Growing up in the glare of the spotlight is a difficult life to live, especially when it’s a life that you never chose for yourself. In an era where everyone can be a member of the paparazzi, the children of celebrities are under more intense scrutiny than ever, and are subjected to speculations that reach the realms of the absurd if it doesn’t become downright cruel.
Sometimes, even though their parents are meant to protect their children, they have their own inner demons to deal with. They may turn to drugs or alcohol or other families to help them deal with the stress and pressures of fame, and their children may be left wondering what place in the world is theirs.
Additionally, if a child of a celebrity is interested in the same kind of career as their parent, they will automatically face comparisons to the person who got theirs first. It can lead to a conflict of identity and a desire to figure out who they are separate from their famous parents. These celebrities had children who, sometimes despite their best efforts, had childhoods marred by tragedy, loss, and/or addiction. Sometimes, they were able to come out clean on the other side. Unfortunately, others weren’t so lucky.
15 Ozzy & Sharon Osbourne’s Daughter, Kelly
As any child actor or young star will tell you that living life in the spotlight can be extremely difficult, but imagine having all your most awkward years and most personal problems put on display for millions on MTV? That was the life of Kelly Osbourne, daughter of Sharon and Ozzy, in the mid-2000's.
Throughout much of her childhood, Kelly was exposed to her father’s drug use, to the point that his slurring and erratic behavior were normalized for her. As she entered her early teens, she began to feel more insecure about her appearance and abilities, eventually turning to a series of different drugs from the age of 13 onward. Following mom Sharon’s cancer diagnosis, Kelly was put in charge as the adult of the family, despite being only 19 at the time. She was tasked with managing her mother’s illness while trying to calm her father as he effectively went off the rails. Kelly has been sober for the last 8 years, battled Lyme disease, and struggled with her weight, and while her parents undoubtedly loved her, it was still a rough upbringing for any kid.
14 Heath Ledger’s Daughter, Matilda
It was one of the most heart-wrenching losses to Hollywood, but perhaps no one felt the loss of actor Heath Ledger as greatly as his daughter, Matilda, who was only two at the time of her father’s death in 2008.
While Ledger was filming his posthumous Oscar-winning role as The Joker in The Dark Knight, he delved deeply into the part, which took its toll on his sleeping, leading him to take pills in order to get some shuteye. As we now know, it was an accidental drug overdose of combined medications that unexpectedly took his life, leaving his former fiancée, Michelle Williams, to parent their daughter.
It is tragic to grow up without a father, especially at such a young age, but Matilda has been lucky to have a devoted mother in Williams, who has taken great pains to provide her daughter with a normal life even as Ledger’s mini-me begins to look more and more like her late father, almost 10 years on.
13 Paul Walker’s Daughter, Meadow
Another daughter who lost her father, Meadow Walker was the daughter of actor Paul Walker and his one-time girlfriend, Rebecca Soteros. What is most tragic about Meadow’s childhood isn’t just the fact that she lost her dad, but that she lost him shortly after really getting to know who he was.
For the first 13 years of her life, Meadow lived in Hawaii with Soteros, since she and Walker were no longer together. Then, in 2011, Meadow joined her father in California, living with him for the first time.
After leaving an event for his charity, Walker and Roger Rodas crashed the car they were in between a concrete lamppost and two trees. The car caught a fire and both men were killed. Their bodies had been burned beyond recognition. Meadow, for her part, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche, alleging that the car model had a history of instability, especially since no evidence of drag racing, drugs, or alcohol were found at the scene. She also now runs the Paul Walker Foundation.
12 Judy Garland’s Daughter, Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli has long been considered a bit of an eccentric, but it’s worth a look as to where that eccentricity comes from. Perhaps one of the first places to look would be her rough upbringing under her mother, actress Judy Garland, the woman who is perhaps best known as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
Minnelli got involved in acting from an early age, and her mother’s competitive spirit is what drove her to say, “It was like Mama suddenly realized I was good, that she didn’t have to apologize for me.” As Minnelli’s star began to rise, Garland’s drug and alcohol abuse began to worsen, and soon, the child was taking care of her mother as well as providing for the family. At one point, Garland found out about his husband’s (Minnelli’s father) gay affairs, and tried to commit suicide after catching him in the act. Not completely able to escape her mother’s shadow, Minnelli also unwittingly married gay men and fell into the same spiral of drug and alcohol addiction. While Minnelli was eventually able to beat hers, Garland was not so lucky. She died in 1969 at the age of 47, from an accidental overdose.
11 John Barrymore’s Daughter, Drew
It’s rare for the star of the child to eclipse the parent, but that’s exactly what happened with Drew Barrymore, who came from Hollywood royalty, including her father, John Drew Barrymore. Unfortunately for Barrymore, his personal problems and battles with drug addiction, public drunkenness, and spousal abuse stalled any progress, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with young Drew.
As a child on the Hollywood scene, Drew endured plenty of personal trouble, smoking cigarettes at nine, drinking at 11, trying marijuana at 12, and eventually cocaine at 13. Her life revolved around partying, which was spurred on by her mother, Jaid, and put her in rehab and a mental institution at 14, a suicide attempt the same year, and a return to rehab. To say that her relationship with her mother and father was dysfunctional is putting it mildly. Drew struggled with depression, drug use, and body image issues throughout much of her young life. Fortunately, she was eventually able to repair her relationship with her mother and become one of the most successful actresses and entrepreneurs in Hollywood history.
10 Ryan O’Neal’s Daughter, Tatum
Mixing family and business isn’t usually a good idea, and that couldn’t have been truer for actor Tatum O’Neal and her father, Ryan. The youngest Oscar winner in history who snagged the award for her role at 10 alongside her dad in the film Paper Moon, Tatum claimed in her autobiography that she had endured years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father, much of which she attributed to his drug use. (Tatum herself would grow up to become an addict, first to heroin. Later on, she was arrested for possession of cocaine.) In the same book, she alleged that she was molested by her father’s drug dealer when she was 12.
The volatile relationship between the two led to their estrangement for about 25 years, to the point that O’Neal allegedly hit on Tatum after girlfriend Farrah Fawcett’s funeral, failing to recognize his own daughter. The poster pair for family dysfunction, Tatum’s strained relationship with her father has only recently been on its way to being patched up, owing in part to O’Neal’s cancer diagnosis and Tatum’s willingness to tackle her own demons.
9 John Phillips’ Daughter, Mackenzie
Drug abuse is common not only among child stars, but also among children whose parents have relied on drugs and alcohol to get them through the stress of their careers. Such was the case for Mackenzie Phillips, daughter of The Mamas & the Papas singer John Phillips. While starting out as an actress, Mackenzie got involved with drugs early on, rolling her first joint at 10, trying her first taste of cocaine at 11, and eventually spiraling into an arrest at 18.
However, drugs and mental illness are not the most tragic parts of Mackenzie’s life. It’s the incestuous affair she carried on with her father that’s the most shocking. Allegedly beginning when she was 19 on the night after her wedding, Mackenzie woke up from a blackout to find that she was having s*x with her own father. The affair continued for about 10 years, and by the time she was 29, it had become somewhat consensual. Mackenzie’s half-sisters, Chynna and Bijou, have both stated that they believe her, and the daughter of one of Phillips’ bandmates confessed that her father had told her what Phillips had done.
8 Michael Jackson’s Daughter, Paris
Born on April 3, 1998, Paris Jackson was only 11 when her father, King of Pop Michael Jackson, died of cardiac arrest in June of 2009. Her parents, Jackson and Debbie Rowe, divorced in 1999, with Jackson gaining full custody of Paris and her brother, and so the loss of him was certainly devastating to the young girl. While her childhood was certainly unorthodox, owing to the intense privacy Jackson placed her and her siblings under, Paris has nothing but love and respect for her father and his legacy.
However, her strength in the face of tragedy could only last so long. At 15, Paris attempted suicide with pills and by cutting her wrists with a kitchen knife. Paris says that she had engaged in self-injuring behavior and attempted suicide many times before, but that “it was just once that is became public.” Paris has also recently opened up about being s*xually assaulted at the age of 14 by a stranger. Now, at the young age of 19, she seems to be in a better place, her strength again allowing her to stand on her own two feet.
7 Princess Diana’s Sons, Prince William And Prince Harry
As the pair of siblings who have been forced into the public eye since birth, Prince William and Prince Harry found it almost impossible to escape the scrutiny that came with being members of the royal family and heirs to the throne that dogged every move they made. Making matters worse was the unhappy marriage between their mother, Princess Diana, and father, Prince Charles, which played out in the press in great detail, regardless of the feelings of the young children involved.
Of course, the most tragic occurrence was when their mother, who had been beloved by the public all her life and was as well-known for her beauty as she was for her charitable works, died in a car crash after being chased down by the paparazzi in 1997. William was only 15 while Harry was just 12. Although both sons rarely speak of their mother’s death, this year, Harry opened up in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, explaining that he had sough mental health counselling in his late twenties when trying to come to terms with his mother’s death.
6 Whitney Houston’s Daughter, Bobbi Kristina
As the daughter of two musicians who famously struggled with substance abuse, Bobbi Kristina Brown’s tragic fate was almost written in the stars. Brought into the spotlight at the age of one, Brown’s childhood was undeniably a difficult one, characterized by substance abuse, domestic violence between her parents, and the endless glare of paparazzi cameras. Eventually, her parents divorced in 2007, and Brown was placed in the custody of her mother.
Unfortunately, the split did not assuage Whitney Houston’s drug use, and she died in a hotel bathtub in 2012 from a combination of accidental drowning, cocaine use, and heart disease. Reports stated that Brown was “inconsolable” and “overwhelmed” and it seems that her mental state and grief led to her own death, which eerily mirrored her mother’s. Like Houston, Brown was also found unresponsive in a bathtub and placed in a medically-induced coma, where chances of revival would be considered a miracle. She died over six months later, at the age of 22, and was buried next to her mother.
5 Anna Nicole Smith’s Daughter, Dannielynn
Anna Nicole Smith’s life was a tragic one in and of itself, characterized by drug use, media criticism, poverty, and poor health. Throughout her brief time in the spotlight, Smith was ridiculed for her appearance, her “gold-digging” reputation, her weight, and her trashy reality TV show that saw Smith at her lowest point. One bright spot in that hellscape were Smith’s two children, Daniel and Dannielynn. Unfortunately, that brightness was short-lived. Three days after Dannielynn was born, her half-brother, Daniel, died of an accidental drug overdose. Smith was still in the hospital at the time, and Daniel had been visiting his mother and new baby sister when he died in her room. Five months later, Dannielynn suffered another tragic loss before she was old enough to comprehend it. Her mother, still reeling from Daniel’s death, died from an overdose of prescription pills.
What happened next was a three-way custody battle for Dannielynn, before her biological father, Larry Birkhead, won parental responsibility for his daughter. He has been raising Dannielynn for the past 10 years of her young life.
4 Kurt Cobain’s Daughter, Frances Bean
As the icon of grunge music and effective leader of the nihilistic movement that characterized much of the early 1990's, Kurt Cobain was a legend. As the frontman of Nirvana, he married Courtney Love, lead singer of Hole, for a match made in grunge heaven, and the two soon became parents to Frances Bean Cobain. Shortly afterwards, though, their ongoing battles with drug abuse, plus Cobain’s suicide attempts, made Frances Bean’s childhood one heck of a complete chaos.
At two weeks old, Frances Bean was removed from her parents’ custody for a short time, before a lengthy custody battle put her back under their roof. Then, at less than two years of age in 1994, Cobain shot and killed himself. Placed in the care of her mother, grandmother, and aunts, Frances Bean’s relationship with her mother began to deteriorate, beginning with Love’s drug arrest and overdose in 2003. In 2009, a temporary restraining order was issued between Frances Bean and Love. When asked to discuss her father’s passing in the recent documentary, Montage of Heck, Frances Bean opined, “If he had lived, I would have had a dad. And that would have been an incredible experience.”
3 Michael Hutchence’s Daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily
It’s tragic to lose one parent, but it’s arguably even worse to lose both. That was the terrible case for Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence (simply referred to as “Tiger”), who lost father Michael Hutchence at the age of one, and then lost mother, Paula Yates, at the age of four.
Hutchence’s death was subjected to much speculation, with the coroner initially claiming that he had committed suicide while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Yates, however, speculated that his death might have been the result of autoerotic asphyxiation, which contradicted her initial statements of Hutchence saying, “I don’t know how I’ll live without Tiger.”
In 2000, Yates also died, this time of a heroin overdose. Her former husband, musician Bob Geldof, sought to adopt Tiger so that she could live with her three half-sisters, and that request was granted in 2007. (Her name was legally changed in 2008 to include “Geldof”.) Unfortunately, loss still followed the young girl, and her half-sister, Peaches, went the way of the sisters’ mother. She died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 25.
2 Joan Crawford’s Daughter, Christina
The name of her book has become synonymous with terrible mothers, but Christina Crawford’s life under “Mommie Dearest” Joan Crawford wasn’t just awful; it was tragic. Within the book, Christina accused Crawford of being neglectful, abusive, cruel, manipulative, narcissistic, and an alcoholic. The book also stated that Crawford adopted her children only out of a desire for money and publicity, since her toxic personality had blackballed her among the Hollywood set.
While many of Crawford’s friends disputed Christina’s claims and said that she had exaggerated stories of her childhood in order to sell books, Christina has stood by her account, which included strangling, beatings with wire hangers, and starving the children if they refused a meal. Christina elaborated that these abusive behaviors continued on into adulthood, with Crawford growing jealous of her daughter’s burgeoning career and actually taking over her role in a soap opera while Christina was in the hospital. In the end, both Christina and her brother were left out of Crawford’s will for “reasons which are well-known to them.”
1 Phil Hartman’s Children, Birgen And Sean
Phil Hartman was entering into marriage for a third time when he married Brynn Omdahl, but his new wife quickly became intimidated by her husband’s success and frustrated by her inability to find any of her own. Phil offered to retire from acting to placate her, but it wasn’t enough. Soon, Brynn began to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, entering rehab several times. Together, the pair had two children, daughter Birgen in 1992 and son Sean in 1989.
In 1998, Brynn’s mental state and drug addiction had considerably worsened, and following a heated argument with her husband, Brynn waited until he fell asleep when, intoxicated and on cocaine, she shot him three times, killing him instantly. Once the police were called, following a 911 call placed by a friend, Brynn locked herself in the bedroom and committed suicide by shooting herself in the mouth. Their son was nine at the time and their daughter was only six. The tragedy of losing two parents is immense, but to lose one at the hands of the other, before losing both, is catastrophic and heartbreaking.