No one is invincible. Being worth millions of dollars, having fans around the world, and touting a flashbulb-ready grin is amazing, but lasting success in the entertainment industry is fragile. Success in TV, movies, and business ventures doesn’t last forever for everyone. Sometimes the rich and famous are brought down by a professional faux pas, like revealing insider secrets to the wrong people. Sometimes the bottom drops out when a celeb gets arrested, and in other cases, a star’s reputation bites the dust because they put their foot so far in their mouth that the shoe leather pretty much lodges in their throat. While there are some celebrities who killed their own reputations in a matter of seconds, for others, took a little more time to dismantle their Hollywood heydays.
The following celebs all did significant damage to their otherwise stellar careers in 2019. Some may be able to eventually make a comeback if they’re really lucky (or, you know, part of a Marvel franchise), but others’ showbiz reputations may never recover from the destruction.
Liam Neeson's reputation took a hit over racially-charged comments
Only time will tell if Liam Neeson actually killed his iconic career, but he did a number on his reputation in February 2019, when he told The Independent that after a close friend was raped, “I went up and down areas with a cosh [bludgeon], hoping I’d be approached by somebody — I’m ashamed to say that. And I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black b*****d’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could … kill him.” At the time, even Neeson admitted that was a really bad mindset. “It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid. It’s awful.”
The remarks, made when Neeson was promoting Cold Pursuit, caused an uproar. He later appeared on Good Morning America, claiming he wasn’t racist but had sought help from a priest and through power-walking. The New York premiere for the film was canceled, though Neeson did walk the carpet at the Madrid premiere months later.
Scarlett Johansson caught heat for pursuing a transgender role
Scarlett Johansson will star in 2020’s Black Widow, so her career isn’t destroyed, but her reputation may be on thin ice due to the flippant manner in which her publicist initially handled the backlash about her starring as Dante Tex Gill, a trans man, in Rub and Tug. Johansson dropped out of the film, but in a July 2019 interview with As If magazine, she said, “You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.” She added, “There are a lot of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art … I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.”
She later said in a statement that her comments were taken out of context, adding, in part, “I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and Art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness … I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to.”
Jussie Smollett's empire was destroyed by controversy
Jussie Smollett may have sentenced his career to an early retirement. The Empire star was accused of staging a hate crime against himself in January 2019. He faced 16 charges related to the case, but they were all dropped in March 2019. Smollett, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, faces a $130,000 civil lawsuit from the city for costs incurred while investigating the alleged hate attack, according to the Associated Press. All of this is in addition to what is likely irreparable damage to Smollett’s career.
He was reportedly cut from Empire following the scandal, and the show’s creator, Lee Daniels, told Vulture he was “beyond embarrassed” by the case, though he declined to weigh in on Smollett’s case. “I had to detach myself and stop calling him, because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner. It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything,” Daniels said.
Veteran crisis manager Ronn Torossian does not think Smollett’s career will survive. “The headline of Jussie Smollett’s obituary has already been written. I think his career is over,” he told Fox News. “…I think that brands and networks don’t want to be in business with people who are bringing them a lot of headaches.”
Can YouTuber James Charles rebuild after the gummy vitamin disaster?
YouTube beauty guru James Charles got into a huge beef with his onetime mentor, fellow YouTuber Tati Westbrook, in May 2019 … over gummy vitamins. And more issues, but mostly gummy vitamins. Allow us to explain: Westbrook has her own line of vitamins, Halo Beauty, which Charles previously plugged on his channel. In April 2019, Charles gave a shoutout to Sugar Bear Hair vitamins for helping him out at the Coachella Festival, and Westbrook took it as a personal attack. Westbrook posted a since-deleted video called “Bye Sister” in which she accused Charles of selling her out and inappropriately trying to court straight men. Charles lost nearly 3 million YouTube subscribers, and it was widely believed he was “canceled.”
Charles initially apologized in his own since-deleted video but later fired back at Westbrook in a second video that provided much different context to many of Westbrook’s claims. He then embarked on a month-long hiatus. After Charles “brought the receipts” and returned from his break, his views and subscriber counts gradually climbed, but only time will tell if his brand will regain its previous power — which could be difficult to measure now that YouTube has changed its policies on subscriber counts.
Jordyn Woods may never keep up with the Kardashians again
Jordyn Woods is accused of breaking the “don’t defecate where you eat” rule in a big way. The model, who got her big break through her friendship with Kylie Jenner and Jenner’s famous family, even nabbed her own page on Khloe Kardashian’s Good American denim website. Then, in February 2019, Woods was accused of hooking up with Kardashian’s baby daddy, Tristan Thompson. Woods reportedly confessed about the indiscretion to Kardashian privately, but the damage was done.
Following the scandal, Jenner slashed the price of her Jordy Lip Kit (though she later denied it was because of the incident,) and Jordan’s page was removed from Kardashian’s Good American website. TMZ reported that Woods is permanently persona non grata with the KarJenner clan — and that even if Jenner and Woods reconcile as friends, they will never go into business together again.
However, there may be somewhat of a silver lining to not working with the Kardashians and Jenners anymore. Woods is now expanding into a brand of her own, even though the scandal continues to overshadow her image. In fact, The Blast reported that she was fielding numerous business deals after her Red Table Talk interview about the incident, so maybe there really is no such thing as bad publicity?
Amber Portwood destroyed her career with a machete
The life of troubled Teen Mom star Amber Portwood seemed to be on the upswing for a while. Following a tumultuous several years, which included Portwood getting arrested for alleged domestic violence against baby daddy Gary Shirley and a stint behind bars after a drug arrest, she cleaned up her act and even launched her own makeup line. However, in July 2019, all that progress — and the reality TV career she’d maintained throughout it all — appeared to come crashing down.
TMZ reported that Portwood and her boyfriend, Andrew Glennon, got into a heated argument that prompted Portwood to allegedly go after him with a machete. Thankfully, no one was harmed in the incident, but she apparently wreaked havoc on their front door. However, she allegedly did strike Glennon with a shoe while he held their 1-year-old son. Portwood was arrested on three felony charges, and Glennon and their son were granted an order of protection.
After Portwood’s machete arrest, sources told TMZ that MTV was done with Portwood for good. Though the drama would make for riveting, if horrifically dark, TV, the network reportedly cut ties over her alleged potential endangerment of her child. Interestingly though, an MTV producer was reportedly at one of Portwood’s court hearings in the case, so it remains to be seen if she completely destroyed future prospects in 2019.
Jason Mitchell was kicked straight outta Hollywood in 2019
Jason Mitchell delivered an incredible performance as Eazy-E in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, leading to several other roles in high-profile films, including 2015’s Keanu and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. He had a steady gig as Brandon Johnson on The Chi from 2018 until 2019, when he was accused of misconduct on the set of the Chicago-based series. In May 2019, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Mitchell’s co-star on The Chi, Tiffany Boone, accused him of sexual harassment and that several others on the series complained about Mitchell’s behavior on set, including showrunner Ayanna Floyd. “As showrunner, I did everything I could to deal with his behavior, by speaking with the studio’s HR department multiple times and instructing one actress to call HR herself, before I became a target of his rage and inappropriateness, and had to report him to HR, as well,” Floyd said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
Mitchell was fired from The Chi, and his agent and manager both reportedly dropped him as well. He was cast in the 2020 Netflix film Desperadoes, so the permanence of 2019’s destructive headlines remains in question.
Wendy Williams showed Kevin Hunter who's boss
Pro tip: If your wife is your boss, you should probably avoid getting other women pregnant. Wendy Williams’ husband Kevin Hunter somehow missed that memo, and after years of rumored marital discord, the talk show host filed for divorce in April 2019. The month prior, rumors swirled that Hunter and his alleged mistress had welcomed a child together – that may be what sent Williams over the edge. A source told People, “Wendy is telling people she had no idea he had been having an affair, but when she found out the details, it turned out he had been seeing the woman he had a baby with for 15-16 years. That made her realize it was time to move forward with her life.”
Hunter was fired as Williams’ manager, and his executive producer credit was cut from The Wendy Williams Show. Insiders told Page Six that Hunter’s firing lifted a weight off of everyone involved with the production and that staff morale was at an all-time high in his absence.
Adnan Virk destroyed his ESPN career with a 'one-time thing'
ESPN personality Adnan Virk was fired from the sports network in February 2019 after he was accused of leaking confidential information to the press. “When ESPN investigated the allegations, it felt that Virk failed to fully cooperate,” reported the New York Post. Virk, a regular host of Baseball Tonight and frequent anchor for college football coverage, later confessed to the leaks but insisted he wasn’t a “serial leaker,” telling The Washington Post that it was a “one-time thing.”
“I would have thought that everything I’d done for the company would count for something,” he said. “…Ultimately, I’m hurt that I was that replaceable for doing something I thought was relatively benign. … I feel like they wanted to make an example of me.”
At the time of this writing, Virk is attempting to rebuild his career. According to The Washington Post, he landed a job hosting a baseball program for DAZN, “a new streaming service whose North American operation is headed by John Skipper, the former president of ESPN.”
Lori Loughlin got fired from everything after Operation Varsity Blues
Lori Loughlin was one of many parents, including Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman and Loughlin’s own husband, Mossimo Giannulli, implicated in a nationwide college admissions scandal known as Operation Varsity Blues in March 2019. Loughlin and Giannulli were accused of paying alleged scam mastermind William “Rick” Singer a cool $500,000 to get their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella, into the University of Southern California (USC) as crew recruits, even though neither young lady competed in the sport in high school.
Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty, but reportedly could face up to 40 years behind bars if convicted on all counts and charges. Not surprisingly, Loughlin’s work suffered mightily when her family-friendly facade crumbled in front of the entire world. She reportedly won’t appear on the final season of Netflix’s Fuller House and she was let go from her work at the Hallmark Channel, including her starring roles in When Calls the Heart and the Garage Sale Mysteries film series. Needless to say, Loughlin’s future prospects look bleak.
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