Businesswoman and multi-millionaire Rachael Ray has come a long way from her humble beginnings as a self-proclaimed “hick from the sticks,” (via 20/20). 

Since her carefree days as a child growing up in Lake George, N.Y. (per Biography), the mogul has gone on to put many feathers in her cap, including celebrity cook, author, talk show host, kitchenware designer, and even CEO of her own pet food company. Per E! News the titan was worth a whopping $80 million in 2019 thanks to her many endeavors. And she does not appear to be slowing down any time soon! In fact, Ray relishes in her busyness.

So how did Ray come to acquire this level of professional success — success that the famous television personality humbly chalks up to “a happy little accident (via Good Housekeeping)? And how has it affected her life since? Keep reading after the jump to find out!

Rachael Ray came from meager beginnings

Don’t let the staggering net worth fool you. Rachael Ray hails from very meager beginnings, including two divorced parents at the ripe old age of 13, per an interview with ABC’s 20/20. Instead of employing a babysitter, her single mother often resorted to taking her children with her to her blue collar job working as a restaurant manager. “I’m a pale comparison next to her,” Ray said about her mother, Elsa Scuderi. “My mother worked 100 hours a week, and wouldn’t bat an eyelash. All my life she was iconic to me, she was my first Oprah. … She was like the person I looked at, and I said, ‘Wow,'” she recalled about her mother’s work ethic. 

Ray’s Sicilian grandfather was also of great influence to the future mogul, per NPR. After an embarrassing incident in which Ray turned up for her first day of school in her decidedly best outfit and toting her favorite lunch, a sardine sandwich, she says she was immediately labeled “the stinky girl in the funny clothes with the funny shoes.” But it was her grandfather that taught her that vanity had no place in her life. “There’s plenty in life that you have no control over that you will cry about. Certainly your vanity should never be one of them, you know?” Ray recalled about the wise mantra her grandfather ingrained in her. 

Rachael Ray worked her way from the bottom up

While Rachael Ray has undoubtedly landed on the top of the celebrity food pyramid, she was not shy about rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty. 

As reported by Forbes, Ray’s first jobs included working as a dishwasher and a waitress. “I literally grew up in restaurants, and kitchens, and walk-ins, and that’s just the environment I felt most comfortable in: unloading trucks and stuff, and cleaning shrimp, and cleaning out the walk-in, and just being around hard work and food. It felt very normal to me,” the talk show host recalled during an interview with the publication. But she was quick to credit her mother for the work ethic that was instilled in her at such a young age. “My work ethic and my love of working in food started when I was literally on my mom’s hip as a child,” Ray maintained.

When asked what some of the lessons were that her mother taught her, Ray quickly rattled off, “Work harder than everyone else and never complain about it.” Sounds like pretty solid mother-daughter advice, eh?

Rachael Ray initially rebuffed the idea to appear on television

Rachael Ray’s first television gigs were not exactly the big break she had been dreaming of initially. 

During an interview with NPR, Ray confessed that her initial knee-jerk reaction was to rebuff the idea of appearing on television after being approached by the Food Network. “I don’t know that I thought I wasn’t worthy of it. I just thought, well, that’s not me. That’s for other people. You know, that’s just not me,” Ray explained. “I serve people. I’m the service person. I wait on people that are on TV. I’m not on TV. And, you know, that’s what I told Food Network. But they said I was wrong, and come on back and sit down. So I did,” Ray added. And the rest is simply history.

Ray was quick to admit, however, that she still feels out of place in the spotlight. “Every time I put high heels on and I have to go somewhere in a dress, I feel uncomfortable,” she says. “I’m not supposed to be at the party.” We have a feeling her bevy of fans would disagree, though.

Rachael Ray has not escaped controversy

Even with so many adoring fans, Rachael Ray has not escaped controversy completely. 

In fact, America’s sweetheart found herself squarely in the midst of Mario Batali’s scandal involving sexual assault allegations when she publicly came to her friend’s defense, as reported by NPR. While she was careful to explain that she had not spoken with him specifically regarding the allegations, she was adamant that she would not desert her friend while in the midst of the scandal. “I don’t think it’s fair. Once people have gone through something that’s so traumatic and dramatic.”

She went on to explain during the interview that she, too, knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of intense public scrutiny. “I am not that person. I hate it when people do it to me, bring up something that’s hateful, like for years and years, I’d go to interview after interview and people would bring up the Web site I Hate Rachael Ray or show me clips of other professionals that are food people that are on television. And they would play them saying, you know, whatever about me,” Ray revealed.

Regardless of what the naysayers might spew, Ray’s continued success speaks for itself.

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