Whether you’re a celebrity or not finding out that the parent you believed to have given birth to you was not actually your biological mother or father can lead to hurtful truths, and life-changing moments. These five famous mothers discovered later in life that the person they called mom or dad did not birth them.
1. Priscilla Presley – Actress Priscilla Presley was thirteen when she found out her father was not her biological dad. Her birth father was US Navy pilot James Wagner. At the age of 23, after dating for more than three years, Wagner married Presley’s mother, Anna Lillian Iversen; Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash while returning home on leave when his daughter was six months old. Three years later, her mother met US Air Force officer, Paul Beaulieu, from Quebec, Canada, and married him within twelve months. Beaulieu began raising Presley as his own and was the only father she had known. At thirteen she discovered this “family secret” while rummaging through an old wooden trunk of family keepsakes. Although devastated, her mother pleaded with her to keep it from the other family members and never mention it again. Mother and daughter cried together, and Presley complied, not wanting to hurt the father who raised her. She never even intimated to Beaulieu that he was not her dad. It was then that Presley learned that keeping secrets and lies was acceptable and the truth could be dangerous. The secret was too heavy to bear and she eventually revealed it to her love, Elvis Presley, whom she later married.
2. Sarah McLachlan – Sarah McLachlan was around nine years old when she found out her parents, Jack, an American-born marine biologist, and Dorice McLachlan, adopted her. The Grammy-winning musician, singer, songwriter, and pianist, revealed to American Baby that it wasn’t a big deal when her parents shared this sensitive information with her. “It was like, ‘Oh, okay, good to know, you’re still my mom and dad.’ Perhaps I was too young to understand it really, but it just never was a big issue to me,” the Canadian-born performer revealed. “I never had this empty place in me thinking that I’ve missed out somewhere, or that I was abandoned. I met my mother several years ago — my birth mother — and I’m thankful that she gave me up. Because she was an artist, she was way too young, she was 19 years old. …she wouldn’t have been able to pursue any of her dreams. And instead I’ve got a great family, who loved me and gave me every opportunity to pursue my dreams. It was a gift. It was probably the hardest thing she ever had to do. I’m glad she did it.”
3. Liv Tyler – Liv Tyler’s mother, Bebe Buell, had a seven-year, on-again, off-again, relationship with rock musician Todd Rundgren. In 1976, Buell became unexpectedly pregnant from a brief relationship with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. In 1977, Buell gave birth to Liv. Buell named her Liv Rundgren and claimed that Rundgren was her biological father. In 1986, when Tyler was nine-years-old, Buell introduced her to Steven at one of Rundgren’s concerts, but not as his daughter. “I didn’t know what it was, but I started to see him more, and it would mean so much to me that I would write about it in my diary,” she told PEOPLE in 1992. “I was very confused.” Six years later, when Liv met Steven’s daughter, Mia, who was Steven’s child with his first wife, and the spitting image of Liv, at an Aerosmith concert she realized who her biological father really was. She told the Sydney Morning Herald, “What an amazing thing Todd did for me. Luckily, it just made me feel more loved. I had two dads instead of one.”
4. Essie Mae Washington – American teacher, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, and writer, Essie Mae Washington became famous after she revealed that her biological father was Strom Thurmond. Thurmond was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator from South Carolina. He ran for President in 1948 and was controversial for his stanch support for segregation. Washington was the daughter of Carrie Butler, who was 16 when her daughter was born, and Strom Thurmond, then 22. Butler, who was black, worked for Thurmond’s parents. At a young age Washington was sent to live with Butler’s older sister Mary and her husband John Henry Washington in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Washington believed her aunt and uncle were her biological parents. She did not become aware of her birth parents until she was sixteen when her mom revealed the truth to her, and took her to meet Thurmond in person. After that, Washington and Thurmond kept in contact, but Washington did not publicly reveal “the secret” until after Thurmond died.
5. Demi Moore – Demi Moore’s biological father, Air Force airman Charles Harmon, Sr. left her mother, Virginia after a two-month marriage, before Moore was born. When Moore was three months old, her mother re-married Dan Guynes, a newspaper advertising salesman. At age thirteen the actress discovered that her birth dad was really Charles Harmon, after she found her mother and stepfather’s marriage certificate. She inquired about her birth and that’s when she discovered the truth. In an interview with Vanity Fair she said, “There is a man who would be considered my biological father who I don’t really have a relationship with.” In 1980, two years after he separated from Moore’s mother, Guynes, at age 37, committed suicide. Moore was seventeen at the time.