Stars may try to keep to themselves, but tabloid speculation and unfounded rumors have a way of painting an inaccurate portrait of these individuals in the public eye. More often then not, however, the truth always prevails — and it’s not what anyone expects.
These celebrities don’t have much in common, but there’s one thing that unites them: there’s a fact about them that nearly everybody gets wrong. Not only will these unexpected facts completely change the way you look at some of your favorite stars, but they’ll also make you wonder what else Hollywood has been hiding all these years…
1. Jeremy Renner’s Old Job: Though the actor’s star has been rising since he took up the mantle of Hawkeye in Marvel’s cinematic universe, Jeremy Renner wasn’t always in show business — at least, not as an actor. Before he was fighting evil alongside Iron Man, Renner worked as a makeup artist and even did his own makeup for a number of his earlier films.
2. Rebel Wilson’s Inspiration: Whether it be from seeing another actor in an iconic role or simply deeming it to be their passion, most Hollywood stars were inspired by something when they began acting. For Rebel Wilson, a malaria-induced hallucination in which she was an Oscar-winning actress convinced her to break into show business.
3. Martha Stewart’s Past Life: Before she was the queen of homemaking, Martha Stewart was, wait for it, a model! In order to pay for college tuition, Stewart spent time modeling clothes and accessories for the luxury fashion brand, Chanel.
4. Kesha’s Smarts: Though her crude song lyrics and onstage antics have given her a reputation as a ditzy party girl, Kesha is actually one of the smartest people in Hollywood. The singer-songwriter scored a 1500 on her SAT and has an IQ of 140. Never judge a book by its cover!
5. Steve Buscemi’s Past: Most big-name actors may have made the leap into show business at a young age, but Steve Buscemi was on an entirely different career path before becoming a star. For four years, Buscemi served as an NYPD fireman and even returned to action in 2001 to aid in the 9/11 recovery effort.
6. Oprah Winfrey’s Mix-Up: There’s no denying Oprah’s place as one of the most influential women in the world. Even the name “Oprah” has become synonymous with success! Too bad that’s not her real name, though. See, Oprah’s birth name was actually “Orpah,” which, through years of mispronunciation, became “Oprah”.
7. Matthew McConaughey’s “Passion”: Sure, being a “foodie” is great, but Matthew McConaughey takes loving food to a whole new level. McConaughey has a self-described food fetish, one so overwhelming that he sometimes has to stop eating to prevent himself from becoming too aroused.
8. Johnny Depp’s Phobia: While it seems like there hasn’t been a role that he’s yet to refuse, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see Johnny Depp in a future adaptation of Stephen King’s It. The storied actor suffers from a phobia of clowns, or coulrophobia, which is strange for someone who basically played one in 2010’s Alice in Wonderland…
Alice in Wonderland
9. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Ancestry: From a genealogical standpoint, SJP’s performance as a 17th-century witch in Hocus Pocus might not have been much of a stretch. As it turns out, Parker’s tenth-great grandmother was condemned as a witch during the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
10. Jerry Springer’s Career: Before he was giving on-air paternity tests and breaking up televised slap fights, Springer was heavily involved in the Ohio political scene. After serving on the Cincinnati City Council, Springer was elected to a one-year term as mayor in 1977.
11. Rihanna’s Name: Cries of “Ri Ri” have echoed through arenas for years, but very few people know that “Rihanna” isn’t the pop princess’ real name. The singer was actually born Robyn Rihanna Fenty but began using her middle name shortly after she began writing music.
12. Elvis Presley’s Hair: When it comes to the King of Rock and Roll, you can’t talk about his signature looks without mentioning his legendary pompadour hairstyle and slicked black hair. On second thought, maybe you can, as Elvis was actually a natural blonde who began dying his hair black in high school!
13. Simon Cowell’s Beginnings: It’s hard to imagine everyone’s favorite unapologetic Englishman as anything less than an industry icon, but Cowell actually got his start as a set runner for legendary director Stanley Kubrick. In fact, Cowell’s first gig for Kubrick was polishing the axe used by Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Goff / The Shining
14. Sean Connery’s Looks: There’s suave, and then there’s Sean Connery suave, which was on full display during the Scotsman’s run as James Bond from 1962 to 1983. Hopefully his “Bond girls” didn’t tug too hard on his hair, however, as Connery wore a toupée in every single film.
From Russia with Love
15. Charlize Theron’s “Audition”: Not many aspiring movie stars expect to be discovered in line at the bank, but that’s exactly what happened for Charlize Theron. As Theron berated a bank teller for not cashing a check, a talent agent, who admired her passion, handed her his card and kickstarted her career.
16. James Franco’s Education: It’s no secret that James Franco is one of Hollywood’s most controversial personalities, yet you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that works – and studies – as hard as he does. Franco attended UCLA, Columbia, NYU, Brooklyn College, and Yale and even teaches alongside his filmmaking pursuits.
17. Dolph Lundgren’s Brain: A man known more for his brawn than his brain, Dolph Lundgren is actually a certified genius. Lundgren holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology, has an IQ of 160, and even received a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT.
18. Halle Berry’s Inspiration: Many people may not know that Halle Berry’s given name was Maria Halle Berry, which was legally changed when she was five. Not surprising enough for you? Well, the name “Halle” was actually taken from Halle’s Department Store, a local landmark in Berry’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
Amazon / Wikipedia
19. Nicole Kidman’s Trauma: We’ve seen that even Hollywood’s biggest stars aren’t immune to phobias, and Nicole Kidman is no exception. After a traumatizing childhood experience with a rather threatening butterfly, the Academy Award-winning actress now suffers from lepidopterophobia, or a fear of butterflies.
20. Katy Perry’s Hobby: Known for topping the charts with hit after catchy hit, Perry made headlines for a different reason when she revealed that she actually collects hair from her fellow celebrities. In fact, Perry once kept the locks of both Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus in her purse.
21. Though she was one of Hollywood’s biggest actresses, Marilyn Monroe often found it difficult to memorize her lines. In one instance, it took her more than 60 tries to nail the line, “It’s me, sugar,” from Some Like It Hot. And that isn’t the only interesting thing about Ms. Monroe…
Despite being a huge star, Marilyn Monroe was typically underpaid for her work. She was paid about $100,000 for her unfinished performance in Something’s Got To Give, while Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1 million for her role in Cleopatra around the same time.
That being said, just four days before she was found dead, she signed a two-picture deal with Fox that would have been worth $1 million. It would have been the biggest payday of her career.
The white baby grand piano that Marilyn had in her home when she was found dead was eventually auctioned off in 1999 for $662,500. Singer Mariah Carey was the bidder.
During the filming of The Prince and The Showgirl, Marilyn’s weight fluctuated wildly. So much so, in fact, that her costume designer, Beatrice Dawson, had to make several copies of the same dress in different sizes. “I have two ulcers from this film,” Dawson said, “and they’re both monogrammed MM.”
Marilyn used a hormone cream to whiten her skin. A side effect was that it caused her to grow blonde peach fuzz on her face. She actually liked the fuzz, however, believing it gave her face a soft glow on screen.
When she died in 1962, Marilyn had an estate valued at $1.6 million. She gave most of it to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, and another large portion to Dr. Marianne Kris, her psychoanalyst. She also left a trust fund to her mother that offered about $5,000 per year.
Ahead of her time in many ways, Marilyn was an early convert to yoga. She even took lessons from Swedish-Russian Bollywood film star Indra Devi, who also taught Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson.
Marilyn was a big fan of being naked. She was notorious for walking around wardrobe mistresses, hairdressers, and make-up artists in the nude, as well as leaving the house with nothing under the mink coat Joe DiMaggio bought her.
Though she had made a sizable chunk of cash throughout her career, Marilyn only ever owned one home: the one at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California—which is where she was found dead.
Just before her death in 1962, Marilyn was in the process of reading two books: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Leo Rosten’s Captain Newman MD, which was based on the life of Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson.
Marilyn was known for being fairly athletic, too. Before her life in Hollywood, she studied weightlifting and even once went tandem surfing with her then-boyfriend Tommy Zahn, during which she balanced on his shoulders.
Marilyn Monroe’s death was ruled a “probable suicide.” However, toxicology reports were only ever done on her liver. When the other organs were requested by the deputy coroner, he was told they’d already been destroyed.
There were many conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s death. One of the more popular ones is that she was murdered in order to prevent her from going public about her supposed affairs with President John F. Kennedy.
The circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s death did seem slightly fishy, however. Supposedly, there was no sign of alcohol nearby—and some claim she showed signs of having been injected with a needle.
Actress Veronica Hamel and then-husband Michael Irving purchased Marilyn’s home in 1972—10 years after Marilyn’s death—and claimed that they had discovered a number of FBI wiretaps inside the home.
All that being said, the Los Angeles District County Attorney decided to reopen the case in 1982. He did not, however, find any evidence to support the conspiracy theories, and the case was again closed.
Marilyn believed that she was the descendant of President James Monroe. This, however, was not supported by any evidence that anyone could discover, so it was likely untrue.
Many believe that Marilyn’s second husband, author Arthur Miller, wrote the play After The Fall about their marriage. The character of Maggie is believed to be based on her.
The identity of Marilyn’s father was never fully determined. Both she and her mother believed him to be C. Stanley Gifford, but Edward Mortensen, who was married to her mother when she was born, was the father listed on her birth certificate.
Marilyn was a big fan of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, going so far as to call him her hero. “I used to read everything I could find about him,” she claimed in her ghostwritten autobiography.
She also had a slight fixation with her costar in The Misfits, Clark Gable, whom she saw as a father figure. When he passed away, she claimed to have cried for two days straight.
When Ella Fitzgerald was banned from performing in 1950s Los Angeles, Marilyn worked to get her a gig. She eventually convinced a venue to host her as long as Marilyn sat in the front row for each show.
Marilyn was a big fan of dogs. The last dog she owned was a Maltese terrier given to her by the one and only Frank Sinatra, whom she named Maf (short for “Mafia Honey”).
In 1950, her agent, Johnny Hyde, paid for her to have a couple of plastic surgeries. First was a tip rhinoplasty, which reshaped the cartilage on the end of her nose, and the second was a chin implant.
Before becoming famous, Marilyn married James Dougherty when she was just 16 years old. He later became a detective with the LAPD, and was forbidden by his second wife from seeing any of her films.
The dress that she wore during the famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” performance for President Kennedy was sold in 1999 for about $1.03 million.
Surprising to some, Marilyn Monroe had an open-casket funeral. She had to be laid to rest while wearing a blonde wig, though, because her head had been partially shaved when the county had conducted the autopsy. (This is an image of a sculpture made to recreate the coffin’s appearance.)
At the time of her death, Marilyn Monroe was thought to be making plans to remarry Joe DiMaggio. He had gotten help for his alcoholism, and the two seemed to be planning to give it another go.
After becoming Marilyn’s acting coach during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, Paula Strasberg was paid $25,000, which was more than some of the featured actors.
Though she was typecast as an unintelligent blonde, Marilyn was known to have been a shrewd businesswoman and was very intelligent. One rumor suggested she had a higher IQ than Albert Einstein, though no direct evidence exists to support this.
Following the institutionalization of her mother, Gladys, Marilyn was eventually placed with 11 different foster parents. She spent almost a year in the Children’s Aid Society Orphanage in Los Angeles.
Marilyn’s name appeared as Norma Jeane Mortensen on her birth certificate. Her first stage name idea was Jean Adair, and she didn’t settle on “Marilyn Monroe” until 1956.
Playboy founder and millionaire Hugh Hefner actually owns the burial vault next to Marilyn’s. He purchased it for about $63,000 all the way back in 1992.
Hugh Hefner wasn’t the only one who was interested in spending eternity next to Marilyn. Elsie Poncher, the widow of the man buried above Marilyn’s vault, sold her husband’s space for $4.5 million.
Though she never had any of her own, Marilyn was known for loving children. She developed close relationships with her step-children, and always yearned for a baby of her own.
Perhaps confirming the rumors that she and Joe DiMaggio were planning to remarry, the baseball legend sent roses to her burial vault three times a week for 20 years.
While filming the movie Let’s Make Love, Marilyn was a constant no-show for her scenes. So much so that she added 28 days to the shooting schedule and cost the producers an extra $1 million in production costs.
Marilyn’s career actually started by accident. She was noticed by photographer David Conover while she was working on an assembly line at Radioplane, a munitions factory.
Not only did Marilyn’s famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress eventually go on to sell for the big bucks, but it was also so tight that it had to be sewn right onto her body!
Beauty sleep was important to the blonde bombshell, and she had very specific sleeping standards. “I have never been able to wear pajamas or creepy nightgowns,” she said. “They disturb my sleep.” She had quite a few sleeping rituals.
According to journalist Pamela Keogh, Marilyn dunked her face in a bowl of hot water nightly before catching five to ten hours of sleep beneath a heavy comforter. On Sunday mornings, she took about two hours to finally peel herself out of bed. These habits were just one part of the process.
20th Century Studios
“In Hollywood,” Marylin said, “a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hairdo.” We’re sure Marilyn was being a tad bit sarcastic, but maintaining that head of “pillow case white” hair was definitely a severely important to-do. Pamela Keogh noted that Marilyn received peroxide and bleach highlights every three weeks.
Considering bleaching hair that regularly is extremely damaging and can cause breakage, Marilyn avoided washing her hair often (which can further strip the hair) by dabbing Johnson’s Baby Powder on the roots. For her scent, she had a few tricks, too.
That glamorous gal held her Chanel No. 5 perfume close to her heart. Precisely five drops of the jasmine and Bulgarian rose fragrance was her go-to, even when heading off to bed. But her use of the popular scent became a bit obsessive.
She was known to literally pour drips of Chanel No. 5 into her ice baths! We’re not too sure about this beauty secret, folks. Renowned photographer Ed Feingersh famously photographed the actor clutching a bottle of the costly stuff like it was her precious baby.
Meanwhile, Marilyn kept out of the sun to protect her face from the dangers of premature wrinkles. “Despite its great vogue in California, I don’t think suntanned skin is any more attractive… or any healthier, for that matter.” But she’d also slather her face in a surfeit of moisturizing products to avoid the wrinkles.
To keep that face taut and hydrated, Marilyn used a boatload of moisturizers. Besides dermatologist Erno Laszlo’s Phormula 3-9 reparative botanical balm and Active Phelityl Cream, she slathered on Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, Pond’s, and even lanolin and olive oil! To maintain her youth, she turned to certain exercises.
The icon wasn’t exactly a gym rat, but she did exercise regularly… sorta. “I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it.” Marilyn said she stuck to a “simple bust-firming routine.”
L. J. Willinger / Stringer
The fitness queen would lift two five-pound weights above her head 15 times from a “spread-eagle arm position.” She’d do another set of 15 reps the same way before doing one more at a 45-degree angle. The best part is that she’d do this all at the edge of her bed “until I’m tired.”
In modern-day, we live in the age of contouring. We use makeup to create the illusion of higher cheekbones, a more pinched nose, and even a plumper pout. Well, Marilyn achieved the latter by using at least five shades of lipstick. Take that, Kim Kardashian!
@kimkardashian / Instagram
Marilyn’s makeup artist, Allan “Whitey” Snyder, created the meticulous technique. He’d concentrate dark reds at the outer corners, while focusing lighter shades towards the fleshy middle of the lips. An even lighter highlighter shade was used in the very center of the bottom lip and on the cupid’s bow. This all added dimension.
Bettmann / Contributor
Though we might look to Marilyn for her god-tier beauty tips and hacks, she looked to her idol, silent film star Greta Garbo. Specifically, Marilyn was beguiled by her signature eyeshadow look, which involved a heavy hand of white shadow.
Bettmann / Contributor
Greta’s technique involved dusting white shadow all over the eyelid, up to the brow bone, and at the inner corners of the eyes as well. It was intended to add depth, and Marilyn practiced it all the time, even calling it her “Greta Garbo eye.”
20th Century Studios
Today we have makeup primers dedicated to filling pores, increasing makeup wear time, hydrating the skin, and the list goes on. But Marilyn used the cheapest product to prime her face and add a glow, one that you probably already have in your medicine cabinet: Vaseline.
John Kobal Foundation / Getty Images
She’d rub the gloppy petroleum jelly all over her face as a moisturizing primer prior to applying her makeup. After she finished beating that face with makeup, she added some more to her cheekbones and brow bones for a juicy finish; it doubled as a dewy highlighter!
These days, glossy eyelids are the epitome of editorial high fashion. They rock Chanel runways, and avant-garde photoshoots, but they’re not exactly practical for everyday wear (though many mainstream makeup brands offer eye gloss). Well, Marilyn often donned glossy eyelids anyway!
Bianca Lucaciu / WordPress
Allan Snyder, who was her makeup artist for about 16 years, would dab coconut oil or Vaseline (yes, more petroleum jelly!) on her eyelids, as Marilyn thought it was a sultry look. The somewhat grungy wet-look clearly stood the test of time.
Ed Feingersh/Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
Utilizing a multitude of colors was a staple in Marilyn’s makeup routine, and that didn’t exclude that cat-eye liner! Allan Snyder used Elizabeth Arden’s classic eye pencils in black, brown, white, and even red eyeliners to add depth to her eyes and make them appear wider.
20th Century Studios
He’d use black and brown eyeliners on her top lash line, extending outward. Most importantly, Allan would draw a tiny white triangle on the “outer V” of each eye, in between the top and bottom liner wings. He added more white liner in the waterlines along with red liner dots in the eyes’ inner corners.
There’s only ever been one Marilyn Monroe, but that hasn’t stopped other performers from trying to reach her legendary status. Another famous blonde nearly eclipsed her, though hardly anyone remembers her today.
Flickr / Ofena1
Born in Cloquet, Minnesota, Barbara Lee Redfield always had a wild side. She was rebellious from a young age, and in 1943, she eloped with her high school boyfriend shortly after her 16th birthday.
Her parents were quick to have the marriage annulled, but just two years later, she wed Air Force Captain John Payton and took his name. The couple ran off to Los Angeles, where John enrolled at USC and Barbara began modeling.
They welcomed a son, John Lee, in 1947, but it didn’t take long for Barbara to grow tired of domestic life. She decided to give acting a shot, and in 1948, she was signed to a contract by Universal Studios.
By 1950, her marriage to John had ended, allowing her a full taste of everything Hollywood life had to offer. She became a regular at nearly every celebrity hotspot, waltzing in on the arm of a new man each night.
Payton seemed to go from one high-profile relationship to the next, bouncing between movie stars, producers, and even mobsters. She even had a fling with Howard Hughes, and she wasn’t shy about dating married men.
But Payton’s scandalous lifestyle soon caught up with her, and her career nearly ended before it truly began. After her affair with comedian Bob Hope – who was married at the time – leaked to the public, Universal released Payton from her contract.
The Retro Set
Fortunately, Warner Brothers took a chance on the young actress, and it was there Payton starred in some of her most notable films: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) with James Cagney, Dallas (1950) opposite Gary Cooper, and Only the Valiant (1951) with Gregory Peck.
Pretty soon, however, Payton was back in the tabloids, having begun a relationship with recently separated actor Franchot Tone. Still, that didn’t stop her from stepping out with notorious tough guy Tom Neal.
It wasn’t long before a high-profile love triangle formed between the three, and eventually, things got physical. One particular scrap left Tone in need of complete facial reconstruction, and even Payton suffered a nasty black eye from the incident.
This relationship drama soon took a toll on Payton’s career. Fed up with headline after headline about the actress’ rocky personal life, Warner Bros. placed Payton on a temporary suspension, costing her the lead role in Lady in the Iron Mask.
Payton went on to marry Tone, though the union ended in divorce just seven weeks later. She returned to the abusive Neal, and the end of 1951 saw her star in the critically panned Bride of the Gorilla.
With her career on the decline, Payton journeyed to England in the hope of finding a new start. Yet this was not to be, as British producers – eager to capitalize on her “bad girl” image – cast Payton in a slew of clunkers, including 1953’s Bad Blonde.
Payton and Neal split later that year, and after striking out overseas she returned stateside. But work was hard to come by for the former starlet, and so with John Lee – who was now eight years old – by her side, she was off to Mexico.
It was here that she met 23-year-old furniture store executive Tony Provas, who went on to become her fourth husband. The marriage lasted only three years, and by the end, she’d lost custody of John Lee to her first husband, John Payton.
Barbara returned to Hollywood for one last shot at redemption, but by this time, the damage had already been done. When the ’60s rolled around, Payton’s career was all but dead — that’s when the drinking began.
Her struggle with alcohol only seemed to worsen as the years passed, and she soon found herself a regular in police custody. More than once, Payton was arrested for passing bad checks, public drunkenness, and even prostitution.
She was even homeless at one point, discovered sleeping on a bus stop bench along Sunset Boulevard. At the time she was found, she was covered in bruises and wearing nothing but a bathing suit and sweater.
Her looks had also changed considerably, with wrinkles and blotchy skin taking the place of her legendary beauty. She’d also put on a great amount of weight, leaving her a ghost of her former self.
But even at rock bottom, Payton’s rebellious spirit never died out. In spite of her demons, she managed to pen an achingly honest autobiography called I Am Not Ashamed in which she went into great detail about the many trials and tribulations of her young life.
Sadly, Barbara Payton wouldn’t live to see her 40th birthday, as shortly after moving into her parents’ San Diego home, she was found dead of heart and liver failure. When the authorities arrived, Payton was so transformed by her years of hard living that they had no idea who she was.