Celebrities Whose Careers Were Damaged By A Regular Person

Hollywood has seen many careers destroyed over the years, but the usual culprits of these famous failures are bad ratings, high-profile divorces, or even the celebrities' own public behavior. And in the age of social media, it only takes one extremely ill-advised "hot take" to hit the brakes on even the most successful projects (Looking right at you, Roseanne). But sometimes, it's regular folks who blow the whistle on Hollywood's A-List, exposing the rest of the world to their shady off-screen antics. 

From the housekeeper who brought down the marriage of a Kennedy and an action star, to the journalist who felled a sandwich king, to the many, many brave women who joined their voices to the #MeToo chorus by sharing their allegations of sexual misconduct against some of Tinseltown's biggest names, these average Joes and Janes put some big dents in some big reputations. These are the celebrities whose careers were damaged by a regular person. 

Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher's seemingly happy marriage to Demi Moore fell apart overnight after it was discovered that Kutcher had cheated on Moore with a 22-year-old administrative assistant from San Diego — on their sixth wedding anniversary, no less. The mistress, later revealed to be Sara Leal, quickly told her story to US Weekly, transforming Kutcher from that affable goof who just so happened to marry a much-older woman to a alleged full-blown cheater.

According to Leal, Kutcher told her that he was separated from Moore. Shortly after, Kutcher, Leal, and another woman were hanging out naked in a hot tub inside San Diego's Hard Rock Hotel, and it only got crazier later in the night. Leal's story catalyzed one of Hollywood's biggest and most painful divorces, tarnishing Kutcher's public image for millions of fans in the process. Despite bouncing back professionally and personally — by starring on Two and a Half Men and marrying Mila Kunis — Kutcher's affair remains the original blemish on his career.

Paula Deen

Celebrity chef Paula Deen's multi-million dollar empire came crashing down in 2013 when one of her former employees sued Deen and her brother, Bubba, for racial discrimination and sexual harassment. In her lawsuit (per the New York Post), former Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House employee Lisa T. Jackson claimed, among other things, that Deen's brother, who co-owned the restaurant with Deen, made racist jokes, and implemented discriminatory practices against minority employees. Deen later confirmed, albeit vaguely, in a controversial deposition (per Eater) that she had also used racial slurs at various points in her life.

The discrimination portion of the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but Deen's confession sparked intense backlash, leading her to lose, among other lucrative income streams, her Food Network shows, a book deal with Random House, and many brand endorsements. Deen attempted multiple comebacks, including a controversial stint on ABC's Dancing With the Stars in 2015. She was eliminated in week six.

As of this writing, Deen's endeavors include a fledgling restaurant chain and a TV show called Positively Paula — although the program is small beans compared to her heyday at the Food Network, during which she hosted four different shows. In fact, Positively Paula is such an underdog, the show's Facebook page actually issued a plea on March 14, 2019, asking fans to buy "from the online store" to "us produce new shows." Yeesh.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Months after his two-term stint as Governor of California came to an end, Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to fathering a son, Joseph, with his family's former housekeeper, Mildred Patricia Baena, in 1997. In a remorseful May 2011 statement (via the Los Angeles Times) Schwarzenegger said, "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family — I am truly sorry."

The affair and love child ultimately led to the demise of Schwarzenegger's 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver — and for good reason; Baena had worked with the family for over 20 years, up until her retirement in late 2010. The fallout for Schwarzenegger was harsh, or as The Telegraph put it, "Mr Schwarzenegger's political career is now over, any possible office now denied to him by his philandering. He has also voluntarily postponed his planned Hollywood comeback."

That comeback came in the form of a high-profile stint at the new host of Celebrity Apprentice, taking over for none other than Donald Trump. Unfortunately, it bombed, causing Schwarzenegger to quit after one season. However, as of this writing, the star is experiencing somewhat of an action career renaissance, with starring roles lined up in new installments of the Terminator and Conan series. (He's also reprising his role as the world's first pregnant man in the sequel to Junior, so maybe don't count on this comeback triumphing just yet.)

Russell Crowe

By the time 2005 rolled around, Russell Crowe had solidified his bad-boy image, which is why he didn't do himself any favors when he allegedly threw a telephone at a New York City hotel employee during a heated exchange. Crowe was arrested and initially slapped with felony charges, which could have "effectively ended his American film career," according to The New York Times. A plea deal got the charge reduced to a misdemeanor, but the hotel employee, Nestor Estrada, filed a civil suit against Crowe that supposedly settled out of court for an amount in the low six-figures.

While it's tough to pinpoint the exact influence the Estrada altercation had on Crowe's Oscar-winning career, his string of subsequent box office duds, like A Good Year (2006), Body of Lies (2008), and State of Play (2009), could offer some indication. In fact, since 2005, Crowe's only starring role to break the $100 million domestic box office mark was the biblical epic, Noah, which only did so just barely, and had a reported $125 million budget.

But perhaps the most tell-tale sign of how Crowe's attitude has affected his career came via conversations between his past collaborators and Variety. Nearly all eight former Crowe co-workers couched their praise for the star in what were essentially excuses for his difficult on-set behavior. L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson even mentioned how Crowe was perfect for the role of Bud White, because of the character's "wounded and angry" disposition. Ouch.  

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin's temper has gotten him into trouble many times, but his personal foibles finally affected his professional life in 2013 after he was accused of hurling a homophobic slur at a New York Post photographer. Baldwin — who had to apologize to GLAAD earlier that year for allegedly tweeting homophobic comments to a former Mitt Romney aide — ultimately faced serious consequences for his actions.

MSNBC quickly canceled his weekly talk show, Up Late With Alec Baldwin, which had been struggling in the ratings, anyway. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic declared Baldwin "a bigot," and a New York State Senator called for networks and studios to cut ties with him "until he seeks help," according to TMZ. The following year, Baldwin detailed his self-imposed hiatus an essay for New York Magazine, dramatically titled "Good bye, Public Life," including his confession that Capital One had opted not to renew his contract in wake of the scandal. He also claimed he was going to stop making unpaid appearances on shows like The Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.

Neither exile lasted very long, as Baldwin bounced back in a big way with roles in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Boss Baby, and a hosting gig for ABC's reboot of the classic game show Match Game. Oh yeah, and he also found success with a certain political impression on a certain late night sketch comedy show that he swore he'd never return to. You know the one.  

Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford's marriage to his wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, almost fell apart in 1997 after his week-long affair with Suzen Johnson, a flight attendant for TWA. The scandal was especially painful for the Gifford family, as it was quickly discovered (per The Washington Post) that Johnson had been paid to have the affair with the sports announcer by the British tabloid The Globe — they supposedly bugged Gifford's hotel room in order to get the full story.

Even more embarrassing was the cover story Johnson gave to Playboy, on which the headline read, "Franky Panky: The Woman Who Sacked Kathie Lee's Hubby." Gifford's marriage to Kathie Lee ultimately endured, as they remained married until his death on August 9, 2015, but his career as a longtime commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football did not.

According to the New York Post, Gifford's role on the broadcast "was greatly reduced" the same year of the scandal. The following year he was fired in what The Baltimore Sun reported was "no surprise." Though the outlet claimed the network had merely "[traded] him in for a new model," it also suggested that his "recent marital difficulties ... made [him] expendable."   

Aside from sporadic appearances here and there on other sports and entertainment shows, Gifford's TV career essentially ended right there. The worst part? He had to endure being the butt of Kathie Lee's on-air jokes about the affair even decades later.

Jared Fogle

For years, Jared Fogle was a Sandwich-eating hero for hopeful carb-lovers who wanted to lose weight while still getting their healthy dose of Italian herb and cheese footlongs. That came to a screeching halt when a Florida journalist allegedly helped land the Subway spokesperson a 15-year, eight-month sentence for underage sex and child porn charges.

According to ABC News, Fogle allegedly opened up to Rochelle Herman-Walrond "about his sexual inclinations, his attraction to minors" during a trip to Florida. Though the pair had been friendly for about a decade, Herman-Walrond ended up "[reporting] the conversation to authorities." Over the next four years, the journalist became an informant, and wore a wire during conversations where the Subway pitchman would allegedly talk "in gross detail" about his desire to engage in sexual acts with minors and his past sexual interactions. As feds later alleged, Fogle possessed videos depicting sexual abuse of minors as young as six years old and traveled with the intent of paying for sex with underage victims on at least two occasions.

Fogle ended up pleading guilty to paying for sex with minors and receiving child pornography. As of 2018, he was trying to sue federal authorities and his former attorneys for $57 million claiming they tricked him into a guilty plea, according to USA Today.

Jerry Lee Lewis

It's not every day a teenage girl takes down the career of a rock icon — especially in days devoid of social media — but in 1958, 13-year-old Myra Lewis Williams found herself in the center of a media firestorm when she wed her second cousin, rock n' roll star Jerry Lee Lewis.

According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, the "Great Balls of Fire" singer was really feeling the heat post-nuptials. When news of his teenage bride broke, there was a public uproar. He was reportedly blacklisted from a number of radio stations and his career took a major hit, with Rolling Stone reporting that he spent the next decade falling into drug and alcohol addiction while mounting a career comeback by playing small, local gigs.

Williams — who had two children before she turned 18 — wrote about her marriage in two memoirs. One became a film starring Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder, the other documented the rocker's drug addiction and alleged abuse of his young wife. "What they don't realize is that 15 minutes of fame turns into 30 or 40 years. It never goes away if it's bad enough," Williams told the Gwinnett Daily Post, adding, "It was really the first scandal of rock n' roll."

Bill Cosby

At the height of his fame, Bill Cosby was once considered the world's highest-paid entertainer raking in $84 million in 1986 and 1987 alone — but he was hiding a dark secret that was finally brought to light by a Temple University employee who carefully navigated a non-discolsure agreement. According to the Miami Herald, Andrea Constand's testimony — where she claimed she was drugged and molested by the sitcom star in 2004 — helped put Cosby behind bars.

According to People, Constand met Cosby when she was working for the Temple University's women's basketball team. She was introduced to the actor by a mutual friend, and reportedly took a meeting at the star's mansion in 2004 to discuss her career. That's when she claimed Cosby drugged her with what he called "herbal medicine" and sexually assaulted her.

Constand filed a civil lawsuit in 2005 after authorities declined to press charges following a criminal investigation, and Cosby — who didn't admit any wrongdoing, according to CNN – paid her a $3.38 million settlement. As part of the agreement, neither party was allowed to disclose details about the lawsuit or investigation, according to Philly.com. Montgomery County prosecutors reopened the case in 2017 after a dozen women reported similar allegations, and a judge later ruled that Constand was allowed to cooperate with authorities (i.e tell her side of the story), and it didn't violate the settlement. Cosby was later sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari's career took a major hit in January 2018 when a 23-year-old photographer accused the star of sexual misconduct in a scathing Babe.net report. Grace (who's only known by that pseudonym) reportedly met the actor and stand-up comic at a 2017 Emmy Awards after party. They exchanged numbers and went out on a date, which ended back at Ansari's apartment.

According to Grace's graphic depiction of the evening, things escalated, and the pair ended up kissing on a countertop. Ansari undressed both of them, which reportedly made the photographer uncomfortable. She asked to slow things down, and the entire night became a push and pull of Ansari allegedly pressuring Grace to go further. Grace claimed that she repeatedly refused Ansari before giving in to his advances. She eventually left Ansari's apartment in tears.

"I cried the whole ride home. At that point I felt violated. That last hour was so out of my hand," she told Babe.net.

After the news broke, Ansari's career undeniably took a hit — whether or not it was self-inflicted. According to Page Six, the comedian was laying low. The fate of his Netflix series Master of None was up in the air even though outlet was reportedly "happy to make another season ... when Aziz is ready." Although he made a statement about the story shortly after it was published, Ansari finally addressed it in his stand-up during an NYC pop-up show in February 2019.

Matt Lauer

Matt Lauer's decades-long career as a TV personality crumbled after an unnamed Today employee "complained about his inappropriate conduct starting at the 2014 Sochi Olympics," according to Variety. The outlet reported several more similar accusations, as well as that of former Today staffer, Addie Zinone, who accused the anchor of "an abuse of power" when he engaged in a sexual relationship with her.  

Speaking with NPR, Zinone said that she decided to speak out in solidarity of Lauer's other accusers who were being doubted in the press. While she admitted that her affair with Lauer in 2000 was consensual, she was only 24 years old, and working as a production assistant on Today at the time. The problem was in the power dynamics (she was a low-level employee and he was a top dog), and the relationship reportedly changed the course of her life at a pivotal point in her career. "I think he preyed on the fact that I was very naive," she told NPR. "And then he only seeing the physical side of me and only wanting that out of me. It shattered my confidence. So I couldn't focus on my job at all as I was trying to start my journalism career."

According to NBC News, Lauer was fired in November 2017 after an investigation into Sochi incident, and amid emerging allegations from several other accusers, who spoke with Variety and The New York Times.

Danny Masterson

The Ranch isn't exactly one of Netflix's most revered comedies, but the show did find itself in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons. Danny Masterson, who starred in the series alongside Ashton Kutcher, was reportedly written off the show in December 2017 following a string of rape allegations, according to the Daily Beast.

According to HuffPost, four women accused Masterson, a Scientologist, of "raping them in the early 2000s." Three of these women, who were also Scientologists, allegedly "reported the incidents to the Church of Scientology at the time." At least one of the accusers — who claimed she was "passed out" and woke up to the realization she was being raped — filed a police report in 2004, but it was allegedly squashed after the Church of Scientology "submitted 50 affidavits from Scientologists" denying her account. The case file also reportedly "vanished," and the 2017 investigation appeared to stall as the Los Angeles County district attorney contemplated filing charges.

Masterson denied the allegations and hired Thomas Mesereau, the same lawyer who represented Bill Cosby, to handle the case, but his career has already been allegedly put to a halt. Mesereau reportedly complained to the DA's office claiming the That '70s Show star was "unfairly unable to pursue more career options as long as DA Jackie Lacey delays her decision whether to file charges."