Hollywood stars might seem like they have the perfect lives. Celebrities live under the spotlight and the majority of the time, we see the glitz, glam, and privilege that is associated with celebrity life. However, like the rest of us, stars are just human beings with backgrounds, histories, and baggage. In fact, many of them have dark family secrets that they would rather stay buried in the past.
Unfortunately, because we live in a society that thrives on celebrity culture, many celebs have been unable to keep the secrets from their past hidden away from our prying ears. Some family secrets are no big deal, but these haunting secrets about your favorite stars families will leave you astounded. Jack Nicholson didn’t discover a massive family secret when he was almost 40 (page 8).
1. Sofia Vergara
Sofia Vergara | Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Sultry actress Sofia Vergara seems like a ball of sunlight. The Modern Family actress has had a long and successful career as an actress and model, and it all stemmed from being discovered by a photographer in her native country, Columbia. Unfortunately, Vergara’s life has not always been so easy. In 1989, her older brother was murdered during a botched kidnapping attempt.
Her younger brother, Julio has also had his troubles. The younger Vergara has had some significant struggles with addiction which has led to countless run-ins with the law. Because of his actions, in 2011, he was ultimately deported back to Columbia. The Hot Pursuit actress said of her brother, “To see somebody [passing] over 10 years, little by little, that’s the worst punishment. Now he’s like another person.”
Next: An actor who had a hitman for a father.
2. Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson in “Kingpin” | Rysher Entertainment
Prolific actor Woody Harrelson has shined in just about every Hollywood film genre you can think of. Quirky and light-hearted, The Hunger Games actor seems like he’s a breath of fresh air, but he’s had to overcome a lot. His father, Charles Harrelson was a notorious hitman. In fact, he committed the first assassination of a federal judge in the twentieth century. It was a crime that got him caught and convicted, but it wasn’t his first.
Harrelson first learned of his father’s real job when he was 12. Allegedly, Charles murdered a carpet salesman for $1,500 after a business deal went south. he lured the man to an undisclosed location shot him and then strangled him. He was later acquitted of this particular time due to lack of evidence. Charles Harrelson passed away in prison in 2009.
Next: A singer whose dad had another secret family.
Rihanna | Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images
Rihanna is a legend. The music star and beauty mogul has always played by her own rules and done things her way, and it turns out that’s because she’s had to learn to weather storms. The Barbados native woke up one day and found out that her father, Ronald Fenty had another secret family. The Savage Fenty designer has two sisters and one brother that she knew nothing about, and they each have different mothers.
It seems like in addition to a drug and alcohol addiction, the pop star’s father also had a sex addiction. Luckily, it appears that the Anti songstress and he dad have repaired their relationship since these revelations came to light.
Next: A disgraced actor who lived in an abusive household.
4. Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Former House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey has his own demons. He’s been accused of being a sexual predator against children, and we’ve watched him tumble from grace. Apparently, his father, Thomas Fowler was also monstrous. Thomas was a self-acclaimed Nazi and considered Adolf Hitler to be his idol. While the American Beauty actor has stayed tight-lipped about his childhood, his siblings have been more vocal.
Apparently, there were countless years of abuse and hate-filled lectures. Spacy’s brother Randy Fowler (Spacey has his mother’s maiden name) even says that Thomas sexually abused him– but not Kevin.
Next: A comedian whose brother traumtized her.
5. Kathy Griffin
Kathy Griffin | Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Kathy Griffin might seem to be all about the laughs, but her dark family history is pretty horrifying. In her autobiography, My Life on the D-List, Griffin describes growing up with her old brother Kenny. She wrote that he was sexually inappropriate with her which traumatized her. She also explained that every time he was around, she felt a dark, violent presence.
In the book, the comedian also discusses how she witnessed him beating up his wife. Kenny Griffin eventually went to prison and passed away.
Next: A comedian who was raised in a brothel.
6. Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor in “Silver Streak” | Frank Yablans Presentations
It’s often comedians who have the most tragic backstories, and that can certainly be said for the legendary comedian, Richard Pryor. The Superman actor struggled with addiction throughout his life. He was married seven times and even lit himself on fire once. However, his upbringing was even more tumultuous. Pryor’s mother, Gertrude was a prostitute who worked out of his grandmother Marie’s brothel. When Gertrude abandoned her son when Pryor was 10-years-old, he was left in the hands of his abusive grandmother.
Pyror’s paternal side didn’t fare much better. His father, LeRoy was a hustler and a boxer. Despite his own demons, Pryor was able to turn his pain into comedy.
Next: A singer who hasn’t spoken to her sister since 1994.
7. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey performs| Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Ionic songstress Mariah Carey recently came forward about her struggles with bipolar disorder. It was an illness Carey’s sister Allison Carey alleged that The Emancipation of Mimi singer had been struggling with years ago. Carey’s relationship with her sister is strained to say the least. The women have not spoken to one another since 1994.
Allison has been arrested time and time again for prostituting. She once told undercover cops that she could provide them with a “sweet, sweet fantasy.” She also blames her sister for not helping her with her medication since she has been HIV positive since the ’90s and she’s often tried to extort the mother of two for money. We don’t think the Carey sisters will be mending their relationship anytime soon.
Next: An actor whose whole life was a lie.
8. Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson contemplating his newfound retirement in About Schmidt | New Line Cinema
We all live for Academy Award winner Jack Nicolson and his outstanding performances, but the actor has a backstory that will make your jaw drop. On the surface, everything looks pretty tame. Nicholson grew up with his parents and older sister June. However, when he was in his late 30s, reporters from Time Magazine revealed to the actor that June was actually his biological mother and that his parents were actually his grandparents.
Apparently, June was only 17 when she had Nicholson in 1937 and because she was unwed and the stigmas associated with it, she decided to pretend to be his sister while her mother and father would act as Nicholson’s parents. Luckily, Nicholson didn’t seem to be too traumatized by the situation, but his family had already passed away before he could ask them more about it.
Next: An actress who was raised in a cult.
9. Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Actress Rose McGowan has been an outspoken force in the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, and she’s been open about her struggles with mental illness and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, McGowan’s childhood was also painful. Her parents belonged to a cult called Children of God. Apparently, members believed in free love.
The Charmed actress was raised on a commune where she witnessed women being mistreated by men and being forced to act as servants. Ultimately what she witnessed led her to leave the cult.
Next: An actor whose family couldn’t escape their past.
10. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix | David Buchan/Getty Images
Rose McGowan wasn’t the only celebrity who grew up under the influence of Children of God. Joaquin Phoenix was born Joaquin Rafael Bottom into the Puerto Rican commune of Children of God. Luckily, when Phoenix was 4-years-old, his parents escaped the cult and moved the family to the mainland changing their name to Phoenix to symbolize rebirth.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix family’s struggles did not end after they left Children of God. In 1993, the Walk the Line actor watched his famous brother, River Phoenix die from an overdose. He was the one to call 911 during the ordeal just outside the famous Viper Room.
Next: An MCU actor whose father hooked him on drugs.
11. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Ian Gavan/Getty Images
We might know Robert Downey Jr. as a massive star today, but the Iron Man actor has some real struggles before his epic 21st-century comeback. In fact, the Marvel Cinematic Universe actor struggled so severely with addiction that he killed his acting career in the ’80s, destroyed his long-term relationship with actress Sarah Jessica Parker, and wound up in prison. However, we bet you didn’t realize that Downey’s father, actor Robert Downey Sr. led him down this tumultuous path.
The elder actor/director has his own struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, and he introduced his son to drugs and alcohol when The Judge actor was just 8-years -old. He would later come to regret the decision. Luckily both men are clean now.
Next: An actress who witnessed her mother kill her father.
12. Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron | Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Charlize Theron is known for her roles in Atomic Blonde, the Fate of the Furious, Monster, and countless other projects. However, the South African actress hasn’t always had such a glamorous life. Theron grew up on a farm with her mother, Gerda Theron and her alcoholic father Charles Jacobus Theron. One evening Charles attacked Gerda and she hit back — killing her husband in the process.
Luckily, it was seen as an act of self-defense and Gerda never faced any charges. Though Theron rarely speaks about the incident she does say that the event itself was not as terrifying as living with an alcoholic father. She also routinely praises her mom for her strength.
Next: An iconic actor whose father busted his mother for drugs.
13. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan| Johanna Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
Actor Jacie Chan is a master of martial arts. In fact, since he’s done his own stunts over the course of his illustrious career, he’s injured himself in countless incidents. However, Chan remains unbothered, and that’s probably because he comes from a family of risk-takers. His mother, Lee-Lee Chan was a drug dealer and his father was a secret agent for the nationalist guard. Lee-Lee was so poor that she had to abandon her first two children.
In fact, the pair met when Chan’s father busted his mother for drug possession. He took pity on her and let her go.
Next: An actress who didn’t know her famous dad was her real dad.
14. Liv Tyler
Steven and Liv Tyler| Jason Merritt/Getty Images
We all know actress Liv Tyler from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. These days we also know that her father is Aerosmith legend Steven Tyler, but that hasn’t always been the case. Growing up, Tyler was initially named Liv Rundgren. She believed that her dad was musician/producer Todd Rundgren. When Tyler was 8-years-old, she had a chance meeting with the Aerosmith frontman who saw the similarities between the actress and his other daughter.
Tyler’s mother confessed that she had kept her daughter’s parentage a secretly due to the musician’s severe drug addiction. The Armageddon actress changed her name eventually but left Rundgren as a middle name.
Next: A rapper who truly lived a street life.
15. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
50 Cent | Ethan Miller/Getty Images
A lot of rappers talk about living a gangster life, but some of them actually do it. 50 Cent might be boisterous and talk a big game, but the “21 Questions” rapper had a very sordid childhood. The rapper whose real name is Curtis Jackson was born in Queens, New York. His mother, Sabrina was just 15-years-old when she gave birth.
Sabrina turned to drug dealing to feed her son and became one of the most notorious drug dealers in the area. Unfortunately, she was murdered when Jackson was just 8-years-old. Still, he would go on to follow in her footsteps, drug dealing and he was even shot 9 times in May of 2000.
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