30 Famous People Who Were Adopted

March 10, 2014 | Posted In Featured | Share

Editor’s Note: While the contours that lead to children entering their family through adoption are immensely broad, the list of people below represent the lives of those who have each been directly impacted by adoption. We acknowledge the unique nature of each story and celebrate the beauty of families built by adoption.

30 Famous People Who Were Adopted

Today and throughout history, there have been many well-known individuals whose lives have been directly impacted by adoption. From the list below, we see those who have made amazing strides in their respective fields, from athletes to entertainers, entrepreneurs to humanitarians, authors to politicians.

While we celebrate the significant accomplishments of each of these individuals, we know that the lives of all children are valuable not because of what they accomplish, but because their Creator has given their lives meaning and purpose. It is with this in mind that caring for orphans in distress carries its proper significance. Show Hope recognizes the inherent dignity of each child as we work to restore the hope of a family to orphans around the world. Click here to learn more about how you can help provide care to orphans with pressing medical needs through our Special Care Centers. Click here for more information about helping waiting children find their forever families by contributing to adoption aid!

1. Maya Angelou (poet and author)

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” – Maya Angelou

2. Augustus Caesar (emperor of Rome)

3. Truman Capote (author)

4. Kristin Chenoweth (actress)

5. Eric Clapton (singer)

6. President Bill Clinton

“Perhaps there is no greater miracle than finding a loving home for a child who needs one.” – President Bill Clinton

7. Nat King Cole (singer)

8. Bo Diddley (musician)

9. President Gerald Ford

10. Jamie Foxx (singer, actor)

11. Newt Gingrich (politician)

12. Faith Hill (singer)

“I have a lot of respect for my birth mother…I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give me what she felt was a better chance.” – Faith Hill

13. Scott Hamilton (professional skater)

14. John Hancock (U.S. Founding Father)

15. Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple)

16. Eartha Kitt (singer, actress)

17. John Lennon (singer)

18. Art Linkletter (TV personality)

19. Nelson Mandela (human rights activist)

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela

20. Tim McGraw (singer)

21. Sarah McLachlan (singer)

22. Marilyn Monroe (actress)

23. Michael Oher (professional football, story inspired The Blind Side)

“It’s true that we can’t help the circumstances we’re born into and some of us start out in a much tougher place than other people. But just because we started there doesn’t mean we have to end there.” – Michael Oher

24. Edgar Allen Poe (author)

25. Priscilla Presley (actress)

26. First Lady Nancy Reagan

27. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

28. Babe Ruth (professional baseball player)

29. Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s, children’s advocate)

“Everyone’s got to be for a child to have a home and love. I mean, I don’t know anyone who would be against that.” – Dave Thomas

30. Leo Tolstoy (author)

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  • Jeannette

    Some of the people on the list weren’t adopted. Bill Clinton was “adopted” by his step-father but that is different than the traditional adoption with no birthparents.

    • CreaturePainter

      I was wondering about that. How many are complete orphans?

      • Jackie

        I’m not sure how many of the people on the list were “adopted” in the traditional sense, let alone were orphans. Nelson Mandela wasn’t adopted, but his father had more than one wife, so it’s possible he had another father figure besides his biological father. Faith Hill was adopted but was not an orphan. Tim McGraw thought his step-father was his biological father until he was 11, but was still raised by his mother. Michael Oher spent most of his life in foster care until he was “adopted” at 17 or so. Maya Angelou wasn’t adopted, although she moved back and forth between her mother and grandmother when she was young. Poe’s father left and mother died, but another couple (the Allans) raised him without ever adopting him. Ted Danson is not adopted, but has adopted children. There are a lot of famous people who were adopted (Steve Jobs, Colin Kaepernick, Frances McDormand), who are not on this list. I would suggest that Show Hope works on a new list and does a little fact checking.

        • Cristy Zubrod-Just

          #15 states Steve Jobs

        • Arlene Hauck Berry

          Dave Thomas and Babe Ruth I know for sure were adopted!

        • cole

          Steve Jobs is on the list…maybe you should read the article and not just skim it.

        • Robin Revelle

          Ted Danson is not on the list

      • drcici

        I agree that the word choice is misleading.

      • redroses

        I am not a orphan I just got taken away from my birth mother. When I was a bought three or four years old.

    • barbara

      I’m an adoption social worker and step-father/step-mother adoptions are just as significant as other adoptions. It tells the child you will be their parent no matter what. Your statement proves that you don’t really understand the significance of adoption in any circumstance 🙁

      • Renata Barnes

        Sorry Barbara totally disagree. First no one is questioning the “significance” of step parent adoption(so you can exhale now) but…I think that those of us who were given up and/or adopted at birth or
        who were orphaned and warded to state institutions and then adopted,
        have had a different adoption experience then those who have at least one biological parent present in their lives. We’ve most likely been in foster care and group homes and have had the experience of being “passed over” or “passed by” and then adopted. Very, very different.

        • Dana

          As an adopted person (in the traditional sense you mention), I don’t think it is fair to discount someone else’s experience because it doesn’t fit your experience. Step parent afoptions are A different experience, yes, but they still have a viable place on this list.

          • Julie

            Well said!

          • KH

            My son was “adopted” by my second husband after his biological father gave up his rights. We do not, nor does he (my son) consider himself “adopted”. So I can see how there is a difference between the two, even though I also agree that having someone in your life is very significant regardless of whether it’s even an official adoption (like Michael oher, which was guardianship I believe). Thanks for the post, it is very interesting!

        • Alex Sawyer

          There doesn’t have to be some kind of competition here. I was adopted by my maternal grandparents after my biological mother abused me and more or less abandoned me. I was essentially discarded, and picked up and taken in by people who loved me. It didn’t matter that they were blood relatives. They could have been complete strangers. They took me in and raised me and loved me.

          Just because a family member adopts you, doesn’t mean there’s never any sense of pain and abandonment involved.

        • casandra

          I totally agree with you

        • Jean Marie

          Amen! I was adopted as an infant. I had an ok childhood….some minor abuse that could have been much worse. I have issues that many adoptees regardless of how they were adopted or their age have.

        • V Schuman

          Renata, as an adoptive mom to both type of adoption, Either way the step-child is orphaned by one of the parents.. Both have the same loss. The only differnce is that 4 of my 5 had poor prenatal care, drug abuse and foster care. But all had a loss

        • Molly

          I have to disagree with your statement. My son (has been with us since birth) is a kin adoption but knows his birth family. By your standards he is not really an adoptee because he was never in a foster home or “passed over”. You cannot discredit step-children who have been adopted because you feel they have not experienced what you feel is the “adopted life”. Some of them go through identity crisis due to name change and feelings of abandonment because a parent signed off their rights.

        • Endorphan Rush

          I was ‘traditionally adopted’ from a Russian orphanage when I was nine, and then adopted by my step-dad after my adoptive dad moved to California. From my experience, being handed down to step parents was no different than being adopted. Due to the fact that in either circumstance the prior relationship to the adopter feels practically identical because they aren’t biological in anyway.

          However, the 5 years of my childhood I spent in the orphanage had a great emotional and cognitive impact on me then if I were to be directly handed down to a step-parent.

      • Cristy Zubrod-Just

        Thank You for your input on this. I totally agree!! People who try to “classify” adoptions and say one type vs. another type is different etc. don’t really understand the significance.

      • Skye

        My husband adopted my son who’s father went to prison for molesting his daughter from a previous relationship. It really IS a big deal and takes a wonderful person to accept that kind of responsibility. The day the adoption was final my husband asked the judge if he wanted to meet his son, brought him into the courtroom, and had him shake the judge’s hand all the while trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears of happiness. My son is a better child because of him making that commitment to him. It speaks volumes to a child who feels abandoned with only one parent.

      • Beth Stewart

        While not discounting Step parent adoption, there is a difference. I was half adopted – that’s what they called sperm donor babies in the 70’s, and there is a big difference in knowing some of your biological family. While there is a hole there it isn’t quite as big as someone who’s full biological history is unknown to them.

      • Nancy jane

        No It doesn’t show that Barbara! You are the one that lacks insight based on your comment above! No one is saying there isn’t a deep relationship when a stepparent adopts a child. The poster meant something else and it went over your head!

      • Mag Pie

        That’s if the adoption actually took place.

      • v schuman

        Thank you!

    • Lynn

      Eric Clapton and Jamie Foxx were both raised by their grandparents. I don’t think they were legally adopted by them.

    • Cristy Zubrod-Just

      For starters, Jeannette, an adoption is an adoption. It matters not the circumstance. In ALL adoptions the birth parents must consent or have had their rights terminated which leaves the child “free” for adoption. If this has happened then obviously the birth parent(s) do not want to be the parent or cannot be the parent as is the case of termination of rights. It is rather ignorant to try to classify adoption as you have attempted to do. And also your statement makes no sense, what do you mean by traditional adoption with no birthparents? In ALL adoptions, there are birthparents!!! My two grandsons were adopted by my husband and I at birth. They both had birthparents. They both were removed from their birthparents due to drug addiction. They both were made wards of the state and we, even though we are grandparents, had to go thru all the hoops as a typical foster/adopt parent would. So, just because these children are grandchildren you say that this was not a typical adoption? YES, it surely was. Had we not stepped up to the plate, these children would have been placed in foster homes, possibly together, possibly not since they were born 3 years apart to different mothers(my stepson is the father of both children.) My husband and I are their parents. We, like many adoptive parents, save these children from being in foster care. Our adoptions of our grandchildren were just as, as you put it, “Traditional” as any other adoption. Frankly, I resent the implication that what we did for our children was “less than” traditional by your standards and that what we did was somehow less important. ANYONE who adopts a child, no matter the case, is a hero to that child.

      • Erin

        For those of you like Cristy here, who throw around the word “ignorant” , YOU are the ignorant one for thinking all adoptions are the same… Hell NO they are not… If you were “adopted” by your step dad or Aunt…. Congratulations!!! YOu still HAVE BLOOD raising you and you know your Medical history and family backround…. For those of US who were orphaned…… You have ZERO clue as to what that is like.. No history, no medical knowledge of anything in your DNA, No one that looks like you…. so please, Dont even try to tell me that its the same….. ITS NOT. And if you havent been through it, then you have no right at all to voice your opinion as if you have.

      • Renata Barnes

        Again, Christy…I said in my comment that being adopted by a parent or relative is very different then being accepted out of the system. I do agree that there is always some adjustment and such that has to happen but there is a starting point for those children(good or bad) that those of us who were in the system, will never have. There is no contest here as someone earlier had eluded to it is just a different experience that although it ends in the same place, the journey is very. very different. Most in family adoptions are much easier then “regular” adoptions(for lack of another term – traditional?). The state seeks to keep families together and often will supply some kind of initial funding to facilitate and encourage such bonds. ” It is rather ignorant to try to classify adoption as you have attempted to do” The government does this, they see that there is a difference on many levels…they classify adoptions and I see no problem with those who are involved in the adoption to acknowledges the differences therein…no I DO NOT believe these demarcations should be used to belittle someone’s experience or diminish the weightiness of the significance of a life altering event like adoption. No matter how you spin it there is a difference when a child is connected to someone through blood. This is not to say that everything with an in-family adoption is honky-dorey it just provides a dynamic that the lack of such does not provide. “I resent the implication that what we did for our children was “less than” traditional by your standards and that what we did was somehow less important.” I don’t know who said that, as it sure wasn’t me, but please don’t get mired down in perceived slights…you seem better than that to me. You have done a good thing and altered the path of a child’s life, giving them ultimately more choices than they may have ever had, more love then they may have known and encompassing all of that…a home. I do know what it is like to live in a ward….most orphaned children who have been in the system for a long period of time know…..a home. That word, “home” is itself, music and lyrics to the soul of a homeless, motherless(fatherless) child that you could never imagine. Be encouraged…and thank you.

    • Molly

      Augustus Caesar is hugely misleading as well. He was “adopted” when he was 18 so that he could be Julius Caesar’s heir. Roman adoption was very different than modern adoption.

    • Mag Pie

      I am guessing you put adoption in quotes because Clinton was not actually adopted? Anything I read indicated he legally changed his name to Clinton but his step father did not actually adopt him. Is that what you meant?

    • V Schuman

      But He was adopted. Adopted by a person wh looked beyond blood line and stepped in to raise him.

      • TJ

        But his stepfather abused him. He was a success despite his adoptive parent, not because of him.

  • Jennifer Johnson Hopkins

    Tim McGraw was adopted by his stepfather.

    • MissLady

      Tim’s step father was an alcoholic monster.

  • Courtney

    Many children adopted are on technically “orphaned” since many US adoptions are b/c of termination of parental rights or step-parents adopting, and the adoption is still significant.

    • Amy Peterson

      Maybe I’m not understanding correctly. Stepparent adoption means the child is not orphaned at all, but is still with one biological parent and the other parent may be still alive and may even still see the child sometimes, but cannot be saddled with child support.

  • Shawn

    My goodness people when a step-parent is allowed to adopt a child that means one parent was ok with given them up. Which is just as much of an impact on a child as having no parents. I know because my baby brother was my cousin first and became my brother because his parents gave him up. Which has effected him his whole life. So please don’t make it out as if it is no big deal if a step parent adopts a child their pain of a parent giving them away and not loving them enough to keep them is still real.
    Thank you for understanding!

    • drcici

      I agree. My stepfather wanted to adopt me, but I couldn’t wrap my head around my bio-father just giving up and washing his hands of me (even though he knew nothing about me). It’s still an emotional ordeal deal…

      • RW1614

        Maybe the idea that a parent has allowed the adoption because he understands that he just is not able to be a parent. Mental illness is not abandonment. If the parent relinquishes rights to a step-parent he likely sees a caring and loving family where all he can provide is misery, poverty, and depression.

    • Amy Peterson

      I am struggling to understand, but I don’t. Sometimes stepparents adopt when they’ve married a widow or widower, so that if something happens to the other parent, the stepparent can continue parenting the children he or she raises in the same home. My boss is now “dad” to three children whose father is I believe in jail/prison. I am not sure if he has adopted them or will. He and his wife also have one child together. The three older children, elementary school aged, seem to adore their “dad” and have absolutely no issues at this point with any of it.

  • Christy

    I have a “stepson” whom I’ve raised since he was a year old. We have adopted my nephew that became a ward off the state but still sees his father. We’ve adopted his sister who had no blood relation and who had limited contact with us until our family stepped in. Neither of her parents in her life. I also have two biological sons, one of which has passed away. With our very blended family, I can tell you this…every kid is different. Adopted, step, losing a sibling. The one out off this group who you would think would have the most trouble with some of your standards handles it the best. She is content. It depends on the child. Adoption, raising a child that isn’t your biological child, dealing with a loss… the child feels wanted when someone else made them feel unwanted or just the want of something else. Rather it’s two parents or one or the togetherness of siblings filled some of the void. LET THE KIDS KNOW THEY AREN’T ALONE AND QUIT BEING SO NIT PICKY about this or that. Maybe if someone is feline that harsh about details of adoption they haven’t come to terms with the life you have and the life you didn’t.

  • Jeff

    How could you leave off Jesus?! He was adopted by Joseph. 🙂

    • Urban

      True, but his Father never gave up his rights.

      • Jeff

        I like that!

      • MaryQ

        We Catholics say Joseph was Foster Father to Jesus.

    • Imagine~

      Well said~

  • Cas

    When I was 16, I found out that the person that I had been raised to believe was my sister was actually in fact my bio-mother. I was raised by my bio-grandparents from the time I came home from the hospital after being born. I can honestly say that I feel that my adoption shares just as much significance as any other adoption out there, whether it’s a step-parent adoption or an adoption of the “traditional sense”. My bio-grandmother or as I have and will always call her, my mother is my MOTHER. My bio-mother, or my sister, is just that … my sister… she is and will not be anything more than that.

    • MajorStyles

      “When I was 16, I found out that the person that I had been raised to believe was my sister was actually in fact my bio-mother.”

      You have the same story as Ted Bundy then – I hope you take a different route.

      • Susanne

        Oh for pete’s sake…was that comment really necessary?

        • MajorStyles

          Hers or mine?

  • Joe

    Shania Twain and of course Superman.

  • Christina

    To all the people who are discounting step adoptions I’d like to respectfully disagree. I was adopted twice. I was abandoned, adopted, abused, and put up for adoption a second time. My mother was adopted by her stepfather. She has lasting scars from her bio family not wanting her that are far deeper than my own experience. To discount step/grandparent adoptions seems wrong because they too stem from trauma and loss and grief.

  • Alex Sawyer

    John Lennon was raised by his aunt, but I don’t believe she ever legally adopted him.

    • CJ

      I don’t think the list was meant to include only those adoptions that the law might recognize, or only those “adoptions” that happened for a very young child. Does it have to fit a legal definition of adoption to be “real”? My daughters are what the law considers legally adopted, but my sons are mine through a permanent transfer of custody and legal name change. Are my sons any less “adopted” than my daughters? Not in my house!

  • Jackie

    I was taken by the state at six years old, put in foster homes till I was introduced to my adopted family at 9 years old. My daughter is going to be adopted by her stepfather because her real dad wants nothing to do with her. To me both stories are equally important because we both with be or were raised by people that wanted us.

  • Christine

    What on earth is wrong with all you people!!! Adoption means you are raised by someone who loves you no matter what. Doesn’t matter if you have their blood going through your veins or their name behind yours. For those of you that made the statement, “you don’t know what its like if you haven’t gone through adoption” shame on you. You make it sound like a disease. You should thank God that you were adopted by loving parents and not in an orphanage or in the foster system and moved from family to family. Abused by my mother in the 50’s the only alternative my father had was to leave me and my sister with my grandparents. Not adopted by them and not abandoned by my father and mother for that fact, it made no difference. I was loved and that is all that mattered. All of you naysayers need to remember that love is all that matters, yes allllll that matters.

    • Imagine~

      Love matters, then the files are sealed so no medical data. It IS different!!!

  • jaime

    Priscilla Presley was raised by her biological mother and adopted by her stepfather.

  • Leslie Slavens

    These are poor examples of what we call ‘adopted’. Many were adopted by an aunt or grandparent because their own parent was too young or unmarried. Maya Angelou went to live with relatives, but her mother was always in her life. Marilyn Monroe was an orphan and no one really ever stepped in and became a real parent to her. Some were adopted by step parents. I appreciate the sentiment here, but this is not about orphans finding good homes. How about a list of real adoption stories that qualify as such?

  • Mag Pie

    Anything I read said Bill Clinton took his step father’s name but was not adopted by him. Also Gerald Ford’s mother married Ford and they called Gerald Jr but he was never formally adopted. Who put this list together?

  • Michael

    The article is prefaced by, “We acknowledge the unique nature of each story…” The varied opinions of what adoption is or is not prove this statement. My unique story is that my wife and I raised three biological children (now 37- 40), and adopted our biological granddaughter as a baby (now 8) in an open adoption. There is no difference between them as our children, other than the age difference, and that our little girl understands everyone’s “biological” and “real” places in the family. While in his 20s, my wife’s father discovered by accident that he was adopted as a baby. He finally found his biological family when he was in his 60s, and learned that his adopted parents had lied to him his whole life. Both of these situations, like all these others, are nearly infinite in complexity, but are all still “adoption.”

  • Carden

    Wow. As I read comments, I am blown away. Show Hope is a postive, Christian organization that promotes adoption no matter what the “circumstances” are. Many of you are overlooking the WHOLE picture. Stop arguing and be proud there are people willing adopt children–whether or not blood relations are involved. Quit dirtying a beautiful thing.

  • Snoopygal

    The path to how someone received the benefit of adoption is not the significant point. All adoption stories are unique (yes there are similarities) and there are many forms of adoption. Some have very hard beginnings and some with very difficult circumstances and some with very lengthy hard fought battles. I don’t believe the writer meant to have a competition about about what type of adoption is the most significant. To the child adopted or the parents adopting – theirs “version” is the most significant to them. It is not appropriate to try to lessen someone else experience or love because their experience was different from the path that you walked. What the writer wanted to show is that people are touched by adoption in many different ways and it can be a major factor in the shaping of their life. Not all adoptions are formal or legal – due to circumstances – some adoption are only in the heart. The point with adoption is that someone steps in to care for, support and love when a birth parent was not able or willing. Instead of throwing stones about what form of adoption is real and what is not – let’s all remember that God stepped in to adopt us when there was no one else that could save us. It wasn’t done in a court and for many – both birth parents would have been willing – just not able. Focus on the love behind adoption not the circumstances that made it necessary. And pray for all of the many children all around the world that do not have any type of parent or family or home.

  • Ana

    I’m adopted, and all these people make me really proud of all the people in the world who are adopted and have made it far in life.

  • Scarlet

    How is Bob Weir not on this list? He tops all these people!

  • redroses

    I am adopted and I got adopted at the age of seven years old. I wish that I was not adopted because I cry every night even though I am twelve years old. It is very sad and I even cry at high school because I remember what has happened to me. I got put into a foster home for two to three years. Then I got adopted my a family which I hate. I wish I could just kill myself . I think it was my own folt because I was born. I have some friends which don’t believe I am adopted, but some friends do believe me. I bet some of this people aren’t adopted because if you ask them what happened to them, they would make something up. I would now if they are making it up. If you asked me what happened I could tell you straight way because I have been through it. I bet they haven’t been through it. Even now I am crying because it is really sad to go through it.

    • Amber S

      I am so sorry to hear your story @redroses. Please know and believe that God has plan for you..You are loved…loved much! I don’t know your situation but obviously you are not feeling loved. Sometimes we can put walls up too….I pray you will sense God’s love and God’s comfort and reach out to someone for help. Everyone deserves to be loved. When you say you hate your adoptive family…if there are issues then talk to a counselor at your school. You deserve love and maybe they need to know how you feel. I will be praying for you.

  • unk+nown

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    Here in the Southern Colonies we make our settlers as happy as possible.We are always on the job and lending hands to those who need help. “Our colonie is one of the best to live in!” There are no dangers and our Colonie is Sickness free, Carefree, But that does not stop us from working hard! We are always have good spirits, even in hard times. We have a great Government and help eachother out, Everyone is wishing that they were part of our happy little colonie. We give tours and we have lots of friendly people and good teachers at good schools for your children to attend. If you would like to be apart of our Maryland Southern Colonies you can book a ship ride here now! Also we support your family with any need you have for the first month free , book your ride now and we’ll be waiting here at the Southern Colonies Of Maryland.

  • Always Overlooked

    There are also many children, abandoned or abused by one parent, but still raised by the loving parent, who experience the exact same trauma and loss as adopted children. The loving parent, while having given birth to them, also steps into the place of caring for these kids with extra needs, and most times are not eligible or offered the same services as adoptive parents. Often times, these children are still exposed to ongoing abuse, since family courts do not recognize children’s rights over parental rights. The child’s needs, as well as their primary caretaker are also important. If we’re looking at it from the standpoint of the children, it doesn’t make a difference to them if only one parent abandons them, as opposed to two. I wish this were recognized more, because so many children from single parent families are forgotten. Adoptive parents are seen as heroic (rightly so) while single parents who fight for their children and break away from abusive situations, or those whose spouse has abandoned them are often seen as irrespomsible or somehow blamed, and not supported in the same way adoptive parents are, even though the kids are in exactly the same place emotionally. Just because a step-parent doesn’t step in and adopt them, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same needs as those who are lucky enough to be blessed with that. I wish there were a place for these kids to get help as little ones, outside of government agencies that are usually focused on low income or high crime situations. My children don’t fit in most categories, so they are mostly forgotten.

  • Les

    My husband and I have a 15, 13, and adopted a 2 year old CL/CP from China and what a precious blessing! If we had 30,000 dollars we would do another one yesterday! I no longer have a job and all the paper work hat goes along with it and bills after returning home is very difficult. We are still paying off medical bills! I wouldn’t trade it for anything, so
    Thankful so many people walked along side is and experienced adoption with us! May God do a work in other Christians to adopt or provide for those with a willing heart!

  • Danielle

    Moses was adopted! Where would we have been had he not been pulled from the river and given a home?

  • djny10003

    Somebody whose mom remarries and then is adopted by the stepfather (Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Nancy Reagan) is not really adopted in my book. I’m really adopted; no knowledge of my biological parents.

  • ChrisFragger

    Just how many people whom were aborted grew up to become rich, famous, and or influential? If I had to guess… And it be a tough guess mind you… NONE?