34 Most Controversial Celebrities of the Decade

controversial celebrities

If there’s one thing celebrities are good at, it’s stirring up the controversy and making a scandal. They make headlines for all the wrong reasons; sex tapes, famous feuds, heartache and run-ins with the law.

For some, the limelight fades and people move onto the next big story, but for others, problematic headlines rule their image and they end up becoming victims of ‘cancel culture’. 

To remind you of just a few celebrity dramas from the last decade, we’ve rounded up a list of the most controversial celebrities and how they’ve broken the internet… 

1. Kim Kardashian

kim kardashian controversial celeb
kimkardashian | Instagram

This Kardashian rose to fame when her sex tape with ex-boyfriend, Ray J, leaked in 2007, marking the first of Kim Kardashian’s many controversies. Since then, she’s lived many fashion faux pas and a 72-day-marriage to Kris Humphries, before falling for fellow controversial star, Kanye West – and then divorcing him in 2020. 

Kim’s life has been far from plain sailing since then. She has engaged in public feuds with Drake and Taylor Swift; she’s broken the internet with nude photos; started a law degree; and continued to stun us with daring and revealing looks.

From being accused of being ‘famous for being famous’ to cultural appropriation, Kim has certainly been one of the most controversial celebrities over the years, but she’s somehow managed to survive one scandal after another.

2. Rihanna

rihanna controversial celeb
badgalriri | Instagram

Often referred to as the ‘good girl, gone bad’, RiRi sparked headlines when she started molding into a much more provocative star. But it was Rihanna’s relationship with her first love, Chris Brown, which marked the beginning of a never-ending scandal for the Barbados-born singer. 

Since the relationship went sour in 2009 with a brutal attack, Rihanna has been the topic of conversation. From giving Chris Brown a second chance, not being afraid to show off her birthday suit, and being open about her drug habits, Rihanna hasn’t been shy to cause controversy in the pop culture world.  

3. Miley Cyrus

miley cyrus controversial celeb
mileycyrus | Instagram

Miley Cyrus has definitely put her Disney days behind her. From tongue-wagging VMA twerking to smoking marijuana on stage, this ‘problematic’ celeb has definitely raised a few eyebrows. And let’s not forget her naked appearance whilst swinging on a wrecking ball or her public feud with Nicki Minaj!

Other than these shocking Miley moments, the popstar has also suffered through a public divorce following an eight-month marriage with Liam Hemsworth and has openly spoken about dating girls, too.   

4. Lady Gaga

lady gaga controversial celeb
ladygaga | Instagram

Lady Gaga doesn’t even need to open her mouth to cause a stir; her outfits alone spark backlash and interest (remember that *actual* meat dress?). That said, what really rocked the boat was when she covered herself with fake blood on stage during a 2009 VMA performance and engaged in a vomit enactment with a model in 2014.

But the singer-turned-actress has moved on from being the controversial Lady Gaga, by stepping into Hollywood and giving us award-winning performances in movies like A Star is Born and House of Gucci, giving us much more reason to love her.

5. Kanye West

kanye west controversial celeb
pandio_ | Instagram

Kanye has definitely put the C in controversy. From public outbursts about slavery and Nazis, to Twitter rants about Pete Davidson and even running for presidency, Kanye West had his fair share of controversies.

Having been diagnosed with bipolar disease and later blaming sleep deprivation, Ye, at one point, found a release by forming his own spiritual Sunday church. But as of recent years, the rapper has gone on more embarrassing rampages, which ended in a divorce from Kim Kardashian, being dropped by Adidas, Gap and Balenciaga, and even being removed from social media.

Kanye has been feuding with the likes of Wiz Khalifa and Billie Eilish, and even awkwardly revealed that his (ex) wife wanted to abort their first child, whilst also calling his mother-in-law “Kris-Jong-Un.”

6. Justin Bieber 

justin bieber controversial celeb
justinbieber | Instagram

Finding fame at such a young age took its toll on Justin Bieber. Growing up in the limelight, it was hard for this problematic celeb to make a single mistake without the press knowing about it. This explains why he’s had his fair share of run-ins with the paparazzi, including an incident where he hit one with his car.

Bieber’s other controversies include famously egging his neighbor’s house, reportedly spitting on fans, as well as getting arrested for drunk-driving. For a few years now, though, the Changes singer has since become a better man and steers clear of any public disputes. 

7. Taylor Swift

taylor swift controversial celeb
taylorswift | Instagram

Taylor Swift has weathered quite a few storms, from her on-going feud with Katy Perry, writing breakup songs about her famous exes, to her bust-up with Nicki Minaj about award nominations.

But these aren’t Taylor’s only enemies; after Kanye ambushed her VMA acceptance speech, he and Taylor have publicly feuded. But the pair seemed to put the bad blood behind them until Kanye was accused of releasing lyrics in his track Famous that weren’t approved by Taylor.

Taylor has also publicly battled her music producer Scooter Braun, slammed Spotify, and been notorious for dating several famous men.

EXTRA READING:
14 Biggest Taylor Swift Scandals

8. Kylie Jenner

kylie jenner controversial celeb
kyliejenner | Instagram

Kylie Jenner is one of the most popular celebs in the world, almost earning more than the rest of the Kardashian tribe. Yet, her rise to fame and title of the ‘World’s Youngest Self-Made Billionaire’ has received much backlash.

Many argue that Kylie wouldn’t have built her beauty empire without the help of her famous family, while others applaud the young socialite’s success. Although Kylie was once dubbed the ‘World’s Youngest Self-Made Billionaire at 21, it later came about that Jenner had forged tax documents to appear richer than she was.

Kylie is also one of the most controversial celebrities for getting lip injections at the mere age of 17, undergoing a massive beauty transformation, and keeping her entire pregnancy under wraps for an entire nine months.

9. Chris Brown

chris brown controversial celeb
chrisbrownofficial | Instagram

If you’ve followed Breezy from day one, you’ll remember his physical altercation with his then-girlfriend, Rihanna; a turning point in both their lives and careers.

Since this famous scandal, Chris Brown has been dubbed a ‘bad boy’, getting into countless legal trouble, doing community service, getting kicked out of rehab, and doing jail time.

The talented star has been trying to put his bad boy image behind him, but has continued to face more assult allegations. Despite Chris Brown’s controversies and the constant media bashing he has faced, he continues to release hit after hit, and has even been named one of the best-selling male artists of all time.

10. Cardi B

cardi b controversial celeb
cardiallaccess | Instagram

Since the moment loud-mouthed Cardi B landed onto the music scene with Bodak Yellow, she’s maintained a constant public appearance. While some relevancy is from new tracks, many headlines have been about her wild outfits, online rants, rocky relationships and feisty feuds.

But it was the infamous fight with Nicki Minaj at the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party that went down in history. Cardi allegedly ambushed Minaj, accusing her of speaking badly of her daughter, Kulture. Let’s not forget the outrage and shock surrounding her sexual track WAP which has been deemed inappropriate by many.

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11. Nicki Minaj

nicki minaj controversial celeb
nickiminaj | Instagram

Being the biggest female star in the rap game comes with a bunch of controversial stories. From performing an exorcism on her alter-ego Roman on-stage, to claiming she’s going to marry Drake on Twitter, shocking people seems to be the norm for Nicki.

Some of the best Nicki Minaj song lyrics have involved dissing countless celebs (like Lil Kim and DJ Khaled), while the rapper has also publicly feuded with stars such as Miley Cyrus. But that beef was soon forgotten when Nicki almost had a shoe thrown her way by Cardi B, triggering a whole new celebrity feud among the rappers. 

12. Britney Spears

britney spears controversial celeb
britneyspears | Instagram

Britney Spears has been raising eyebrows ever since she stepped into the limelight in the 1990s (remember her risqué school girl outfit for the Hit Me Baby video, her 55-hour wedding or that Madonna kiss?).

The pop princess faced the usual celebrity controversy throughout her early career, but she soon went from being America’s sweetheart to the most troubled celeb overnight. Britney’s breakdown was a hot topic in 2007 when she shaved her head, attacked paparazzi, and had multiple stints in rehab.

Despite her major success, Britney has had less than a stable career in the public eye. We recently learned that she was forced into a 13-year conservatorship by her father, in which he governed huge parts of her life. Luckily, she found her freedom in 2022, when the conservatorship officially ended. But the controversy didn’t end there.

Britney followed with a series of nude photos and unusual dancing on her Instagram profile, raising fans’ concerns. It’s safe to say that Britney will always keep up controversies for as long as she lives.

13. Michael Jackson 

mj controversial celeb
michaeljackson | Instagram

MJ has been at the center of controversy since his rise to stardom. His journey to becoming the King of Pop has been under scrutiny, for changing his features and skin color and substance abuse, but it was the child abuse allegations that rocked the idolized artist.

Since accusations of sexual assault in 1993, Michael had a difficult time in the limelight. He put his music on the back burner and tried to live a peaceful life out of the public eye. The controversy didn’t just end at his death, however…

In 2019, a documentary was released detailing Michael’s abuse allegations. The truth behind these claims have been disputed though, as it was released years later when the King of Pop was unable to defend himself.

14. R. Kelly

r kelly controversial
rkelly | Instagram

Following a similar story to Michael Jackson is soul-singer, R. Kelly. It all began at the prime of his career when he reportedly married singer, Aaliyah, when she was just 15 years-old. Following her death, this criminal celeb was accused of numerous relationships with underage women, and in 2002, he was arrested for child pornography.

In 2018, more and more women opened up about their experience with R. Kelly in a six-hour long documentary, which then led to charges being pressed against the singer. Kelly turned himself into police the same day and was jailed with bail set at $1m.

By 2021, Kelly was found guilty on nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act. He was sentenced to 31 years imprisonment. Despite his major success, it’s safe to say R Kelly has been “cancelled”.

15. Ariana Grande 

ariana grande Braided Pony 
arianagrande | Instagram

Pop diva Ariana Grande has had a whirlwind of a career. After a break-up from long-term beau, Mac Miller, Ari found new love with comedian, Pete Davidson and got engaged. Sadly, Mac’s passing touched home, ending the marriage-to-be. She then had a shot-gun wedding to Dalton Gomez in 2021, but were already headed for divorce in 2023.

SEE ALSO:
Ariana Grande’s Dating History

Not only did she lose her ex-boyfriend to drugs, but Ariana had to face one of the biggest tragedies in pop culture – the loss of 22 people during the bomb attack at her Manchester concert in 2017.

To recover from the heartache, Ari invested herself in her music, created her best ever albums (Thank U, Next & Sweetener) in the space of a year, and continued reigning as one of the world’s biggest pop stars. 

16. Blac Chyna

blac chyna controversial
blacchyna | Instagram

When Chyna stepped foot into the Kardashian family, we all smelled trouble (as she already shared a child with Kylie’s ex-boyfriend, Tyga). After giving birth to Rob Kardashian’s baby, Chyna got involved in a public and nasty break-up which resulted in an on-going lawsuit against the Kardashian clan over accusations of “assault, battery, domestic violence, defamation, and interference with economic relations” – in which she lost.

But the drama didn’t end there. In 2019, Chyna continued being one of many controversial celebrities when she was victim of a leaked sex tape and got involved in a brawl over her child, where she used a pram as a weapon

17. Drake 

drake controversial
champagnepapi | Instagram

This rapper has been involved in a number of controversies, from getting caught up in a love-triangle with Rihanna and Chris Brown – which ended in a physical fight with the latter and being friend-zoned by Nicki Minaj.

Drake’s public feuds have also made headlines, with fellow rappers including Kanye West, Pusha T, Tyga, Meek Mill, among many others.

After keeping schtum about the situation, it later came about that Drake had a secret son with a former adult video star Sophie Brussaux. This pretty much blew up the internet as Pusha T was the one to initially claim that Drake was hiding a secret child in his 2018 diss track, The Story Of Adidon

18. Tristan Thompson 

tristan thompson controversial
realtristan13 | Instagram

Tristan Thompson certainly wasn’t ‘on the radar’ before meddling with the Kardashian gang. After a cheating scandal arose days before his baby mama, Khloe Kardashian, gave birth, the world came crashing down for them both.

And just when they thought they could put the drama behind them, the love-rat cheated on Khloe again with a close family friend, Jordyn Woods, causing the family to cut ties with Jordyn forever.

SEE ALSO:
14 Victims of the “Kardashian Curse” 

Fast-forward two years later and Khloe decided to forgive Tristan and attempt to rebuild their family again, but it wasn’t long before cheating rumors surrounded the basketball player again. 

19. Lindsay Lohan 

lindsay lohan controversial

Not a day went by in the mid-2000s without a Lindsay Lohan story circling worldwide. After rising to fame at such a young age, Lindsay lost her way and found comfort in a very wild lifestyle. Caught with drug possession on numerous occasions and arrested for drunk-driving and theft, Lindsay was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail.

After her release, she spent time in Europe finding herself and made a comeback with an array of clubs on the Greek Islands and her very own show on E! Entertainment. We have a feeling those controversial moments are far behind Lindsay, now.

20. Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks controversial
azealiabanksforever | Instagram

If there’s one thing Azealia Banks is best known for, it’s her never-ending feuds with other musicians. This list includes Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea, Zayn Malik, Rihanna, Lil Kim and even Beyonce, among many others.

From lyric theft to fashion critique and pure nastiness, it seems like Azealia uses the power of insult and cyber-bullying to stay relevant. Things have been pretty quiet on her end for a while now, but, it’s only a matter of time before another rant erupts, right?

21. Johnny Depp

johnny depp celeb
johnnydepp | Instagram

This high-profile actor has always made headlines in Hollywood, whether it be for his drug and alcohol abuse or his many celebrity relationships. Johnny Depp has become the talk of the town in the last decade, however, for his notorious court trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

READ ALSO:
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The Pirates of the Caribbean icon and Aquaman actress were in the spotlight in 2022 when their scandalous trial went public. Depp sued Heard following an op-ed she wrote on domestic abuse in The Washington Post, where she accused the actor of abusing her throughout their two-year marriage. Finally, it was proven that her claims were untrue and she was liable for defamation.

22. Amber Heard 

amber heard celeb
amberheard | Instagram

We wouldn’t really know much about this actress if it weren’t for her infamous relationship with Johnny Depp. But in the last 10 years, there has been nothing but scandal after scandal revolving around Amber Heard.

The Pineapple Express star famously accused Depp of sexual and physical abuse throughout their two-year marriage. After being taken to court for writing an op-ed about him in The Washington Post, she countersued Depp, claiming that he inflicted “rampant physical violence and abuse” on her.

Many have accused Heard of lying, which has put her roles in future movie projects at risk of removal. Finally, the jury reached a verdict, deciding that Heard was liable for defamation.

23. James Franco

james franco
Vanessa Lua via Wikimedia Commons

This famous actor is known for his roles in Spider-Man, 127 Hours and funny movies including The Disaster Artist and Pineapple Express

However, James Franco’s image was tarnished after being under fire for his sexually inappropriate behavior towards his acting students. The Hollywood star later admitted to the offence, saying he believed his encounters with his students were consensual and that he’d struggled with sex addiction. In 2021, Franco agreed to pay the $2.2 civil lawsuit that was brought against him and later went to therapy for his addiction. 

It seems Franco replaced one bad habit with another. Prior to this scandal, the actor also suffered from alcohol addiction, although he has been sober for 20 years. 

24. Madonna

madonna selfie
madonna | Instagram

She may be the best-selling female artist of all time, but if there’s one thing this pop-icon is good at, it’s making a scene.

Madonna’s music videos have been banned on MTV, she’s thrown shade publicly to her peers (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Cher, Elton John) and has had many wardrobe malfunctions (think back to her 1984 VMA performance where her stiletto slipped off, or the 2015 Brit Awards performance where she fell off the stage). 

Besides these mishaps, this controversial celebrity is known for her over-affection and has kissed her way through plenty of performances (Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs and Drake at Coachella in 2015). However, Madonna’s most controversial moment to date, was when she attached herself to a mirrored crucifix during her 2006 Confessions tour. 

25. Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson controversial
marilynmanson | Instagram

This rockstar’s look alone is a cause for controversy, but the famous heavy metal front-man has had a lot more heat than his appearance. Marilyn Manson has ‘eaten’ a bible on stage, associated himself with Anton Szandor LaVey from the Church of Satan, and has generally gone against the norm of society. 

From on-stage urinations to being linked to mass-shootings, this controversial celeb hasn’t failed to remain (badly) in the spotlight. His most serious offence, however, was the series of sexual abuse accusations from former colleagues and partners, who accused him of being violent and abusive.

26. Bill Cosby

bill cosby
SenseiAlan from Muscle Shoals, US via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Cosby was everyone’s favorite ‘dad figure’ in the 80s and 90s as he starred in the popular series, The Cosby Show. But in recent years, that reputation was tarnished and replaced with one of a sexual predator. 

After a handful of sexual abuse allegations, Bill Cosby found himself in the middle of a very public court case. And in 2018, he was sentenced (but later released) to prison for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, Andrea Constand, at his home in 2004.

Even after his release from prison, the ‘once-famous’ actor has been in and out of court for more sexual assault cases, so although he hasn’t been placed behind bars for good, he has faced a serious payout for emotional damages. 

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27. Charlie Sheen

charlie sheen controversial
charliesheen | Instagram

Considered one of the most controversial celebrities of all time, Charlie Sheen has had a rough time in the spotlight; from alcohol addiction to substance abuse and relationship trouble.

The actor has been in and out of rehab after multiple drug overdoses; he was accused of accidentally shooting his then-fiancé, Kelly Preston, in their home, and assaulting some of his former girlfriends (including Denise Richards).

From the early 2000s, Sheen was faced with a number of assault charges, had three failed marriages and recently, in 2015, he publicly admitted that he was HIV positive and has since been off the public radar. 

28. Ezra Miller

ezra miller
Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Ezra Miller gained fame through their role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but has since been overshadowed with a handful of public controversies. Following a series of arrests for assaults and public misconduct, Ezra admitted to having mental health issues and started seeking help. 

That, however, didn’t stop their most recent run-ins with the law. They were caught with possession of marijuana and a firearm; and were also seen choking a woman outside a bar. Miller was then charged with second-degree assault, which they ended up pleading guilty to. The actor has also faced accusations of grooming minors; and has apparently claimed to be Jesus, the devil, and the next Messiah.

The DCEU movie star has also been linked to a burglary, in which they received one-year probation for and resulted in them being back in rehab. 

29. Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett
jussiesmollett | Instagram

We all know him as the lovely Jamal from Empire, but in real-life, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Jussie Smollett.

In January 2019, the problematic star called the police to report an alleged racist incident where he was ambushed by two men, who punched him and poured an unknown substance over him. 

By February, there was a turn of events, and the police charged Smollett with filing a false report. He had paid his ‘attackers’ $3,500 to stage the attack to promote his career. 

In 2021, the court case reopened, and Smollett was found guilty and sentenced to 150 days in jail and a $145,000 fine.

30. Will Smith

will smith controversial
willsmith | Instagram

From being charged with aggravated assault in the 80s, to having his relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith put on blast, Will Smith has found himself amongst various controversies over the years (think back to ‘the entanglement’). 

His most recent outburst is what really put him on the scandal radar. At the 2022 Oscars, presenter Chris Rock made an insensitive comment about Will’s wife’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) bald head. With Jada suffering from alopecia, this naturally struck a chord with Will. 

Will lost control of his anger, told Rock to “keep his wife’s name out of his mouth”, and stormed the Oscars stage to slap the host across the face.

Although Will instantly regretted his actions, and later apologized, he was forced to resign from the Academy. These unfortunate events also had a knock on effect on his work, with the star being cast off certain roles. 

31. Alec Baldwin

alec baldwin
5of7 via Flickr

Alec Baldwin is a popular face in Hollywood and renowned actor. But that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most controversial celebrities over the years. Other than a couple of arrests, Hailey Bieber’s uncle found himself caught up in a shooting, and was almost considered a murderer.

In October 2021, on the set of Rust, Baldwin was holding a prop gun when it discharged and killed the film’s photography director, Halyna Hutchins. Although he pleaded that he was told the gun wasn’t loaded, now Baldwin “may be charged” with involuntary manslaughter of the cinematographer. 

32. Kevin Spacey

kevin spacey
Pinguino k via Wikimedia Commons

Kevin Spacey, the Oscar-winning renowned actor of the 90s was suddenly looked down upon in 2017, when he was accused of sexual assault. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, actor Anthony Rapp claimed that Kevin tried to make a sexual advance on him when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. 

Since then, the Hollywood A-Lister has been accused of groping various other men, too. Among the several accusations, Spacey came out as gay, which gained a lot of criticism due to his timing.

Although he sought treatment following the accusations, Spacey’s career took a dive and was axed from multiple acting jobs. Fast forward to now, and the actor has been cleared of charges and is stepping his foot back in Hollywood again.

33. Tory Lanez

tory lanez
torylanez | Instagram

One of the most controversial people of the past couple of years is none other than singer/rapper Tory Lanez. The problematic celebrity has been found guilty and is currently spending time in prison after shooting fellow artist, Meghan Thee Stallion.

After leaving Kylie Jenner’s party in 2020, Lanez reportedly got into an argument with Stallion and shot her in both feet. After a lengthy trial, the rapper was found guilty of assault with a semi-automatic firearm, possession of a concealed, unregistered firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm. 

34. Travis Scott

travis scott controversial
travisscott | Instagram

He’s one of the most successful male rappers, and yet, one of the most problematic celebrities of all time. Things were going smoothly for Travis Scott, having released major hits, collaborating with big names, and having a highly publicized relationship with Kylie Jenner.

Things turned sour however, when a deadly crowd crush occurred at his Astroworld Festival in 2021, killing ten people and injuring 300 overall. Scott was accused of “ignoring” the mass casualty by continuing to perform while it was occurring. Soon considered a “cancelled celebrity,” Scott faced hundreds of lawsuits against him, but no charges have been filed. 

While these aren’t the only problematic stars to cause a stir, they are the ones that have caused quite a dispute in the last decade. 

Which of these controversial celebrities shocked you the most? Have we missed any other famous people in our list? Let us know your thoughts by dropping a comment in the section below. 

This article was originally published in May 2021.

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Evelyn
1 year ago

I’m surprised they neglected to mention the very likely fact that Amber Heard was abusing Johnny Depp, rather than the opposite way around. All of the injuries he sustained from her hitting him and throwing stuff on him. And then there’s the hilariously nasty story about her pooping on his bed.

JB
2 years ago

Taylor’s information needs to be updated. As of March 2021, it had been shown in a FULL video online that Kim and Kanye doctored the footage and lied.

Tale Teller
Joanna Zambas

Joanna Zambas

Joanna has a history in the fashion world; having studied lifestyle and fashion journalism at BA and MA level, she then proceeded to work in the hustle and bustle of fashion PR. These days you can find her working in the marketing sphere, content writing and religiously following the ins and outs of the entertainment world. She’s obsessed with celebrity style and the Kardashians – but who isn’t?!