What is your biggest secret? Everyone has skeletons in their closet they would rather not let the public know. Unfortunately, when you are a celebrity, the ability to keep things from your past private is a luxury that you do not seem to have.
For some individuals on this list, their past is a place of extreme sadness. Many celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey, grew up in difficult circumstances or suffered horrific acts. While it can be easy to look at people who are famous and think that their life is so easy, you may be blown away by some of the life experiences that your favorite stars have experienced. It may also be inspiring to see how these individuals took some of the toughest moments of their life, and used it to push their passion even further.
Other individuals on this list did not necessarily have anything tragic happen to them in their past, they've just done some incredibly shocking things. Everyone loves Mark Wahlberg, but would you love him as much if you knew all about his violent and racist past? I guess you're about to find out, because he is only one of the 20 names that made the list.
Overall, these are 20 celebrities who have incredibly shocking and dark pasts. While some of these facts aren't going to make you fall in love with people you admire, many of these celebrities have gone through some horrific life circumstances. At the very least, you'll be left with a better understanding of some of your favorite stars and learn some astonishing facts, some of which may pull at your heartstrings.
17 Stephen Colbert - His Two Brothers And Father Died In A Plane Crash
Stephen Colbert may be one of the funniest people on television, but he had to overcome some significant adversity when he was still a young child. Colbert was just 10 years old when Eastern Airlines Flight 212 crashed short of the runway, killing all 72 passengers on board, including two of Colbert's older brothers and his father. In an interview, Colbert talked about how during this tough time he would try his best to cheer up his mother with his goofiness. There is no doubt that this took a toll on his childhood. In an interview, Colbert recalled: "After they died, nothing seemed that important to me... I would certainly say I was detached from what was normal behavior of children around me."
16 Mark Wahlberg – Beat And Blinded A Man
Mark Wahlberg is a tremendous actor, but that does not mean he has a tremendous past. In 1986, when Wahlberg was only 14, he was under police investigation after he threw rocks and yelled racial slurs at a group of schoolchildren. Wahlberg allegedly stated, “We don’t like black ******* in this neighborhood, so get the f*** away from the area." When Wahlberg saw the black individual the next day, he proceeded to throw rocks at them again.
That doesn’t even come close to the time he attacked two Vietnamese men. When he was 16 and walking around, carrying a five-foot stick (because that's normal), he approached a man, Thanh Lam. He proceeded to call Lam a "Vietnam f***ing shit" and then beat him with the stick. When Wahlberg was later approached by police officers he exclaimed, "You don't have to let him identify me. I'll tell you now that's the motherf***er who's head I split open."
To make matters worse, when Wahlberg was running from cops because of his assault, he ran into another Vietnamese man, who refused to help Wahlberg hide. Marky Mark wasn't too happy about that so he punched the man in the face. The punch ended up permanently blinding the man in one eye.
15 Fran Drescher – Was Abused At Gunpoint And Battled Cancer
Fran Drescher has had to deal with multiple tragedies, but nothing may be worse than what happened in January of 1985. Drescher was at home with her husband and their friend when two armed robbers entered the apartment. Drescher and her female friend were then raped while at gunpoint. While her husband Jacobson was not raped, he was physically beaten and then tied up and forced to watch the entire ordeal.
Drescher is also a survivor of uterine cancer, and her movement ‘Cancer Schmancer’ has done wonders in helping raise awareness and support for those who are suffering from cancer.
14 Keanu Reeves – Lost A Child And Long-Term Partner
If you have see John Wick, your heart can’t help but break just a little bit for Keanu Reeves’ character, who had lost his lady as well as his puppy. Your heart may also break for real-life Keanu when you find out that his girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, gave birth eight months into her pregnancy but the baby was, unfortunately, stillborn. Syme passed away only 18 months later, when she was in an accident while driving alone. There were two one dollar bills in the vehicle covered in a white powdery substance, giving indications that she may have been on cocaine at the time of the accident. While Keanu has obviously been able to bounce back with an outstanding career, there is no doubt some lasting pain behind those eyes.
13 Charlize Theron - Saw Her Mother Kill Her Father
Charlize is one of the most talented actresses out there. Whether you loved her in Mad Max, or you were amazed by her transformation in Monster, her dedication is without question amazing.
When Charlize was growing up, her father was an alcoholic, who was verbally abusive towards Charlize. On one night, he returned home and shot up the locked gate, as well as the door to the kitchen. Charlize ran to her bedroom, while her father shouted that he was going to kill both her and her mother that night.
Her father then shot the gun into Charlize's room. Before he could do anything else, Charlize's mother shot and killed him. Thankfully, the courts ruled in favor of self-defense, and her mother did not face any charges or prosecution for her actions.
15. Jimmy Page And David Bowie – Dated A 14-Year-Old
One would think that being in Led Zeppelin meant that you could pretty much sleep with any woman in the world. Why you would go after a 14-year-old is beyond me. Apparently Lori Maddox (better known as Lori Lightning) was something special because she was able to seduce both David Bowie, and Jimmy Page. The only problem? She was 13 when she lost her virginity to Bowie, and she was only 14 when she started her relationship with Jimmy. This was far from a one time thing, as Jimmy was reported to have spent years having a secret affair with Lori. Talk about it being awkward every year her birthday came around.
12 Lena Dunham – Sexually Abused Her Younger Sister
Lena Dunham is not the most well-known actress out there, but that did not stop her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, from drumming up all kinds of controversy. In the book, Dunham admits to childhood sexual experimentation with her sister, Grace, who is six years younger than Lena.
A passage in the book talks about “Lena Dunham playing with her sister’s vagina when Dunham was seven and her sister was one year old. She also writes about bribing her sister with candy so that she could kiss her on the lips and masturbating in bed next to her. Their mother was aware of at least some of the behavior, but apparently didn’t think much of it."
In response to the controversy, Lena stated, "I can spell it out really clearly... I don’t care what conservative white men think about me."
11 Jimmy Savile – Took Advantage Of Young Children In Hospitals During "Charity Visits"
This one is not a shock, especially if you are British, but when the news first broke it was astonishing.
Jimmy Savile was an English DJ, television and radio personality who was also a knight. Almost a year after he died, claims were reported that he had committed sexual assault on many prepubescent girls and boys, as well as some adults. The total number of victims is not confirmed, but over 450 people were allegedly abused by Savile. This included “126 indecent acts and 34 rape/penetration offenses.”
To make matters even worse, this occurred at 13 different hospitals, where Savile was visiting children who were suffering from significant illnesses.
10 Kelsey Grammer – Younger Sister Was Abducted, Sexually Assaulted And Murdered
Kelsey Grammer is a tremendously talented actor, most well known for his role of Fraiser.
Grammer was stricken with sadness in 1975 when his younger sister was abducted, raped and then murdered. She was only 18 at the time. Grammer also lost his best friend in the tragedy of 9/11. His father was also murdered, and two of his half-brothers passed away following a scuba diving accident. It is hard to imagine functioning as a person after one of these tragic events, much less dealing with all of them over the course of a lifetime.
11. Ashton Kutcher – His Girlfriend Was Murdered
Ashton Kutcher is no stranger to both fame and dating beautiful women. In the late 1990s, Kutcher was dating Ashley Ellerin, who was a fashion student as well as a part-time stripper. Ellerin’s life (and their relationship) came to a tragic end when she was brutally murdered by a serial killer. Didn’t know that part? How about the fact that they had a date scheduled for that night, but when Kutcher arrived at her apartment, nobody came to the door? He peered inside and thought he saw spilled wine, when, in fact, it was blood. Had he entered the house, he would have found Ellerin's body, which has been stabbed 35 times.
9 Jack Nicholson – Thought His Mother Was His Sister
Jack Nicholson is one hell of an actor, but he may not have anything on his family. When Jack’s mother was pregnant, she was only 17 years old and unsure on who the father was. When Jack was born, it was agreed that his Grandmother was going to raise Jack as her own son, and they would tell Jack that his mother was just his sister. This may not be super uncommon, but to make matters even more complicated, Nicholson found out after a reporter was doing some investigating on his life story. This also all came out after his ‘fake’ mother passed away, depriving Jack of what I am sure would have been one interesting conversation.
8 Woody Harrelson – His Father Was A Hitman
When one thinks about what to do for a living, one of the things a person may consider is the job that their parents did. We need to be grateful that Woody Harrelson did not decide to follow in his father’s footsteps. Not only was Woody’s father a hitman, but he also ended up dying in jail after receiving a life sentence. Hard to say he didn’t deserve it, considering he murdered a federal judge in 1979. At least if Woody kills someone in a movie, it probably won’t also lead to him spending the rest of his life in jail.
7 Fergie – Was Addicted To Meth
Fergie may have made it big with the Black Eyed Peas, but before that she was performing with the group Wild Orchid. The main issue with this band? Fergie developed an addiction to crystal meth while she was with the group, and stayed addicted even after she had moved on from them. Fergie has been open about her usage in the past, claiming that meth was “the hardest boyfriend I ever had to break up with.” She also stated that “a lot of it was being a child actor; I learned to suppress feelings.” Fergie claims that she used hypnotherapy to help her in her recovery from crystal meth.
6 Phill Lewis – Killed Someone In A Hit And Run
You might recognize him from The Suite Life Of Zach and Cody, but before he was doing that, Lewis was in some serious trouble. In 1991, Lewis was drunk and behind the wheel when he got into a collision with 21-year-old Isabel Duarte.
Lewis was charged with manslaughter with a motor vehicle and driving while intoxicated. He was sentenced to five years in jail. Lewis was able to reduce his sentence to only one year after he worked with the prison-based theater group that participated at jails, schools and churches. Lewis was also given two years probation and ordered to perform 350 hours of community service.
5 Drew Barrymore – Former Drug Addict
Drew Barrymore rose to fame at a young age after starring in the hit film E.T. What can often be the case with child stars is that they battle addiction, and Drew was no exception. By the time she was 9, Drew was already smoking cigarettes. She moved onto alcohol by the age of 11, and by the age of 13 she was also smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine. This led to several stints in rehab, including a suicide attempt. Drew eventually was successful in her court petition for emancipation, and moved into her own apartment. Thankfully, she was able to get her life back on track.
5. Matthew Broderick – Killed Two People In Ireland
In 1987, Matthew Broderick was in an awful car accident while on vacation in Northern Ireland. Broderick was there with Jennifer Grey, who appeared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Broderick. Broderick was driving a rented BMW, when he accidentally crossed into the wrong lane and collided with a Volvo. The two people in the Volvo - Anna Gallagher (28), and her mother (63) - were both killed instantly.
In a statement to the authorities, Broderick said, "I don't remember the day. I don't remember even getting up in the morning. I don't remember making my bed. What I first remember is waking up in the hospital, with a very strange feeling going on in my leg." His leg was, in fact, fractured.
While he could have been sentenced to 5 years in jail, he was instead fined $175 and charged with careless driving, instead of causing death by dangerous driving.
4 Tim Allen – Trafficked 650 Grams Of Cocaine
There is no doubt that Tim Allen is a loved and easily recognizable face. However, in 1978, the person who had to look at his face was the Sheriff’s Department in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Why? Oh, no big deal, he was just stopped an airport with 650 grams of cocaine on him. Cocaine in this amount would have landed Tim Allen in jail for the rest of his life, but he agreed to give authorities information about other men involved. As a result, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He claims that it was while he was spending time in prison that "the comic in me showed up, the purest form, and saved my life."
3 Don King – Beat Employee To Death
If there is one man that you do not want to get on the bad side of, it's Don King. A former boxing promoter, he was described by Tyson as a “bad man, a real bad man. He would kill his own mother for a dollar, he’s deplorable, he’s greedy, and he doesn’t know how to love anybody.”
One sign of that "bad man" is when he beat - oh, I’m sorry, stomped - an employee to death because they owed Don King $600. After letters from other prominent members of society came forward supporting King, such as Jesse Jackson and Art Modell, King was sentenced to only 4 years in jail.
2 Rob Lowe – 1988 Underage Sex Tape
Rob Lowe has had some outstanding acting roles to his name, including being on The West Wing and in Parks and Recreation. Before all of that, when Lowe was 24, he recorded himself having a three-way with two other women. Not such a big deal, until you find out that one of the women was only 16 years old! While 16 was still in the age of consent for Atlanta, where the incident occurred, it was illegal to film someone who was only 16.
Being that this occurred in 1988, Lowe was one of the first celebrities to be linked to a sex scandal.
1 Oprah - Was Sexually Abused
Oprah is one of the most successful women in the entertainment industry, but to get to where she is, she had to escape some dark times. In 1986, on her television show, Oprah opened up about how she was sexually molested by her cousin when she was only 9 years old. It has been reported that she was also molested by her uncle and a family friend. At the age of 14, Oprah gave birth to a son, but he was born prematurely and died shortly after birth. The story of her son's birth was later sold to the National Inquirer in 1990 by a member of her family.