What to Know About Nicole Richie's Parents and Her Adoption Story

Many know Nicole Richie for being part of a famous family and having legendary singer Lionel Richie as a dad, but some may still be surprised to learn she's adopted. The designer was born Nicole Camille Escovedo, though she eventually took on the last name Richie. In 2022, Lionel β€” who took Nicole in with ex-wife Brenda Harvey-Richie when she was a toddler β€” opened up about adopting his oldest daughter to People, saying, "Nicole was actually a godsend."

According to the outlet, Nicole's parents, who were friends of Lionel's, had money struggles when she was a kid, so Lionel and Brenda officially adopted her at 9 years old. Though the couple separated in 1988 and later divorced, Lionel said they were always on the same page when it came to raising Nicole. "Brenda and I went through a very interesting time," he shared in his interview, "We didn't agree on a lot of things, but we did agree on [Nicole]. . . . She turned into a fantastic young lady."

Nicole has the same love for her adoptive parents. In July 2018, she posted a brief but sweet tribute to them on Instagram, writing, "It's #nationalparentsday & these are mine. I love you both and am inspired by both of these hairstyles."

Read ahead to learn more about Nicole's adoption story and her biological parents.

Who Is Nicole Richie's Dad?
Getty | James Devaney

Who Is Nicole Richie's Dad?

Nicole considers Lionel her real father and has referred to him as such through the years. According to Huffington Post, after meeting a 2-year-old Nicole at a Prince concert and realizing her "family situation was falling apart," Lionel reached out to help her parents. "I think we decided that . . . what we'll do to kind of give you some stability was we'll be like legal guardians, but nothing more," he told Nicole during a 2016 episode of the publication's "Talk To Me" series.

In 2013, Nicole spent Father's Day with Lionel and her sister, Sofia Richie, which she documented on her online "#CandidlyNicole" series. Lionel actually credits Nicole for changing his life and defended her adoption in his People interview, saying, "She was a little girl who needed a shot." The Commodores singer added, "She was used to people coming and going. She looked at me and I'd say, 'I'm not going anywhere.'"

Lionel celebrated Nicole's birthday in 2021 with a sweet message on Instagram. "It's showtime !! ⭐️ @nicolerichie You have been rainbows 🌈 and butterflies πŸ¦‹ your whole life … but you will always be my little girl, no matter how many birthdays we celebrate πŸŽ‰ !! πŸŽ‚," he captioned a series of throwback pics.

To this day, Nicole still shows her love for dad Lionel, most recently at one of his shows. On Sept. 18, the singer posted an Instagram video of his two daughters screaming his name and dancing while he performed onstage. He captioned it, "Take your Kids to Work Day turned out well… πŸ˜‚."

Who Is Nicole Richie's Mom?
Getty | Giulio Marcocchi

Who Is Nicole Richie's Mom?

Nicole and her mom, Brenda, have a pretty close relationship if their social media posts are anything to go by. In May 2020, the former "Simple Life" star posted a photo series of her and her mother on Instagram and captioned it, "Dear Mom, I think we would all appreciate a class by you called "How To Slay Every Decade." I love you β™₯️ Happy Mothers Day."

Then in 2022, Brenda wished "sweetest daughter on earth" happy birthday on Instagram, writing to Nicole, "I had no idea I could love someone so very much. I thank God everyday that I have you in my life. You are everything to me Nicole. I am so proud of you each and every day. I love you my Virgo Daughter. πŸ₯°πŸ₯°πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸŽ‚πŸŽπŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰@nicolerichie."

Who Are Nicole Richie's Biological Parents?
Getty | Lionel Hahn

Who Are Nicole Richie's Biological Parents?

Nicole was born to her biological parents, Peter Michael Escovedo and Karen Moss, on Sep. 21, 1981. According to Entertainment Tonight, Escovedo was a musician who used to be part of Lionel's band. Moss, meanwhile, worked as an assistant to Escovedo's sister, performer and famed singer Sheila E., and also toured with the late Prince, per Biography.

In the past, Nicole has talked about her relationship with her biological parents and how she coped with being adopted. In 2007, the mom of two told Access Hollywood (via CBS News) that her first pregnancy encouraged her to mend their bond. "When I found out that I was pregnant, there was just something inside of me that felt a responsibility to mend any issues that I've had with my parents in the past," she said, adding that it "wasn't an overnight decision." "Because listen, I have put them through a lot."

It seems that since then, Nicole β€” who's been married to rock singer Joel Madden since 2010 β€” hasn't spoken about the two publicly so it's unclear if she stays in touch with them. In Sheila E.'s 2014 memoir "The Beat of My Own Drum," she touched on Nicole's adoption and wrote, per the New York Daily News, "The heartbreaking part is that once Nicole Escovedo legally became Nicole Richie, it felt like we lost her. We all lost her."

More Photos of Nicole Richie's Parents
Getty | Ron Galella, Ltd.

More Photos of Nicole Richie's Parents