It does seem like celebrities lead perfect, glamourous lives. But if you look behind the smiles, the truth is more complicated. Whether it's mental illness, family secrets, or unspeakable abuse, there's plenty to talk about. Many famous names have recently come out to discuss their issues with fans. Others have been more private about their pain. It's time to take a look at our favorite entertainers in a realistic way. Prepare for some serious bombshells!
Jack Nicholson's Real Mom Was Posing as His Older Sis All Along
From The Shining to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Jack Nicholson has acted out some crazy stories over the years. It would be hard to imagine the truth of his own life was stranger than fiction. Yet as an adult, he discovered a family secret straight out of a movie. When Jack was born, he already had a 17-year-old sister named June. That's what he was told, anyway. After his parents died, he found out they were actually his grandparents. And June was his real mom, all along!
As a young, unwed mother, it would have had too much stigma at the time for June. Her parents agreed to raise this baby as their own, and kept mum until the day they died. Jack now reflects: "I'd say it was a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn't what I'd call traumatizing. After all, by the time I found out who my mother was, I was pretty well psychologically formed. As a matter of fact, it made quite a few things clearer to me. If anything, I felt grateful."
Woody Harrelson’s Father Was One of the Most Infamous Hitmen
Whether you love him from Cheers or True Detective, Woody Harrelson is a timeless talent. His own story could be a script, though. Woody's father Charles was rarely around when he was growing up, and that's because he was off shooting people for pay. A notorious hitman, he once killed a rug salesman for 1500 bucks. Eventually, he went to jail with a life sentence for knocking off a federal judge. Yikes!
Crazy backstory, even for Hollywood. The younger Harrelson has had a few legal problems himself, but they mostly revolve around his totally peaceful smoking habits. The verdict: Not like father, not like son.
Charlize Theron Saw Her Mother Kill Her Father
Charlize Theron might sound perfectly American, but she actually grew up on a farm in South Africa. She doesn't talk about it a lot, but that's where she lost her father as a child. He was killed, right in front of her. And the surprising fact about that case is the killer. Her mother did it! Dad had been beating his wife for a while. Until one day, she fought back, and ended up shooting him. Charlize rarely talks about the trauma.
How does she feel about her mother, today? According to the actress: "My mom has made it possible for me to be who I am. Our family is everything. Her greatest skill was encouraging me to find my own person and own independence."
Whoopi Goldberg Tried to Terminate a Pregnancy at Age 14
Whoopi Goldberg found herself in a scary situation when she was just 14. She recalls: "I didn't get a period...I talked to nobody. I panicked. I sat in hot baths. I drank these strange concoctions girls told me about — something like Johnny Walker Red with a little bit of Clorox, alcohol, baking soda (which probably saved my stomach), and some sort of cream. You mixed it all up. I got violently ill."
In the end, she claims to have used a coat hanger at the park to induce an abortion. Later, in 1973, she gave birth to a healthy daughter with her then-husband, Alvin Martin. But as most would assume, her first pregnancy ended in a way Whoopie has found difficult to forget.
Ronda Rousey's Father Couldn't Find the Will to Live After an Injury
Ronda Rousey has made a real name for herself as a UFC and WWE champ. She has training in both judo and mixed material arts. She's pretty much unbeatable in the women's leagues. What's her philosophy to win? She explains: “You have to fight because you can’t count on anyone else fighting for you. And you have to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves. To get anything of real value, you have to fight for it.” But how did her early life affect those values?
Sadly, we have to wonder if this was influenced by a sad event in her early life. Ronda's father suffered from depression after he got a back injury. He just didn't heal properly and ended up taking his own life. She was just 8 years old!
Michael Phelps Was Battling Serious Depression While Winning Everything
He's the greatest Olympic swimmer in history. But Michael Phelps was hiding something even while smiling with those gold medals. After every competition, Mike would fall into a depression. Sometimes he thought about suicide, and he turned to substances. Now, he's gained insight into his behavior in the early 2000s that led to his arrest for possession. He shares: "It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from."
Nobody would have guessed an Olympian was hiding this secret, out of anyone. Through The Michael Phelps Foundation, he now provides kids with stress management programs. Mike cares, and he understands!
Mackenzie Phillips Claims She Was Subjected to the Unthinkable
According to Mackenzie Phillips, she was groomed into having a 10-year relationship with her own father, between ages 11 and 19. He was a rockstar, and someone you may know: John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. She claims they even had relations on her wedding night to another man. It shouldn't surprise anyone to know that illegal substances were involved during these years. It's all incredibly deranged. And unsurprisingly, Mackenzie spiraled into addiction throughout her adult life.
Today, Mackenzie says: "You never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors. You only know what you see or what you think you see. I want to live for my truth, my reality, what is important to me, and what I'm passionate about."
Rihanna’s Father Had A Secret Second Family She Knew Nothing About
Fans of Rihanna may know she was born in Barbados. After leaving the island, she quickly shot to superstardom. But what happened in between? Sadly, the singer had to deal with her father's addictions as a child. Their relationship wasn't the best. And then, she found out he actually had another family he was keeping a secret. All of these ups and downs led to physical symptoms. Where did her pain manifest?
Riri had headaches until her parents finally divorced. She shares: "I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t get upset. It was just all in here...I had to go through a lot of CAT scans. They even thought it was a tumor because it was that intense.”
Lena Dunham Recently Underwent a Total Hysterectomy
Lena Dunham is one of millions of women suffering from a condition called Endometriosis. She was in constant, incredible pain. In an open letter to fans, she explained: "In addition to endometrial disease, an odd hump-like protrusion and a septum running down the middle I have retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse so that my stomach is full of blood. My ovary has settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk. Let’s please not even talk about my uterine lining. The only beautiful detail is that the organ — which is meant to be shaped like a light bulb — was shaped like a heart.”
To solve this painful health problem, the actress actually removed all her internal reproductive parts: A total hysterectomy. The eggs she preserved were not viable, either. Lena is feeling better, but she will not be a natural mother. Maybe she will adopt!
Mike Tyson Was Kidnapped When He Was Seven Years Old
Boxer Mike Tyson is a legendary tough guy., And it turns out, he's not too tough to admit that something totally illegal happened to him when he was a kid. A man he did not know kidnapped him off the street and touched his body. In fact, things went pretty far. Today, Mike reflects: “I don't always remember, but maybe I do but I don't. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed by it...I just went on with my life.”
Clearly, he did go on with his life. He went on to win title after title. But he also got into a lot of dysfunctional relationships and occasionally found himself in trouble with the police. Maybe this affected him more than he knows. The mind is a complicated place!
Gigi Hadid Has Been Battling Hashimoto's Disease
Model Gigi Hadid's literal job is being thin. When she started to gain weight, the internet noticed. In 2018, Gigi responded: "For those of you so determined to come up [with] why my body has changed over the years, you may not know that when I started [at] 17 I was not yet diagnosed [with] Hashimoto’s disease...Those of [you] who called me 'too big for the industry' were seeing inflammation & water retention due to that."
What is that, you ask? According to doctors, Hashimoto's Disease is an autoimmune problem. It's when your body attacks your own thyroid, and that can be fatal, if untreated. About five percent of America has it, though few have heard of it. Thankfully, she has the best treatment around. Feel better, Gigi!
Kathy Griffin Was Exploited By Her Own Brother
Kathy Griffin is always trying to get a laugh. But is her caustic sense of humor covering up something serious? We think so. She's been pretty open with her fans in recent years that she was estranged from her brother Kenny, and for very good reason. According to the comedienne: "He was extremely sexually inappropriate with me ever since I was a teeny kid. It kind of shapes the way you see the world. For me, it is definitely tied into my trust issues I have with guys...In a way, it maybe even contributed to me having a really dark sense of humor."
Kenny was actually 30 years old when Kathy was just 7. He would climb into her bed at night, and you can guess the rest. As you will see, this happens more often than we think — even to Hollywood stars.
Nick Jonas Has to Inject Himself to Live Every Single Day
Nick Jonas almost has it all. But what he doesn't have is naturally produced insulin at the right rate. Nick has type 1 diabetes! He explains: "This is a disease I was diagnosed with when I was 13. It was a moment in my life when I was just getting ready to start making music with my brothers, and touring, and it was something I thought would slow me down before I even got started."
Our favorite Jonas bro is actually among 1.25 million Americans with the disease. All of them have to inject insulin, every day. He's not alone in his challenge. But it's definitely a challenge!
Comedian Richard Pryor Had to Grow up in a Brothel
Though he has passed on, Richard Pryor will never be forgotten. For stand-up fans, this man is widely regarded as one of the greats. But where does his unique sense of funny come from? Viewers of his shows probably have no idea that he had a tumultuous childhood. At a young age, he was living with his biological mother. But she was also using her home as a place for hookers to conduct business. She was one, herself!
Eventually, mom stopped caring for him altogether. Then, Richard was transferred to his granny, who also treated him terribly. And dad? Not around. It's a wonder that this little boy grew up to bring joy to millions. We miss you, Richard Pryor!
Jane Fonda's Mom Left This World and No One Told Her
Jane Fonda was a Hollywood starlet, and you may have thought her life was picture perfect. But during her childhood, she endured a horror few of us will ever know. Jane's mother Frances Ford Seymour was troubled and was sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. Time went by, and Jane's school went on. But soon, she would find out that her mom was never coming back. She had ended her own life, while her daughter was away.
But did anyone tell her daughter? Apparently not. Jane shares how she found out the terrible news: "A year after my mother died, I was in study hall and a girlfriend passed me a movie magazine, in which it said that my mother had cut her throat."
Mariah Carey's Sister Is Mentally Ill and Has HIV
Yes, the glamorous Mariah Carey is a success now. But her childhood was quite the opposite — dramatically so. Mariah lived in a very unstable, aggressive home. Her older sister Alison drugged her and poured hot tea down her back. Mariah had to watch her go on to prostitution, and neglect her bipolar meds. Eventually, her sister got HIV. Obviously, these ups and downs, coupled with their history, have been very painful.
What's Mariah's attitude about it all today? She has actually paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to help. But in recent years, she stated: "Time has shown me there is no benefit in trying to protect people who never tried to protect me.”
Rose McGowan Was Forced Into a Crazy Cult by Her Parents
Rose McGowan was a standout star on Charmed, and now, she's made activism a second career. The Harvey Weinstein scandal brought her name to international attention as she detailed the abuse women in Hollywood routinely endured. But for Rose, this wasn't the first time she saw this kind of dysfunction. As a child, she was brought to a cult that preached free love by her mom and dad, including between adults and children.
Even back then, Rose was a person who wasn't willing to just go along with it. She recalls: “The commune I grew up in, a thing called Children of God...I was definitely a thorn in their side."
Lady Gaga Revealed She Has Been Diagnosed With a Disease
Lady Gaga was widely reported to be in pain, for a long time. She got into a smoking habit to deal with it at first, but she knew that wasn't the answer. The source of her discomfort turned out to be fibromyalgia, a nerve condition that causes pain everywhere. Docs once questioned if it was all in patients' heads. But today, it is a recognized condition, no question about it. And yet, there are still skeptics out there online.
Gaga shares: “I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real...People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
Yolanda Hadid Has Been Dealing With a Serious Illness Right in Front of Us
Yolanda Hadid is the model mother of Gigi, Bella, and Anwar, all also models. You may know her from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But are you aware she has been diagnosed with Lyme disease? A tick bit her, and she got this terrible syndrome. Oddly enough, the same thing happened to daughter Bella. Both have Lyme disease! Fans probably had no idea there was anything wrong in the lives of these glamorous ladies.
In 2016, she shared what it's like to live with Lyme: "It starts with brain fog; for a while I couldn’t put sentences together...I’m really tired a lot. A few weeks ago I had a big campaign shoot that I had to reschedule. It's hard, but I push through, because at the end of the day, if you're not working, somebody else is."
Robert Downey Jr. Was Made Into an Addict by His Dad at Age Eight
Robert Downey Junior once confessed: "I don't want to go all Michael Jackson on you, but I never really had a childhood." What did he mean by that? Maybe it was the fact that his own father forced him to start drinking alcohol and using illegal substances at eight years old. Very few of us know what that is like. And very few of us would recover and find success to the tune of $300 million in the bank.
After years of addiction, rehab, and jail, Robert is now fully clean and sober. Those who thought he was an irresponsible junkie were surprised to learn the truth: His own parent forced it upon him. Sad, but true!
Classic Star Rita Hayworth Was Brainwashed Into Serious Abuse
Old Hollywood has a special quality to it we can't quite replicate today. Many of its stars are being forgotten, but a few still stand out on the walk of fame. Rita Hayworth is one such name, as one of the it-girls of the 1940s. Over a 37-year career, she appeared in 61 films. The papers called her "The Love Goddess". But what did she have to endure to get there?
As it turns out, teen Rita had a physical relationship with her own father as he trained her to dance. She only found out this wasn't common when she was an adult. Sad fact, from a more innocent era!
Lil Wayne Shot Himself in the Chest at Age 12
Lil Wayne revealed that he had mental health problems as a preteen. Continual tension with his mother wore him down, on top of middle-school angst. When she threatened to take away his rap folder, he was devastated. He called the police for notification and attempted the unthinkable. Wayne shares: "I knew where she kept her gun. And it was in her bedroom. And so I went in her bedroom, grabbed the gun. I already made the phone call. Looked in the mirror."
He shot himself in the chest, and soon, the squad car showed up. A nice policeman named Bob rushed him to the hospital and personally sat by his side until he was stabilized. Wayne was touched, and kept in touch with the cop that saved him later in life. It's an anecdote he talks about to this day.
Kim Kardashian West Reveals She Has Been Fighting Psoriasis
Kim Kardashian makes a living off her appearance. Sure, we know that she uses ample makeup and filters. But who would have guessed that for years, this glowing goddess was dealing with an autoimmune skin condition? Psoriasis Causes patches all over your body to look red, flaky, and scaly. It affects millions, and Kim is among those who were diagnosed. Undoubtedly, this was frustrating for an influencer. The good news is that at the moment, Kim is feeling better.
In 2017, Kim explained: "I have been using this light—and I don't wanna speak too soon because [the psoriasis] is almost gone — but I've been using this light [therapy] and my psoriasis is like 60 percent gone...That's wild because it hasn't been gone in years."
Jackie Chan’s Dad Was A Spy and His Mom Was a Major Dealer
Fans probably have no idea that Jackie Chan's dad was a secret agent working for the Nationalist Guard in China. They also wouldn't guess that his mom sold a lot of illegal substances. She was actually a leader in the field! Sadly for her, that field was not legal. When an official came to bust her, he fell in love. It was Jackie's dad! We've never quite heard a story like this one. Maybe it deserves its own action movie.
It all seems to have worked out, in the end. Jackie Chan has built a fortune of $370 million. Mom's schemes might have made a quick buck, but Kung Fu brought the family true fortune.
Chelsea Handler Decided to Go the to Clinic at Age 16
She's the queen of talk, and it seems she wants to keep it that way. Chelsea Handler isn't planning any babies. According to the comedienne: “I definitely don't want to have kids...I don't think I'd be a great mother. I'm a great aunt or friend of a mother...I don't want to spend that kind of time. I don't want to have a kid and have it raised by a nanny. I don't have time to raise a child.” As it turns out, she was almost a mother in her youth.
Chelsea once decided to terminate a pregnancy. She was just 16 at the time, and she had no intention of carrying anything to term. Since then, she doesn't seem to have reconsidered. Will she, one day?
Gisele Bündchen Used to Hide Debilitating Panic Attacks From the World
Supermodel Gisele Bündchen was on top of the world, or so we thought. As a Victoria's Secret Angel, it looked like she had it all. But deep inside, she was experiencing terror back then. Plagued with panic attacks on a regular basis, she started to become suicidal. And because she was so successful, she felt it was inappropriate for her to complain. The spiral went on and on. And no one knew!
These days, she's doing better. But when asked about her condition, Gisele shared: "I had a wonderful position in my career, I was very close to my family, and I always considered myself a positive person, so I was really beating myself up. Like, 'Why should I be feeling this?' I felt like I wasn't allowed to feel bad. But I felt powerless. Your world becomes smaller and smaller, and you can't breathe, which is the worst feeling I've ever had."
Anderson Cooper's Older Brother Jumped to His Death
Newsman Anderson Cooper is a pretty successful guy. He actually started out life as a member of the privileged Vanderbilt family. Some might think things have been charmed, all along. But there's a lot viewers may not know about his personal journey. When Anderson was just 21, tragedy struck. His 23-year-old brother Carter jumped from the 14th floor of their NYC penthouse. He may have had a psychotic episode induced by meds. But to this day, no one can say for sure.
Today, the memory still weighs heavy on the CNN anchor's mind. He reflects: "Loss is a theme that I think a lot about, and it's something in my work that I dwell on. I think when you experience any kind of loss, especially the kind I did, you have questions about survival: Why do some people thrive in situations that others can't tolerate? Would I be able to survive and get on in the world on my own?"
Sofia Vergara’s Family Life Off TV Was a Bit Tumultuous
Sofia Vergara is the star of Modern Family. Although the characters on the show had their quirks, most would say they were pretty normal. The actress had a bit more drama in her own life, back in her native Colombia. In 1989, the first tragedy struck. Her big brother was killed during a kidnapping attempt. As a result of the pain, her younger brother became addicted to drugs. Sad times!
Despite these setbacks, this immigrant worked her way to becoming the highest-paid actress on American TV. How does she handle the chaos in her life? According to Sofia: "I'm fearless, I don't complain. Even when horrible things happen to me, I go on."
Marilyn Monroe Had at Least 12 Pregnancies by Age 29
Marilyn Monroe was a world-class beauty. Every man in the world wanted to be with her, and every woman wanted to look like her. She still seduces us today from the silver screen. In real life, she went with her passions when the time felt right. The actress once said: “I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous.” How did that go, in a time before birth control was common?
Writer Norman Mailer wrote a biography after her death, in 1973. According to an interview with her photographer, Milton Greene, Marilyn terminated at least 12 pregnancies by the time she died. Who knew?
Freddie Prinze, Jr. 's Father Took His Own Life
Freddie Prinze, Jr. was a teen dream from the start. We first fell in love with him in She's All That, and he made us feel chills in I Know What You Did Last Summer. He actually comes from a Hollywood family, because his father was actor-comedian Freddie Prinze. But he actually didn't learn the tricks of the trade from dad, growing up. Sadly, the elder Prinze called his wife to say goodbye when Freddie was just a baby. Then, he pulled a trigger on himself. It's sad but true!
Today, Freddie is a proud parent himself. He shares: "I always appreciated that connection between a parent and a kid because I yearned for it so much. Growing up, I wanted a father, and because I've had this idea of what a father should be, it's exciting to finally have the opportunity to try and be that guy, to see if I can actually do it."
Carlos Santana Was Abused by an Older Man
Carlos Santana knows how to play a mean riff. He also knows how to be honest about his pain. The famed guitarist says that his first intimate encounter was with an American man who kept coming across the border to give him presents. Almost every other day, young Carlos was subjected to abuse by that man. The Grammy winner explains: "You want to get angry with yourself for not knowing better...The mind has a very insidious way of making you feel guilty: You're the guilty party, shame on you, you're the one who brought this on yourself."
After his wife pushed him to get therapy in the mid '90s, he has more perspective on this difficult issue. These days, he shares his experience to help others. Go, Carlos!
Gabrielle Union Has Been Suffering With Adenomyosis
Gabrielle Union has faced a long road behind the scenes to become a mom. Married to basketball star Dwayne Wade, she's already a stepmom to his children. But in her quest to have a child of her own, Gabrielle quietly dealt with a string of miscarriages for years. The actress was fighting against a diagnosis of Adenomyosis, which caused an irregular uterine wall. She has since declared: "Fertility is not an older women's issue. It's an issue, period.”
Infertility is a complicated, yet not uncommon problem. The good news is, Gabby and Dwayne did find a solution. Via surrogate, they welcomed a daughter in 2018. Welcome to the world, Kaavia James Union Wade!
Melissa Gilbert's Dad Actually Died Differently Than What She Was Told
Melissa Gilbert had a long career in Hollywood, and eventually became the president of the Screen Actors Guild. You may have seen her recently as a contestant on season fourteen of Dancing with the Stars. And even more recently, she ran for congress in Michigan. The woman seems incredibly positive and motivated in everything she does. It's even more admirable, considering she had to grow up without a father starting at age 11. He died of a heart attack. Or did he?
For most of her life, that was the story. But in 2009, Melissa found that it was actually suicide. She reflects: "I still sometimes wonder why I wasn't enough to stick around for and I think that is something that all children whose parents commit suicide [feel]...But he was in unbearable pain. I understand his decision and I honor that decision."
Common Blocked Out Uncomfortable Childhood Trauma
Rapper Common made it to the top of the music game and even started to act. It was at that point he paused to reflect. While filming a movie with actress Laura Dern, he got a funny feeling and memories began to resurface. At age 9, a grown man touched him. He recalls: "One day, while talking through the script with Laura, old memories surprisingly flashed in my mind...I caught my breath and just kept looping the memories over and over, like rewinding an old VHS tape…I said ‘Laura, I think I was abused.'"
Common now says he thinks he had blocked it out for years. Many kids do, experts say. Is the rapper in pain, today? We don't know, but Common says he has forgiven the adult.
Ginuwine Was Devastated After Losing Both of His Parents
Musician Ginuwine might seem smooth, but his early life actually wasn't so smooth. His father shot himself, and his mother died from cancer just the next year. Now an orphan in adulthood, the singer wasn't happy. He shares: "I really didn't want to be here anymore, I didn't want to live and tried to commit suicide more than once." During these troubled times, he turned to drinking and smoking in his sadness.
It's not easy to admit these feelings, especially in hip hop. Fans applaud Ginuwine for being so honest about the dark side of life. Tragedy strikes the rich and famous, too!