Jennifer Garner Reveals How Growing Up in Poverty Affected Her Parents

"My mom was so poor that it's just unbelievable that she managed to leave."

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Despite film and TV stardom, high-profile relationships, and industry accolades, Jennifer Garner has remained a celebrity that fans think of as down-to-earth. In a new interview with author Kelly Corrigan, the actor opened up about how her West Virginia upbringing and her mother's experience of living in poverty have influenced her outlook.

"My parents are just salt of the earth," Garner said on Monday night's episode of the PBS talk show Tell Me More With Kelly Corrigan. Her father Billy Jack is from Texas (where Garner was born), and her mother Patricia was raised on a farm in Locust Grove, Oklahoma.

"My mom was so poor that it's just unbelievable that she managed to leave," Garner continued. "As a matter of fact, when I moved to New York after college, my mom said, 'Jennifer, no matter what you do, it'll never be as big of a deal as it was for me to leave that farm.'"

Garner recounted a story from her mother's childhood, when she would babysit for one of the wealthier local families and read their copies of Life Magazine.

"In Life Magazine, she saw pictures of other places and she just wanted to go," the actor explained. "And she found an ad to be a Girl Scout counselor in Maine, and she applied and got on a bus and went to Maine, and it was kind of the beginning of my mom's real itch to see and understand the world. And now she's been to 50 states and to seven continents."

The Alias star's mom also went on to earn her graduate degree after the future actor was born and taught remedial reading at West Virginia State. ("She had a lot of kids who had traveled through the public school system in West Virginia and were in college but were also illiterate," Garner said.) Her father also traveled, which opened up the world for their children, even as they grew up in a state where people tended to stay put.

Jennifer Garner and Kelly Corrigan
PBS

Though Garner is clearly proud of her parents' journeys, she recalled to Corrigan once asking her mother whether it bothered her at all for Garner to speak publicly about her poverty.

"And she said, 'I'm never ashamed of growing up poor. Rather, I am amazed by the grace and dignity that my parents had throughout my childhood,'" the actor remembered.

Garner described growing up in West Virginia as "a real childhood," but noted that her home state "is the bottom of the barrel in education and upward mobility and health." (According to U.S. News & World Report, West Virginia ranks last of all 50 states in economy and infrastructure, 48th in healthcare, and 44th in education.)

"And yet, if you grow up in that place and you've been surrounded by people who look after their neighbors, who take care of themselves…" Garner continued. "I have such a deep pride to be of and from that stock."

Garner's ties to her community are evident in her philanthropic work. She's on the Board of Trustees for Save the Children, an organization with a mission to "[give] children in the U.S. and around the world a healthy start in life." Along with Amy Adams, Garner launched the organization's #SAVEWITHSTORIES campaign in March, in which celebrities shared their favorite books on Instagram to raise awareness and promote donations to support families relying on free school lunches through COVID-related school closures.

For more stars who didn't grow up in luxury, keep reading. And to see what some of Garner's early career peers are up to, check out The Biggest '90s TV Teen Idols, Then and Now.

Read the original article on Best Life.

1
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
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According to Forbes, multi-hyphenate Oprah Winfrey is currently worth $2.6 billion dollars. But the host grew up in extreme poverty, moving constantly as family dropped in and out of her life. She also survived sexual abuse. The turning point came when she moved to Nashville to live with her father and instantly began to succeed in school.

And for stars who've stayed close to their roots, check out 24 Celebrities Who Still Live in Their Hometown.

2
Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton
Shutterstock

Dolly Parton grew up in Pittman Center, Tennessee as one of 12 siblings in a one-room cabin.

"I would trade nothing for being brought up in the Great Smoky Mountains," she told Entertainment Tonight in 2015. "I've never been ashamed of my people, no matter how poor or dirty we might have been. I've always loved being from where I am, and having the folks that I've had."

For celebrities who first broke out during ad breaks, check out 25 Stars You Didn't Know Got Their Start in Commercials.

3
Viola Davis

Viola Davis
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

"I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn't know where their next meal was coming from. And I did everything to get food," How to Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis said at the 2014 Variety Power of Women Gala, per E! Online. She was being honored for her philanthropic work with the child hunger non-profit Hunger Is. "I've stolen for food. I jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I had befriended people in the neighborhood who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame."

For stars who've had other challenges, check out Celebrities Who Are on the Autism Spectrum.

4
Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey
Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock

When future star Jim Carrey was 12, his father lost his job. "We lived in a van for a while, and we worked all together as security guards and janitors," he said of his family on Inside the Actor's Studio (via Digital Spy). It was an experience he called a "kick in the guts."

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Sage Young
Sage Young is Best Life's Senior SEO Editor. Read more
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