Stars Who Won Awards After Their Biggest Scandals

Public drama and being famous pretty much go hand-in-hand. Most of the time, celebrity antics are tame, and so are the consequences. Sure, there's some negative press and plenty of not-so-pleasant Twitter mentions. The celebrity in question might feel the need to post an apology video or Notes app message on social, but the hate usually blows over pretty quickly. Other times, though, celebrities find themselves embroiled in much more serious scandals that have a true staying power and seem, if even just for a moment, to have some real career-ending potential.

But, as we all know, even the biggest setbacks, snafus, and full-blown scandals aren't necessarily guaranteed to kill a celeb's career completely. Some stars seem to be human Teflon who deflect the possible permanent impact of their most scandalous moments. Here are some celebrities who weren't just able to bounce back but were honored with awards after their biggest scandals.

Will Smith won an Oscar basically moments after slapping Chris Rock on live TV

No list of celebrities taking home awards after a big scandal could be complete without mentioning Will Smith, who may have set an unbeatable record for the shortest time between his hugely scandalous moment and his huge award win. The instantly-infamous moment went down at the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, during which the show's host, Chris Rock, made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair, saying, "Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see you." Jada, who suffers from alopecia, was quickly caught on camera rolling her eyes in response to the joke. Will then got up, walked on stage, and slapped the host's face before telling him, "Keep my wife's name out of your f*****g mouth."

Will returned to his seat and went on to win best actor for his role in "King Richard." "I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you," he said during his emotional acceptance speech. "In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you. And you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that's okay." In response to criticism after the show, the actor resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and the Academy announced the actor was banned from attending future Oscar ceremonies for 10 years.

Taylor Swift feuds with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

Taylor Swift famously (or possibly infamously, depending on who you ask) retreated from public life in 2016 after her messy feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West that resulted in #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trending worldwide. Swift and West's feud traces back to 2009, when he interrupted her VMA acceptance speech. Their beef escalated in a big way in 2016 when Swift and Kimye shared different accounts of whether or not Swift approved of his lyrics about her in "Famous," prompting Kardashian to leak some (though carefully-curated) clips of a phone call between Swift and West on Snapchat. Fans have been searching her lyrics for references to the fraught frenemy-ship ever since. 

The singer eventually opened up about the impact the fallout of the feud had on her. "When people fall out of love with you, there's nothing you can do to make them change their mind," she explained in her documentary, "Miss Americana" (per Glamour). "They just don't love you anymore. I just wanted to disappear. Nobody physically saw me for a year, and that was what I thought they wanted." Plenty of people fell back in love with the "Anti-Hero" singer, who got proof of that fact in 2021 when she took home her third album of the year Grammy for 2020's "folklore."

Kanye West won Grammys every year after interrupting Taylor Swift

While we're on the subject of Kanye West and Taylor Swift's epic, messy feud, let's go back to its origin story. West kicked off round one of their long, ongoing drama in 2009 when he infamously jumped up on stage to interrupt Swift's acceptance speech for best female video. Why? To protest Beyoncé not winning for "Single Ladies," which he described as "one of the best videos of all time" (Beyoncé went on to win the video of the year award for that video later in the show). The crowd booed Kanye over the interruption, and he received heavy criticism from fans, celebrities, and commentators. "It was not Kanye's place to speak for Beyoncé or to ruin Taylor Swift's moment," Emil Wilbekin, managing editor of Essence, said at the time (per CNN), adding that he had "crossed the line when he decided to speak for other people."

The line-crossing and backlash didn't seem to have much of an impact on Kanye's ability to pick up prestigious awards himself, though. As his official Grammy Awards profile notes, "With 21 GRAMMYs, West is one of the top GRAMMY winners in history, and is tied with Jay Z as the highest-decorated hip-hop artist." There wasn't even a temporary slowdown of the love for Ye after the 2009 VMAs incident—he took home Grammys annually for years after (at least one a year from 2010 through 2013).

Justin Timberlake took home lots of Grammys and other awards after the 2004 Super Bowl nipplegate scandal

No list of scandalous celebrity moments would be complete without mentioning Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's performance during the 2004 Super Bowl. Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson's outfit and exposed her pasty-clad breast on live television, bringing the word "Nipplegate" into the lexicon.

Jackson was hit much harder by the fallout of the controversial moment, which Wayne Scot Lukas, who styled the performance, said Timberlake pushed for in an attempt to outdo Britney Spears and Madonna's explosive kiss at the VMAs. He "was going to step on the back of her dress to reveal her butt in this pearl G-string," the stylist told Page Six in 2021 of the original plan for the performance, also taking issue with the "wardrobe malfunction" label given at the time. "It was the most functioning wardrobe in history. As a stylist, it did what it was intended to do."

After "Nipplegate," Timberlake continued to rack up awards (including several Grammys) while Jackson bore the brunt of the backlash. In 2021, Timberlake finally apologized directly to Jackson (as well as his ex, Britney Spears) for his role in negative media portrayals of them. "I care for and respect these women and I know I failed," he wrote on Instagram. "Because of my ignorance, I didn't recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again."

Robert Downey Jr. won Golden Globes after his drug arrests

Before he became a superhero/Disney-employed role model, Robert Downey Jr. struggled publicly with addiction and was arrested multiple times on drug charges between 1996 and 2001. "It's like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger's on the trigger," the actor told a judge of his ongoing struggles with addiction in 1999 (per Time). "And I like the taste of the gunmetal." Even in the thick of his addiction and arrest scandals, he was still rewarded for his acting talent. 

He won a Golden Globe for his work on "Ally McBeal" in January 2001 before being fired from the show that April after another drug-related arrest. After his arrest, RDJ's spokesman Alan Nierob told The Washington Post that the actor had voluntarily checked himself into rehab after being released from jail, adding, "Obviously he is working hard at his sobriety and his rehabilitation."

In a 2008 interview with The New York Times, the "Iron Man" star revealed he finally got sober in 2003 thanks to, of all things, Burger King after stopping at the fast food chain during a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and then tossing his drugs in the ocean. "While he was sitting there chewing on a burger, he decided he was done," according to The New York Times report. Less than a decade after achieving lasting sobriety, he won his second Golden Globe in 2010 for "Sherlock Holmes."

Angelina Jolie won the 2014 Academy Award Humanitarian Award after kissing her brother

In 2000, Angelina Jolie took home her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her incredible performance in "Girl, Interrupted." The biggest night of her career also turned out to be scandalous for the edgy young actor, as her behavior at the Oscars overshadowed her win after she infamously kissed her brother, James Haven, full-on on the lips at the show. She even gave James a shoutout in her acceptance speech, saying, "I'm in shock, and I'm so in love with my brother right now. He just held me and said he loved me, and I know he's so happy for me. And, um, thank you for that."

While the sibling kiss got a lot of press and helped cement Jolie's bad girl label, which persisted for several years after that first Oscar win, she eventually transformed her public image in a big way. She continued to be recognized for her talents, winning several smaller awards in the years after her 2000 Academy Award. She was eventually honored by the Academy again in 2013, taking home the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of her work offscreen as an advocate for human rights and refugee issues.

Demi Lovato won lots of awards after their 2010 assault of backup dancer

In 2010, while in Columbia for the "Camp Rock 2" tour, then-Disney Darling Demi Lovato's secret substance abuse became public knowledge after someone reported it to Lovato's manager and father. "I was very upset. "Now it was out that I was on Adderall," Lovato claimed in their documentary, "Simply Complicated." The singer then described manipulating one of those adults into revealing the identity of the accuser (who turned out to be Alex Welch). "I remember thinking, 'I'm about to beat this b***h up,'" Lovato said. "I just went up to her and it was like a blur ... Everyone was freaking out."

After the incident became public, Lovato embarked on a years-long sobriety journey with many ups and downs (including a 2018 overdose). As of 2020, Welch claimed no apology had yet to be for the assault but, ultimately, Lovato's fans (and the entertainment industry) didn't let the incident stop them from celebrating their successes. In 2015, Lovato took home the Billboard Rulebreaker Award," and they won a slew of other awards after the 2010 punch, including multiple Teen Choice Awards, a 2014 People's Choice Awards, the 2012 VMA for Video With a Message, and the 2016 GLAAD Vanguard Award.

The Chicks won a Grammy in 2007 after their 2003 George W. Bush criticism scandal

In 2003, The Chicks (known then as The Dixie Chicks) became early victims of cancel culture after they criticized then-President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. The controversial statement came on March 10, 2003, during the band's show at Shepherd's Bush Empire theater in London, when the group's lead singer, Natalie Maines was introducing their song, "Travelin' Soldier." Per Rolling Stone, she told the crowd, "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." 

Angered fans denounced the group and protested by burning the band's CDs and boycotting their music, but The Chicks ultimately rebounded from the scandal. Just four years later, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences heaped love on them when they swept at the 2007 Grammy Awards, taking home five awards, including album of the year, record of the year, and song of the year. "I think it says that, by and large, the creative community sees what has happened to the Dixie Chicks as unfair and unjust," music executive Mike Dungan told The New York Times.

Brad Pitt won an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 2020 after child abuse allegations

Celebrity gossip fans worldwide were shocked when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt split in 2016 after more than a decade together. They were even more shocked when news broke that the actor was under investigation for child abuse. He was eventually cleared by Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services investigation a few months later (via Vanity Fair). He subsequently opened about his struggles with alcohol and anger management. 

"I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family," he told GQ in 2017. "But even this last year, you know— things I wasn't dealing with. I was boozing too much. It's just become a problem." In a 2019 Interview Magazine conversation with Anthony Hopkins, he hinted at his anger issues, admitting, "I lose it at times. I get sucked into something, and I can lose it. I take my hands off the wheel."

By 2020, after several years of opening up about the personal work he was doing (including attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings), Pitt was on back top career-wise, winning both an Oscar (his first for acting) and Golden Globe for his role in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." 

Martha Stewart was deemed Hall of Fame worthy after her insider trading scandal

Martha Stewart was on top of the world when she got caught up in an insider trading scandal. In December 2001, after her broker, Peter Bacanovic, gave her a heads up that the stock was about to drop (it soon fell 16%), she sold all 3,928 of her shares of ImClone stock, avoiding losses of $45,673, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Her broker's assistant, Doug Faneuil, revealed to investigators that she had engaged in the insider trading and Stewart was tried and found guilty on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice on July 16, 2004, that included a sentence of five months in prison, five months of house arrest, and two years of probation.

The lifestyle guru wasn't held down permanently by the scandal at all. In fact, she's been honored at not just one but two Hall of Fame inductions since her incarceration. She was a member of the New Jersey Hall of Fame class of 2018 (along with "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin), and in 2020, was added to the Licensing International Hall of Fame. "I am very honored to be inducted into the Licensing International Hall of Fame. I have spent my life's work creating high-quality, practical, functional, and innovative products at an affordable price to enhance one's lifestyle and home," she said in a statement about the latter honor (via Business Insider).

Michael Jackson was honored multiple times after his 1993 abuse allegations and 2005 trial

When you think of celebrities with their share of scandals and awards, Michael Jackson sits near the top of the list. The singer made headlines in 1993 when he was investigated in relation to child molestation allegations. He paid hefty settlements, but wasn't formally charged with any crimes. In the years following the abuse allegations and settlements, Jackson continued to enjoy commercial and critical success. He brought home an array of high-profile honors: his 1995 induction to the BET Walk of Fame, his 2002 AMA artist of century award, and a 2002 Billboard Music Awards Special Award for his album "Thriller," among others.

Jackson's controversies weren't over. In 2003, he was arrested for child molestation then stood trial in February 2005 on charges including conspiracy and lewd acts upon a minor. The jury ultimately acquitted Jackson, with some jurors blaming the parents of the children involved. One female juror said, "What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen?" according to NPR. After the trial, Jackson continued to rack up honors, including a 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which his children accepted on his behalf after his death in 2009.

Chris Brown continued to win awards after his 2009 assault of Rihanna

Chris Brown and Rihanna were the It Couple when they started dating in 2007. But their relationship ended in scandal in February 2009 when Brown physically assaulted Rihanna after a pre-Grammys party. According to CNN, police said the woman in the incident (who was later confirmed to be Rihanna) had "suffered visible injuries and identified Brown as her attacker." In a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair, Rihanna addressed the situation, claiming "how the victim gets punished over and over" in domestic abuse cases. "For me, and anyone who's been a victim of domestic abuse, nobody wants to even remember it," she said. "Nobody even wants to admit it. So to talk about it and say it once, much less 200 times, is like ... I have to be punished for it?"

Brown addressed the assault in his 2019 documentary "Chris Brown: Welcome to my Life," claiming that their relationship broke down and became violent after he was unfaithful. "We were fighting each other," he explained (per BBC). "She would hit me, I would hit her. But it never was OK." In her 2015 Vanity Fair interview, Rihanna said that, while she and Brown didn't have a relationship anymore, "I don't hate him. I will care about him until the day I die." The industry clearly didn't hate Brown either, as the singer won several awards after the assault, including a Grammy in 2012.

Tiger Woods won the 2019 Presidential Medal of Freedom after his cheating scandal

Tiger Woods had a clean cut public image until November 2009, when reports circulated that the golf legend cheated on his wife, Swedish model Elin Nordegren. The follwing month, as more about his infidelity surfaced, Woods released a statement that touched on the cheating scandal. "I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves," he said (via Reuters). "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart." In February 2010, he apologized directly for his infidelity and revealed he had spent 45 days in in-patient therapy. "I was unfaithful, I had affairs and I cheated. What I did was unacceptable," he said (per BBC), adding, "It's now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made." The mea culpa wasn't enough to save his marriage, which was officially over by August 2010.  

In the wake of the scandal, Woods lost several sponsorship deals that included the likes of AT&TGeneral Motors, and Gatorade. But his days of receiving high honors weren't over for good. In 2019, Woods received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. According to CNN, the award is given to people who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Woody Allen won an Oscar and Grammy after his 1992 abuse allegations

In 1992, critically-acclaimed director Woody was accused by his seven-year-old adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, of sexually molesting her. According to a 1992 Vanity Fair article, his then-partner Mia Farrow had "an unwritten rule" in her house that Allen was never supposed to be left alone" with Dylan due to "alleged 'inappropriate' fatherly behavior."

Both the Connecticut State Police and the Yale–New Haven Hospital Child Sexual Abuse Clinic both investigated the situation, concluding that, "Dylan was not sexually abused by Mr. Allen" (via The New York Times). Allen has repeatedly denied the allegations over the years, including in a 2014 essay for The New York Times, in which he wrote, "Of course, I did not molest Dylan. I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father and exploited by a mother more interested in her own festering anger than her daughter's well-being." 

In 2012, Allen was honored at several awards ceremonies for his film "Midnight in Paris." At the Academy Awards (which he skipped, as usual), he won best original screenplay for the film, and Grammy award for best compilation soundtrack for visual media for the movie's soundtrack.