Celebs manipulate the public, and they’ve been doing so for many years. It is a phenomenon that started in Old Hollywood. Back then, getting a big news break was crucial to success. For the film Gone With The Wind, David O. Selznick publicized his search for the perfect Scarlett O’Hara. 1,400 women were interviewed for the role, which eventually went to Vivien Leigh. The talent hunt was widely publicized. Not much has changed as talent searches are still vastly popular.
Nudity is another thing that still works as a quick way to garner some fame and attention. In the 1934 classic Cleopatra, audiences were shocked when star Claudette Colbert stepped into a milk bathe. Little was shown in the way of actual nakedness, but it was tawdrier than anything audiences had seen before. The sensationalism of it all led to new box office records, and would spurn countless copycats.
Today, nudity isn’t that big of a deal, so celebs have to stage new, innovative PR stunts to get our attention. The following publicity stunts were incredibly obvious. They fooled no one, and in many cases seem unnecessary or even detrimental to the celeb’s career. Usually, a publicity stunt should serve a purpose, such as to promote an upcoming film release or album drop. Some stunts seem to serve no other purpose than to make the public stand up and take notice. These celebs are attention hustlers, and there’s no real rhyme or reason behind the stunts they create.
15. Miley Cyrus Allows Fans To Grope Her At Concerts
Miley is another one who could fill a book with her long list of publicity stunts. She shed her good-girl Disney image to twerk on a bad-boy at the VMAs, and since then she’s tried to outdo herself. She’s using overtly sexual performances to drive attention her way (and, it’s working).
Before her VMA’s performance, Miley was featured in about 313 news stories per day. After the VMAs, that number shot up to more than 1,600. Once she and her team of publicists concluded the value of strange, weird, and overtly sexual behavior, Miley flew right off the handle. She released an album called “Bangerz,” swung naked from a wrecking ball, and most recently allowed fans to grope her while she performed.
Lots of videos have emerged of Miley’s strange behavior at her concerts, but none is more sensational than the one of Miley presenting herself to off-stage concert goers and allowing them to massage her sexually while she performs. She also kissed a few of them on the lip. She knew her fans were recording and the videos would make it to YouTube, which is how Miley continues to stay relevant. And, maybe she sells a few more concert tickets to people looking to cop a feel on the young superstar.
14. Ray J Releases Song About Kim K Titled “I Hit It First”
In an obvious publicity stunt to promote album sales, Kim K’s ex-boyfriend, and infamous sex tape partner, Ray J, released “I Hit It First.” The song was clearly about her with lyrics stating, “She might move on to rappers and ballplayers/But we all know I hit it first.” Although Ray J initially denied the song was about Kim (perhaps fearing a lawsuit), it’s undoubtedly about her considering the single’s cover art features a pixelated photo of one of her most famous naked photoshoots.
The song never quite made the charts, and that’s probably a good thing considering he referenced Kim’s daughter and husband’s names in the most disgusting way ever. The lyric, “I had her head going North and her a** going South/But now baby chose to go West…” To be fair, Kim was pregnant with North when the song dropped, so it’s unlikely Ray J knew she’d name her that. It’s still a pretty shameless attempt to make money off the popularity of his failed relationship though.
13. Alicia Vikander’s Fake “Ava” Tinder Profile
To promote the film Ex Machina, publicists created a fake Tinder profile for the AI character in the film. Alicia Vikander is clearly very beautiful, so her photos drew in an abundance of swipe rights from hopeful males in Austin, TX. Too bad for them, Vikander wasn’t managing Ava’s profile, but rather a bot was writing responses to any messages she received from connections.
“Ava” would say hello to the curious male, then coyly ask if he’d answer a few questions. Most guys dove at the opportunity to talk to her. Her first question, “Have you ever been in love?” After a few more questions, Ava directs the unwitting participant to check out her Instagram where they learned the truth that Ava wasn’t a real person, but rather a bot created to promote a film. The publicity stunt took place during the SXSW festival, and was designed to not only promote the movie and generate a news buzz, but also build up a following on Ava’s Instagram page.
12. Kim And Kanye’s Public Feud With Taylor Swift
Kim K is the reigning publicity stunt queen, so-much-so she could fill this entire list with the stunts she’s orchestrated. From her sex tape with Ray J to her recent hiatus from social media, she exploits any opportunity for attention she can. This includes her husband’s ongoing feud with Taylor Swift, which started back in 2009 when he famously interrupted her VMA acceptance speech.
For a while after, it seemed Kanye and Taylor were all made up. He sent her flowers, which she showed off on her Instagram. She presented him with the Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 VMAs. She made up a BFF name-sandwich hashtag for them: #KanTay2020. And, he called her a bitch in his song Famous, and insisted they’d probably hook up someday because he’s responsible for her career…Oh, wait, that’s not friendly at all…
After Taylor lashed out about the song’s lyrics and claimed not to know they’d be so harsh, Kim released a recorded conversation between Taylor and Kanye proving the opposite. Kim also brought up the incident on an episode of KUWTK. The whole thing is an obvious publicity stunt, but the real question is: what was Taylor Swift’s role in it? Is she an unwitting participant or in on the antics?
11. The Kristen Stewart Twilight Cheating Scandal
Remember when Kristen Stewart got caught cheating on Robert Pattinson with her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders? Her infidelity marked the end of her four-year relationship with Pattinson. Except, the Twilight stars weren’t a real couple. They were a fake relationship created by publicists to sell extra movie tickets, and to promote the idea that Bella and Edward’s real-life counterparts were just as in love as the characters they were playing.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the relationship between Stewart and Pattinson wasn’t real, including the actors themselves. In a 2016 interview with T magazine, Stewart says her relationship with Pattinson was “made into a product,” and that she never wants to find herself playing roles in her personal life again. “I don’t want to become a part of a story for entertainment value,” she said.
It’s hard to say if her affair with Sanders was to promote Snow White and the Huntsman, or if this was Stewart taking control over her personal life. Either way, it ended her fake relationship with Pattinson. Unfortunately for Sanders, his wife divorced him.
10. Bey And Jay Are Getting Divorced
One of the best things to come out of 2016 was Beyoncé’s one-of-a-kind visual album, Lemonade. Throughout the album, Beyoncé reads poetry by Warsan Shire and her lyrics question the loyalty of her husband. This led a lot of listeners to speculate that her marriage to Jay-Z was heading for divorce, and who could blame anyone for thinking that? Lemonade’s lyrics are mostly about what a woman does with a man who can’t stop philandering, including a line that states: “This is your final warning… If you try this s**t again, you lose your wife.”
Only Beyoncé and Jay-Z never broke up, and the rumors fueled massive album sales (and TIDAL downloads). If they were doing so poorly, why did Bey release the album exclusively on his listening app, TIDAL, and no other? If you’re feeling played, rest assured there’s probably some truth to Lemonade. For a period of time, the Carters weren’t doing so hot, and there was likely to be a problem with infidelity, which prompted the couple to seek counseling.
9. That Time Madonna And Britney Spears Kissed
In case you were wondering (you weren’t), that kiss Madonna and Britney shared at MTV’s 20th annual VMAs was a publicity stunt. Shocker, right? Like the rest of the stunts on this list, it doesn’t take a genius to know that their shared kiss was an obvious grab for attention. And, they were smart enough to build up the hype too.
Madonna had teased fans that she would be revisiting her famous 1984 performance of Like A Virgin, which had her rolling on the stage in a wedding dress. Except Madonna didn’t wear her iconic wedding dress; instead, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera wore wedding dresses and Madonna stormed the stage in a three-piece suit. Then, she made out with Britney because how else are you going to get people to pay attention to you?
8. Taylor Swift’s Short Lived Romance With Tom Hiddleston
Thought Hiddleswift was the real deal? Probably it was a publicity stunt arranged to increase Tom Hiddleston’s star power and help people forget about Taylor Swift’s failed engagement to Calvin Harris. The relationship lasted only three months, and the first three weeks were spent walking hand-in-hand anywhere they could be photographed by paparazzi.
A number of media outlets have reported that Taylor leaked the breakup. Why did she care if the tabloids knew about the breakup if the whole thing wasn’t a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt? It makes sense that Taylor would want to direct attention away from the bad press she received all summer, including the infamous leaked audio of her phone call with Kanye West, which caused the Internet to brand her a snake.
7. Joaquin Phoenix Went Crazy And Launched A Rap Career
Remember when Joaquin Phoenix quit acting to launch a rap career? No one could tell this meltdown was a publicity stunt because it was so well acted. Phoenix seemed to be experiencing what many in Hollywood experience, a complete and total meltdown fueled by drugs and alcohol. At a performance at a Miami nightclub, he drew boos while rapping incoherently and then he fell of the stage. As a guest on Letterman, he acted even stranger, was uncommunicative, and answered the host’s questions with curt responses.
He’d put on some weight, grew a shaggy beard and long hair, and repeatedly embarrassed himself to prove to the audience that he’d gone insane. Yet, the whole thing was an elaborate promotion hoax designed to draw attention to his and Casey Affleck’s mockumentary, I’m Still Here. The film is a comedy-drama that features some startling scenes, but nothing in it is real and neither was Phoenix’s post-release behavior.
6. Katie Holmes’ Marriage To Tom Cruise
Since Katie and Tom announced their engagement, rumors have circulated that the whole relationship was a sham. There’s this urban legend that Tom approached a few Hollywood starlets and offered them a “marriage contract,” which would include plenty of money and star power (even more if an heir was produced). The scary thing about this urban legend is that it’s kind of true, except it wasn’t Tom that vetted his potential wives, and there’s no proof that a marriage contract exists or promised fame and fortune to the bride.
What is true is that the Church of Scientology interviewed a number of potential brides for Tom. These women signed nondisclosure agreements and then Tom would try them out. According to Tony Ortega, editor-in-chief of the Village Voice this is a “standard procedure in the church.” Creepy.
Unfortunately for Tom, his and his church’s plan to Stepford Wife Katie backfired. The young starlet ended their marriage after five years, and she severed her ties to the Church of Scientology. It’s widely reported that she and Tom remain estranged, and that he makes little effort to see their daughter Suri.
5. Sasha Baron Cohen Spills A Real Dictator’s Ashes
Sasha Baron Cohen is a master of publicity stunts. He uses his film’s characters to cause splashes wherever he goes, thus promoting his films in a hilarious and memorable fashion. While promoting his film Bruno, he was filmed falling onto Eminem while wearing assless chaps. Eminem was in on the stunt, but played his role well. He stormed out pretending to be mad at the actor. To promote his most recent film, The Brothers Grimsby, Cohen handcuffed himself to Matt Lauer on the Today show.
Although all of Cohen’s publicity stunts are memorable, none hit a nerve as much as his promotion for The Dictator. On the red carpet for the 2012 Academy Awards, Cohen arrived in character and carrying an urn he claimed held the ashes of close friend, Kim Jong-il. He proceeded to spill the ashes on host Ryan Seacrest, who was not actually in on the gag. Seacrest held a grudge and refused to interview Cohen at the next year’s Academy Awards.
4. 50 Cent Welches On A Bet
To drive album sales, 50 Cent and Kanye West colluded to orchestrate a feud in 2007. Both men had an album dropping around the same time, and the idea was that they could generate buzz by betting their careers on the album’s success. They even garnered themselves a Rolling Stone cover. 50 Cent was the first to famously bet his career on the success of his album against Kanye’s. He told SOHH.com, “If Kanye West sells more records than 50 Cent on September 11, I’ll no longer write music…I won’t put out anymore solo albums.”
Kanye’s album outsold 50’s by approximately 125,000 copies, and proved 50 Cent wasn’t exactly a man of his word. As it turns out (and basically no one is surprised by this), Kanye and 50 Cent were in on the whole thing. It was an exercise in gaining hype for their albums, and neither ever planned on leaving the business if they lost the bet.
3. Heidi Montag Goes Under The Knife
Is there any couple more fame hungry than Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt? The two former The Hills stars have been desperate for attention since the show was cancelled, and like many fame-whores they’ve used publicity stunts to get their faces on magazines and their names in the headlines. They’ve fake broken up, fake leaked sex tapes, and made up fake rumors about their former cast mates. Among the couples very first publicity stunts were the ten plastic surgeries Heidi received shortly after The Hills wrapped filming.
Heidi milked all the attention she could from her ten surgeries, which included ear pinning, multiple breast enlargements, and back scooping. She sold before/after photos, talked to any media outlet that would have her, and posed for many poolside pictures. Once it was clear people were bored by her transformation, she lamented her regret and reignited the media firestorm. Here’s hoping Heidi is telling the truth when she says she regrets getting all the surgeries because going under the knife is a dangerous way to keep people’s attention on you.
2. Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress
The MTV VMAs are clearly a haven for stunt queens everywhere. Lady Gaga garnered the most attention in 2010 when she showed up to accept her award wearing a dress made of raw meat. Everything from her accessories to her foot wear was tied up meat. The rapidly spoiling ensemble was named fashion statement of the year, but animal rights organizations didn’t take it so lightly. Gaga found herself on the receiving end of some understandable backlash.
Gaga is no stranger to PR stunts. She once arrived to the Grammy’s in a giant egg and got puked on by a “vomit painter” at a SXSW gig. She’s made some political statements. She made fun of Catholics and pissed off the church in her video for Judas. Most recently, she launched a solo protest outside of Trump Tower in NYC. Here’s hoping more of her future PR stunts are less meaty and more meaningful.
1. John Lennon And Yoko Ono’s “Bed-In For Peace”
Among the most famous and admirable PR stunts is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Bed-in for Peace” honeymoon. The couple stayed in bed for a week following their wedding at an Amsterdam hotel. They invited members of the press to visit the room, which they’d decorated with hand-drawn signs and flowers. The couple dressed in pajamas, and stayed in bed while they discussed world peace with the eager reporters.
Unfortunately, world peace was not attained following the demonstration and the stunt did little more than draw attention to their peculiar relationship. “There we were like two angels in bed,” John said of the occasion. “With flowers all around us, and peace and love in our heads. We were fully clothed; the bed was just an accessory.” Their hope for the stunt was to inspire young people to think about peace. They recorded “Give Peace a Chance” at a second bed-in, and also created a documentary titled Bed Peace about the two events.