Celebrities are just like us, in that they can say stupid things at the worst possible moments. But unlike us, those thoughtless words can be repeated by the media — and risk costing them the admiration of the public and future employment. Though many celebrities bounce back from terrible moments, here are moments that turned some of America’s most famous into its most infamous.
For the artist now known as Ye, the disaster may be ongoing, since he wore a “White Lives Matter” shirt at his Paris Fashion Week show, tanked his collaboration with The Gap, got suspended from social media for anti-Semitism, and made headlines for clashes with Diddy, Kid Cudi, and Meek Mill — all this month. Let’s just say the rapper-fashion designer has never shied away from expressing himself, including wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap on “Saturday Night Live” or calling his former mother-in-law Kris Kardashian “Kris-Jong-Un.” Maybe the first hint of the ride to come was him ruining Taylor Swift’s winning moment at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. When she won for Best Female Video, he ran onto the stage to interrupt her speech, blurting, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’m going to let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!” It became the source of a thousand memes but did little to endear him to the audience.
Though the comedian and star of the Emmy-winning TV show “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” was never shy about her opinions, when she posed with a Halloween mask of President Donald Trump’s severed head doused in ketchup, it incited the ire of political pundits everywhere — and earned her death threats as well as theater cancellations. As Griffin told The New York Times, “I wasn’t canceled. I was erased.” After recovering from lung cancer and an addition to painkillers, the feisty Griffin is said to be trying to regain her footing in the entertainment industry.
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As the little sister of singer and TV star Jessica Simpson, Ashlee seemed poised to, if not reach the same pop heights as her big sis, at least establish a career of her own. In 2004 she had an album, “Autobiography,” debut at the top of the Hot 100, an MTV TV show, “The Ashlee Simpson Show,” and was the musical act on “Saturday Night Live” that June. While she performed the single “Pieces of Me” without a glitch, when she was ready to perform the title track from her album, a vocal track for “Pieces” played — and it became clear Ashlee wasn’t singing at all. The singer was roundly mocked, and despite releasing two more albums, her career ultimately foundered.
The Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actor hasn’t worked much since Quaid and his wife Evi started getting into trouble in 2008. That’s when Quaid was banned for life from the Actor’s Equity union for allegedly physically and verbally abusing his co-stars in a stage production of “Lone Star Love” in Seattle. Four members of the union filed restraining orders against Evi the next day due to an altercation, and things seemed only to get worse. The pair was arrested for defrauding a Santa Barbara innkeeper, a charge later dismissed against Quaid but resulting in Evi being placed on probation; the couple was charged with burglary when they lived in the guest house of a home they once owned. All might have been forgiven by Hollywood until the Quaids released a bizarre sex tape and started speaking out about the “star whackers” that were out to kill them. Most agree that was the nail in the coffin of Quaid’s career.
It was the scream heard around the world. The former three-term Virginia governor was running for president in 2004, and though he had come in third in the Iowa Caucuses, Dean still seemed poised to surge forward — until an enthusiastic, albeit high-pitched, “Yeah!” during a rally, largely unnoticed in the room but, thanks to the audio setup he wore, singled out by the media, made him a target of jokes and insults. Dean dropped out of the race after the Wisconsin primary and has not since held elected office.
The “Saved by the Bell” star was trying to change her squeaky-clean image by starring as a stripper in “Showgirls,” but the box-office and critical stinker merely torpedoed her career. Even director Paul Verhoeven admitted in an interview that the film ruined the actor’s career “in a major way.” Since the 1995 film, which has gone on to become a cult favorite, she’s mostly been relegated to smaller supporting roles and one-episode TV show appearances.
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Never heard of him? That may not be surprising, as his film career tanked with remarkable speed. Though the English actor scored three feature films over 2011 and 2012, “Beastly,” “I Am Number Four,” and “Magic Mike,” his bad reputation on-set quickly killed the chance of future work. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a source said he was a “nightmare” and “irrational.” Despite strong buzz for his performances, he’s since been limping through a series of roles in little-seen movies and TV shows. But he may be getting another chance, as he’s been cast in the true-crime movie “Branded.”
After initially claiming he and three of his teammates were robbed at gunpoint after a night of partying, the Olympic swimmer’s story crumbled during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazilian authorities said the four vandalized a gas station in Rio de Janeiro. Subsequently Lochte lost all four of his major sponsors. In 2018 he was suspended for 14 months for a “prohibited intravenous infusion” and, while still swimming competitively, has not had notable results or qualified for another Olympics.
The rock guitarist had two multiplatinum albums in the 1980s (“Don’t Say No” and “Emotions in Motion” until his career came to a dead stop thanks to one awful music video. “Rock Me Tonite” featured the singer skipping and flailing in a “Flashdance”-style tank top and sweatpants, and the result was decidedly unflattering. While changing tastes might account for why it was his last Top 40 hit, the video surely didn’t help.
While it was a gaffe uttered behind the scenes, Washington’s career took a beating after his “Grey’s Anatomy” co-star T.R. Knight claimed Washington used a homophobic slur during a heated argument with Patrick Dempsey. Washington was later fired from the show. While he came back for Sandra Oh’s last episode in season 10, his career hasn’t fully recovered despite roles in TV series such as “P-Valley” and “The 100.”
While her protests would likely seem right in step with 21st century audiences, when she ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II in half on the “Saturday Night Live” stage in 1992, viewers were scandalized. She never attained the pop chart heights she experienced with her cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” — and said the ensuing scandal was a good thing. “Far from the pope episode destroying my career, it set me on a path that fit me better,” she wrote in her memoir, “My Complicated Life.” “I’m not a pop star. I’m just a troubled soul who needs to scream into [mics] now and then.”
Mayer is known for his music and a star-studded stable of ex-girlfriends, ranging from Jennifer Aniston to Jessica Simpson and Taylor Swift. But his career took a hit when he started talking about the second category to reporters. In a 2012 interview with Playboy, he revealed that he considered Simpson “sexual napalm,” disparaged the age difference between himself and Aniston, used the N-word, and memorably said, “My d–k is sort of like a white supremacist.” That June, he dug himself a deeper hole in an interview with Rolling Stone, offering graphic details about his masturbation and porn habits. Not long after, he stopped doing interviews; in 2012 he appeared on “Ellen,” admitting, “I lost my head for a little while and I did a couple of dumb interviews.”
For the singer/songwriter who usually wears an enormous wig to cover her face when performing, it was entry into the film world that sent her spiraling into depression, ending in a rehab stint. She cast dancer Maddie Ziegler as a nonverbal autistic girl in her directorial debut “Music,” a move that infuriated critics and autistic actors. Salon called the movie “a baffling and patronizing cringefest of ableist minstrelsy,” while Paste wrote, “Even doing research and writing an essay on the film’s problematic elements pre-release were not enough to prepare me for how harmful ‘Music’ is to autistic people.” Sia later announced the film would feature a warning message.
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