  • This parody article is about a man that literally did everything by himself in his entire life to the point of being a Memetic Badass. Examples include delivering himself from his mother's womb, teaching himself how to walk, teaching himself how to read from books that he, himself, had written, etc.

Alternative Title(s): Self Made Woman