Celebrities who made fools of themselves at award shows

The glitz, the glamor, the stars — the validation by one's peers in the entertainment industry. This is what awards shows are all about. It's why we, the humble unwashed masses watch them, and why the big-time Hollywood celebrities go to them. An annual, formal awards show like the Academy Awards or the Grammys, or even the more casual, lower-tier fare like the Billboard Music Awards or the American Music Awards, offer a chance for celebrities to promote themselves and get congratulated for a job well done. All they have to do is stand there, look pretty, and say thanks when another pretty person hands them a trophy, or, as the case may be, hand a trophy to somebody else.

Sometimes, that's apparently too much to handle, and a few stars have cracked under the pressure and made fools of themselves while the world watched on TV. Here are some the biggest awards show celebrity fails of all time.

He was at least the first guy named Sam Smith to win

Sam Smith may have a comically generic name, but he's already halfway to an EGOT, with a G (Grammy) for best new artist, and an (O) Oscar for best original song, having both performed and written the Spectre song "Writing's on the Wall." However, Smith's acceptance speech for the Academy Award may forever overshadow the song's critical and commercial success. 

Alongside songwriting partner Jimmy Napes, Smith said (via Salon), "I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen, and he said no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar, and if this is the case — and even if it isn't the case — I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day." 

Smith's message is inspiring, even if his pretense was faulty. According to Salon, the article Smith referenced featured McKellen lamenting about how no openly gay man had ever specifically won the best actor Oscar. Whoops. The New York Times then pointed out several members of the LGBT community who'd won Hollywood's biggest prize, such as Elton John (best original song for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King), and Dustin Lance Black (best original screenplay for Milk.) 

Smith soon tweeted an apology: "Second openly gay man to win an oscar or third or fourth of 100th, It wasn't my point."

A Hill of excuses

As a country superstar for more than a decade, Faith Hill seemed like a lock to win the female vocalist of the year award at the 2006 Country Music Association Awards. She'd had a big year, with the No. 1 album Fireflies and smash country hits such as "Sunshine and Summertime." Her only major competition in the category was upstart sensation and recent American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. 

When presenter Miley Cyrus opened the envelope and announced the winner, Hill gave the camera a satisfied smile and threw up her arms in triumph, only to realize that Cyrus didn't say her name. Hill's expression changed to what appeared to be rage as she mouthed "WHAT?" in plain site to viewers at home. It seemed like Hill embodied some bad combination of diva and sore loser, but in the aftermath, she and her team tried desperately to wash off the stench of negativity. 

"The idea that I would act disrespectful towards a fellow musician is unimaginable to me," Hill said in a statement (released to the Associated Press). In another statement, Hill's manager, Gary Borman explained that his client was "being playful while the nominations were being read and playful after."

Well, he did say he was going to let her finish

Back before she ruled the world (or at least the music world), Taylor Swift was an innocent, fresh-face country star barely out of high school and slowly crossing over into pop music. Winning a non-country, mainstream music award like an MTV Video Music Award would mean a big step in that direction, but Kanye West made the moment all about him instead — and arguably made himself look like a real jerk in the process.

At the 2009 VMAs, the video for Swift's country song "You Belong With Me" beat out memorable videos by pop juggernauts, including Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." Swift, mouth agape in genuine surprise, took the stage to collect her Moonman from presenters Taylor Lautner and Shakira. Halfway through her speech, Ye rushed the stage, took Swift's mic, and opined, "I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!" The cameras then cut to Beyoncé in the audience, looking quite embarrassed. Then West shrugged, handed the mic back to a shocked and defeated-looking Swift, and left. Now that's just rude.

More on Miguel, after the jump

One of the big draws of the 2013 Billboard Music Awards was hot R&B singer of the moment Miguel, who was there to perform his huge hit "Adorn," which went to No. 1 on Billboard's Adult R&B chart the previous year. At one point, the Prince-channeling crooner got so into the music, that he decided to jump from the main stage, where he spent most of his stage time with his band, to a small side stage, which sat on the other side of a pit where a small group of lucky fans could enthusiastically cheer and wave their hands in the air like they just don't care. 

According to People, Miguel misjudged the distance from one stage to another, and he landed "on top of one woman's head." Miguel continued with the song, sitting down for a while but seemingly no worse for the wear. After the show, Miguel met up with the woman, identified as Khyati, and tweeted (via USA Today) that he "Got caught up in the moment, thank goodness Khyati is okay." He also told Billboard that he was "very happy" to have made a new friend, but that they "did not meet under the best circumstances." On her part, Khyati proclaimed no hard feelings, telling Billboard, "I Adorn him." (Get it?)

Somebody got lost in La La Land

It's the biggest goof in Oscars history, and one that will be talked about for years. But the people who took the most heat for the 2017 Academy Awards flub, in which Moonlight's best picture award was accidentally presented to the team from La La Land, are the accountants from PricewaterhouseCooper tasked with preventing such a thing from happening … and co-presenter Warren Beatty.

In a scene that seems, well, right out of movie, Beatty opens the sealed envelope, but instead of reading the words on the card inside, he pauses, seemingly confused. Was the 80-year-old star having a "senior moment?" If only. Beatty then passes the envelope to co-presenter Faye Dunaway, who swiftly looks down and announces La La Land as he winner. As that film's producers deliver their acceptance speeches, show staffers rush in and several moments of confusion ensue. Finally, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz says, "There's a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture." Then he holds up the best picture envelope, which indeed reads Moonlight. Chaos ensues as the Moonlight squad makes its way onstage. 

So what happened? According to The Hollywood Reporter, one of the PricewaterhouseCooper accountants gave Beatty a best actress envelope in error. It read "Emma Stone, La La Land" in full, but Dunaway had spotted the movie title and just rolled with it.

O.D.B. did it for the children

A decade before the Kanye West/Taylor Swift dust-up, another outspoken rapper stormed the stage at a major music awards show to protest a win by an innocuous female singer. At the 1998 Grammy Awards, Shawn Colvin won song of the year for writing her hit "Sunny Came Home," a folk-inspired soft rocker about arson. 

Before Colvin could thank the music industry for playing her song nonstop on the radio, rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard, member and self-appointed emissary of the Wu-Tang Clan rap collective, stormed the stage and took the mic. "I went and bought me an outfit today that costed a lot of money today. You know what I mean? Cause I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win. I don't know how y'all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best!"

Curiously, Wu-Tang Clan had not been nominated in the category Colvin won. Earlier in the night, O.D.B. and friends lost best rap album to Puff Daddy. So why did he pick that moment? "Something just jumped into my blood," he told MTV News after the show, along with an apology. "I think it was her speech that really attracted me up to the stage at that point in time to do that. So, no disrespect at all. Thank you." Mystery solved.

To be Frank, it was humiliating

In 1930s Hollywood, there were a lot of top-shelf directors named Frank, including Frank Borzage, Frank Lloyd, and most famously, Frank Capra – helmer of classics such as It Happened One Night and You Can't Take it with You. At the 6th Academy Awards, the best director category was a veritable Frank-fest, with both Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade and Frank Capra for Lady for a Day in the running. 

According to Legends Revealed, famed humorist Will Rogers presented the Oscar for best director, and at the moment of the big reveal, he gave a little speech. "I've watched this young man for a long time. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Come up and get it, Frank!" Rogers' folly was using just a first name in a category where two guys had the same first name, but Capra's folly was in assuming he was the nice guy Rogers was referring to. As he headed toward the stage to claim his prize, he noticed the spotlight hit that other Frank — the actual winner — Frank Lloyd. 

"That walk back — through applauding V.I.P.s yelling 'Sit down! Down in front! Sit down!' as I obstructed their view — was the longest, saddest, most shattering walk in my life," Capra wrote in his memoir The Name Above the Title (via TIME). "I wished I could have crawled under the rug like a miserable worm. When I slumped in my chair I felt like one."

Not the Adele you were hoping for

John Travolta is an actor strongly associated with film and music — disco dancing in Saturday Night Fever, singing show tunes in Grease, and grooving to Chuck Berry in Pulp Fiction. That's probably how he won the plum 2014 Academy Awards assignment of introducing Idina Menzel, who was there to belt out "Let it Go" from Frozen, just before it was almost certainly going to win the Oscar for best original song.

Travolta solidly delivers a fawning, laudatory speech celebrating the "gorgeously empowering song" and its "wickedly talented" singer, a subtle nod to Menzel's stint in the Broadway musical Wicked. But then, when Travolta is supposed to just say "Idina Menzel" and get out of the way, he doesn't. Somehow, he introduces her as "Adele Dazeem."

A year later, Travolta explained on Jimmy Kimmel Live how he so spectacularly messed up a task as easy as reading off of a teleprompter. Just before the moment, Travolta ran into Goldie Hawn backstage. "Now Goldie Hawn is charismatic, sexy, beautiful, got the … amazing thing. And I was starstruck! I'm starstruck, hugging and loving her up, and forgetting that I have to go and do this bit and they say, 'You're on,'" Travolta recalled. As he headed out, a crew member told Travolta that they'd changed Menzel's name to a "phonetic spelling" on the prompter. "I didn't rehearse it that way," Travolta said.

Tom Hiddleston would like to thank Tom Hiddleston

When an actor or actress wins an award for a performance, it's appropriate for them to reflect on how that winning role changed their life. To talk about how it affected other people's lives is to make oneself look like an arrogant buffoon. Tom Hiddleston ran right over that fine line at the 2017 Golden Globes. 

Winning the award for best performance by an actor in a miniseries or television film for the arms-trade thriller The Night Manager, Hiddleston first thanked the people that made the miniseries with him. Then he oh-so-casually brought up the fact that he does a little charity work with UNICEF in the developing nation of South Sudan. And then he bragged that while he was there, a group of doctors and nurses came up to him to tell him that they'd binge-watched The Night Manager during a shelling.

Not long after, he posted an apology on Facebook: "I completely agree that my speech at the Golden Globes last night was inelegantly expressed. In truth, I was very nervous, and my words came out wrong."

Fiona Apple didn't seem too grateful

Singer/songwriter/pianist Fiona Apple secured the MTV Video Music Award for best new artist in 1997, beating out some very '90s heavyweights such as Hanson and Jamiroquai. Rather than take the stage for the usual round of thanks to parents, friends, fans, and alarmingly large management and promotion teams, Apple instead let the rowdy audience know that she was about to drop a truth bomb that was going to blow their little sheep brains right out of their ears. 

"See, Maya Angelou said that we, as human beings at our best, can only create opportunities. And I'm gonna use this opportunity the way that I want to use it," she began. "So what I want to say is, um, everybody out there that's watching, everybody that's watching this world? This world is bulls**t. And you shouldn't model your life — wait a second." Apple paused because too many people were gleefully hollering over her use of a naughty word. "You shouldn't model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we're wearing and what we're saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself." 

Apple was obliquely trying to tell the audience that the entertainment industry is a well-constructed, presentational fraud, which is an amazing and super punk-rock thing to hear for viewers under the age of 18 or so. Any adults watching rolled their eyes all the way back into their skulls.

Anna Nicole goes off script

Shortly after she appeared in Kanye West's video for "The New Workout Plan," model and actress Anna Nicole Smith was asked to introduce the rapper at the 2004 American Music Awards. Smith hit the stage in a slinky black dress, then referred to her figure and asked the audience, "Like my body?" before emphatically pointing to her necklace. Then things really got weird, as Smith slowly slurred her way through her speech. "I was honored to be on our next performer's new video," she says. "And if I ever record an album, I want this guy to produce my, make me beautiful duets. 'Cause he's freakin' genius!"

Less than three years later, Smith died of what a coroner (via Today) attributed to an accidental drug overdose. Around the tenth anniversary of her death, Smith's partner, Larry Birkhead, unpacked Smith's AMA speech on The Wendy Williams Show (via Australia's News.com). He explained that Smith's breast enhancement surgery had left her prone to seizures. The night before the AMAs, Birkhead said Smith "suffered two seizures" but couldn't cancel her appearance because she was contracted to pitch a weight-loss drug. (That's why she says "Like my body?" and points to her necklace, which Birkhead said was "shaped like a diet pill.") To be ready for the show, she supposedly "took something her doctor gave her" that kept her up all night.

Rob's low

The Academy Awards often opened with a big musical number, and most of them have been, at worst, forgettable. That's not true for the song-and-dance that opened the 1989 Oscars telecast, which The Hollywood Reporter dubbed a "nightmare."

What should have been a career-making moment for unknown actress Eileen Bowman turned into the exact opposite when she was cast as the Disney depiction of Snow White for the number. In the requisite squeaky voice, Bowman first accosts actors in their seats with a rendition of "I Only Have Eyes for You," but with lyrics changed to the movie-centric "We Only Have Stars for You." Then veteran game show producer Merv Griffin sings his 1950 hit, "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," in front of a bunch of old movie stars … while Snow White dances wildly nearby. But Griffin has a surprise for the fictional character: Her "Prince Charming," Rob Lowe, launches into an off-key parody of "Proud Mary" with Bowman. 

It was so bad, The New York Times (via THR) wrote that it had "a permanent place in the annals of Oscar embarrassments." Of the performance, Lowe said, "I was a good soldier and did it." Bowman, who literally left Hollywood the next morning to never return, claimed she had to sign a "gag order" about the show and summed up her experience by saying simply, "It was awful." 

Somebody must have been Rocky Mountain High

At the 1975 Country Music Association Awards, old-school country icon Charlie Rich got came out on stage with an envelope that contained the name of the person who would be named entertainer of the year. "The award goes to my friend, John Denver," Rich said … before producing a lighter, which he used to set that envelope on fire. The broadcast then cut to a satellite feed of Denver, who couldn't attend the ceremony. Denver thanked his supporters, and didn't actually see Rich's antics. 

According to Rich's son, Charlie Rich Jr., his father used fire to express his displeasure for the music industry — particularly how pop and soft rock stars  were watering down "real" country music. He reportedly didn't have anything against Denver specifically, so then why'd be let it burn? 

"He thought it would be funny," Rich Jr. said. Also, his dad was on pain medication for a foot injury and, while waiting to go out on stage that night, "he and another country star got to drinking Gin & Tonics." So that could have been a factor.

Stranger things have not happened to Winona Ryder

In addition to all the spooky-scary monster fun and endless references to beloved '80s movies, one of the best parts of Stranger Things is the way it's become a comeback vehicle for Winona Ryder. Thanks in no small part to Ryder and her role as freaked-out mom Joyce Byers, Stranger Things took home one of the biggest prizes at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards: outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series. The entire cast — including all those kids and Matthew Modine — took the stage to accept, where David Harbour (Chief Hopper) gave a rousing speech about how art can change the world to a house full of fellow actors. 

It inspired and galvanized many people, perhaps none more so Ryder. The Heathers star gave a one-woman master class in the art of face acting, appearing, at various times, very afraid, extremely joyful, moderately disgusted, and quite surprised, to name just a few of her facial expressions. For better or for worse, Ryder's wild and emphatic facial expressions will live on forever … as a popular meme.

Why wouldn't anyone help poor Patty Duke?

This moment was embarrassing for Patty Duke, but only because of the cultural stigma attached to mental illness. In 1970, the Emmy Awards introduced new categories for performers in made-for-TV movies, and the first person to win in the actress category was Patty Duke for My Sweet Charlie. This was not a happy moment for Duke, who had previously won an Oscar as a teenager for portraying young Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, and who starred as identical cousins on The Patty Duke Show. The actress spoke flatly, stared off into space, and moved about quite oddly. She just seemed to be … somewhere else. 

Twenty years later, Duke told the Los Angeles Times why she'd delivered what the newspaper described as a "long, incoherent speech." She suffered from bipolarism (formerly called manic-depression), and at the time she won that Emmy, Duke hadn't slept in three weeks. "That's the chemical imbalance at work," she explained. Duke said she barely remembers that awful Emmys moment and couldn't even bring herself to watch a clip of the appearance for years. "I am still mortified by my behavior," she said. "Whatever came into my head, that's what came out of my mouth. I do know the faces of the people around me were filled with abject horror."

Milton Berle was a real drag at the VMAs

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Milton Berle became one of TV's first stars with his comedy and variety show, Texaco Star Theater. In 1993, MTV paid homage to the elderly TV pioneer by asking him to present at its annual Video Music Awards. Producers paired him up with RuPaul, who was then an emerging superstar. It was a clever idea — RuPaul was a drag artist, and Berle had made a name for himself acting in sketches while dressed in women's clothing in the '50s. But RuPaul and Berle were decidedly not kindred spirits

Berle endlessly mugged and called out hecklers with jokes older than he was, then mentioned that he used to wear gowns like RuPaul. "Now you wear diapers," RuPaul savagely quipped. Berle looked genuinely hurt and snapped back, "You want to ad lib? I'll check my brains, we'll start even." After more banter and an introduction of the nominees, Berle handed RuPaul the awards envelope and, affecting a lisp, warned his partner to not "break those gorgeous nails." Then things got even uglier. "Shut up!" Berle told the crowd. "Let him/her read," he said, meaning RuPaul. "She-he," Berle added, doubling down on the epithets, which is no way to endear oneself to a crowd.

Against all odds, that is definitely not Phil Collins singing

According to the Phil Collins (and Genesis) biography Turn it on Again, the soft rock idol was so happy he earned a best original song nomination at the 1985 Academy Awards for "Against All Odds" from the movie of the same name, that he contacted the Academy to volunteer to sing the tune at the ceremony. The organization said thanks but no thanks, because it had already enlisted Ann Reinking to perform it instead. In other words, the Academy did not want the singer of the song — a professional singer — to sing the song. Instead, it hired an extremely talented dancer and actress … who was decidedly not a singer. ""She was awful," Collins later told Playboy (via Turn it On Again). "I felt sorry for her."

Collins, who was in attendance at those Oscars (he was a nominee, after all) witnessed Reinking lip-sync to a specially-made recording of herself singing (flatly) "Against All Odds." When she stopped singing, the backing track continued as she segued into an emotive, expressionist dance set to the song. Adding insult to injury, Collins lost the Oscar to Stevie Wonder for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red.

And the Emmy for the best of the worst goes to...

Reality TV was firmly entrenched in the culture by 2008 — the year the Emmys introduced a category for outstanding reality show host. Organizers came up with a novel way to commemorate the event: They got all five of the inaugural nominees to host the awards show together. That meant Heidi Klum of Project Runway, Jeff Probst of Survivor, Ryan Seacrest of American Idol, Howie Mandel of Deal or No Deal, and Tom Bergeron of Dancing with the Stars all chaotically jockeying for attention and participating in awkward, unrehearsed, off-the-cuff bits and sketches. 

In one of those sketches, the four dudes ripped off Klum's clothes. In another segment, Klum mock-swooned into the not-so-waiting arms of Bergeron, who dropped her on the ground, leaving her with a massive bruise. Ironically, since all five hosts were nominated for the aforementioned prize, one of them had to take home an Emmy that night — and it went to Probst, who was probably glad to go back to hanging out on mosquito-infested remote islands.