There’s an intangible quality about stars that enables their elevated and idealized status. They are larger than life, embodying a level of talent, charm and looks that captivates audiences and draws people towards them. In short, they aren’t like you and me. Except that they are. For every name-on-the-marquee superstar celebrity, there is a person who was once a nobody, albeit a talented one. Still, they had to work to reach their lofty aspirations, with most enduring some of the same struggles that we all face in getting our lives to where we want them to be.
The controlled and carefully crafted persona that most celebrities present in public can often operate at odds with their private self, serving to mask some of the difficulties they’ve faced and the pain they’ve overcome. In some cases, these underlying truths are deliberately kept hidden so as to not muddle the ‘brand’ that these celebrities are trying to market in themselves. Unfortunately, when exposed, those truths can be flashed as juicy gossip by tabloids looking to capitalize on a star’s widely recognized name. In other cases, these are parts of a star’s past that they’ve opened up honestly about, but choose not to dwell on in an attempt to move forward.
Perhaps unfairly, celebrities not only have to answer for their own faults, but also for the mistakes and troubles of those around them. Any story regarding the misbehavior of a parent, sibling or even distant family member will inevitably feature the name of their famous kin prominently, thereby linking them indirectly to any indiscretion that has taken place. These 15 stars have overcome the burden of poor decisions made by their parents, enjoying a thriving career in the public eye despite the imprisonment of those who birthed them. Here are 15 celebs whose parents went to prison.
15. Hayden Panettiere
On the hit show Nashville, Hayden Panettiere‘s Juliette Barnes carries baggage in the form of a drug-addicted mother— that is, until the mother dies of a drug overdose at the end of the first season. Turns out that the storyline on the ABC country music drama series marked a case of art imitating life, only it was Panettiere’s father who was a source of real life trouble for the starlet.
When Panettiere was just 18 years old, her father Skip was arrested on charges of misdemeanor spousal battery against her mother, Lesley Vogel. While Panettiere, herself, had yet to achieve widespread stardom at the time of the charges, the domestic incident was notable for the couple involved. Lesley had gained some measure of fame as a soap opera actress, while Skip was a respected fire chief. The pair finally divorced in 2012.
14. Louis Tomlinson
As only the most hardcore of One Direction fans will be able to tell you, Louis Tomlinson was actually born Louis Austin. In a rare case of a celebrity actually adopting a more awkward stage name in comparison to their real name, the heartthrob pop star rose to fame after taking the surname of his stepfather, Mark Tomlinson. You might think that such a change would represent a deliberate slap in the face to the young singer’s birth father, and you’d be right.
Tomlinson and his father, Troy Austin, have not spoken in years, owing to Tomlinson blaming his dad for the break-up of his parents’ marriage. It certainly couldn’t have helped when, in 2015, Austin was arrested on drunk driving charges and then placed on suicide watch. It remains to be seen whether the relationship between Tomlinson, who is currently pursuing a solo music career, and his birth father will improve after his mother sadly succumbed to leukemia late in 2016.
13. Drew Barrymore
Most movie-goers are familiar with the ups and downs that have defined Drew Barrymore‘s near-lifelong career in the spotlight. Hers is an unlikely path through instant childhood stardom through films like E.T. to some rebellious and troubled teenage years to a redemptive return to stardom as a lovable Hollywood sweetheart. Making her story even more remarkable is how she managed to overcome an unconventional childhood that also included her father John’s checkered criminal history.
Drew’s father was a second generation actor constantly burdened by the shadow of his famous kin, most notably his own father, esteemed actor John Barrymore. The younger John carved out a solid array of acting credits of his own, but was constantly undercut by personal issues that included a litany of arrests for public drunkenness, drug abuse and domestic violence against his first wife, Cara.
12. Justin Bieber
Most Justin Bieber fans are readily familiar with the singer’s somewhat over-bearing mother, Pattie Mallette, with whom Justin has reportedly developed a distant relationship in recent years, fewer Beliebers are as acquainted with his father, Jeremy. While Pattie developed a reputation for being controlling during her son’s rise to fame, her ex-husband is mostly known for, well, being kind of a creep.
Officially, Jeremy has been nabbed on a number of different offenses, including an assault charge. However, other allegations suggest that the charges filed are merely the tip of the iceberg and that he has also been involved in a series of incidents that weren’t reported to police. Allegations against the Stratford, Ontario native include assault against a teenage girl in 2002 and even animal abuse. After appearing for a time as though he was venturing down the same shady path, Justin seems to have thankfully cleaned up his act and moved away from the example that his dad has set.
11. Nicki Minaj
Hip hop superstar Nicki Minaj, born Onika Maraj, credits much of her success to the motivation of her mother, a gospel singer who led the family’s move from Trinidad to New York that ultimately catapulted Nicki to fame. The male side of the Maraj family, however, isn’t quite so inspirational. Minaj’s father and brother have both found themselves on the wrong side of the law, including charges that go well beyond your average minor misdemeanor.
Minaj has opened up publicly about a childhood made volatile by her father’s anger issues. Omar Maraj was arrested twice for drunk driving and was even once arrested for burning down the family home in a fit of anger. Her older brother Jelani, meanwhile, is in a whole heap of trouble, himself. He is currently awaiting trial on charges, laid just months after he got married, of raping a 12-year-old girl.
10. Demi Moore
As far as twice-divorced Hollywood actresses go, Demi Moore has actually done well to keep her family out of the tabloids even amidst two high-profile splits. Moore has seen her nuptials to both Bruce Willis and, later, Ashton Kutcher come to an end, but both splits evidently ended amicably and were handled by all involved parties with class. While it may not seem hard for adults to greet a separation with civility, that hasn’t always been the case in Moore’s family.
Moore’s childhood was a tumultuous one. Her parents separated before she was born, leaving her to go through much of her upbringing with her heavy-drinking mother and stepfather. Her stepfather committed suicide while she was still young, sending her mother spiralling out of control. She soon became known to local police for a string of criminal activity that included drunk driving and arson.
9. Tobey Maguire
Vincent Maguire, the father of Hollywood star Tobey Maguire, might be the most sympathetic criminal parental figure on this list. His criminal exploits— actually, make that exploit— came more out of sheer desperation than any cold, calculated lust for crime and easy money. Vincent was out of work and barely getting by in supporting his one son when his sister died of cancer and left her two children in his care, thereby creating a dire financial hardship.
True to his inexperienced nature as a criminal, his attempt to rob a bank went about as haphazardly as it could have. Not only did he choose to rob the bank across the street in broad daylight and without a mask to conceal his appearance, but he then tried to make off with the money on foot before being spotted with stacks of cash under his arm. The bungled bank robbery seems ironic when connected to Tobey who, while portraying Peter Parker in the first instalment of the Spider-Man trilogy, let a bank robber escape, only to see that same robber later kill his beloved uncle Ben. His dad hardly seemed quite so sinister.
8. Hilary Duff
Last year, Hilary Duff and former NHL star Mike Comrie divorced after six years of marriage. Both sides can only hope that the proceedings don’t turn out as messy as what transpired between Duff’s parents in an ongoing saga that began about a decade prior. Bob and Susan Duff waged war over a two-and-a-half year period in which Susan called her ex-husband a “deadbeat” and claimed that the $10,000 per month that she was receiving in support payments was “not even enough to pay [her] own bills”. Now, Bob wasn’t exactly blameless in this battle, either.
Bob, in fact, got into a whole other level of legal trouble when he started selling off stocks and other personal assets without the consent of his estranged wife. He was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in jail for contempt of the court and was ordered to fork over nearly $400,000. At least part of the money owed was to be earmarked for the 21st birthday bash for Hilary, their youngest daughter and the star of Disney sitcom Lizzie McGuire.
7. Kellie Pickler
In addition to some Southern girl-next-door charm and a killer voice, it was Kellie Pickler‘s harrowing backstory that helped make her an American Idol fan favorite. Pickler’s mother, Cynthia, left when she was just two years old and her father struggled to stay away from the police blotter long enough to properly raise her, leaving her primarily in the care of her grandparents. It probably worked out for the best, as neither of her parents were exactly role model material.
Cynthia would return to her daughter’s life, but still struggled to stay on the straight and narrow. She was convicted of prescription forgery to support a drug habit and was also arrested for writing bad checks. While Kellie’s mother eventually moved beyond her criminal past, her father, Bo, has had more trouble changing his ways. Bo has struggled to overcome drug and alcohol addictions that have gotten him into trouble, more recently serving nearly four years at Florida State Prison for aggravated assault and battery.
6. Dylan McDermott
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Diane McDermott, a case that had been deemed a suicide up until recent evidence offered proof that her death had, in fact, come at the hands of her gangster boyfriend John Sponza. Although he hasn’t said much publicly about it, the saga must be particularly agonizing for actor Dylan McDermott, Diane’s son.
McDermott, after all, has spent most of his life believing that his mother had personal demons which prompted her to take her own life. Now, it’s become clear that his one-time stepfather was the guilty party, only any closure he could have hoped to get went out the door with the gangster’s own murder five years later. When the truth came to light in 2012, police on the case even admitted that there had been enough evidence to press charges years prior, but Sponza’s death had made such charges moot.
5. Lindsay Lohan
The Lohan family has certainly kept police, judges and plenty of other California legal system employees busy over the years. For most followers of Hollywood gossip, Lindsay Lohan‘s checkered history of DUI arrests, drug problems and bizarre on-set behavior are practically old news by now. As it turns out, though, Lindsay’s troubles serve to highlight the fact that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, with both of her parents running afoul of the law at times.
Her father, Michael, is no stranger to legal trouble. He has found himself in hot water on multiple occasions, stemming from a series of different offenses that include insider trading, contempt of court, DUI, assault and domestic violence. While far less versed in arrest warrants, Lindsay’s mother, Dina, is hardly a saint, herself. No, there are no laws against being an exploitative and controlling Hollywood parent or lying about a past as a Rockette. However, Dina was arrested for speeding and a DUI of her own in 2013 and engaged in an argument with Lindsay at their family home that resulted in a domestic violence call to police.
4. Tupac Shakur
During his rap career, Tupac Shakur never shied away from using his music to delve into social and political issues, later inserting himself right in the midst of the tumultuous East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry of the mid-90s. That awareness and activism had been firmly established within him by his parents, both of whom were active members of the Black Panther Party. As such, they weren’t beyond turning to the wrong side of the law to have their voices heard, particularly his mother.
Afeni Shakur was an outspoken Black Panther who was quite familiar to New York City police. She took part in several bombings instigated by the group and, at one time, faced over 150 charges of conspiracy against the US government and New York landmarks. At her trial, she even acted as her own defense attorney before being sentenced to 11 months in prison in 1970. Eventually acquitted of all charges, she would go on to give birth to Tupac one month after her release from prison.
3. Woody Harrelson
The crimes of Charles Voyde Harrelson, the father of Woody Harrelson, weren’t crimes out of passion, they merely represented the job at hand. That’s because Charles earned a living as a hitman. While it’s unknown just how many victims he ‘offed’ during his career, the elder Harrelson is known to have committed at least two murders, having been convicted on a pair of murder charges.
In 1973, Harrelson was convicted for the 1968 killing of Sam Degelia. While out on parole for the Degelia murder, he gunned down US district judge John H. Wood Jr. He would later launch an unsuccessful attempt to escape prison before eventually dying of cancer while still in jail in 2007. His son had begun communicating with him again in 1981 after not being in contact for 13 years and remains open about his father’s past to this day. In fact, he was reportedly urged by Natural Born Killers director Oliver Stone to act like his father in filming the thriller.
2. Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester remains best known for portraying Blair Waldorf on the drama series Gossip Girl, but the multi-platform star has emerged as so much more in the aftermath of the hit CW show. She has since moved onto the big screen, launched a music career and even debuted on Broadway. Meester’s Hollywood success story is made all the more remarkable by the circumstances that she was, quite literally, born into.
Constance Meester was serving time in a federal prison for her part in a widespread drug ring that smuggled marijuana to the US from Jamaica while pregnant with Leighton. When Leighton was ready to arrive, Constance was transferred to a hospital attached to a halfway house facility, where she spent three months caring for her infant daughter before serving the rest of her sentence. Once Leighton became famous, the mother and daughter filed counter-lawsuits against one another regarding the financial support for Leighton’s younger brother, Alexander.
1. Hope Solo
Best known for being the goalkeeper for the US women’s soccer national team, Hope Solo has gained worldwide recognition for her movie star looks and international success, but has also earned dubious attention for a series of controversial public remarks and a 2014 domestic violence arrest. Although Solo is an adult and some of her actions, the assault charges in particular, cannot be excused, her upbringing certainly didn’t do her any favors.
It was her father, Vietnam War veteran Jeffrey Solo, who introduced Hope to soccer and who remained a major influence in her life until his death in 2007. However, it was also Jeffrey who kidnapped his then seven-year-old daughter, along with her brother, driving them to a hotel in Seattle to take them away from their mother, whom he had divorced. In opening up about the incident, Solo remembers thinking that it was a vacation until she realized that it wasn’t. Jeffrey was arrested on kidnapping charges and would not return to her life until her college years.
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