Pop Stars Who Married Terrible People

Note: This article includes mentions of addiction and domestic violence. It may not be suitable for all readers.

Pop stars mesmerize fans in every way. Their lyrics are memorized, their image is imitated, and when they step out in public, admirers sing their praises and can't help but ask for a quick selfie. From the outside looking in, they appear to have it all. Fame, fortune, and access to the finest things in life seem to be a given for the most successful working artists. Sadly, behind closed doors, some of the biggest names in pop music have endured torturous relationships and incredibly toxic marriages. 

When they're not performing in sold-out stadiums or recording their next big album, these celebs have private lives that aren't always so happy. Some of the world's biggest pop stars have been treated horribly by their spouses. They sure seem to have married terrible people.


Madonna's marriage to Sean Penn has long been a source of confusion and mystery. In 2009, the Daily Mail published a lengthy account of Penn's alleged past violence toward Madonna. However, noting that the Daily Mail piece was lacking in primary source material, Gawker published their own investigation of the allegations in 2015.

In December 1988, Madonna was allegedly the victim of Penn's physical abuse, first reported in January 1989 by British tabloid The People. In an archived Rolling Stone interview, when asked about the truthfulness of the allegations, Madonna said: "Extremely inaccurate, as they usually are. They made it all up. But I expect it. They're always making s*** up. I've completely reconciled myself to that fact." In a 1991 Playboy interview, Penn wouldn't directly confirm or deny the allegations but said that Madonna had never filed charges (via Gawker). According to an unauthorized biography by author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Malibu sheriff Lieutenant Bill McSweeney said in an eyewitness account after the alleged abuse: "I hardly recognized her as Madonna, the singer."

Madonna later denied that Penn abused her and defended him when Penn sued Lee Daniels for defamation, according to The Guardian. (Daniels compared Penn to actor Terrence Howard, who was accused of abuse.) In a sworn legal statement in 2015, Madonna declared, "...Sean has never struck me, 'tied me up' or physically assaulted me, and any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless and false."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was an international sensation and was topping the music charts before her untimely death in July 2011. Winehouse reportedly "died of alcohol poisoning after binge drinking following a period of abstinence," according to The Guardian. Some blamed Blake Fielder-Civil, Winehouse's ex-husband, for her drug addiction, per Reuters. He introduced her to heroin and was allegedly physically abusive, which reportedly sent the sultry-voiced singer into a downward spiral.

Fielder-Civil appeared in an interview on ITV's "The Jeremy Kyle Show" and described the late Winehouse's drug use at a hotel located in East London. "I had about 10 pounds of heroin with me which was something we used to do after a club, and I was smoking it on foil and she said, 'Can I try some?' ...I might have put up a weak resistance, the fact is whatever I said she did end up having some," he explained.

Drugs and alcohol weren't the only problems for the embattled couple. In August 2007, the Daily Mail published graphic images of Winehouse and Fielder-Civil after alleged violence at a U.K. hotel. Fielder-Civil was incarcerated for burglary at the time of Winehouse's death, per E! News. He'd been convicted before, including the time he assaulted a bar owner and attempted to conceal the crime with a bribe. Winehouse and Fielder-Civil will be portrayed by Marisa Abela and Jack O'Connell, respectively, in a new biopic.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Britney Spears

Britney Spears and her childhood friend Jason Alexander were entangled in a short-lived, yet highly dramatic romance that resulted in a quickie wedding. They shocked fans when they announced they hastily got married at A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas in 2004 after a night of partying together, according to Us Weekly. The couple famously had their marriage annulled not even three days after tying the knot. It was later revealed that Alexander had been arrested for physically assaulting a woman he was in a relationship with in 2015. Records show he served a sentence of 111 days and "pleaded guilty to one count of a felony assault." While this particular incident hadn't affected Spears, she, too, was later targeted by Alexander.

On June 9, 2022, shortly after being emancipated from her 13-year conservatorship, Spears and her longtime boyfriend Sam Asghari were married in an intimate ceremony at her home. The day came with its fair share of drama. Alexander went live on Instagram and was involved in a scuffle with Spears' security. He claimed to be an invited guest and made it inside her residence before he was restrained, per TMZ. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department was called and Alexander was arrested for trespassing, vandalism, and two counts of battery. "I am personally working with the sheriff's department to ensure Mr. Alexander is aggressively prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Spears' attorney, Mathew Rosengart.

Mel B

Spice Girl Melanie "Mel B" Brown was married to Stephen Belafonte from 2007 to 2017, and during her divorce trial in Los Angeles court, claimed she was drugged by him for "much to most" of their marriage, according to Sky News. This came after TMZ reported accusations in April 2017: Brown supposedly claimed that Belafonte abused her, extorted her, and threatened her.

In the declaration for Brown's restraining order against Belafonte, she detailed his alleged abuses beginning in 2007, when she was on "Dancing with the Stars." Brown recalled a pattern of Belafonte's violent behavior whenever Brown was successful in her career. The singer released a book titled "Brutally Honest" in 2018 that further recounted the alleged abuse. Appearing on "Access Hollywood," Brown said, "Work, to me, was my safety. It was when I went home, I didn't know what was going to happen. I was crying for help in many different ways but didn't actually think that anybody would believe me or that anybody would notice what was going on."

Belafonte refuted the claims in a 2019 interview with the Daily Mail. He filed a defamation suit against Brown, challenging her to provide evidence to what he claimed were false abuse allegations made against him. "The only reason I'm talking now is because she's come out with this book, so that allows me now to go after her and finally bring the truth to light," Belafonte stated.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale were the fairytale couple – until they weren't. The pair met in 1995 when Stefani's band No Doubt opened for Rossdale's band Bush in London, and they were married in September 2002. They went on to have three children together, but shortly after the birth of their third child, Stefani was rumored to have been alerted to messages and explicit photographs that appeared on the family's iPad. That was supposedly the tip of the iceberg for Stefani as she learned the truth that Rossdale was having an affair with their nanny, Mindy Mann. "The iPad was linked to Gavin's phone," a supposed "family source" said to Us Weekly. "One of the other nannies discovered the exchange and told Gwen."

Rossdale reportedly cheated on Stefani with Mann for more than three years. The situation worsened. Access Hollywood's source claimed that Rossdale left Stefani's bedside after she gave birth so that Rossdale could have sex with Mann. Rossdale allegedly asked Mann to bring his children on tour for visits so he could have sex with Mann on his bus, too, the source maintained. 

Stefani was filming "The Voice" at the time. She went on to record an album about her painful divorce featuring the single "Used to Love You." In spite of her painful experiences, Stefani found love again with Blake Shelton, and the two were married in 2021.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey was just 20 years old when she skyrocketed to fame, thanks largely in part to the president of Sony Music, Tommy Mottola. Mottola, 20 years her senior, listened to her demo tape and the two embarked on a business deal that soon evolved into a personal relationship. Carey and Mottola married in 1993 in a lavish, star-studded ceremony, and Carey lived in the lap of luxury. 

It wasn't long before rumors began circulating that Mottola was controlling Carey's personal life as much as he was controlling her career. She carefully confirmed the rumors during a 1998 interview with Barbara Walters on "20/20." During the two-part interview, it was made clear that despite having divorced Mottola, he still remained in control of her career, and she was contractually required to release two additional albums for his label. "I guess it became oppressive in a lot of ways," Carey shared. Walters at one point asked, "Mariah, do you know that it has been written that you were a virtual hostage in that house; were you?" "I could've walked out," Carey answered, then agreed with Walters that doing so would have angered Mottola. Carey said she spoke with other women who were more independent and in control of their own success. "I started to see the differences," she said.

Mottola released a book titled "Hitmaker: The Man and His Music" in 2013. While attempting to convey his perspective, he wrote, "It was absolutely wrong and inappropriate for me to become involved with Mariah." Mottola has also been accused of sabotaging Carey's chance at success on her "Glitter" album.

Katy Perry

Katy Perry was very much in love with Russell Brand when the couple tied the knot in October 2010, and she had no idea that their union would come to a very quick end shortly thereafter. Their marriage lasted 14 months. In a now-archived Vogue interview, Perry revealed the shocking way she discovered her seemingly happy marriage was over. "He's a very smart man, and I was in love with him when I married him," Perry said. "Let's just say I haven't heard from him since he texted me saying he was divorcing me December 31, 2011.

The impersonal ending to their relationship was a painful experience for Perry, but she admitted that she had already lived through some unflattering and unkind moments. Unaware that Perry was surprising him at his show, Brand had begun making jokes at her expense, Perry claimed. She added, "He didn't like the atmosphere of me being the boss on tour. So that was really hurtful, and it was very controlling, which was upsetting."

Brand had a different perspective in his 2015 documentary "Brand: A Second Coming." Speaking about a trip to Africa the former couple had taken, Brand said: "I'm associated with the very thing I detest: vapid, vacuous, plastic, constructed, mindless celebrity. That's the very sea we're swimming in, 'Oh, who's he?'...'He's married to Katy Perry.'" Two years later, Brand cited their lives as famous people in the demise of their marriage, responding more positively to the thought of Perry on "John Bishop: In Conversation."

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez's first husband, Ojani Noa, was a seemingly humble man when she married him, but upon realizing his one-year marriage to the now-world-famous star had come to an end, his heartbreak over losing her turned into anger and resentment. Noa and Lopez married in 1997 and divorced after 11 months. He reportedly threatened to expose personal details of their relationship, including the contents of alleged sex tapes and personal audio recordings, by writing a tell-all book. Noa went as far as appointing his business partner, Ed Meyer, to write the book full of bombshell revelations, per Radar. (Lopez was reportedly granted a permanent injunction years earlier so that Noa couldn't exploit their relationship for his own benefit.) 

In 2012, Noa tried creating a film called "I Owe JLo," and Lopez promptly had her legal team issue a cease-and-desist letter to Noa, Meyer, and a producer slated to work on the film, Claudia Vazquez, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This contributed to an already nasty legal back-and-forth between the parties. On "Million Dollar Matchmaker" in 2016, Noa blamed Lopez for abandoning their marriage and said she had put all her energy into advancing her career.

Noa and Lopez ended their marriage decades ago, but Noa still has a lot to say about his very famous ex-wife. "I'm happy she has gone back to Ben but I have a feeling this won't last," he told the Daily Mail in 2022. "I think she's someone who will be married seven or eight times. I can't see her ever settling down with one person."

La Toya Jackson

La Toya Jackson was married to her former manager Jack Gordon for 10 years and claimed she was subjected to abuse in various forms throughout their entire relationship. "He was a very controlling person, he controlled what I did," Jackson said on "Today." She discussed the inner workings of her abusive marriage. "...one person can take control of your life, take your self worth away from you, take your self-esteem, and control everything you do, and then give you ultimatums," Jackson said. She continued, "If you don't do this, you don't say this, I'm going to kill your brother, and I believed him, because these people that he hung around, the circle of people that he knew."  

Jackson has discussed Gordon's mob connections, alleging that she was used as a mule to smuggle jewelry and drugs for associates, without her knowledge. Jackson told Wendy Williams she would travel without security checks prior to the 9/11 attacks. "He completely controlled me. ... I would have to sit in the closet for like five or six hours and I couldn't open the door, couldn't go out," she said to Williams. Jackson also alleged that Gordon forced her to pose for Playboy and attempted to pimp her, according to the Daily News.

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was pop's ultimate music queen, and she reigned supreme even in moments when she was falling apart. Her drug addiction and wild, on-camera antics soon became a part of the fabric of her fame, and many blamed her then-husband Bobby Brown for being a bad influence in her life. 

Brown had been arrested for numerous charges, including violation of his parole, marijuana possession, and drunk driving. Eventually, the couple's escalating drug use became more of a focus than Houston's sensational voice, and allegations of physical abuse within their marriage made the headlines. A 2017 ABC News "20/20" interview included snippets of Houston speaking with Oprah as well as Brown's recollection of the same events. "He spit on me, and my daughter was coming down the stairs, and she saw it. That was pretty intense," Houston said. "It was just lies. I've never been a violent man, towards a woman, ever," Brown told Robin Roberts. He then admitted to striking Houston one time. "Yes I did," Brown said. When their late daughter was with childcare workers, Brown said, he and Houston used drugs in a separate part of their home. 

The lights went out on the star's life on February 11, 2012 at The Beverly Hilton. In March of that year, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office released the toxicology report, citing "drowning and effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use" as being factors that led to Houston's death, according to The Washington Post.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson secretly married Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana in 2012, and the pair welcomed a child into the world in 2017. Their private relationship primarily existed away from the scrutiny of the press, but just three months after their son was born, Janet shocked her 4.2 million social media followers when she declared she and Al Mana were on the outs. "Yes, I separated from my husband," Janet said in a video posted to Twitter. "We are in court, and the rest is in God's hands."

Sharing her news with the world opened the floodgates for the press to begin digging into the couple's relationship, and soon the problems that existed between Janet and Al Mana behind closed doors were dragged into the public sphere. Janet's brother, Randy Jackson, claimed to People, "It came on later in the relationship, verbal abuse and being [made to feel like] a prisoner in her own home." He also shared, "There's a lot of pain. Janet's been through a lot with her divorce."

Janet's divorce soon turned into a custody battle, and tension between the estranged couple bubbled to the surface. Janet reportedly phoned Malibu police in 2018 and requested that they check on the welfare of her son; she allegedly believed Al Mana was using drugs in the presence of their child. TMZ reported that the authorities investigated but deemed the situation to be safe.