Through their body of work, celebrities touch the hearts and minds of a generation leaving a legacy that can last forever. Legacies are fickle things and can be destroyed by the hands that created them. While some celebrities can escape with their image intact, others can become synonymous with the crimes they commit.
Below is a list of celebrities who destroyed their legacies.
1. Lori Loughlin
Lori Loughlin made her career on TV, her most famous role being Aunt Becky on Full House. Lori was known for her suburban mom next-door image and a fixture on daytime TV and in Hallmark movies; under that squeaky clean image was greed and hubris that would turn into the face of the College Admissions Scandal.
Despite their daughters’ wishes, Lori and her husband were committed to their children going to an elite college. Olivia Jade Loughlin already had a successful career as an influencer with multiple sponsorship deals. She admitted she was never interested in a college education but ultimately went along with the plan.
Loughlin and several other parents conspired with Rick Singer, a university insider, and donor, to facilitate bribes for admission into elite schools. Admission to the University of Southern California (USC) cost the Loughlins $500,000; Olivia Jade also posed in photos as a member of her high school rowing team to secure an athletic scholarship. Their plan was successful until the FBI started investigating.
When the story broke, the public scrutinized universities for their recruitment processes while Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade quickly became the faces of the scandal; they were now symbols of privilege in their audacity to buy admission into USC. Lori was dropped from her television roles, most notably Fuller House, and Olivia Jade lost her sponsorships.
Lori was convicted and sentenced to 2 months in jail, a $150,000 fine, and community service. She was released and has slowly tried to slither back into Hollywood. She is unlikely to escape her image of narcissism and privilege with Netflix working on immortalizing this scandal.
2. Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding was a figure skater who had it rough from the start; born to a modest and dysfunctional family, she showed talent early on as a figure skater. Her abusive mother pressured her to become a champion. It was not an easy road since figure skating is a notoriously expensive pursuit forcing her mother to hand stitch inferior costumes. Her skate style was powerful, making her a fantastic jumper. Judges, however, favor artistry and grace over raw power. Tonya still made history by being the first woman to land a triple axel and was on her way to representing the United States in the 1992 Olympic games.
She was going head to head with her long-time rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan was everything Tonya was not. She was graceful, more conventionally beautiful, and from an incredibly supportive family. They were competing for spots at the Olympics, gold guaranteeing lucrative sponsorships. This Olympics had all the makings of drama that tabloids would eat up in the coming weeks.
In a conspiracy to knock Kerrigan out of the running, Tonya’s husband, Jeff Gillooly, and his friend Shawn Eckhart hatched a hair-brained scheme. While Nancy rehearsed, the duo attacked her with a metal pipe to the knee. The aftermath was infamous, Kerrigan screaming “Why, why?” while cameras rolled.
While the investigation was underway, Tonya managed to qualify for the Olympics. Kerrigan was able to recover and compete despite her attackers’ best efforts. Tonya came in 8th place while Nancy came in 2nd, losing to Oksana Bayul. It was not the storybook ending the media had hoped. Now, there was still the matter of Tonya’s fate.
Tonya pled guilty to hindering an investigation and was sentenced to community service; her harshest punishment was a permanent ban from all official ice skating events. She maintains that she had nothing to do with the attack. Tonya had a stint in celebrity boxing, has taken on various odd jobs, and has since remarried.
The movie I Tonya has done a lot to make the public sympathize with her due to her rough upbringing with an abusive mother, then an abusive husband. Her accomplishments in figure skating will forever be overshadowed by a reckless plot regardless of her involvement.
3. Chris Brown
In 2009 Chris Brown was an immensely talented 19-year-old R&B singer. Hits like Run It played on the radio constantly; his smooth voice and impressive choreography were getting him accolades in the music world. Brown began dating Rhianna who also saw equal success in her singing career. The relationship would soon take a dark turn that would follow them for years.
On February 8, 2009, the night before the Grammy Awards, Chris Brown and Rhianna got into a verbal altercation in a car. The police report details a savage beating where Chris Brown smashed her head against the window, punched her, and even bit her. He turned himself in for the assault and Rhianna’s battered face was front-page news the next day.
Overnight Chris Brown went from the charismatic singer and dancer to the face of domestic violence. Brown got off easy for the assault, only getting 1500 hours of community service and 5-years probation. Rhianna offered her forgiveness as well. Everything was in place to preserve Chris Brown’s legacy as long as he avoided any more legal trouble.
Since the initial attack, Chris Brown could not stay out of trouble; allegations include:
- Breaking a glass window in a rage after a Good Morning America interview went south in 2011
- Getting into a fight with Drake that turned into an 8-man brawl
- Punching a woman in 2013
- Threatening a woman with a gun in 2016
- Violent threats to an ex-girlfriend in 2017
- Raping a woman in 2019
- Assaulting and threatening to kill Frank Ocean in 2012
- Getting into a hit and run in 2013
- Assaulting 2-men along with his bodyguards in front of his hotel in 2013
- Getting kicked out of his rehab facility for violent behavior
- Getting kicked out of another treatment facility and having his probation revoked
- Assaulting a woman and stealing her cell phone in 2016
- Assaulting a photographer in 2017
While Brown avoided jail for most of these, his squeaky clean image is long behind him. He was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and doctors have offered that up to explain his behavior. Brown still maintains a loyal fan base, Team Breezy, and collaborates with better-known artists. The fact remains that Chris Brown is now known for his explosive anger more than his music. Despite releasing a documentary attempting to paint himself as a man who never had a chance to be anything other than violent, it is evident that he has received nothing but chances.
4. Bill Cosby
Known as America’s dad, Bill Cosby was a fixture of 80s television. Before that, he made history as the first African American to have a starring role in a television show and leader in family-friendly content like Fat Albert. The Cosby Show was groundbreaking, showing a modern African American family, where both parents have high collar jobs navigating suburbia; Cliff Huxtable became aspirational for families worldwide.
Using his family-friendly image Bill Cosby gave talks all around the country urging African American youth to act in what he considered a respectable manner. Cosby produced Little Bill, a cartoon based on his childhood. He also partnered with his alma mater, Temple University, to become a member of their board.
During this time of philanthropy and family values, he used his fame and power in Hollywood to get close to women. He offered mentorship and influence to help their acting careers. Cosby would then lure women to his house, where he allegedly raped them after giving them a sedative. This became a pattern for Cosby that lasted years. He was put on trial for this in 2005 but the case was quietly settled and sealed away.
The crime was forgotten by almost everyone until 2014 when a Hannibal Burres standup bit in which he called Cosby hypocritical and a rapist on stage went viral. This led to more women coming forward including some high-profile names like former supermodel Janice Dickenson. Cosby was put on trial again and sentenced to 3-10 years. He was released in 2021.
The Cosby Show was pulled from syndication when the allegations piled on. Bill Cosby could have had a legacy as a comedian and a role model for fathers everywhere. He is no longer Cliff Huxtable. To many, he is a predator.
5. R Kelly
The king of R&B, R Kelly was a rag to riches story. Growing up in the projects, the near illiterate R Kelly showed signs of being a musical prodigy from a young age. With his breakout hit Born in the 90s, his career began to soar. His biggest hit, I Believe I Can Fly, was a cultural cornerstone. It was in the Space Jam soundtrack, sung in schools across America, and won him a Grammy.
The signs that R Kelly was a predator were plain to see in hindsight. He married a 15-year-old Aaliyah by forging documents making her seem older. His involvement with teenage fans was an open secret in his inner circle.
The first charges were filed in 2002 when he was filmed abusing an underage girl. Despite the disturbing nature of the video, he managed to release more hits like the ridiculous Trapped in the Closet series. The case was dismissed when the victim refused to testify against R Kelly.
In 2018 the Me Too movement was in full swing and more victims came forward. Allegations of him being violent, controlling, and starting a sex cult surfaced. R Kelly was arrested in 2019, only this time the accusations stuck. He attempted to do interviews but only managed to look unhinged and became a meme. The documentary Surviving R Kelly was released on Netflix and brought all of his heinous crimes over the years into the public eye. To make his music harder to discover, Spotify scrubbed all of R Kelly’s music from curated playlists.
In 2021 he was found guilty on multiple charges of bribery, sexual exploitation of minors, forced labor, and violation of the Mann Act; he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.
6. OJ Simpson
The former NFL running back who had it all. He was renowned for his speed and agility in the field. This led to him being the face of Hertz car rentals commercials and prints of him running through airports. This was unprecedented as African Americans up to this point were never on advertisements aimed at a general audience. He also became a movie star capable of handling comedic and dramatic roles. His fame, wealth, and charisma got him into many elite circles in California leading him to Nicole Brown Simpson.
Their marriage was a tumultuous one with allegations that OJ was physically abusive. It was a tragic precursor for things to come. In 1994 he was arrested and charged with brutally stabbing Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman to death in front of her home. He became the prime suspect and was in the process of being arrested. He escaped and engaged in a slow-speed chase that interrupted the NBA finals. The case enthralled the nation. There was drama, and a colorful cast of characters, from the prosecution, Judge Ito, the jury, and OJ’s legal dream team, especially the charismatic Johnny Cochran.
What should have been a slam dunk case for the prosecution with mountains of evidence was instead turned into a trial of the LAPD – a task made easy since the LAPD had eroded the public’s trust for decades. This, along with errors by the prosecution such as using Mark Fuhrman who was revealed to be violently racist in testimony, and letting OJ try on the gloves without knowing if he would make them fit, led to a not guilty verdict.
Despite the verdict, OJ’s troubles were not over. He was still guilty in civil court (much less burden of proof) for the murders and had to pay millions in restitution. He fled to Florida to shield his remaining assets. His life after the trial was nothing short of embarrassing. He was a social pariah and no longer had his high society friends. OJ starred in a short-lived prank show called Juiced and attempted to write a book on the trial. He named the book If I Did It and detailed how he would have committed the murders. The family of Ron Goldman sued as they were still entitled to restitution. OJ could not profit from the book and his reputation took another hit.
Justice would finally somewhat catch up to him in 2007. In an attempt to get back sports memorabilia OJ committed a botched armed robbery that landed him in legal trouble again. This time no one wanted to cover for him, one of the co-conspirators stated “I am not going to jail for OJ Simpson”. The judge sentenced him to 33 years in prison. Some believe that had it been anyone besides OJ, the sentencing would not have been as harsh. He was released after 9-years in 2017 and has gotten it through his head to live a quiet life.
OJ was a trailblazer in the black community in his athleticism, acting, and charisma, but no one remembers how many Heisman trophies he won or even what team he played on. All people care about is that he threw it away and destroyed two families.
7. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was a wrestler most famous for his work in the WWE. He was known for his no-nonsense nature and talent in the technical aspects of wrestling. His show-stopping signature move was the “Flying Headbutt”. In the future, this would prove to be his undoing. His illustrious career would end up erased after he murdered his wife Nancy and his 7-year-old son Daniel before committing suicide.
Before the murders, Benoit had been unraveling for some time. Many point to the death of his best friend Eddie Guerrero as a turning point. Eddie’s death led Benoit into a depressive spiral that he never escaped. He became withdrawn, paranoid, and agitated. Nancy wanted Chris to step away from the business for his mental health. Their marriage began to fall apart when Benoit became angry and violent.
On June 22, 2007, Chris Benoit would kill his wife, son, and himself over 3-days. First, after an altercation, he tied up Nancy and strangled her with a cord with his knee on her back. The next day, Benoit gave Daniel Xanax before suffocating him. He spent the day drinking and researching effective ways to end his own life. Benoit then made his way down to his private gym and used a weight machine cord to hang himself.
WWE organized a hasty tribute show to honor Benoit. The roster was interviewed, most sharing fond memories and admired what a great wrestler Benoit was. At that time, there were no details about the incident released; most assumed it was something like carbon monoxide poisoning. The next day it became horrifically clear what this tragedy was; it was a family annihilation at the hands of Benoit.
Benoit was erased from the WWE instantly. The roster was not allowed to speak of him ever again in official media. To this day, he is unsearchable on streaming services (though you can still watch his matches as a part of a whole paper view event) and when discussing history commentators have to tiptoe around Benoit’s name.
Benoit became now represented everything wrong in the wrestling business at the time. From its flimsy wellness policies that allowed drugs and steroids to run rampant to the proud tradition of chair shots to the head. Upon autopsy, his brain was more similar to an elderly Alzheimer’s patient than a man in his 40s. While these revelations may explain his crimes, many argue that it does not negate the heinous nature of Benoit’s last acts and that his legacy should remain buried.
In an interview with Chris Jericho, he added another tragedy. It is the loss of Nancy’s legacy outside of her husband. Under the moniker of Woman, Nancy had her career as ring-side support. She knew how to elevate the main talent as a member of an entourage. She was sexy, charismatic, and skilled on the microphone. She will most likely never be honored by the WWE. Instead, she will remain a side character in her husband’s self-destruction.
8. Phil Spector
Phil Spector was a titan of the music world. As a producer, he made his fortune working with the Beetles, Billy Joel, and Tina Turner. His method was genius, layering instruments under the vocals in such a way that created a “wall of sound” that became his signature. Spector has production credits miles long and was very influential in Hollywood. He was also feared for being controlling and violent. He was prone to brandishing a gun to threaten people, including a valet that tested his patience. His influence in Hollywood would allow him to cross paths with Lana Clarkson.
Lana was an actress more famous in the science fiction and B-movie realm. She was best known for being The Barbarian Queen. Unfortunately, Lana could never break into the mainstream world. She eventually started networking as a waitress in a high-end club where she met Spector.
Spector pressured Lana into accompanying him to his mansion on February 3, 2003. The events of that night are unclear, but detectives speculate that Lana was attempting to leave when Spector forced her into a chair, shoved a gun in her mouth, and shot her, killing her instantly.
Despite his best efforts to convince detectives and the public that Lana committed suicide, Spector went on trial for the murder. It took two trials to find Spector guilty and sentence him to a 19-year minimum in prison.
The man behind the sound for Let it Be and many other hits that defined generations died in prison in January 2021. The music he helped create lives on though the death of the artist (where a piece of media is severed from a notorious figure) is in play here. Instead of being known for his production style and musical genius, Spector is now seen as a tiny man who used power and violence to intimidate people into giving him what he wanted. Lana Clarkson’s movies are enjoyed today by B-movie enthusiasts that can only wonder what could have been.
9. Jared Fogle
Jared Fogle was a man known in the diet scene around the world in the mid-2000s. Starring in Subway commercials made Jared one of the most well-known spokespeople ever. His pitch was simple; he claimed that eating Subway helped him lose 245 pounds. Jared smiling while holding up his biggest pair of pants became a fixture of advertisements everywhere. He filmed hundreds of commercials, was parodied on South Park, and appeared on SNL and 2 Sharknado movies.
Even after Subway distanced itself from him in favor of a new ad campaign, he continued to use his story in charity work founding the Jared Foundation. Power reveals one’s true nature. Fame and access to children revealed Jared was a monster happy to exploit children.
He first got on law enforcement radar in 2007 and was the subject of a sting operation. The sting took years and caught Jared trying to coerce parents into making their children vulnerable to him. With a mountain of evidence, Jared was finally arrested in 2019. The public learned of his pedophilic tendencies, consumption of explicit images of children, and traveling over state lines to have sex with a minor.
The sentence was a minimum of 15 years in jail; Jared’s cushy life as a spokesperson was over. Subway completely severed ties with him as soon as the FBI raided his home. His wife divorced him, and he will be a sex offender for the rest of his life.
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Dynamic writer with a background in science who is always looking for her next big challenge. Five years in the lab, 3 years as an EMT, a B.S. Biology and a M.S. in Pathology, I have data analysis, technical and scientific writing experience as the base for my training. Writing was only part of the job until I discovered my love for it through writing about mental health and lifestyle.