Biggest Celebrity Feuds Of The 1990s

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

The following article includes mentions of violence and self-harm.

Butting heads and clashing personalities are a natural part of being human. For pop culture icons, these disagreements make headline news and can captivate fans for months, even years, although none of us ever truly knowing what goes on behind closed doors. 

Celebrity feuds have existed for as long as there have been celebrities. Classic scandalous battles include Cher vs. Sonny Bono in the '70s, Prince vs. Michael Jackson in the '80s, and Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis for decades, 'til Crawford's passing. At the turn of the century, Eminem became public enemy No. 1 for multiple stars, Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump exchanged childish insults, Ye humiliated Taylor Swift — the list goes on and on and on. 

The '90s, however, was a peak time for celebrity warfare. Even if the details of their feuds weren't released until years later, everyone from supermodels to ice skaters, rappers to actors, and talk shows hosts to royalty had beef. The iconic decade remains one of the most combative and dramatic in recent celebrity history. 

Fresh prince Will Smith butted heads with his Aunt Viv

Not all was fresh and fun behind the scenes of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." In 1993, Janet Hubert, the original actor behind the tough-loving Aunt Viv, was abruptly replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid, from Season 4 onward. In an interview, the show's star Will Smith stated, "I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be 'The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air' show" (via Jet magazine). Initially, Hubert denied knowing anything about being recast, but she speculated that Smith had something to do with her getting fired. 

Hubert continued to have negative things to say about Smith. In 2013, she told Yahoo! during their 'omg! Insider' segment, "[Smith] did some heinous, horrible things to me." During this interview, she asserted that the cast needs to have a reunion to squash all of the drama, when just two years earlier she refused to attend a luncheon with her former cast members. When Alfonso Riberio posted a cast photo in 2017, she took to Facebook and said she had "no interest in seeing any of these people (via Variety).

Despite all that, Hubert attended the 2020 reunion special, where she changed her original story. She said she chose to part from the show because they offered her a bad business deal, and claimed she "was never 'fired. That misconception was always put out there" (via News Week). The two apologized to each other and seemed to have made peace.

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan's rivalry gets physical

If you've ever heard someone say they're gonna "pull a Tonya Harding," this is its origin story. On January 6, 1994, ice skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee with a baton, subsequently forcing her to pull out of the U.S. Championships on the 8th, which Harding won gold for. The assailant? A hitman named Shane Stant, hired by Tonya Harding's ex-husband and bodyguard, Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckhardt respectively.

Before the assault, Harding and Kerrigan had a well-known rivalry as two rising figure skaters. In 1991, Harding bested Kerrigan when she received a perfect score with her historic triple axel. And although Harding was technically sound, Kerrigan had the upper hand when it came to public image. But despite their differences and their shared desire to be the best, Kerrigan believed their relationship was professionally polite.

According to testimony, Gillooly paid Eckhardt's associate Derrick Smith to attack Kerrigan to ensure Harding's victory in the 1994 United States Figure Skating Championships and the Winter Olympics. During the FBI investigation, Harding continued to practice, unexpectedly sharing a rink with Kerrigan, who was wearing the costume she'd had on when she was attacked. Kerrigan told press, "Humor is good. It's empowering" (via Biography). On February 25, Harding placed 8th and Kerrigan won silver. Stant, Smith, Eckhardt, and Gillooly all went to jail. Harding took a plea and was banned for life from USFSA.

Naomi Campbell wasn't a fan of Tyra Banks

Usually celebrity drama has to do actors, singers, or rappers. But in the early '90s, supermodel drama was in. Human gazelle and French Vogue's first Black covergirl Naomi Campbell had been walking runways, posing for American and international magazines, and making great strides for Black women in the world of modeling since her teens. No one was as powerful as Campbell.

But another young, beautiful, and "smizing" Black model started emerging soon after. Her name was Tyra Banks, and by age 17 she was signed to Elite Model Management and traveled to Paris. Banks booked show after show and was a huge fan of Campbell's, but the new, pretty competition had Campbell more peeved than flattered. "I had a very painful early days in Paris," Banks told The Wall Street Journal in 2019, "The woman that I was looking up to seemed like she just didn't want me to be there and was doing everything in her power to make me go away." In 1993, when the two were both scheduled to walk for Chanel, Campbell reportedly told Karl Lagerfeld, "It's either [Banks] or me" (via NY Magazine).

The "feud" was really one-sided, considering Banks was a fan who was just trying to follow in Campbell's footsteps. So, Campbell's upset with Banks, probably, had to do with her fear of being replaced as the token Black supermodel. When she got her talk show, Banks invited Campbell on to make public amends.

Notorious B.I.G. vs Tupac Shakur

Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were considered to be the faces of the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry, respectively. Notorious B.I.G. was a huge 2pac fan, and 2pac returned the same adoration and acted as a mentor during 1993, per the book "Original Gangstas." But in November 1994, Pac was shot and robbed at Quad Recording Studios while Smalls was recording upstairs for Bad Boy Records. Pac was convinced that Smalls had something to do with it. In December, Pac was sentenced to a year and a half in prison, during which Smalls released the diss track "Who Shot Ya," which he had written pre-shooting, but the timing was inopportune (per Revolt).

In '95, Pac joined Suge Knight's west coast label Death Row Records, and east coast's Bad Boy became their official enemy. After Pac got out on bond, he released multiple diss tracks, including "Hit 'em Up" where he addresses and threatens Smalls. That same year, Pac was spotted by the press with Smalls' estranged wife and singer Faith Evans, who he claims to have slept with on his diss track. And although Smalls released tracks of his own, he never directly called his former friend.

When Shakur was murdered in '96, fans blamed the east coast. But Smalls didn't want that. "One man against one man made a whole West coast hate a whole East Coast ... I've got to be the one to flip it," he said in an interview. Smalls was murdered six months after Shakur.

Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano fought like sisters on Charmed

Although the "Charmed" sisters were good witches, there was bad blood between them offscreen. "90210" alum Shannen Doherty was already known for being difficult to work with when she took on the role of the eldest sister Prue in 1998. Her co-stars Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling both had negative things to say about her, while Alyssa Milano, who portrayed the youngest sister Phoebe, didn't have such a reputation. 

But the two butted heads enough that Doherty decided to leave "Charmed" — or was fired — in its third season. In 2001, she told Entertainment Tonight, "There was too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work." She didn't name any names, but Milano confirmed the two didn't get along. "There were times when I'd come in and say, 'Good morning, Shannen,' and she didn't say anything to me. And there were times when she'd come in and say, 'Good morning, Alyssa,' and I wouldn't say anything to her," per E News.

In 2021, Milano took some responsibility for their feuding, sharing with Entertainment Tonight, "I think a lot of our struggle came from feeling that I was in competition rather than it being that sisterhood that the show was so much about. And I have some guilt about my part in that." She says their relationship now is cordial. Sounds like sisters alright!

David Letterman was passed over for Jay Leno

Johnny Carson had the premium late night talk show spot: 11:30pm on NBC. And David Letterman, host of "Late Night with David Letterman," was primed and ready to take over for Carson once he announced his retirement. It would have been huge for Letterman to become the host for "The Tonight Show". But in 1991, it was announced that comedian Jay Leno would actually be taking over, which came as a shock: Letterman had earned his stripes and been hosting his own show for over a decade.

In the documentary "The Story of Late Night," Rick Ludwin, NBC's vice president at the time, the network had gifted Leno a "secret deal" that guaranteed Leno the hosting spot if/when Carson retired. They believed Leno would be more appealing to Carson's regular 11:30 time slot than Letterman, but that's not the only reason he got the job. Ludwin recalled, "Dealing with Dave had become bothersome and draining, and he could be unnecessarily rude to network people ... So did that factor into my decision as to going with Jay Leno over Dave Letterman? You bet it did" (via  People).

Leno started attracting more viewers than Letterman and became particularly well-liked, which miffed the talk show veteran. In '92, he took his show to CBS where he was in direct competition with Leno. The comedian, at least publicly, never seemed hurt by Letterman's televised bitterness. In fact, he often found it funny, and apparently, Leno is still a huge fan of Letterman today.

LL Cool J and Jamie Foxx got too into their characters

Behind the 1999 football film "Any Given Sunday" is a brawl between rapper and actor LL Cool J and entertainer Jamie Foxx. The two were cast to play rivals, but they took it offscreen as well. In Foxx's standup "I Might Need Security," he said, "[LL Cool J] thought we was really playing football." He shared that the physical altercation ensued between the two during a scripted argument. "The next thing you know, he hauled off and hit me!" Foxx says he hit LL back later on.

But according to LL Cool J, Foxx was the one who took the scene too seriously and instigated violence. "We're doing the scene, I was being aggressive ... This is character to character," he told Drink Champs. In between takes, he recounts that Foxx asked him to be less aggressive, which LL ignored. Foxx then punched him in the face, and Cool J proceeded to take Foxx's helmet off and reciprocate the punch. 

Another star of the film, Bill Bellamy, gave his account on Instagram Live 20 years after the fact. He said LL Cool J kept hitting Foxx in the head after making jokes about him. Bellamy tried to warn him to back off, but Foxx insisted. While filming, "LL Cool J, boom! Hits Jamie Foxx in the head, like on the helmet, though." Bellamy confirmed that Foxx punched Cool J and the "Mama Said Knock You Out" rapper proceeded to do just that.

Tyson vs. Holyfield: The Bite Fight

The boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson was one of the most anticipated sports events of the '90s. The two had been battling without being in the same ring since the '80s. Holyfield made the Olympic team the year Tyson tried to join; they attempted to schedule fight after fight, and finally, their first match for the Heavyweight Championship was set for November 9, 1996. Tyson, the undisputed heavyweight champion, had the betting odds in his favor, but as the fight progressed, more put their cash on Holyfield, who ended up winning despite headbutting Tyson more than once. For the first time since his match with Buster Douglas, Tyson had gotten knocked out. Fans were upset about Tyson's loss, so learning there would be a rematch June 28, 1997, was thrilling. 

The fight became one of the most infamous events in sports history. At the start of the third round, Tyson removed his mouthpiece and bit Holyfield's right ear, tearing off one inch of cartilage. After the two were broken up, the fight continued, and Tyson bit Holyfield's other ear. Tyson was disqualified, and security surrounded the two men to protect Holyfield from his opponent. In subsequent interviews and his book "Undisputed Truth," Tyson confirmed, "I just wanted to kill him. Anybody watching could see that the head butts were so overt. I was furious, I was an undisciplined soldier and I lost my composure." Despite the public upset and dramatic aftermath, the two are now on good terms.

Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Charles' mistress

July 29, 1981 became a public holiday and a joyous occasion for millions all over the globe: Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married. But despite it being one of the most lavish and anticipated weddings of the century, there was nothing glamorous or romantic about the union. According to Diana's friend and astrologer Penny Thornton, the couple knew their relationship was no fairytale. "... the night before the wedding, Charles told her that he didn't love her" Thornton said in the ITV documentary "The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess" (via People).

Throughout their 10 years together, there had been speculation about trouble in the royal paradise, all of which was later confirmed: Infamously, Diana was deeply unhappy, so much so that she took to self-harming. 1992 was host to the release of Andrew Morton's tell-all biography about the princess, which Diana later admitted to working on, and the couple's initial separation. In 1994, Charles declared his marriage to Diana "loveless" and admitted to being unfaithful. Raunchy phone calls between him and his lover Camilla Parker Bowles were released to the public. Diana reportedly referred to Camilla as "the Rottweiler," seeing the other woman as the reason her marriage to Charles was so unhappy. In one infamous interview, Diana said, "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." By '96, a year before Diana's death, her divorce from Charles was finalized.