22 Famous People You Didn’t Know Are Middle Children
In honor of August's National Middle Child Day, let us bust a pervasive myth for you: No, middle children aren't worse off than their older and younger siblings! In fact, middle kids have some pretty special talents. Just check out these crazy-inspiring, ultra-successful folks.
Billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett
Investment genius Warren Buffett has a net worth of $84 billion. More impressive: He’s donated nearly $28 billion to charity. He started out life as a middle child, and a brother of two sisters, in Omaha, Nebraska. Buffett was already running a business at age 13, selling a horse racing tip sheet and delivering newspapers on his bike (which he claimed as a $35 tax deduction that year), according to the researchers at the Biography channel. Middle children don’t like conflict and learn to manipulate and negotiate in order to avoid it, says co-author Katrin Schumann says in her book The Secret Power of Middle Children. Those talents can come in very handy later in life, allowing them to finesse deals and get things done.
Social networking guru Mark Zuckerberg
The founder of Facebook grew up as the only boy nestled in between three sisters. “Unhampered by set parental expectations and willing to try new things, middle children are more likely to be innovators than firstborns,” writes Schumann. Zuckerberg has been an innovator from the start—the company he started in college has since changed the way people all over the world communicate, and make or maintain friendships. Middleborns may prioritize friendships over family, says Lisa Lewis, MD, a pediatrician. “Middle children, probably because they feel overlooked, will have a tendency to create stronger friendships and long-term relationships.”
Actor Jaden Smith
The gender-fluid actor shares famous dad Will Smith with older half-brother Trey and younger sister Willow. Jaden and other middle kids have a tendency to “break the mold” and are unconventional or rebellious. On her Facebook talk show Red Table Talk, Jaden’s mom Jada Pinkett Smith told a story about how her husband Will reacted when Jaden was tapped to star in an unusual ad campaign. “When Jaden got asked to do the women’s campaign for Louis Vuitton, this kind of gender-fluid fashion, Will called me,” she said. “‘My son is not supposed to be in a Louis Vuitton ad wearing skirts…Is this a good idea?’ [She answered] ‘Well you know what, Will? This is what he wants. It’s his expression.’ And he said OK. But it was tight. He was afraid, it was uncomfortable.”
Singer/dancer/actress Jennifer Lopez
Lopez grew up in the Bronx with two sisters—older sis Leslie and younger sis Lynda. Lopez started out as a backup dancer on the comedy sketch show In Living Color in the 1990s, then moved on to singing and acting. For middle children, “becoming a performer is a surefire way of assuring that you won’t be lost in the crowd,” writes Schumann. Lopez also embodies some of the other classic traits of middle children, like being self-motivated and resilient.
Diana grew up as the second-youngest of five kids. After marrying Prince Charles and becoming Princess of Wales, she was beloved in England and around the world and was known for her kindness, generosity, and charity work. Many middleborns are natural peacekeepers who are focused on fairness. Middle children learn how to manage conflict among younger and older siblings, says GinaMarie Guarino, a licensed mental health counselor and family therapist in New York. “A middle child will hold a special relationship with each sibling, which helps him or her be able to mediate between the two and provide a balance between the oldest and youngest.” Feeling surprised? Prepare for more as you find out about these famous people who used to be veterans.
Basketball Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan
The famous athlete is the second-youngest of five kids, three boys and two girls. Older brother Larry was also Jordan’s teammate in high school. “We played one year of varsity basketball together when I was a senior and Michael was a junior, and that’s when his play just went to another level,” he told ESPN. “His level of play was just so much higher than the rest of us. People ask me all the time if it bothered me, but I can honestly say no, because I had the opportunity to see him grow. I knew how hard he worked.” If you’re a parent and have kids that do get jealous of each other, try these tricks to stop sibling rivalry before it starts.
Comedian and actress Amy Schumer
Schumer is little sister to half-brother Jason Stein, and big sister to writer/producer Kim Caramele. Schuman became a mom in 2019, and some research suggests that her status as a middleborn may give her a leg up on parenting. “Middles want to give their children structure and rules, but also want them to be free to make choices,” says Schumann.
Honest Abe Lincoln
The president who ended slavery in the United States and helped reunite the nation after the Civil War was the second child of parents Thomas and Nancy. After his mother died, his father remarried—to a woman named Sarah who would go on to become his biggest champion—and he gained three more siblings. Seeing how much Lincoln loved to learn, his stepmom pushed for him to have time off of chores to study. “I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study at home as well as at school,” she said, according to an 1895 biography of President Lincoln in McClure’s Magazine. “At first he was not easily reconciled to it, but finally he too seemed willing to encourage him to a certain extent.”
Guardians of the Galaxy actress Zoe Saldana
The acting business is a tough one, often filled with stiff competition and rejection. But middle children like Saldana are tenacious. “Having staying power in a work situation is critical to success,” writes Schumann. After making it big, Saldana also roped her siblings into working with her, posing with younger sister Cisley and older sister Mariel in an ad for Gap and a spread in W magazine.
“Father of Evolution” Charles Darwin
Darwin was the second-youngest of six children. Although he was an average student in school, Darwin went on to become one of the most influential natural scientists in human history with his theory of natural selection and evolution. He “showed above-average drive and passion for the things he did find interesting, a trait shared by many middles,” wrote Schumann.
Pop singer and actress Miley Cyrus
Miley’s in the middle of her family, between older siblings Christopher, Trace, and Brandi and younger siblings Braison and Noah. While ambition and a drive for performing may lead many middleborns to seek careers in the arts, Miley comes from a naturally artistic family—father Billy Ray is a world-famous country singer. There are many factors that contribute to a child’s personality, says Arlene B. Englander, LCSW, a psychotherapist in North Palm Beach, Florida. “In short, birth order may provide us with informative data in some situations, but we need to look at the whole picture and avoid stereotypes when seeking answers about how persons became who they are today.”
Civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A drive for fairness and a deep need to confront injustice is common in many middle children, says Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the beloved American civil rights leader, was the second-born in his family after older sister, Christine. His little brother, Alfred, also grew up to be a reverend. Find out what else your birth order can reveal about you.
Olympic swimmer Dara Torres
Twelve-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres set her first national record at age 12, and set another national record at age 40 just 15 months after giving birth. Dara’s mother, Marylu, taught Dara and her four older brothers and younger sister how to swim in their backyard pool. Good job, mom! We bet you didn’t know that these 10 famous people had fascinating hidden talents.
Crooner John Legend
Singer John Legend may be even more famous for being a good husband than he is for his soulful voice and stand-out music career, thanks to the adorably funny social media posts by his wife of five years, model Chrissy Teigen. Studies suggest that middle kids are excellent life partners since they have a talent for getting along with lots of different personalities, says Catherine Salmon, PhD, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children. They also appear to be less likely to cheat on their partners than firstborns or youngests, Salmon told Business Insider.
President John F. Kennedy
High-achieving middle children tend to have powerful communication skills, coolness under pressure, and natural leadership qualities, writes Schumann. In fact, a majority—52 percent—of American presidents have been middle children! Other middle-born Commanders-in-Chief: Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. Check out some more juicy presidential trivia with these 45 astonishing facts about U.S. presidents.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates
Middletons are often self-motivated and independent. Take billionaire Bill Gates. He dropped out of Harvard in 1975 to start his software company, Microsoft—and he’s now quite possibly the richest and most philanthropic middle kid of all time. His older sister Kristi and younger sister Libby also spend a lot of their time giving back. Learn about 7 more strengths of middle children.
Suffragist Susan B. Anthony
Some research suggests that later-born kids like middles may be more rebellious and willing to take risks than their first-born siblings, Salmon told Prevention. Legendary suffragist Susan B. Anthony was one of the first American activists to buck the 19th-century status quo and demand that women be allowed to own property and vote. Ever the rebel, Anthony was arrested at age 52 for voting (illegally at that point) in the presidential election of 1872. She was born in 1820, the second of seven children.
Producer/director Judd Apatow
Comedian, producer, and director Judd Apatow has made some of the funniest (and raunchiest) films of the last two decades, including Knocked Up and This Is 40. After his parents divorced, Apatow’s older brother and younger sister moved in with their father. But Judd remained with their mom, who worked at a comedy club. He got a dishwashing job there as a teenager and by 17 years old was up on stage himself.
Quarterback Peyton Manning
You can’t argue with stats: Among other accomplishments on the field, Manning has won two Super Bowls (with two different teams), is a five-time NFL “Most Valuable Player,” and is a 14-time Pro Bowl pick. Little brother Eli Manning is also a famous, two-time Super-Bowl-winning QB. Big brother Cooper, a sports commentator, was set to play football at Ole Miss until he was diagnosed with a degenerative condition called spinal stenosis. Here’s how birth order can predict your health.
Pop icon Madonna
Middle kids don’t exactly grow up in the spotlight, psychologist Julia Rohrer told Prevention. Perhaps that’s why many of them seek, and find, it as adults. Legendary pop artist Madonna has held the whole world’s attention for decades, while some of her seven older and younger siblings have struggled with addiction, homelessness, and other difficulties.
Marvel movie star Chris Hemsworth
Middletons often don’t get as much attention as their older and younger sibs. “It’s easy for them to be left out and get lost in the shuffle,” child and family therapist Michelle P. Maidenberg, PhD, told Parents magazine. But Thor actor Chris Hemsworth certainly isn’t overshadowed now. Although his little brother, Liam, and older brother, Luke, are both well-known actors, Chris has become a worldwide blockbuster.
A whole bunch of late-night hosts
Original Tonight Show host and creator Johnny Carson was a middle child, as are David Letterman, James Corden of the Late Late Show, and iconic former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. “One of the hidden benefits is that middle children…have this sense of independence and they think outside the box a little bit more,” Schumann told NPR. “They’re not afraid to look to their peers rather than always [looking] above them to those higher in the hierarchy than they are, which means that they end up being quite open-minded.” Check out some more definitive traits middle children have.
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