Kelly Clarkson skyrocketed to fame in 2002 after winning the first-ever season of American Idol, and her hits like “Because Of You” and “Since U Been Gone” resonated deeply with millions of fans and cemented her place in music history. Her life leading up to and after fame, however, was riddled with tragedy and drama. She truly overcame the odds.
Kelly was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1982. Her mother Jeanne Ann taught English to first graders, and her father Stephen Michael Clarkson was an engineer. She also had two older siblings named Jason and Alyssa. Sadly, the brood would be split up before Kelly hit puberty.
The Clarkson Family
The Clarksons were, in Kelly’s own words, “highly conservative,” and the young girl grew up attending church twice a week. She was even the leader of her youth group! Tightly knit, they never expected the event that rocked their entire world in 1988.
It was in that year, when Kelly was only six years old, that her father Stephen abandoned the family. Usually when parents divorce, they leave their spouse — not their children. This was not the case for the Clarkson family, and her father’s absence would haunt her for years, inspiring much of her music.
After the separation, Kelly’s brother went to stay with their father, her sister lived with an aunt, and the future star stayed with her mother. It was a traumatic time in her life, and her father made no attempt to parent her from then on out. Years later, when Kelly was in middle school, one teacher would change the course of her life.
Kelly was in 7th grade when her school’s choir teacher overheard the preteen belting it out in the hallway. She could tell instantly the girl had undeniable talent, and convinced her to utilize it. After that, Kelly started performing in school talent shows and musicals; everyone who witnessed her sing could see she was destined for stardom.
After high school, Kelly was offered full scholarships to three prestigious universities, including Berklee College of Music. Astoundingly, the 18-year-old turned them all down, instead deciding to go on her own. It was the year 2000; only two years later, the whole world would know her name.
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It was in 2002 that Clarkson competed on the first season of reality singing show American Idol. After her big win, the pop star signed a contract with RCA Records. Her first single, “A Moment Like This,” broke records set by the Beatles and became the best-selling single in the U.S. that year.
In 2004 Kelly’s second album, Breakaway, was also a massive hit. It brought the world classics such as Since U Been Gone and Walk Away. However despite her mainstream success, Kelly was yearning for something more. She wanted the music to reflect more of her own experiences. Little did she know, this would lead to a vicious feud.
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Producer Clive Davis had worked with her on her previous music, but ahead of her third album, Kelly wanted to do things differently. For My December, released in 2007, she allowed less outside help and focused on writing more of her own songs. Clive, however, was skeptical, and he made his opinions known.
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Davis gave the star some constructive criticism, suggesting that the album needed to be reworked, in part because he feared none of the songs were single material, and that overall the tracks were too negative. Kelly took offense, ultimately firing her management and going it alone. This would prove to be a mistake.
Although My December did well commercially, she regretted her falling out with Davis. Calling him an “important force in my success,” she noted that the fight had been blown out of proportion. Still, Kelly’s career was thriving. She released All I Ever Wanted in 2009, followed by 2011’s Stronger.
Although she was excellent at keeping up with appearances, behind that perfect facade Kelly was fighting serious medical problems. In fact, as far back as 2006, Kelly had been struggling with a thyroid issue as well as an autoimmune condition. She attributed a large weight gain to these ailments.
YouTube – ScreenSlam
Still, health issues didn’t hold her back from finding love. In 2012 she began dating Brandon Blackstock, the son of her former manager. Only a year later, the two were happily married. Blackstock had two children that Kelly raised as her own, and they also welcomed a daughter, River. However, not everything is meant to be…
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The pair stayed together for seven years, and on the outside it seemed as if everything was peachy. Kelly and Brandon often posted adorable group pictures that made it seem like they had the perfect marriage. Turns out, this wasn’t exactly the case.
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The first sign of trouble was Kelly’s public comments about wanting more children. While she had previously stated that she never wanted to be pregnant again, later she changed her mind. In a 2020 episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show, she admitted that she did want more, while her husband felt they already had their hands full.
NBC – The Kelly Clarkson Show
While this was certainly an obstacle, it seemed surmountable. But the rumors began piling up. Sources close to the couple added that the two had drastically different personalities, with Blackstock being more laid back compared to Kelly’s high strung nature. Her busy schedule of running her own show and acting as a coach on The Voice didn’t help.
NBC – The Voice
As if their problems weren’t jarring enough, the pair was then forced to quarantine together with their children. This brought tensions to a boiling point. From working at home to taking care of the kids, Brandon and Kelly barely had time for each other. Eventually, she filed for divorce.
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While this was undoubtedly an incredibly painful chapter in Clarkson’s life, she didn’t let sadness turn her bitter. Even after the separation she’s publicly thanked her husband for supporting her personally and professionally. There’s another man in her life, however, who didn’t get off the hook quite so easily.
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As previously mentioned, Clarkson’s father Stephen abandoned the star when she was only a child. Despite repeated attempts on her part to get into contact and heal old wounds, he reportedly never returned her efforts. The singer described it as “humiliating” and stated she has no interest in bridging the gap.
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Unfortunately, grudges like Kelly’s in the music industry aren’t that uncommon. At first glance, these two artists appear to be cut from the same cloth. They sport bold haircuts, sing passionately, and speak candidly. Even Miley Cyrus herself sees the resemblance — after all, she compared her controversial Wrecking Ball video to Sinéad O’connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U video.
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When Sinéad caught wind of Miley’s comparison, she felt compelled to draft up a response — we’re talking over 1,000 words in essay format. Her message? Miley was being used and “pimped” by the pop industry. Here are just a few excerpts from Sinéad’s open letter:
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“I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe… that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos.” Not cool to be naked in music videos? Bjork, David Bowie, and Madonna — just to name a few — might disagree.
One Little Indian Records / YouTube
“Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you.” Oof. You just know Miley wasn’t okay being told to be “lady-like.” Sinéad went on…
Miley Cyrus / Instagram
“I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked… Your body is for you and your boyfriend.” With Sinéad’s net-worth of $400,000 and Miley’s at $200 million plus, we’re not sure Miley needs advice. So, what happened?
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Whether or not Miley agreed with Sinéad’s “words of wisdom”, the young singer’s response wasn’t exactly praise-worthy. Just two years prior, Sinéad had been suffering with a mental illness and her struggles began to spill out on social media.
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One day, Sinéad released a string of tweets speaking openly about her need for medication. She said she was having a mental breakdown, but was unable to find help at her nearby hospitals in Ireland. Here are few quotes from that day:
“I’m in serious danger… I desperately need to get back on meds today… can any psychiatrist see me today and get me back on meds an help me without me having to go hospital?” Miley, after reading these tweets, found it hypocritical of Sinéad to be dishing out advice.
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On October 3rd, 2013, Miley re-tweeted a screenshot of Sinead’s tweets with this caption: “Before Amanda Bynes… There was…” Earlier that year, Bynes repeatedly called Miley “ugly” on social media. So, Miley decided to drag them both at the same time, and she wasn’t finished.
Miley Cyrus / Twitter
Miley also posted a photo of Sinead on SNL tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II, which Sinéad had done to protest the abusive scandals coming out of the Catholic Church. Not the classiest response from Miley, but neither was Sinéad’s.
With few words, Miley ignited something in Sinéad O’Connor that burned so intensely, the Irish singer wrote not just one more open letter… but three. In them, Sinéad repeatedly called out Miley’s promiscuity, which today might be seen as “slut shaming.” You be the judge.
When Sinéad heard about the then-20-year-old’s insensitive posts, she immediately penned a letter and released it the following day. This time, it was about half the length, but double the expletives. Below are a few excerpts:
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“Miley… Really? Who the f*** is advising you? Because taking me on is even more f****n’ stupid than behaving like a prostitute and calling it feminism.” Sinéad went on to critique Miley’s insensitivity toward mental illness.
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“You mock myself and Amanda Bynes for having suffered with mental health issues and for having sought help… Have you any idea how stupid and dangerous it is to mock people for suffering illness? You will yourself one day suffer such illness, that is without doubt.” Then, Sinéad lawyered up.
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“Remove your tweets immediately or you will hear from my lawyers. I am certain you will be hearing from all manner of mental health advocacy groups also.” She also kicked back at the image of her tearing up the pope’s photo.
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“I suggest you read all the reports which will illuminate for you why that action of mine remains sane and valid. You mock every child who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests.” Sinéad nearly stuck the landing, but then doubled-back to Miley’s perceived promiscuity.
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“You could really do with educating yourself, that is if you’re not too busy getting your t*** out to read,” the letter concluded, leaving the ball in Miley’s court. Miley, after giving her sledgehammer a good lick, slammed that ball right back.
Miley Cyrus VEVO / YouTube
“Sinéad. I don’t have time to write you an open letter cause I’m hosting & performing on SNL this week. So if you’d like to meet up and talk lemme know in your next letter. :)” We all know where this was going.
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The third letter turned down Miley’s “invitation” and, once again, insisted the tweets be removed. “You can take five minutes today between g- string f*****g changes,” said Sinéad. When Miley didn’t comply, the fourth letter was released. Sinéad blamed Miley for the backlash she’d received.
Since then, no lawyers were called, no letters were written, and Miley’s tweet remains posted. However, it was flagged as “potentially sensitive content.” Who won: Sinéad or Miley? Honestly, we still can’t tell. But during their squabbling, another pop diva was navigating a hell all her own.
Britney was taken to court in 2008 after having a few public breakdowns. (Hey, we don’t judge you, Britney — if we were in the spotlight since age 11, we’d be having mental breakdowns, too). The choices that landed her in front of a judge were clear.
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We don’t like leading with child endangerment, but sometimes, that’s how the yellow brick road to rehab goes. Back in the late 2000’s, Britney was seen driving her SUV with her son sitting on her lap, which is how you drive with your chihuahua, not your infant. Britney had an explanation that was… not great.
Britney claimed she had her son in her lap due to a “horrifying, frightful encounter with the paparazzi.” But the agency who snapped the photos believe the images “speak for themselves.” This wasn’t the last time paparazzi breached the pop icon’s privacy.
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By 2007, the paparazzi were straight-up stalking the party girl. Bearing the weight of a recent break-up, Britney was out hitting clubs with bad girl starlet, Paris Hilton. As with everyone who hangs out with Paris Hilton, Britney landed herself in rehab. Less than 24 hours later, against her doctors’ suggestion, she checked herself out.
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When Britney showed up the next day to visit her kids, her husband, Kevin Federline (remember K-Fed?!) teamed up with her mom and manager to lock Britney out of the house, saying she needed to go back to rehab before she could see her children. This lead to… the incident. Yes, you know the one.
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Resentful of her family and angry at the people who were eager to see her breakdown, Britney did the honors. She walked into a hair salon in California, picked up a buzzer, and shaved her head for the cameras to see. She also got a tattoo of red lips on her wrist and, from there, the world exploded.
Britney now says the whole thing was cathartic. After all, she did liberate herself from the societal pressures and sexualization that had infiltrated her adolescence. We can clap for that! But as her outbursts grew more aggressive, it became clear this wasn’t just a mid-life crisis haircut.
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A few days after her shave, the rebellious Britney was seen whacking a photographer’s car with her umbrella at a gas station. This, along with plenty of other Google-able incidents, led to the “Lucky” singer losing custody of her kids. Desperate, she made another unfortunate move.
In response to her custody battle, Britney locked herself and her son, Jayden, in a room that had to be forced into. That’s when, against her will, Britney was checked into a psychiatric ward. This left lawyers with a big decision: Britney would have to be placed under a “conservatorship.”
A conservatorship is rare for someone Britney’s age. As with an elderly family member, it would mean someone else would handle of her financial and personal affairs. For Britney’s career, that’s a big ask. Britney’s dad, Jamie, along with a lawyer, became her sole conservators.
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Despite making $60 million annually as a bounced-back pop sensation, Britney’s spending is recorded down to the cent. “Close friends” say the conservatorship has been good for her, citing that her life is uniquely complicated despite the success of her career. Then 2019 happened.
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Just as the conservatorship was up for debate, Britney landed back in a mental health facility. However (and this is the #FreeBritney part), an anonymous source claimed this was all an elaborate hoax, saying that Britney was forced to check herself into the facility to maintain the conservatorship. Conspiracy theorists latched on. Hard.
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Other sources say that Britney checked herself into the facility to deal with her father’s declining health. “Don’t believe everything you read and hear,” Britney wrote in a robotic-sounding Instagram post. A few days later, Jamie’s lawyer resigned abruptly and #FreeBritney was trending again. The following statement he released had people very concerned.
The lawyer’s statement said the “conservatorship is engaged in numerous ongoing business activities requiring immediate attention.” He claimed he wanted to resign to save Britney from, “substantial detriment, irreparable harm, and immediate danger.” Ahem… what?
The lawyer maintained to have protected Britney on numerous occasions from drug dealers and destructive friends. An anonymous source on a Britney podcast (yes, those exist) said she was under control by her greedy father, who “forced” her to end her Vegas residency. This part really got to Jamie.
Jamie Spears sued outspoken #FreeBritney advocates, declaring, “Enough is enough.” How did he get the money to sue them? From the $130k salary he gets for being Britney’s conservator, of course. Yeah… Jamie wasn’t looking too hot. In a shocking twist, news broke that K-Fed was filing a police report on Jamie!
According to K-Fed, Jamie “violently shook” his 13-year-old grandson after breaking down a door to see him. Like daughter, like father, huh? Both grandsons were granted restraining orders against their granddad, making the death of Jamie’s public image official. He stepped down as Britney’s conservator and out of the public eye. But what about Britney?!
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Britney’s care manager has been placed in charge of her affairs… for now. A court hearing was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, so Britney’s surveillance was continuing “until further notice.” Members of the conservatorship, who are seeking to push Britney’s restrictions to more states, have been met with hate and death threats.
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Even Lynne Spears, Britney’s mother, has showed signs of her support for the #FreeBritney movement online, but she hasn’t spoken out directly. Other stars like Miley Cyrus have voiced concern with no hesitation. Fans wave signs that declare, “Britney isn’t a slave for you!” But are things really that toxic?
For now, we’ll have to wait and see. It sure doesn’t help that Britney was recently in the news for burning down her home gym with a couple of candles. Oops, she wasn’t acquitted again. Girl… we just can’t with you.
Free or not, Britney will continue making waves in Hollywood. She has plenty of pop colleagues to lean on; in fact, one of her idols had a “rowdy” reputation, too.
Drew de F Fawkes
As the biggest pop star of all time, Madonna has earned herself a larger-than-life reputation. Her songs are beloved, but her contribution to society goes far beyond dozens of chart-topping hits. An unusual mix of factors brought about this musical dynamo.
Born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in August of 1958, she was the middle child in a family of six children. She once claimed to be the “sissy of the family,” admitting to using her feminine charm to get what she wanted.
Her parents were strict and devout Catholics. This element of her childhood later played a role in her art. Many of Madonna’s albums, outfits, and visuals played into the religious iconography she was surrounded by as a child. Though her early years were anything but idyllic.
Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy with Madonna’s youngest sister. Doctors caught the cancer early, but delayed treatment for the sake of the baby. By the time she underwent chemotherapy, it was far too late.
The future star was only five years old when her mother passed. This left a massive impact on who Madonna. “I think the biggest reason I was able to express myself and not be intimidated was by not having a mother,” she explained.
Another woman came into her life and was met with complete resistance by Madonna. Her stepmother, Joan Gustafson, became her enemy and did everything she could to defy the girl. “I saw myself as the quintessential Cinderella,” Madonna said.
In her teen years, she began rejecting her religious upbringing and dressing in loud, promiscuous clothing. All the while, Madonna was still a straight-A student and cheerleader. She graduated a semester early with a full scholarship to the University of Michigan for dance.
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After earning a six week scholarship to study at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, she changed her plans. With the encouragement of her teacher, she dropped out of college to pursue performance full-time.
Peter Kentes / University of Michigan
The young artist made the move to New York, paying her bills by the occasional nude modelling, serving at the Russian Tea Room and performing with the American Dance Theater. In the late 1970s, she ventured to Paris with a boyfriend and became a showgirl.
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Once the 1980s arrived, it was truly Madonna’s time to shine. She performed with a band in 1980, but chose to go solo a year later. This would be the best decision of her life. Her first hit, “Everybody,” reached number one on the dance charts in 1982.
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Between 1983 and 1985, Madonna catapulted to fame with pop standards such as “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” and “Crazy for You.” She became an icon, shaping the trending fashion for women and girls across the world. Known and loved for her brash attitude and bold style, she changed pop forever.
In 1985, she made headlines for marrying actor Sean Penn. During the late 1980s and the beginning of the ’90s, she made a foray into film, all the while releasing hit album after hit album. How could she be everywhere at once?
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Certainly part of her appeal was her attraction to controversy. Madonna’s antics left many conservative individuals outraged. Her suggestive performance of Like A Virgin at the VMA awards, where she wore a wedding dress and writhed around on the dance floor, was particularly provocative.
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Despite her complete lack of reverence for religious paraphernalia, even leading the Pope himself to urge people to stay away from Madonna’s music and 1989 Pepsi campaign, her astronomical success continued.
After a very public and controversial divorce from Sean Penn, she was once again single going into the ’90s. By 1991, she had 21 Top 10 hits in the United States and sold 70 million albums globally, earning a cool $1.2 billion in sales.
She continued to push the envelope with her art. In 1992, she published Sex — a picture book of her in a variety of compromising poses. From there, she became more known for her dramatic personal life as she entered the mid-2000s.
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Madonna welcomed six children — two biological and four that she has adopted from various countries. While continuing to perform to sold-out crowds, she has mostly shifted her focus to humanitarian efforts in recent years, often donating to and volunteering for global relief efforts.
@madonna / Instagram
The Material Girl’s legacy looms large over the burgeoning pop sensations of today. Because of the incalculable impact of the singer on pop culture, her actions were not that of a single individual, but a ripple effect that changed everything about the industry.
Whether you love or hate her, you certainly know her. Many of the modern songstresses name Madonna as their main influence. But when one young pop star exploded on the scene in the late 1990s, she gave Madonna a run for her money.
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By the end of the 2000s, Britney was the best-selling female artist of the decade. She was also given the Guinness World Record for having had been Google searched the most over the previous ten years. However, Spears didn’t start life with global fame.
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She was, however, enormously talented. Her first job in the entertainment industry was actually on stage, in an off-Broadway musical called Ruthless! She was the lead at only 10 years old. Afterwards, she stepped away from show business.
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In middle school, she worked odd jobs helping out with aerobic classes at the gym her father owned and waiting tables at her great-grandmother’s crawfish restaurant. Of course, Hollywood kept calling.
Later, a 12-year-old Britney joined the Mousketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club. Many of her costars also went on to achieve international fame, including Justin Timberlake, the man she later dated for three years.
In 1996, after The Mickey Mouse Club’s cancellation, Spears moved back to Mississippi for a brief period of normalcy where she returned to high school, even playing as a point guard on the basketball team. But she was destined for a music career.
Before signing with her label, Jive, in 1997, Spears was close to joining a girls band called Innosense. The strange band name was misspelled so that fans wouldn’t think of “innocent little four year-olds.” She made the right decision.
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In 1999, hit single “…Baby One More Time” skyrocketed Britney to fame. However the song almost wasn’t hers! It was first written for TLC, who actually rejected the now-iconic pop ballad.
YouTube – Britney Spears
Later on, Britney got her chance to reject amazing songs. “Telephone” by Lady Gaga (2010) was originally intended for Spears’ Circus album, but she passed on the tune, letting legendary artists Gaga and Beyonce make it famous.
Soon, Spears was famous, and to maintain some discretion, she started traveling with pseudonyms. Her multiple aliases include Mrs. Diana Prince, Alotta Warmheart, and Chastity Montgomery. Her fame came with some unexpected perks.
Spears became pop royalty, so it made sense that she once flirted with British royalty. The star revealed that, at the age of 20, she exchanged cutesy emails with the one and only Prince William. Unfortunately, they never actually went on a date.
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Life couldn’t stay on the up-and-up for long. With interests beyond music, she opened up a Cajun restaurant in NYC called Nyla in 2002. While the food was delicious, six months later, she left the business due to mismanagement that involved health code concerns and debt issues.
Then, in 2004 Spears made headlines when she had a shotgun Vegas wedding to her childhood best friend Jason Alexander. Britney donned low-rise jeans and a baseball cap for the ceremony. A mere 55 hours later, the marriage was annulled.
That same year, she wed backup dancer Kevin Federline, and the two self-produced a reality show entitled “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic” using home movies they’d filmed themselves. Although they divorced a couple years earlier, there must still be some of that footage floating around.
My Britney Collection
In 2005, controversies continued mounting. Brit ran into trouble when Louis Vuitton sued her. They took issue with a music video that showed Spears upholstering the inside of her Hummer with counterfeit fabric from their company. The video ultimately was banned all across European TV.
Flickr – US Customs
That year proved to be a tough one for Spears. She almost earned the role of Daisy Duke in the 2005 Dukes Of Hazzard movie. Sadly, however, the iconic role went to fellow blond Jessica Simpson instead. A few years later, her life took its most serious turn.
Seconds after the 2007 meltdown where she infamously shaved her head, the owner of the salon where it had taken place put Spears’ hair, empty Red Bull can, and lighter up for sale on eBay. The asking price? One million dollars.
One million dollars was also the amount of money that Britney donated a few months after 9/11 to a fund that helped out children of first-responders who died at the scene. Unwilling to let her mental anguish keep her down, Britney continued doing good for the world.
In fact, Spears has her own holiday in Las Vegas! The date was first celebrated in 2014, to honor the star’s contribution and impact on the city, where she has a long-term residency. To thank her, officials gave her the keys to the Vegas strip.
In 2017, during her Britney: Live In Concert tour, Spears’ stop in Israel caused quite the commotion when the Israeli Labor Party had to reschedule their primary election to avoid conflicting with her sold-out concert. Priorities.
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Spears also paints, and she once sold a painting of blue and purple flowers for an impressive $10,000. She didn’t keep the money, of course. She dedicated it to victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
Twitter – Britney Spears
Another song that was written for Spears? “Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know.” The true architect of that song had quite an exciting life herself…
Shania Twain was born Eilleen Regina Edwards in 1965 in Ontario, Canada. Her life had an incredibly rocky start — she was stillborn! The doctor almost pronounced her dead, but she finally began to cry just moments before.
When Eilleen was two, her parents divorced. She never met her biological father, as he was never involved in the lives of her or her two sisters. Meanwhile, her mother married Jerry Twain, and he adopted all three girls as his own.
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Because of her stepfather’s heritage, Twain is an official member of the Temagami First Nation, the indigenous people of Bear Island in Canada. As a kid, little Eilleen spent time at the Matagami Reserve.
Life was far from easy for Eilleen. Her parents had a hard time keeping food on the table, and, adding to the discontent, her alcoholic stepfather was often abusive to her mother. Her mother experienced bouts of depression.
So in 1979, Twain convinced her mother to leave him, and they moved across town to a homeless shelter. In 1981, they returned to Jerry’s home, though their relationship continued to be extremely complicated.
Despite all the violence and dysfunction, Twain has expressed her love and admiration for her stepfather. “He took us children in as his own. He worked hard for us, he took care of us the best he could,” she said.
When she was only 8 years old, she began singing at local bars for late-night crowds, and she earned a decent amount of money from the patrons drinking after last call. However, she didn’t love being in the dark and shady bars.
“I hated going into bars and being with drunks. But I loved the music, and so I survived,” she explained. Eilleen wrote her first songs, “Is Love a Rose” and “Just Like the Storybooks,” at the age of 10.
Global News / Youtube
But while she loved music, the singer had borderline crippling stage fright. Once, when she was performing as a kid, Twain got so nervous she actually wet her pants. She acted quickly, spilling a nearby glass of water on herself to cover up the accident.
Before she graduated high school and moved on to greener pastures, she worked at McDonald’s to help pay the bills. At the same time, Eilleen continued performing and taking singing lessons.
Twain also spent time working for her step-father’s re-forestation business, which meant she spent a lot of time in nature. This setting inspired her music “I would sit alone in the forest with my dog and a guitar and would just write songs,” she said.
@shaniatwain / Instagram
By her senior year of high school, she was touring with a band called Flirt and even missed her senior prom because of her demanding touring schedule. At the same time, her voice coach was making a huge impact on her life.
Ian Garrett was teaching her to sing during this time, but sadly Twain couldn’t pay for the lessons. In exchange, she would clean Garrett’s house from time to time. It didn’t take long for Twain to begin her climb to the top.
Canadian Academy of Music
In 1987, the singer got her first big break: The National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation asked her to appear for a fundraiser at Roy Thomson Hall in Ontario! She performed with stars like Bernadette Peters. She was on top of the world — until she received the worst news of her life.
That same year, Twain got the news that her parents had passed away in a fatal car accident. Devastated, she immediately moved back home to care for her younger siblings. She was obeying a haunting premonition.
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Twain recalled an eerie dream a few months before the accident where her mother asked her to “take care of things.” That she did, taking care of her siblings full-time, raising them herself.
When her siblings had all moved out and gone to college, Eilleen finally decided to focus on her music career once more. The first thing she did was change her name. She adopted the name Shania, which means “she’s on her way” in Ojibwe.
She released her self-titled album in 1993. It caught the attention of actor Sean Penn and music producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. Penn offered to direct a music video for her, and he gave her a little bit of money to keep her going.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Then producer Lange and Shania fell in love and got married right before they released her breakthrough album The Woman in Me in 1995. Years of success followed, and Shania experienced true stardom before her life changed forever in 2001.
In 2001, she had her first child. Unfortunately, not long after, Twain got the heart-breaking news that her husband had been cheating on her with her best friend. The relationship ended abruptly, and she struggled with depression.
Fortunately, she found love again and married Frederic Thiebaud. Unbelievably, he was the husband of her best friend who Lange cheated with! They were betrayed, but they found love together in the end!
@shaniatwain / Instagram
Now, Twain lives happily with tons of classic hits on her resume. She knows her life and path to fame was unconventional, but she has contemporaries in the country music scene that she can definitely relate to.
Faith Hill grew up in Mississippi, though, back then, she went by the name Audrey Faith Perry. Her mom, Edna, was a bank teller, her dad, Ted, a factory worker. They had a modest life, but the Perrys were a happy family.
Faith Hill / Instagram
From the beginning, Faith’s parents were open about her having been adopted. She may not have been biologically their child, but that didn’t matter. She was theirs, just the same as their two biological sons.
Faith Hill / Instagram
In fact, the Perrys had desperately wanted a daughter. Turning to a doctor friend for help, he promised to let them know if a little girl became available for adoption. Soon they got the call and little Faith joined the family!
Faith Hill / Instagram
But growing up, Faith felt compelled to know more about her roots. She said in an interview, “I didn’t know anyone I was related to, biologically, which gives you a sense of not knowing who you are.”
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When Faith questioned her mom and dad about her biological parents they told her a common story: Her birth mother had been having an affair with a married man and became pregnant, so she gave her baby up for adoption. Still, Faith had lingering questions…
This sense of not quite belonging was a big connection Faith shared with her future husband, Tim McGraw. Besides their love of music, they both had complicated family histories.
Faith was raised by a loving family but always suspected there was more to her adoption story than she’d been told; Tim, meanwhile, had a more chaotic childhood. He’d experienced abuse from the man he believed to be his father, Horace Smith.
Then when he was 11 years old, Tim discovered his birth certificate. In the space listed for the father’s name, his dad, the man who mistreated him, wasn’t listed. Instead, there was another name in his place: baseball player Tug McGraw.
Turns out Tim’s mother had a brief relationship with the baseball star, and it resulted in a pregnancy. Tug wasn’t interested in fatherhood, and Tim’s mother kept the secret. In later years, they reconnected. Tug even lived with his son during the final year of his life.
Just like her future husband, Faith sought out answers on her own. As Faith’s musical talent became more evident, she was more and more curious about her birth parents. Had they been talented singers too? She daydreamed about being Elvis’ long lost daughter.
Faith Hill / Instagram
When she was old enough, Faith moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams of being a country superstar, but that wasn’t her only plan. Living on her own for the first time, Faith pursued the truth, tracking down her birth parents.
Photo Nurt / Flickr
After years of wondering, Faith discovered that her birth mother was a woman named Paula Conway. She was 23 years old when Faith was born, and she was alive and well. But that’s not the only thing she learned…
Kevin Dern / Flickr
The narrative she’d held close all her life about her birth parents was false. Paula Conway hadn’t gotten pregnant as a result of an affair: she and her boyfriend Edwin White — her eventual husband — were just too young and unprepared for a child.
Snack n Cake
Her birth parents even had another child. Faith had a brother, named Zachary. Her birth father, Edwin, tragically passed away in a car accident when Faith was ten years old.
Sundogr / Flickr
As far as musical gifts, Faith was the lone singer in the family. Though some of her artistic nature could be inherited from her parents, as her birth mother Paula was a talented painter.
Sounds Like Nashvile
Even with her family history revealed, Faith didn’t pursue a close relationship with her birth mother. She didn’t hold grudges either. In an interview she sympathized with the tough decision: “I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give me what she felt was a better chance.”
Tragically, in 2007 her birth mother Paula passed away. At that point, Faith and her biological mom had reconnected and just started to get to know one another. Faith mourned the chance to get to know her better, but was happy they had finally met.
Jordi Boixareu / Flickr
It’s never been publicly addressed why Faith’s parents kept the truth hidden from her, but it’s clear their intentions were always to do what was best for their daughter. “The most important thing to me is my family, and that was definitely taught from my mom and dad.”
Faith Hill / Instagram
Now, the happy couple walks the walk! Faith and Tim have one of the longest marriages in showbiz, and their obvious love for each other has cemented them in the country universe. The binding force that keeps them together after twenty years is no secret.
Faith Hill / Instagram
The singing duo put their family first. Even their careers are intertwined! They tour as a couple in an attempt to keep as much stability as possible. Not only for their marriage but for their three daughters, too. They might be famous, but much like all of us, it’s their pasts that connect them and keep them strong.
Faith Hill / Instagram
They might be famous, but much like all of us, it’s their pasts that connect them and keep them strong. And they aren’t the only celebs who know that parental love can come from any source.
John Lennon: This Beatle didn’t exactly have a cookie-cutter life growing up. John’s father was a sea merchant who was gone during his birth, and his mother left them both. Baby Lennon was taken in by his aunt and hardly saw his parents again.
Keegan-Michael Key: Funnily enough, Key was born to an interracial couple and was adopted by one as well. He has said that being mixed race is part of why he does sketch comedy. He always felt he was constantly switching roles.
Steve Jobs: There may have been a personal reason why Steve was so hungry for success: his adoptive parents were strict Calvinists, and his father was an abusive alcoholic. Jobs himself had four children.
Marilyn Monroe: With the identity of the father unknown, Marilyn’s mother Gladys placed her in foster care, where she bounced around for years. She eventually became a ward of the state when Gladys was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Eric Clapton: It was 1945, and Eric was born to a 16-year-old English girl and a 25-year-old Canadian soldier who was shipped off to war. For most of his life, Eric thought his actual grandparents were his mom and stepfather and his mother was his sister.
Nelson Mandela: The South African president’s father died of lung disease when Nelson was only 9, so he was raised by a tribe chief. He thought that he inherited his father’s “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness.”
Ray Liotta: Since Ray always knew he was adopted, he did a show-and-tell report on his family for a kindergarten project. He found his biological mother in the 2000s, and she introduced him to one half-brother, five half-sisters, and a full sister.
Eleanor Roosevelt: After both of her parents died from diphtheria when she was 10 years old, she and her brother Hall were raised by their grandparents. Unfortunately, it left both children struggling with depression for years to come.
Bill Clinton: President Clinton’s biological father was a traveling salesman who had died in a car accident three months before Bill was born. His mother decided to study nursing shortly after Bill was born, so she left her son in the care of his grandparents.
Priscilla Presley: This actress’s biological father died in a plane crash when she was only six months old. Priscilla’s mother later remarried and pretended he was her father. Presley found out this family secret when she was looking through a keepsake box.
Snooki: Nicole Polizzi, better known as “Snooki,” was born in Santiago, Chile. She was adopted when she was six months old by Italian-American parents. When she took a DNA test she found out she had heritage from all around the world — except Chile!
Nancy Reagan: This former First Lady’s parents separated soon after she was born, and eventually divorced. After their separation, her mother traveled the country to become an actress, so Nancy was adopted and raised by her aunt and uncle for six years.
Nicole Richie: Look at Lionel Richie and Nicole’s mom Brenda Harvey-Richie and it’s fairly obvious Nicole was adopted. Her parents were friends of Lionel’s but couldn’t provide for her. After living with him for 6 years in her youth, he adopted her.
Ice-T: Our favorite rapper turned S.V.U. specialist had a rough childhood. His mom died of a heart attack when he was eight, and his father did the same when he was 12. He was mostly raised by his two aunts, which is how he ended up in L.A.
Michael Bay: Fortunately for this explosion enthusiast, he didn’t have a sad story about why he was adopted. It was all planned, and he moved in with his mom, a bookstore owner, and child psychologist, on the day he was born.
Frances McDormand: Along with two other siblings, Frances was adopted when she was one-and-a-half-years old by people from her biological parents’ church. Frances and her husband have paid it forward and adopted their son, Pedro, from Paraguay.
Lance Armstrong: After his parents divorced when he was two, Lance moved in with his mother who later got remarried to Terry Keith Armstrong. When Lance’s dad died, Terry offered to adopt him, and Lance was happy to take his last name.