Success isn't built overnight, and Jay Leno is a prime example of that sentiment. Through the entirety of his career, Leno has had numerous amazing opportunities that allowed him to flourish and spread his wings in the entertainment industry; however, this wasn't something that happened instantly.
Born in New Rochelle, New York in 1950 to a mother who immigrated to the United States from Scotland and a father who was the son of Italian immigrants, Leno spent the majority of his childhood and adolescence in Andover, Massachusetts.
At one point while he was in school, Leno's fifth-grade teacher left a comment in his report card that read, "If Jay spent as much time studying as he does trying to be a comedian, he'd be a big star."
From a young age, Leno struggled with dyslexia, though his ailment didn't stop him from thriving. Leno would wind up graduating from Andover High School only to move on to Emerson College in Boston, where he would graduate with a bachelor's degree in speech therapy in 1972.
Leno has admitted that his career had benefited his career on multiple occasions. During one interview with CNBC, he shared, "My mother always said to me, since I was dyslexic, 'You're going to have to work twice as hard as the other kids to get the same thing. I said, 'OK. That seems fair.' And I did work twice as hard to get the same thing."
Leno added, "I remember going to the comedy clubs and people would line up at 6 p.m. for auditions to get a spot at midnight. By 9 p.m. guys would go, 'I'm not waiting in line.' They would leave and then I would move on up."
He started out his career in nightclubs, where he worked most nights out of the year until 1992 when he scored his own late-night talk show. Though this wasn't Leno's first televised gig. In 1977, he made his very first appearance on the Tonight Show, which was hosted by Johnny Carson from 1962 until 1992, when Leno finally took over. There, Leno performed a comedy routine, and would afterward serve as a substitute host for Carson until 1992.
Following his 1977 talk-show appearance, Leno took on a plethora of film and minor TV roles. Some television appearances included the "JJ in Trouble" episode of Good Times and an uncredited appearance on Fun with Dick and Jane in 1977. More major film roles came in the form of American Hot Wax, Silver Bears, and the straight-to-TV movie, Collision Course.
Additionally, Leno had appeared multiple times on the Late Night Show With David Letterman. During this time, Leno had met his wife Mavis while performing a comedy routine in Los Angeles in 1976, at the start of his comedic career; they married in 1980. In 1992, Leno replaced Carson as the host of the Late Night Show, where he would remain as the host until 2009 when Conan O'Brien emerged as Leno's successor.
During his run as the Late Night Show host, Leno had earned a net worth of $350 million. With such a fortune, it's not so much of a surprise to witness philanthropy from the comedian either. In fact, Jay Leno has contributed to quite a few campaigns for social change. In 1988, Jay Leno founded the JDM Foundation, which is where he moves his philanthropy. Issues that he and his wife focus on include education, women's rights, and animal rights.
In 2001, Leno and his wife Mavis donated $100,000 to the Feminist Majority Foundation's campaign to stop gender apartheid in Afghanistan.
In 2009, he donated $100,000 to Salem State University. The funds went to a scholarship that was named in honor of Lennie Sogoloff, who gave Leno his start at his jazz club, Lennie-on-the-Turnpike. Leno's contributions towards higher education don't stop at his alma mater either. He has consistently supported other institutions like Middlesex Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Boston University, McPherson College, and Northeastern University.
Leno is a known automobile enthusiast and has supported Kansas' McPherson College's Automotive Restoration Technology program for years.
In August 2012, Leno auctioned his Fiat 500, and all the proceeds were donated to a charity that helps injured war veterans and provides them with housing while they recover. The car was sold for a staggering $385,000.
Though Jay Leno was well-known as a successful comedian and late-night talk show host, he was also famous for his impressive collection of motorcycles and classic cars. Leno's interest in cars can be dated back to his younger years; the very first car he owned was a 1934 V-8 truck that he restored when he was just 14. (It should also come as no surprise that Leno's choice token for Monopoly is a racecar.) Leno owns over 170 classic cars and 150 motorcycles, one of which was featured in the 1997 Batman and Robin.
One of Jay Leno's most impressive cars to date is his McLaren F1 Supercar; there are only 106 units of this model in the world today.
Although Leno has dozens of classic cars at his disposal, including one of the fastest cars in the world, the vehicle he currently cruises around in is his 2015 Dodge Challenger. It's not a vehicle most people would expect the typical talk-show host to be riding in, but Jay Leno isn't typical.