Celebs Who Suddenly Had Different Accents

Sometimes celebs straight-up confuse us — especially when they randomly start speaking with strange accents. Hey, it's not an unfamiliar experience. Perhaps you've had that awkward moment when a friend returns from studying abroad or from a trip to somewhere far off, and they suddenly sound a little ... different. Maybe it's the way they kept calling everyone "mate" or correcting your pronunciation of "Le Pain Quotidien." 

Or maybe you've even been called out for mimicking the way people around you sound. According to a number of different theories, it's actually not so crazy to slightly change your manner of speech to match up with how the people around you are speaking. As The Cut describedwe might subconsciously imitate the people we're interacting with as a way to be better liked, as one 1999 New York University study "found that the people who imitated others the most tended to be more empathetic than those who imitated less often." 

Be that as it may, it's still jarring when celebrities suddenly start speaking in a completely different way. Read on to see which famous figures have left people scratching their heads with their brand new accents. 

Madonna: Brit by way of Michigan

In perhaps the most infamous example of a celebrity surprising the public with a brand new manner of speaking, pop superstar Madonna debuted her version of a British accent over the course of a number of television interviews in the early and mid-2000s. 

Madonna and British director Guy Ritchie met in 1998 and married in December 2000, and, per People"The Detroit-area native moved to London and immersed herself in Ritchie's world, from the pubs to the countryside." Judging from interviews from the time, she seemed to have immersed herself in Ritchie's accent, too. In 2003, Madonna's spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal, "She does naturally pick up on languages and sounds of people around her... It's certainly not meant as an affect... When she's back in New York for a while, she gets right into the New Yawk sound."

As The Telegraph explained, in the years since her divorce from Ritchie, Madonna's accent has miraculously re-Americanized. Ta-da! 

The truth is out there about Gillian Anderson's accent

Gillian Anderson was born in Chicago, but she lived in London until she was 11 years old, when her family returned to the United States. She eventually got into acting and earned her most famous role on The X-Files as agent Dana Scully, investigating government conspiracies and mysteries. But over the years, Anderson's seemingly fluid accent has become its own mystery. In certain interviews, like this one on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Anderson sounds like she's straight out of the U.S. of A. However, when filming interviews in England — like this one from interview show Parkinson — Anderson speaks in a totally British accent. 

What gives? Anderson herself explained to the The Telegraph in 2009, "Part of me wishes I could control it, but I can't. I just slip into one [accent] or the other. When I moved to the States I tried hard to cling on to my British accent because it made me different." Anderson, who now lives in London, also told BlogTalkRadio.com (via SF Gate), "It's near to impossible for me not to fall back into the accent when I'm over in London. ... It's nearly impossible for me not to slide into the Briticisms when I'm living there ... In terms of identity I'm still a bit baffled." 

That makes all of us.

Meghan Markle fully embraces her new home country

Actress Meghan Markle became British royalty in May 2018 when she married the UK's Prince Harry, making her the Duchess of Sussex. Markle officially moved to England just six months prior to their wedding, and, somehow, Markle might have managed to pick up a British accent in that short period of time. 

In June 2018, a video posted to Twitter seemed to present Markle speaking with a distinctly un-American lilt as she addressed fans during a visit to Chester, England. As HuffPost described, certain phrases that Markle used when speaking with her adoring public seemed to have a British tone. Speech and dialect coach Patricia Fletcher told the site, "If she also has a good ear for music, rhythm and inflection and is now surrounded by British English speakers (especially people she loves) it would not surprise me if her sounds might adjust a bit ― perhaps even unconsciously."

Judging by the interest that surrounded the royal wedding, it's safe to say the entire world will be tuning in to see how Markle's accent evolves.

Johnny Depp adopts his characters' accents

Actor Johnny Depp is notorious for fully committing to the characters he plays. In a 2015 Today show appearance, the actor seemed to slip in and out of various accents. Page Six explained, "Picking up a bit of Boston brogue after portraying gangster Whitey Bulger in the film, [Depp] shifts in and out of accents — including an Australian twang — as he drones through the three-minute interview in a daze." We're not totally sure we hear the Australian, but we agree that Depp's accent does seem to change throughout the clip. 

Dialect coach Claire Corff noted to Slate in 2016, "[Depp] even has an English accent now, it seems, when I see him on interview shows," while the Irish Independent described Depp's accent as "some kind of international accent, perhaps unique to his island."

Depp has performed with an accent in numerous movies over the years (to mixed critical reviews), but in 2017, he explained to Ellen Degeneres (via Rolling Stone) that playing Donald Trump for a Funny or Die skit was the hardest: "It was difficult — he speaks real weird."

Lindsay Lohan has an accent all her own

Celeb gossip blogger Perez Hilton posted a video to his Twitter in November 2016 that showed actress Lindsay Lohan speaking outside her Greek club opening in what was later described as "a mix of everything from Australian with Turkish to Greek with Saudi Arabian" (via the Daily Mail).

When reached for comment, Lohan explained to the paper that she did indeed sound different but that her new accent was a combination of many of the languages she knows or is trying to learn. "I've been learning different languages since I was a child," she shared. "I'm fluent in English and French can understand Russian and am learning Turkish, Italian and Arabic." Despite her explanation, some language experts were still stumped. Los Angeles dialect coach Joel Goldes told the New York Post that he found the accent "highly unusual," but he corroborated Lohan's explanation, adding, "I honestly couldn't peg it to one accent, it sounds like such a blend to me."

In June 2018, The New York Times caught up with Lohan in Mykonos, Greece, where she opened the Lohan Beach House, and, by that point, Lohan's accent was reportedly back to normal. 

Gwyneth Paltrow pulls a Madge

Like Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow has long been recognized for her ability to use different accents in her acting, and she even won an Academy Award for her role in Shakespeare in Love, in which she pulled off a complete British accent. But Paltrow has also been on the receiving end of a lot of negative press over her sudden British accent in real life, with outlets like The Daily Beast noting, "This is the woman who met Coldplay singer Chris Martin in 2002, married him, and moved off to London, where she was immediately stricken with Madonna syndrome and began talking in a British accent."

In 2009, New York Magazine quoted Paltrow's views on the British, giving insight into why she might be chameleon-ing her way of speaking: "I like living [in England] because I don't fit into the bad side of American psychology. The British are much more intelligent and civilized than the Americans."

However, judging from an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2018, Paltrow is now back to speaking like an American.

George Michael suffered from Foreign Accent Syndrome

Late pop star George Michael went into a three-week coma as a result of a life-threatening battle with pneumonia in December 2011. When he finally woke up, the celeb, who is originally from North London, shocked his doctors by suddenly speaking with a West Country accent. "They were worried I had this condition where people wake from comas speaking French or some other language ... Mine was two days of this vague Bristolain accent and they were afraid I'd have it for life," The Telegraph reported Michael said. He added, "There's nothing wrong with a West Country accent — but it's a bit weird when you're from North London."

The condition Michael was referring to is called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). Neurology expert Dr. Ronald Kanner explained to CBS News that the changes in accent are the result of damage to the part of the brain that handles language, which can cause someone speaking their native language to possibly pronounce things differently.

Did Hilaria Baldwin pretend to be Spanish?

In December 2020, an anonymous Twitter user with the pseudonym Leni Briscoe shared, "You have to admire Hilaria Baldwin's commitment to her decade long grift where she impersonates a Spanish person." That tweet went viral, sending internet sleuths digging into Hilaria's past and posting clips of her speaking, including when she seemingly struggled to come up with the word "cucumber" on Today. "Briscoe" told Daily Mail, "It's offensive and wrong to pretend you're an immigrant and that you speak English as a second language and appropriate the actual experience that actual immigrant women have." 

Hilaria addressed the controversy on Instagram, confirming she "was born in Boston" and she spent time in Spain, mentioning that her parents, brother, and other family members currently reside in Spain. She claimed she grew up speaking both English and Spanish, explaining, "If I've been speaking a lot of Spanish, I tend to mix them, and if I'm speaking more English— a lot of English, then I mix that." In December 2020, Page Six confirmed Hilaria's first name was actually "Hillary" and her parents moved to Spain in 2011.

Hilaria told The New York Times that "I'm from Boston" is the first thing she said to now-husband Alec Baldwin when they met, insisting "that has always been my narrative," but the article linked to a clip of Alec telling David Letterman "My wife is from Spain." It's clear Hilaria is actually "Hillary" from Boston, but what accent will she use going forward?

Dorit Kemsley is a 'product of her environment'

When Dorit Kemsley joined Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in 2016, her confusing accent was central to her storyline. In fact, her first tagline was "When you've traveled the world, you can speak in any accent you want," per E!. In 2017, she told Bravo's The Daily Dish, "I am married to a Brit who's got a very, very strong London accent, and I'm sure some of his inflections have sort of rolled over on me." She added, "My parents are not American." They're from Israel, which she mentioned in a 2017 tweet. Kemsley shared that she spent "nearly 10 years, back and forth going to Europe."

Partially attributing her lilt to hanging around with people who "didn't speak English all that well," Dorit confessed she has "a tendency to over-enunciate," deducing that "some of [her] English is part that and part inflection." Kemsley concluded, "You just become a product of your environment."

On a 2018 Watch What Happens Live episode, Dorit explained her apparent absence of an accent when singing by vaguely remarking, "Whatever comes out comes out." That's when Andy Cohen hypothesized, "Maybe you don't sing with an accent," a sentiment that Kemsley co-signed. In 2020, Kemsley even took up for Hilaria Baldwin in an Instagram Story, recalling (via Us Weekly), "I've had so much scrutiny over the way I speak, I've learned to ignore all the noise but at first it was really hurtful."

Chet Hanks doesn't find his Jamaican accent problematic

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson's son Chet Hanks threw the internet for a loop when he shared a video of himself speaking in a Jamaican accent at the 2020 Golden Globes. Page Six reported that Wilson replied to the vid, "Maybe the best laugh of the night," however, others were perplexed, with one person tweeting, "Y'all Chet hanks got the Jamaican flag in his bio like we don't know his daddy and momma ain't Tom hanks and Rita wilson." A year later, Twitter still had jokes, with one user suggesting, "Malibu's Most Wanted reboot but with Chet Hanks and it takes place in Jamaica."

Chet shared another video with his adopted accent in February 2020 and held down the caps lock key when he wrote the caption, skirting around an actual discussion about cultural appropriation. Along with some Jamaican flag emojis, Chet asked his followers "YALL THOUGHT I WAS FINISHED?!?!????" He continued, "U KNOW WTF GOIN ON... AND IF YOU DONT JUST ASK #GEAZY HE KNOW WAH A GWAN WIT DEM GYAL... AND TO ALL YOU LAMES STILL B**CHIN ABOUT APPROPRIATION PREE DIS... YALL CAN 'APPROPRIATE' DEEZ N**Z." 

While that clearly provide no clarity, Hanks did address it (while using the accent) again in December 2020 during a discussion on the app Clubhouse, per Page Six. He insisted he's "not trying to offend anybody," elaborating, "It's not coming from a place of like, 'Oh, I'm going to s**t on these people.'" 

Paris Hilton has faked a 'baby voice' for decades

Paris Hilton admittedly vacillates back and forth between two different voices. In 2013, the heiress told Fuse, "I can either talk in, like, my normal voice or sometimes I talk in, like, a baby voice when I'm shy or, like, doing a TV show." She explained the origins of her faux accent, recalling, "When I first got offered to do The Simple Life, the producers told me to play a character. They wanted me to be very airhead and talk in this baby voice. And, I didn't realize that the show would have to last for five years, so I had to continue doing this character, and I guess I just got used to it."

During a Today appearance in March 2020, she said, "My normal voice — is actually very low and raspy." She then reiterated the shyness and "playing the character" rationale while dipping back in to baby voice to describe it as "sound[ing] like [she's] on helium." However, she got to a point where she "want[s] to be taken seriously as the businesswoman" she is, which prompted her to declare "I will speak in my normal, real voice" from that point forward. 

When she was asked about the prospect of "officially retiring the baby voice" during a September 2020 Vanity Fair profile, Hilton wasn't so adamant, remarking, "I try to pay attention to it. And I try to always tell myself, 'Paris, keep talking in your normal voice.'"