Celebrities Whose Parents Are Criminals

You can pick your favorite celebs, but you can't pick your parents, and guess what? Stars are stuck with theirs too, even when mom and dad have rap sheets. Take actor Woody Harrelson, for instance. His father, Charles Harrelson, assassinated a judge at the behest of drug trafficker Jimmy Chagra for $250,000 (via History). We bet that was a nice story to tell at summer camp.

Former child star Jennette McCurdy cut straight to the point regarding her relationship with her overbearing and controlling mother with the title of her 2022 best-selling memoir, "I'm Glad My Mom Died." The toxicity she shared yet another light on the treatment of child actors. "I'm in the ICU with my dying mother and the thing that I'm sure will get her to wake up is the fact that in the days since mom's been hospitalized, my fear and sadness have morphed into the perfect anorexia-motivation cocktail and, finally, I have achieved mom's current goal weight for me," she wrote. "Eighty-nine pounds."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Leighton Meester's parents were drug traffickers

Although her "Gossip Girl" character, Blair Waldorf, was born into the Upper East Side elite, Leighton Meester's real life supposedly started in a Texas halfway house in 1986. Her parents were serving time in a federal prison for smuggling 1,200 pounds of marijuana into the United States from Jamaica. Once Leighton was born, her mother returned to prison.

Meester's family troubles didn't end there. Her maternal aunt, who was also involved in the drug-smuggling operation, broke out of jail and became the first woman ever to appear on the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted List, according to New York magazine. Her brother, Douglas Meester, was charged with rape and forcible sodomy while attending the Air Force Academy, but according to Westword, the serious charges were dropped in a plea deal in 2004.

Leighton's response to all this? "Look, I could've turned out a lot worse," she told Cosmopolitan. We're all glad you didn't.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Jackie Chan's mother was an opium smuggler

Who doesn't love Jackie Chan? It can't be helped, and yet the mere fact that he exists at all is astounding when you learn his family history. His mother? An opium smuggler in Shanghai. His father? The port inspector (and former spy) who busted her. Instead of arresting her, they fell in love and got married. Hey, the heart wants what it wants.

According to Variety, widower Charles Chan fled to Shanghai after WWII where he met Lee-Lee Chan for the first time. Nicknamed "Third Sister" in Shanghai's underworld, Lee-Lee finally met her match — in love! The pair eventually married and settled in Hong Kong, leaving all their children behind. "It was so commonplace in China. Life was cheap. It has always been cheap. It's a very common thing to do, abandon your children. In every family, there were abandoned children," documentary filmmaker Mabel Cheung told The Guardian.

For all the circumstances that had to occur for Jackie Chan to be born, you'd think his devotion to family would be so strong that he would get cast in a "Fast & Furious" movie. But that was not the case. Per Global News, Chan has an estranged daughter, Etta Ng Chok Lam, who was the product of Chan's extra-marital affair with former Miss Asia, Elaine Ng. "Hi, I'm Jackie Chan's daughter, Etta, and this is my girlfriend, Andi," Lam said in a now-deleted YouTube video. "We've been homeless for a month due to homophobic parents. We've pretty much slept under a bridge and other things."

Kellie Pickler's father was once a fugitive

It's a good thing Kellie Pickler has a voice suited for singing country songs, because her early life didn't offer a whole lot of options. Her father served almost four years for stabbing their neighbor in a trailer park in 2003. In 2013, her father, Clyde "Bo" Pickler, Jr., was declared a fugitive by the state of Florida after missing a check-in with his probation officer (via Taste of Country).

The elder Pickler eventually turned his life around, but died unexpectedly in 2019 at the age of 54. During his time in prison, Kellie Pickler co-wrote "The Letter (to Daddy)," about the letters they would write back and forth to each other. "Every time the mail came, my daddy had written me a letter. I have them all — every single letter he's ever written me since I was a kid," Pickler told The Boot in 2012. Two years later, she spoke about her father again in an interview with Rolling Stone. "People have a perception and opinion of him and his past, but my dad inspired me in so many ways. I've always been a daddy's girl. He was never not a part of my life ... He loved me and took care of me the best as he could."

Hayden Panettiere's father was arrested for domestic violence

In 2008, "Scream VI" star Hayden Panettiere's father was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after assaulting her mother while drunk. He has publicly stated the domestic violence was just one "big misunderstanding," and Panettiere struggled with conflicting emotions after the incident.

During a July 2009 interview with Seventeen (via Us Weekly), Panettiere had this to say about the arrest: "I don't know that I dealt with it any specific way. I mean, it's hard enough going through it personally within your family, let alone when the entire world knows about it." However, Panettiere felt empathy for her father. "It put my dad in this light that is so not him," she said. "You know your mind goes to: 'He abuses, he beats his wife.' For my dad to have that reputation now — which is so not who he is — kills me."

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.

Diddy's father was an associate of American Gangster Frank Lucas

Diddy's father died when he was just three years old, and for much of his life, the rapper believed a car accident had killed him. However, that wasn't the case. Diddy later learned that his dad died during a botched drug deal — possibly while working for Frank Lucas, the notorious Harlem heroin trafficker dramatized in the 2007 film "American Gangster." Lucas confirmed the relationship in a 2007 interview with MTV.

Diddy launched the Revolt TV network in 2013, and used the media platform to open up about his father's death and to discuss the subsequent effect it had on him. In a video segment called "Confessions", Diddy stated, "My father was a drug dealer so I learned early in life that there's only two ways out of that."

Hope Solo's father served time for embezzlement

Soccer goalkeeper legend Hope Solo is no stranger to run-ins with the law. In fact, those started with her birth. According to her memoir, "Solo: A Memoir of Hope," Solo was conceived in Walla Walla State Penitentiary while her father was serving time for embezzlement. "He was unreliable at best and a criminal at worst," she wrote.

"I don't believe in happy endings but my mother did when I was born," she continued. "But my family doesn't do happy endings. We do sad endings or frustrating endings or no endings at all. We are hardwired to expect the next interruption or disappearance or broken promise."

According to NPR, her father was also a murder suspect and was only cleared after his death in 2008. "I think at an early age I learned not to judge people. My father showed me so much love. He showed my brother so much love. He just, he had a rough life," she said during an interview with the outlet. "You know, he grew up in a boys home in the Bronx ... He didn't know how to be the perfect husband. But he loved as much as he could. And that love was pure."

Terence Howard's father was charged with manslaughter

In 1971, at just two years old, Terence Howard's life changed forever. Per People, Howard was standing in line to see a department store Santa Claus in Cleveland, Ohio, when his father got into an altercation with another man that resulted in that man's death. Dubbed the "Santa Line Slaying," Howard's father was charged with manslaughter and served 11 months in prison before being released for good behavior.

This story eventually made its way to Oprah who interviewed the actor (via Mixed Media Watch). Howard, who states his father looked "more white" than his mom, was defending himself from a racial taunt. "The man said, 'Why did you let those n*****s cut you?' And my daddy said, 'This is my wife' ... The man turned around and my father turned back to talk to us," Howard said.

During a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Howard described the incident. "I was standing next to my father, watching," the "Empire" actor said. "Then stuff happened so quickly — blood was on the coats, on our jackets — and then my dad's on a table and then my dad is gone to prison."

Jamie Foreman's dad was known as the Godfather of London

When British actor Jamie Foreman chose acting, he turned his back on the family business. His father, Freddie Foreman, a legendary gangster known as the "Godfather of London," was a member of the infamous The Firm, run by the notorious Kray Twins (Morrissey will tell you all about them).

In 1969, he was convicted of the murder of Jack "the hat" McVitie after he helped dispose of the body. "They were the curse of my life. Up until meeting those two I had no problems whatsoever," he said (via The Sun). As of 2022, Freddie was living in a London nursing home and maintains no contact with his family. During a 2021 interview with The Mirror, Jamie credited his father for his love of films. "Dad used to take us away on holidays in the Caribbean or he'd sit and watch these old black and white films with us," he said. "That's what made me think about going into acting. He was so proud when I told him that I wanted to go off to drama school."

So why didn't he change his last name that was associated with gangsters and murder? "I never would," he explained. "I'm proud of it. I am who I am. My name's never stopped me getting jobs."