Celebs Who Hid Their Secret Lovers For Years

Savvy stars have always been able to keep secrets with the right level of discretion and a trustworthy circle around them, but ever since paparazzi became a thing in the late 1950s, it has become increasingly difficult. When the tabloid industry exploded in the early-to-mid 2000s — which is when In Touch Weekly, TMZ, and PerezHilton.com were founded (and when Us turned into a weekly gossip magazine) — even more resources went into tracking celebrities' personal lives. And with social media now in the equation, fans almost expect access to celebs' daily experiences and a level of intimacy never before seen.

Alongside the increased attention regarding what celebrities do, say, think, feel, watch, wear, and eat, the long-standing fascination with the love lives of Hollywood stars has also intensified. This is not new — think back to Elizabeth Taylor and her eight marriages — but the internet has only amplified the fascination and increased the amount of information that is available. Those not on the A-list can still court in private with the right approach, but bigger celebrities wishing to hide a romance often have to refrain from going out in public or will resort to tricks like wearing disguises or hiding in boxes to get places unnoticed (as Taylor Swift is known to do to get to the stage unseen at her concerts). 

No matter what era of celebrity we are discussing, it is impressive when famous folks are able to keep a relationship under wraps — sometimes for decades. Here are some celebrities who hid their secret lovers from the public for years.

Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco dated in secret while they played lovers on TV

"The Big Bang Theory" was on the air from 2007 to 2019, and it reached a level of success that few shows have been able to reach in the streaming TV era. A huge part of the show was the romance between nerdy Leonard Hofstadter, played by Johnny Galecki, and his neighbor Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco. The unlikely pair had a date at the end of Season 1 but did not begin a full-fledged romance until Season 3. They then broke up, got back together, and got married, with much drama along the way. But through it all, they seemed believable as a pair thanks to the characters' romantic chemistry.

It is now known that Galecki and Cuoco did not have to fake that chemistry for the screen, since the actors were an item for a couple of years early in the series' run. However, the public only found this out years after the relationship hit its end. "We dated for almost two years. It was such a huge part of my life and no one knew about it," Cuoco told CBS Watch Magazine in 2010. "This is the first time I've ever talked about it, ever. It was a wonderful relationship but we never spoke a word about it and never went anywhere together. We were so protective of ourselves and the show and didn't want anything to ruin that." The pair started dating in 2008 and broke up just before the end-of-year holidays in 2009.

Cher started talking about her 1980s relationship with Tom Cruise in 2008

Cher's dating history is full of surprising romantic partners, and her choices of paramours still have people talking. The icon recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with Alexander Edwards, who is 40 years her junior. While four decades is a bigger gap than she has done before, Cher is no stranger to dating younger men. Her past boyfriends have included actor Val Kilmer (who is 13 years younger than she), hockey player Ron Duguay (11 years younger), bagel shop worker Rob Camilletti (18 years younger), and Richie Sambora (13 years younger), among others. Though Cher flaunted most of her relationships with younger men while they were happening, one of these younger boyfriends remained hidden for decades — and he is no random bagel shop worker, but a mega-star in his own right.

Cher and Tom Cruise dated in the 1980s, when Cruise was 23 years old and Cher was 39. They first met in 1985 as guests at Sean Penn and Madonna's wedding, and then reconnected at an even more unusual place. "A bunch of people who were dyslexic were invited to the White House, and Tom and I are both dyslexic," Cher told The Daily Mail in 2018. "We didn't go out till way later, but there definitely was a connection there." While Cher has been quite vocal about the relationship in recent years — even disclosing that Cruise was one of the best lovers she has ever had — she kept it entirely under wraps until a 2008 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Julian Morris referenced his boyfriend in a post marking their 18th anniversary

"Pretty Little Liars" star Julian Morris does not even look old enough to have a partner of two decades, let alone a secret one. But don't let the wrinkle-free face fool you — Morris is 40 years old and has spent nearly the entirety of his adult life in a relationship he kept hidden from the public. The actor had good reason for keeping things private, as he is gay, and any acknowledgment of his romantic status also meant coming out of the closet. 

Given that for many, being openly gay is still a hindrance when it comes to being cast in leading man roles, no one can really blame him for waiting until he was somewhat established to come out. In December 2021, Morris made his announcement by way of an anniversary post for his then-boyfriend Landon Ross.

There was no dramatic coming out for Morris, only an acknowledgment of his lover and a selection of photos from their years together. "18 years together, and they were the best ones because they were with you. I love you @landonross," he wrote. Ross, an artist, made a similarly public declaration, responding with, "Beginning our 19th year is the best thing in life. I love you." Very soon after Morris' post, a friend revealed that the actor — who has appeared in "Hand of God," "New Girl," and "ER" — and Ross had wed. If there's one thing more impressive than a secret relationship, it is a full-on secret wedding.

In 2018, Carrie Ann Inaba divulged she dated John Stamos decades earlier

Back when "Full House" was on the air, it was certainly not uncommon to have a thing for John Stamos. Heck, the man is still a total fox and he just turned 60 in August 2023. Stamos is now married to "Vampire Diaries" actor Caitlin McHugh — who is 23 years his junior — and he was previously wed to model/actor Rebecca Romijn from 1998 to 2005. But before he walked down the aisle for the first time, Stamos was a ladies' man, dating everyone from Demi Moore to Paula Abdul to Marlee Matlin. One particular relationship, with television personality Carrie Ann Inaba, only came to light decades after the fact.

Inaba is best known for being a judge on "Dancing with the Stars," but she actually started her career as a singer. She has since had a ton of jobs in Hollywood, so people often forget that she was a Fly Girl on "In Living Color" from 1990 to 1992. It was during this time period that Inaba dated Stamos, although nobody knew until she made the confession on a 2018 episode of "The Talk." "The room parted and on the other side of the room was John Stamos," she shared. "[We] dated for a little while and I have to tell you, he's the loveliest human being in the whole world," she said (via People). "It didn't quite work out because I was not quite ready for somebody as good as John Stamos in my life at that moment."

In his book, Matthew Perry confessed to a secret relationship with Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts has been married to Danny Moder for just over two decades and, though the pair had a controversial start (Moder was married at the time they met), they appear to have a strong Hollywood marriage. Roberts had a lot of celebrity boyfriends (and one previous celebrity husband, Lyle Lovett) before Moder, and her love life was a consistent topic of discussion in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. 

While most of Roberts' relationships were very public, her short romance with "Friends" star Matthew Perry was clandestine. Perhaps this is because it was rather short and insignificant in comparison to many of Roberts' other partnerships. For instance, Roberts dated Benjamin Bratt for almost four years, and she was engaged to Kiefer Sutherland before ending their year-long courtship.

Roberts and Perry only lasted for two or three months, and their relationship was only confirmed when Perry published his memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing," in 2022. In the book, Perry discussed how a long-distance flirtation with Roberts led to him pursuing her for a "Friends" guest spot, which is when sparks flew. The couple were dating by the time Roberts appeared on the show, but Perry dumped the icon a couple of months later due to his own insecurities. "Dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me. I had been constantly certain that she was going to break up with me. Why would she not? I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unlovable," he wrote.

Years after secretly dating, Aubrey Plaza confessed she almost married Michael Cera

Not only did the public not know about their romance back when Aubrey Plaza and Michael Cera were dating, but their love affair was so serious that the pair even contemplated marriage. We are actually kind of sad they did not work out since they're both so hilarious, but it was probably for the best. Both Plaza and Cera are now married, so they found their people in the end (at least for now — hey, this is Hollywood). In 2016, Plaza discussed the relationship for the first time when she appeared on an episode of "What's The Tee?" a now-defunct podcast hosted by RuPaul and Michelle Visage. "I dated [Cera] for a long time ... a year and a half," she said (via ET Online). "We drove across the country after we shot that movie and almost got married in Vegas."

The movie to which Plaza was referring is "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," which was released in 2010 and offers us a rough timeline of when the pair were together. The movie wrapped principal filming in August 2009, but the pair were likely dating for a while before that considering they almost wed. Principal photography began in the spring of 2009, but the cast did months of fight training before that, so it is possible Cera and Plaza got together before shooting even began. Plaza has been involved with her husband, Jeff Baena, since 2011, which also suggests her year-and-a-half involvement with Cera may have begun early in the movie's prep stages.

When Kal Penn came out of the closet, he also revealed a partner of 11 years

Just like Julian Morris, Kal Penn waited until he was ready to come out of the closet about his sexuality before announcing his relationship, even though it meant keeping his partner a secret for over a decade. Morris and Penn are not the only two queer stars to go this route, either. For instance, Barry Manilow has been with his husband since 1978, but it was only after he came out in 2017 that the public began hearing about him. Similarly, Wanda Sykes only came out to her family when she was 40 (a handful of years after divorcing her husband) and to the public four years later, a month after marrying her wife. 

For Penn, the disclosure came out as part of the publicity tour for his memoir, "You Can't Be Serious," which was released in November 2021.

Since Penn wrote about his partner in the memoir, this was used as a key point in interviews about the book (as was his stint working in the White House during the Obama administration). For fans, it was a huge surprise to learn that Penn, then 44, had been with his partner Josh for 11 years and that they were engaged. "I wanted my story to be authentic from my perspective and told in a way that makes you feel like you really get to know me," Penn told People, while also noting that he put limits on what he shared because neither his partner nor his family enjoy the limelight.

Jenna Dewan revealed a secret fling with Justin Timberlake on a late night show

The media was so obsessed with Justin Timberlake in the early aughts that it feels like there is no way he could have kept a romance secret from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and gossip bloggers. And yet, that is indeed what he did with his brief fling with Jenna Dewan, which was only officially confirmed after she appeared on an episode of "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen" in 2017. Cohen asked the actor if she dated Timberlake when she was his backup dancer years earlier, to which she replied: "Not that long. We were like friends ... that then dated." There were rumors about the relationship years earlier when Us Weekly called Dewan the singer's "gal pal," but because the suggested romance was overshadowed in the article by gossip about a potential dance war between the singers, it was unclear if it was true.

The rumor was that the dance-off happened after Britney Spears saw Timberlake and Dewan dancing, but because Dewan was Timberlake's backup dancer during the messiness of his breakup with Spears, it seemed conceivable that they could have just been flirty friends. Dewan denied that such a battle ever happened in that same "Watch What Happens Live" appearance, and Spears herself has also said the event never took place. Despite this, plenty of people have tried to rewrite history — like when "Saturday Night Live" parodied the dance-off (with Matt Damon appearing as Timberlake) or when it was depicted in "Britney Ever After," the cheesy Lifetime biopic about Spears' life.

Lea Michele revealed in her book that she dated Matthew Morrison before Glee

Lea Michele had a resurgence in 2023 when she was cast as Beanie Feldstein's replacement for the role of Fanny Brice in Broadway's "Funny Girl" revival. She was coming off a rough couple of years, wherein many were calling for her cancellation amidst damaging allegations about her personality and conduct that emerged in 2020. Prior to being called out for her diva-like behavior, bullying, and racism on the set of "Glee," Michele's career was in a solid place. Lucky for her, she has immense talent and the public has a short attention span — although she has still had to deal with backlash to her comeback, as evidenced by the nasty rumor that she cannot read

While her career was in jeopardy and the world was dealing with a devastating pandemic, Michele's personal life was going strong, as she became a first-time mom when she and her husband, businessman Zandy Reich, welcomed son Ever in August 2020. Before she married Reich in 2019, Michele mostly dated others involved in some aspect of show business — like singer Charlie Puth, model Mathew Paetz, actor Robert Buckley, and most notably, her "Glee" co-star Cory Monteith. 

But while her romance with Monteith was well-documented, her relationship with Matthew Morrison (who played her character's teacher and glee club coach, Will Schuester) was not publicly acknowledged until Michele's book came out in 2014. In the book, titled "Brunette Ambition," Michele revealed that she and Morrison had a short romance before the show when they were both working on Broadway.

Sharon Osbourne exposed the most random fling ever when she said she dated Jay Leno

Sharon Osbourne and Ozzy Osbourne had 3 love lives before becoming an item. Ozzy was even married before Sharon — to Thelma Riley — and he has three children from that marriage that rarely get discussed (two biological, plus Riley's son whom he adopted). Sharon had less romantic experience but still had time for a few dalliances in the years before she and Ozzy got together. The pair met when Sharon was 18 (which would have made Ozzy 22 or so) because Sharon's father managed Black Sabbath. They did not start dating for another nine years, when Ozzy was fired from the band and Sharon took over managing him. The Osbournes married in 1982 and have managed to keep things thriving for over four decades, which is a true rarity in Hollywood.

Sharon has said she did not date much before Ozzy, but she did have one surprising fling that she revealed on an episode of "The Talk" back when she was a co-host. It turns out that when she was 25 and a fresh transplant to America, Sharon got it on with Jay Leno. She spotted him when one of her friends took her to his workplace, and they then prank-called him. For some reason, Leno was intrigued and kept talking to the random stranger. "He came to my house and he met me and then we had a little fling. And the fling was more fling for me, and not fling enough for him," she said (via the Los Angeles Times).

In 2015, Madonna told Howard Stern she once dated Tupac Shakur

Madonna has made a career out of surprising people, both in terms of her art and her personal choices. Never one to play by any sort of rulebook, the legend has led an unconventional life that has included adopting multiple children on her own (she has six kids total, including her two biological ones and four adopted ones). Madonna has tried the marriage thing on for size — once to Sean Penn and once to Guy Ritchie — but some of her most interesting romantic partners never put a ring on it. This includes basketball player Dennis Rodman, model Jesus Luz, and dancer Brahim Zaibat, plus then-trainer Carlos Leon, who is the father of her daughter Lourdes. In addition to dancers and athletes, both of whom Madonna seems to love, the singer also has a thing for rappers. She dated Vanilla Ice for eight months back in 1991 and, as was revealed years later, had a romance with Tupac Shakur.

On the surface, Madonna and Skakur seem like an unlikely pair, but they actually make way more sense than some of her other partnerships. There were murmurs of a relationship many years ago, but Madonna only really spilled the beans in a 2015 interview with Howard Stern, when asked about a 1994 appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman." "I was dating Tupac Shakur at the time, and the thing is he got me all riled up on life in general," she told Stern. "So, when I went on the show, I was feeling very gangsta." In 2017, TMZ published a breakup letter Shakur wrote to Madonna while he was incarcerated, which shed new light on the romance.

Raven-Symoné hid her romance for five years, until her 2020 wedding

If it feels like Raven-Symoné has been in the public eye for her entire life, it is because she actually has been. She was only an infant when she first started modeling in Atlanta, appearing in local advertisements through her representation at Young Faces Inc. After signing with Ford Models in toddlerhood, the multi-hyphenate star rose to stardom as wise-cracking Olivia on "The Cosby Show." Then came the Disney stuff — "That's So Raven" and "The Cheetah Girls," namely — and "Dr. Doolittle," all of which made Raven-Symoné a huge celebrity. The work dried up a bit when she reached adulthood, but a brief stint as a co-host on "The View," the "Raven's Home" series, and some high-profile guest spots and reality stints have kept the star in the limelight. Despite this, Raven-Symoné has been able to keep her romantic life relatively hush-hush.

Unlike other Disney stars like Hillary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, and Miley Cyrus, Raven-Symoné rarely made it into the tabloids for her personal dramas. She dated a couple of her male "That's So Raven" co-stars (most notably Lil J from 2003 to 2007) but has said she knew she was attracted to women early on in her life and was just in denial. The star came out on Twitter in 2013 and then had a rather well-documented relationship with model AzMarie Livingston. After they broke up, Raven-Symoné kept her next big courtship a total secret. She only told the world about Miranda Pearman-Maday when she posted about their 2020 wedding on Instagram.

Elliot Page's relationship with Kate Mara was revealed by way of his memoir

There are a number of celebrities on this list who revealed a secret lover in their memoirs, which is a common trend for Hollywood stars. These romantic disclosures are one of the juiciest things a celeb can divulge in a book to create buzz, alongside on-set drama and personal trauma. Sometimes, celebs simply confirm what was long suspected — like Jessica Simpson detailing her emotional affair with Johnny Knoxville — while others confess to a romance no one saw coming, such as Barbara Walter's admission that she had an affair with married U.S. Senator Edward Brooke in the 1970s (which was a story that was shopped around to tabloids at the time but never went public until her book's release decades later). This next entry on our list is similar to the latter, in that it was a clandestine relationship that dropped out of the sky from seemingly nowhere.

We are, of course, talking about Elliot Page and Kata Mara's relationship, which the public found out about when Page published his bombshell memoir "Pageboy" in June 2023. The book detailed (with Mara's permission) how the pair developed a relationship while Mara was dating actor Max Minghella, after meeting at a dinner party shortly before Page came out of the closet in February 2014. Page and Mara developed a flirtation that within weeks, and with the blessing of Minghella, turned into a relationship. The couple — who are now dear friends — eventually broke up because Page was seeking monogamy, but Mara and Minghella also split soon after.

Drake exposed a secret romance with SZA in a song more than a decade after the fact

For as long as people have been putting out records, they have been singing about relationships. In fact, the first love song dates all the way back to Mesopotamia (although it was more of a poem). Certainly, there are centuries and centuries of people professing love, lust, hate, and every emotion in between through their music. In modern times, it is hard to think of many pop, country, or R&B singers who don't discuss romance in their work — to the point where some even get a reputation for doing so. With artists like Taylor Swift or Charlie Puth, part of the fun is guessing who a song is about and then dissecting the details. And though there is no real guessing with songs from happily wed stars, like John Legend, names are still not generally dropped within these lyrics.

Rap is the exception to the rule, and dropping names in rap is about as common as riffs in R&B. And this does not just happen in rap songs specifically about relationships, but across the board. When it comes to dropping names, however, one of the biggest bombshells delivered by song has been Drake's admission that he dated SZA. Prior to him saying so on the 21 Savage track "Mr. Right Now," on which he is featured, no one knew about the secret romance. The line claims it happened in 2008, but SZA clarified it was actually 2009 with a post on X, noting that Drake likely changed the date to make a rhyme.