Whether you’re a doctor, construction worker or an A-list actor, no one is safe from having family scandal and drama. All families have rich pasts full of colorful stories and incredible situations. But there are some celebrity families in particular that have unbelievable family secrets and scandals. While some celebs talk about their family’s drama openly, most of the time they’re kept private until someone leaks the story out or they finally decide to tell their story to the world.
Some celebs tell their stories through autobiographies while some never mention it until the press gets their dirty little hands on the secret family information. You’ll be shocked to hear about some of your favorite celebs’ colorful upbringings and unhinged relatives. While some of these actors and musicians’ stories may be tragic and downright terrifying, they ultimately shaped who they came to be and strongly influenced their work. In many cases, we can’t help but wonder if they’d be as successful in their fields if it weren’t for their unique family histories.
If you’re one of those people who love eavesdropping on your neighbors’ private conversations or reading the latest gossip blogs, you’ll find these 15 celebrity family secrets absolutely riveting. So take a break from your own family drama and dive into some of the dirtiest laundry in Hollywood.
15. Rihanna’s Secret Siblings
We can’t even imagine waking up one day to find out we have a complete second family thanks to our father’s double life…but for R&B singer Rihanna, this upsetting scenario is a reality. Rihanna has admitted that her father, Ronald is a total womanizer. And after hearing about his secret second family in Rihanna’s hometown, Barbados; we believe it. Rihanna learned that her father actually had two sisters and brother each with different mothers. Rihanna didn’t even meet her older half sister until she was fifteen years old, but the two got along well. Rihanna’s father has reportedly suffered from drug and alcohol abuse, proving having sex with multiple women wasn’t his only damaging addiction.
14. Woody Harrelson’s Family Murder Scandal
Woody Harrelson has starred in some seriously great movies: The Hunger Games, No Country for Old Men, Zombieland— the list goes on and on. But the most interesting thriller involving the actor isn’t actually a movie; it’s his family’s dirtiest secret. Believe it or not, Woody Harrelson’s father, Charles Harrelson, was a hitman in the ’70s who supposedly murdered a carpet salesman for $1,500. Apparently after a business deal that was going south, Charles Harrelson was hired to murder the salesman. Harrelson allegedly lured the salesman into a bar, forced him at gunpoint to drive to a remote location and shot him. But since the man didn’t die immediately, Harrelson then strangled him to death. Years later, Harrelson was acquitted after supposed lack of evidence.
Harrelson didn’t learn about his father’s violent past until he was twelve. His father also ran away around that time, leaving his mother to raise him and his brother all on her own. Talk about material for a killer movie.
13. Kathy Griffin’s Pedophile Brother
Kathy Griffin is all about the laughs, so it’s hard to believe her when she talks about her late brother, a convicted pedophile. The public first heard of her older brother Kenny, in her bestselling autobiography, My Life on the D-List. In the book, Kathy Griffin speaks about growing up with her brother and how she felt a violent energy whenever he was around. The comedienne even admitted to witnessing him beating up his wife. Equally as disturbing, Kathy explained how he was sexually inappropriate with her from the time she was just a little girl and how it really shaped the way she perceived the world and herself as she grew up. Kenny Griffin ended up going to prison and eventually passed away. Not so funny.
12. Sofia Vergara’s Murdered Brother
We’re all used to watching Sofia Vergara as the feisty, hilarious Gloria Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family, which is why it’s so hard to believe her actual family has a pretty dark past. When Sofia was a younger girl still living with her family in Columbia, her brother was apparently murdered. To escape the violent environment, Sofia and some of her family members moved to the USA in the late ’90s. However, moving to the states didn’t help them escape all of the family drama. One of the actress’s brothers that moved away with her ended up getting involved with the wrong crowds and developed a record, which resulted in him getting deported back to Columbia.
11. Kevin Spacey’s Nazi Father
Kevin Spacey is easily one of the greatest actors of our time. He’s displayed his incredible range in films like American Beauty, The Usual Suspects and of course, his star role in Netflix’s House of Cards. We can’t help but wonder where Kevin Spacey pulls his inspiration from, and after hearing about his family history, we’re beginning to get an idea. Kevin Spacey’s father was a self-acclaimed Nazi and considered Adolf Hitler to be his idol. Kevin Spacey’s brother has spoken about their father publicly and says the man sexually abused him– but not Kevin. As a way to completely separate himself from his father, Kevin changed his last name to his mother’s maiden name, Spacey. We’d change our name too.
10. Mariah Carey’s Sister Behind Bars
Over the years, Mariah Carey has given us plenty of impressive ballads and catchy pop songs– and disappointing lip-syncing performances. But aside from some basic info about her parents, we never really heard much about Mariah Carey’s family. And we must say, we were pretty shocked to hear about Mariah Carey’s sister, Allison Carey and her criminal past. In 1994, the sisters stopped communicating with each other and since then, Allison has been doing nothing but getting into trouble. Just last year, Allison Carey was arrested for prostituting herself. Apparently, Allison was caught by undercover cops after she offered her services by saying she’d provide her clients with a “sweet, sweet fantasy”. Allison has been HIV positive since the ’90s, and has been trying to get money out of her famous sister for many years now.
9. Jack Nicholson’s Lying Family
Jack Nicholson is a 12-time Academy Award Nominee and two-time Best Actor winner. While we’ve watched Jack play some of the most dynamic roles in cinematic history (we’ve all seen The Shining, right?), we had no idea that his biological family was even more complex. Jack Nicholson grew up with his two parents and sister, June, in New Jersey where he worked in a department store. Nothing too crazy, right? Things took a confusing turn when Jack grew up and learned from a reporter that the two people who raised him weren’t really his parents…they were his grandparents. The woman he believed to be his sister all his life was actually his biological mother, and had given up her parental rights to him at the young age of 17.
8. Rose McGowan’s Cult Upbringing
Rose McGowan is known for her incredible good looks, fun acting roles and the fact that she dated Marilyn Manson (we wish we could forget about that one). Over the years, we haven’t heard much about Rose McGowan’s personal family history. We would have never guessed Rose grew up with parents who were a part of a famous cult called, Children of God. This cult revolved around the preparation for the return of Jesus while practicing good ol’ free love. Apparently, Rose’s parents were very involved in the cult and raised their daughter on a commune. Rose watched women act as servants to men and be mistreated– which what was ultimately drove her to leave the cult. We can’t help but imagine her creepy upbringing inspired her character, Paige Halliwell on Charmed as she fought demons and dealt with many of the show’s off-color characters.
7. Charlize Theron’s Violent Father
Charlize Theron is probably one of the most glamorous movie stars around– and she has the acting chops to back it up. Charlize has played countless dynamic roles, proving to us that she has a lot of layers to pull from. In a T.V. interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC NEWS in 2004, Charlize Theron revealed that her mother had shot her father dead…in self defense. Charlize explained that her father was an alcoholic and would get verbally abusive and sometimes physically so. One night when Charlize was just 15 years old, he took his household gun and began to shoot it in her room. In defense, Charlize’s mom shot her husband and his brother who was also over and becoming violent. Charlize admits she would have done the same exact thing if her daughter was put in the same kind of danger.
Charlize claims that the sacrifice her mother made to protect her inspired her to push hard to achieve her dreams and really make something of herself. That explains Charlize’s fierce determination and drive to help people.
6. 50 Cent’s Mother, The Dealer
Gangster rapper, 50 Cent, otherwise known as Curtis Jackson, definitely lived up to the gangster life persona– there was nothing fake about it. 50 Cent grew up in a borough in Queens, NY known for its intense gang violence. The rapper’s mother was only 15 years old when she gave birth and unfortunately had to turn to dealing drugs on the street to put food on the table. Over the next few years, 50 Cent’s mother, Sabrina became one of the most well-known drug dealers in the area. Sadly she was murdered when 50 was only eight years old; the details are still unknown. 50 Cent also went on to deal drugs and became pretty popular in that world. It wasn’t until he had his first son that he decided to stop dealing drugs and become a rapper.
5. Dylan McDermott’s Mom’s Tragic Murder
Dylan McDermott is known for his roles in shows like The Practice and the film, Line of Fire. However, Dylan’s personal life was a little less positive and a little more frightening. When Dylan was just 5 years old, his mother died tragically due to what they thought at the time was an accidental death. Dylan’s mom was shot in the head. It wasn’t until 45 years later that the death of Dylan’s mother was definitely no accident. Apparently, Dylan’s mother was killed by her boyfriend, a violent heroin addict named John Sponza. What’s even more wild, is the fact that 5-year old Dylan was a key witness to the crime. Sponza has since died and lived a life of crime, violence and drug abuse. If it wasn’t for Dylan opening up the case later in life, he probably never would have learned what really happened to his poor mother.
4. Jackie Chan’s Sneaky Parents
Martial Arts expert and actor, Jackie Chan is known all over the world for his roles in blockbusters like Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour. While we crack up in Jackie Chan’s movies, we never really think about the actor’s family and their very interesting past. When Jackie was born in Hong Kong, China, both his parents were hard working people with little money to their names. However, before Jackie was born, his father was actually a spy for China’s Nationalist government during the pre-World War II era. He was even a member of Shanghai’s organized crime underworld and was ultimately kicked out during the Communist takeover- which is how he ended up in Hong Kong.
3. Joaquin Phoenix’s Family Cult Involvement
Successful actor, Joaquin Phoenix is the second celeb on our list to have grown up with parents who were involved in the cult, Children of God. Joaquin had a very unique upbringing and watched his parents’ controversial behavior from a young age. Due to the fact that his family traveled a lot with other members of the cult, Joaquin was actually born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, eventually Joaquin’s parents broke away from the Children of God cult and changed their last name to Phoenix, representing a new beginning for the family.
Joaquin is also brother to the famous River Phoenix who died tragically of an overdose in Los Angeles back in the ’90s. Joaquin was actually the one to call 911 during the ordeal just outside the famous Viper Room. Talk about a rich family history.
2. Tobey Maguire’s Bank Robbing Father
We can’t help but think of Spider-Man swinging off skyscrapers in the dead of night when we hear the name, Tobey Maguire. Over the years, Toby has definitely made a name for himself in Hollywood with roles in hit films like Sea Biscuit and The Great Gatsby. Tobey doesn’t talk about his family history often, but we were pretty shocked to learn about his family’s colorful past.
When Tobey was just a kid, his aunt died tragically from cancer, leaving two of his cousins behind. Tobey’s parents took in the orphaned kids and raised them as their own, putting a major financial strain on the family. Tobey’s dad was strapped for cash and decided to rob a bank that was right next to their home. He was caught, but didn’t have to do much time at all since it was his very first crime and he wasn’t even armed.
1. Liv Tyler’s Daddy Mix Up
Liv Tyler is one of America’s most beloved actresses. The actress has been seen in hit films like Lord of the Rings, The Strangers and the cult classic, Empire Records. Liv is also famous for being the daughter of Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler. Liv Tyler was raised solely by her mother, a model and singer named, Bebe Buell. Bebe was very young when she gave birth to Liv and assumed the father was musician Todd Rundgren. Todd and Bebe raised Liv and never questioned whether or not they were her biological parents or not. But one day Liv met eyes with Steven Tyler at one of his concerts and the two immediately realized that they were in fact related. Steven and Liv have a healthy relationship these days and love telling the emotional, touching story. Liv has a close relationship with both of her dads and considers herself to be extremely lucky.