The Most Controversial Celebrity Moments Of 2023

The following article contains references to sexual assault and domestic violence.

There's no news like celebrity news. Need evidence? Turn on the TV and watch "Entertainment Tonight," "Access Hollywood," or E!, an entire cable channel devoted to chronicling every single move of every single celebrity, documenting their faux pas, foibles, fractured relationships, and whatever else they do that's deemed newsworthy. As we've discovered, the stars who entertain us on TV and movie screens also continue to entertain with their extracurricular antics off the set — whether they like it or not. 

In fact, 2023 was kind of a banner year for celeb news; for proof, just try to count the vast number of headlines generated by Taylor Swift's romance with Travis Kelce. We'll wait.

Of course, the dark side of this phenomenon is that, as much as fans love to see their favorite stars succeed — be it winning an Oscar or topping the Billboard charts — that little devil sitting on our collective shoulder is always there encouraging us to revel in their failures, the more controversial, the better. For a deeper look into who stirred up a scandal this year, read on for a rundown of the most controversial celebrity moments of 2023.

Kevin Costner's nasty divorce

Kevin Costner's first divorce cost him plenty. When he and wife No. 1 Cindy Silva split, there was no prenup, resulting in Silva exiting their 16-year marriage with a reported $80 million payout. By Costner's second marriage, he'd learned his lesson; when he tied the knot with Christine Baumgartner in 2004, there was an ironclad prenuptial agreement in place. That, however, didn't make their split less messy when she filed for divorce in May 2023. 

The first bone of contention was which of the two would leave their $45-million Santa Barbara mansion (Baumgartner did, but only after weeks of legal wrangling, down to how many pots and pans she would take with her). Then there was the matter of who was paying her bills; Costner discovered it was him, learning she'd charged thousands on his credit card (he wound up reducing her spending limit to a measly $30,000 a month). Through it all, every legal filing played out in the press, including her demand for nearly a quarter-million per month in child support — because she couldn't put her children through the indignity of flying commercial to luxury vacations when they were accustomed to private jets. So relatable!

Despite Baumgartner's myriad legal protestations, the divorce was settled in August. The judge sided with Costner, who agreed to pay her $64,000 per month instead of the $248,000 she was seeking. He did not, however, have to pay her legal fees, which reportedly topped $850,000.

Vanderpump Rules' salacious Scandoval

When two D-listers in a Bravo reality show split up, does anybody hear it? They sure did when it came to "Vanderpump Rules" personalities Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix, whose public breakup over his cheating with her bestie Raquel Leviss (who changed her name to Rachel) became a huge scandal.

Dubbed "Scandoval," viewers watched it all play out during the 10th season of "Vanderpump Rules" — and you'd better believe the multi-part reunion special was as juicy and explosive as viewers expected. The cheating scandal, in fact, propelled the first reunion special to unheard-of ratings, becoming Bravo's most-watched episode of any of the network's series in more than nine years. It was also the most-watched episode of "Vanderpump Rules" in the series' history. 

As for the fallout, Sandoval's affair with Leviss burned out quickly. When they split, Madix was in no mood to forgive him. Meanwhile, fans should certainly expect even further reality-show awkwardness in the 11th season; not only are the three corners of this love triangle still involved in the show, Madix and Sandoval are reportedly still living together in the house they co-own — even though she's insisted they have no interaction with each other. "I have a pretty decent setup," she said in an episode of the "Scheananigans with Scheana Shay" podcast (as reported by Page Six). "My room is kind of like my little apartment ... I stay in my own little zone." And yes, she keeps her door locked.

Gwyneth Paltrow's ski-collision trial

Back in 2016, Gwyneth Paltrow took her kids to Utah to do a little skiing when she collided with another skier. Three years later, that skier — Terry Sanderson — sued Paltrow for $3.1 million, claiming that she crashed into him from behind, leaving him unconscious, in addition to suffering four broken ribs and a brain injury that he claimed had radically altered his personality enough to lessen his quality of life. Paltrow responded with a countersuit, claiming that it was, in fact, Sanderson who hit her from behind; her suit asked for just a single symbolic dollar. 

The proceedings were filmed and livestreamed, and those who watched quickly realized this was no run-of-the-mill trial. As addictive as any episode of "Law & Order," viewers experienced an absolute bounty of courtroom theatrics and dramatic moments. For example, Sanderson at one point compared Paltrow to billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, while Paltrow bantered breezily — about shoes, no less — with Sanderson's starstruck attorney. Paltrow's lawyer, on the other hand, regaled the jury with a slideshow taken from Sanderson's social media in the years since the accident, revealing a seemingly endless stream of happy vacation photos that belied his contention that his alleged brain injury had utterly ruined his life. 

The jury ultimately ruled for Paltrow, who became one dollar wealthier when the verdict declared she was not at fault for the collision. After it was all over, recalled The Hollywood Reporter, she whispered to Sanderson, "I wish you well."

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's courtroom brawl over their French winery

You've got to hand it to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for taking an awful situation and dragging that misery out for years. Despite splitting up in 2016, the "Brangelina" divorce remained unfinalized in 2023 and actually took an even uglier turn. At the center of their squabble was Château Miraval, a villa in the French countryside that also hosts a successful vineyard and winery valued at $160 million.

In 2021, Jolie sold off her shares in the winery to Tenute del Mondo, a subsidiary of Stolichnaya vodka. Pitt filed suit, claiming his ex was not permitted to sell her portion of the winery without his permission, which he absolutely didn't offer. Making matters even nastier were reports that Pitt had previously attempted to buy Jolie's shares; according to an insider who blabbed to Us Weekly, Jolie rebuffed his offer, refusing to sell to him for no reason other than spite. Pitt was passionate about the winery, the source said, and became "devastated" when Jolie violated his legal right of first refusal when she sold her portion out from under him.

By the end of 2023, the case remained far from settled, with plenty left for their high-priced lawyers to sort out. From the perspective of the tabloid press, however, the Pitt-Jolie divorce has been the gift that just keeps on giving.

Shocking revelations in Prince Harry's tell-all

The year kicked off with controversy thanks to the January 2023 publication of "Spare," Prince Harry's long-awaited memoir. To his credit, the Duke of Sussex had no qualms about dishing dirt — mainly about his older brother, Prince William. Most salaciously, the prince claimed that "Willy" — as Harry called him — had violently assaulted him. "He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor," Harry wrote, as reported by Town & Country. "I landed on the dog's bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out." 

Harry also shared explicit details of losing his virginity to an older woman, sampling cocaine, and alleging his father's second wife, Camilla, regularly leaked unflattering stories about him to the British tabloids. He also addressed his infamous Nazi uniform at a costume party and admitted that he'd once experienced frostbite on his penis while visiting the North Pole. At one point, he was terrified it would no longer function; luckily, the royal "todger" suffered no long-term damage (via E! News).

Perhaps most tellingly of all, though, Harry's book depicted a distant family in which everyone communicated with each other through aides; he learned that his brother was marrying Kate Middleton, he wrote, from news reports. When his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, died in September 2022, he discovered the sad news via the BBC. 

Jonah Hill's ex claimed emotional abuse

In March, Jonah Hill and his girlfriend Olivia Millar sparked engagement rumors when they were spotted wearing what appeared to be wedding rings. Soon after, it was reported they were expecting a baby — which arrived a few months later.

Into the midst of all that romantic bliss stepped Hill's ex-girlfriend, Sarah Brady, who took to social media to make some scandalous allegations about her ex. "I think fame can put people in an echo chamber of viewpoints, which can enable emotionally abusive behavior," she wrote in a social media post, reported by People. She brought receipts: screenshots of texts purported to be from Hill. In one, Hill (allegedly) chastised her for going surfing with male surfers and criticized her "boundaryless inappropriate friendships with men." He scolded her for posting "sexual pictures" of herself on social media, including photos of her in a bathing suit, part of a lengthy list of demands relating to rules he set forth regarding what she could and couldn't post.

In another post, Brady commented on the recent arrival of her ex's first child, expressing her hopes Hill fathered a daughter. "Maybe she'll turn him into a real feminist," she wrote, "because the fact that he calls himself a feminist now is laughable." In a subsequent Instagram Story post, Brady revealed that she was bipolar and had been involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric ward of a Hawaii hospital.

Priscilla Presley sued granddaughter Riley Keough

The unexpected death of Lisa Marie Presley at age 54 in January not only sparked a wave of grief for the only child of Elvis Presley, but it also kicked off an ugly legal battle between the King's ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, and her granddaughter, Riley Keough. 

The issue had to do with a living trust Lisa Marie amended in 2016, removing her mother and placing her two adult children — Riley and Benjamin Keough — as co-trustees in the event of her death. When Benjamin took his own life in 2020, that left Riley as sole trustee. After Lisa Marie's death, Priscilla sued Riley, questioning the validity of that amended trust. At the time, a source told Entertainment Tonight that "the family drama is the last thing Riley wants to be dealing with," and that she's "deeply upset at how things are unfolding."

In May 2023, The New York Times reported that a settlement had been reached, with Riley paying her grandmother $1 million while remaining sole trustee. In addition, she also agreed to pay her grandmother's legal fees, which were approximately $400,000. "In settling the claims pending in Priscilla's petition, the parties are saving significant legal fees by avoiding litigation, and they are likewise avoiding the spectacle of intra-family litigation that would have been inimical to Lisa's wishes and not in the best interests of the family," the court filing read. Suffice it to say that Thanksgiving at Graceland should be a hoot!

Lizzo was sued by her backup dancers over sexual harassment claims

In August, NBC News reported that Lizzo was hit with a lawsuit filed by three of her backing dancers, and the details were salacious. According to the suit, Lizzo created a hostile work environment while also subjecting the dancers to sexual harassment. One dancer claimed that Lizzo (real name: Melissa Viviane Jefferson) enticed her to touch a naked performer at an Amsterdam nightclub. Meanwhile, the suit also alleged that Lizzo — widely recognized as a leading voice promoting body positivity — fat-shamed one dancer by focusing on her recent weight gain.

"The stunning nature of how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers seems to go against everything Lizzo stands for publicly, while privately she weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal but absolutely demoralizing," said the dancers' lawyer, Ron Zambrano, in a statement.

Lizzo, however, denied everything. "Usually I choose not to respond to false allegations but these are as unbelievable as they sound and too outrageous to not be addressed," she said in a statement via Instagram. Furthermore, Lizzo fired back at the dancers with some accusations of her own. "These sensationalized stories are coming from former employees who have already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional." In October, Lizzo's lawyers asked the court to dismiss the dancers' suit, slamming the allegations as a "fabricated sob story" intended to nab a "quick payday" (per Rolling Stone).

Jonathan Majors was arrested for alleged domestic violence

In February 2023, Jonathan Majors became the breakout star of "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." The following month, just as he was basking in all the attention from his Marvel role, he was arrested in New York City, charged with assault over what was initially characterized as a domestic dispute. Majors' lawyer immediately declared that not only was he completely blameless, but that it was he who had been victimized. "Jonathan Majors is completely innocent and is probably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows," the actor's criminal defense lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, claiming to have proof that would exonerate Majors entirely. "All the evidence proves that Mr. Majors is entirely innocent and did not assault her whatsoever," Chaudhry added. 

Despite Chaudry's claims, Majors was hit with three assault charges. He was subsequently dropped by both his PR firm and management agency. Not long after, multiple women came forward, each sharing their own allegations about Majors' violence toward them. 

According to People, Majors then filed a domestic assault complaint against the woman he was initially accused of assaulting, claiming she was "drunk and hysterical" when she attacked him. In that complaint, Majors also claimed that the woman stole his iPhone and racked up nearly $7,000 on his credit card after the incident. His attempt to dismiss the charges was denied, and the case was ordered to proceed to trial.

Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted guilty of rape

Back in 2017, the LAPD launched an investigation into Danny Masterson, based on the accusations of three different women who claimed the former star of "That '70s Show" sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s; a fourth accuser subsequently came forward. Later that same year, Masterson was fired from "The Ranch," his Netflix sitcom, due to the scandal. Weeks later, United Talent Agency announced it was dropping him as a client.

In 2019, the four women sued Masterson and the Church of Scientology, alleging they were subjected to intimidation and stalking at the behest of the church due to their allegations against Masterson, a longtime Scientologist. In 2020, he was charged with the rape of three women. The following year, he pled not guilty to those charges. Masterson was subsequently ordered to stand trial and, in 2022, was found guilty, convicted of two counts of rape. 

In September 2023, he was sentenced, and the judge threw the book at him with a sentence of 30 years to life. In her impact statement, reported by the Associated Press, one of his accusers stated, "You are pathetic, disturbed and completely violent. The world is better off with you in prison." Previously, a source told People that Masterson's wife, Bijou Phillips, would continue to stand by him and had no plans of leaving him over his conviction. Shortly after his sentencing, Phillips filed for divorce.

Russell Brand was hit with multiple allegations of sexual assault

Back in the day, Russell Brand was best known as a provocative and thought-provoking comedian — and let's not forget, ex-husband of pop star Katy Perry — with a promising film career that included the likes of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Get Him to the Greek," and "Arthur," a remake of the hit Dudley Moore comedy. In recent years, however, Brand began distancing himself from the mainstream, communicating with fans via social media while espousing controversial opinions — including skepticism about vaccines — and becoming a darling of the alt-right. 

In mid-September, Brand issued a YouTube video on his channel in which he vaguely alluded to some onslaughts about to be launched against him. "But amidst this litany of astonishing, rather baroque attacks, are some very serious allegations that I absolutely refute," he said. The following day, those allegations came to light in a joint investigation from The Times, the Sunday Times, and Channel 4's "Dispatches" series, with multiple women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Brand, while others shared their experiences with his inappropriate conduct in the workplace. That investigation led other women to come forward, sharing similar allegations. Based on those allegations, Scotland Yard launched a criminal investigation.

Brand's U.K. comedy tour was immediately postponed, followed by another allegation. Then, another woman accused him of stalking her, leading to a second police investigation. Those investigations are ongoing, and as of late 2023, no criminal charges have been filed.

Miranda Sings' Colleen Ballinger was engulfed in wild allegations

Colleen Ballinger hit it big on YouTube with her quirky character, Miranda Sings, which led Ballinger's alter ego to Netflix in the comedy series, "Haters Back Off." In 2020, she faced several allegations of inappropriate dealings with underage fans, which eventually blew over after she addressed the controversy in a lengthy YouTube video.

In 2023, however, fresh allegations emerged in a HuffPost report interviewing several fans who claimed she'd groomed them when they were minors. In addition, Ballinger's ex-husband alleged she spread lies about him to her fans so they would attack him on social media. She responded with a song posted on YouTube, accompanying herself on ukulele while singing about a "toxic gossip train." While the response was met with anger and outrage on social media, former "Haters Back Off" writer's assistant April Korto Quioh wrote about racist behavior that Ballinger displayed while working on the show, claiming Ballinger complained that people of color in a background scene were "distracting," and insisted that a store in which they were filming remove the "Asian s***." Quioh also wrote, "She saw no issue with commenting on my hair, or my clothes, or asking about my personal life. Her lack of boundaries was remarkable." Further controversy emerged when underage fans claimed that she'd sent them naked photos of YouTuber Trisha Paytas — with whom Ballinger had recently launched a podcast.

When the dust settled, Ballinger's podcast and stage tour were canceled. 

Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner's sudden divorce

Jonas Brothers member Joe Jonas and "Game of Thrones" star Sophie Turner wed in 2019 and eventually became the parents of two young daughters. By September 2023, it was all over when Jonas shocked the world by filing for divorce. As Today reported, the divorce filing stated that "the marriage between the parties is irretrievably broken."

Weeks later, Turner fired back with a lawsuit, claiming that Jonas had "wrongfully detained" their children. "He refuses to return the passports to the mother and refuses to send the children home to England with the mother," the filing read, as reported by People. Jonas responded through his lawyers, denying reports that Turner had been blindsided by his divorce filing. They subsequently came to terms on the custody of their daughters, with Turner agreeing that the kids could temporarily remain in New York City. This was followed by a temporary custody agreement that would extend through early 2024. 

They later issued a joint statement. "After a productive and successful mediation, we have agreed that the children will spend time equally in loving homes in both the U.S. and the U.K. We look forward to being great co-parents," the exes said in the statement, as reported by People

Justin Roiland was accused of sexual assault and fired from Rick and Morty

Justin Roiland ascended to geek royalty with the success of "Rick and Morty," the hilariously edgy not-for-kids cartoon he co-created with Dan Harmon. In 2017, the duo experienced an unheard-of vote of confidence when Cartoon Network ordered an unprecedented 70 episodes.

It all came crashing down in early 2023 when Roiland was charged with felony domestic battery and false imprisonment over a 2020 incident involving a woman he was dating. He entered a plea of not guilty. Shortly after, Roiland was fired from his own show. A few months later, all charges were dropped when prosecutors admitted they weren't able to find enough evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. "I have always known that these claims were false — and I never had any doubt that this day would come," Roiland tweeted.

His exoneration was short-lived; in September, NBC News published a shocking exposé in which female fans detailed social media encounters they'd had with Roiland when they were underage, alleging he used the term "jailbait" to refer to these girls. The most damning allegation, however, came from a 20-year-old woman he met on Tinder, who claimed that he demanded she perform oral sex on her; when she refused, he just kept pressing until she finally relented. When Roiland's lawyer was asked for his response to the woman's allegations of sexual assault, reported Variety, he referred the outlet to Roiland's earlier tweet.

Newlyweds Britney Spears and Sam Asghari split

Britney Spears had plenty to celebrate when a judge decreed an end to her controversial conservatorship in November 2021, followed by her lavish wedding to Sam Asghari in the summer of 2022. That marriage — like her two previous ones — was not a lengthy one. Approximately 14 months after their nuptials, Asghari pulled the plug when he filed for divorce in August 2023, shortly after reports that they'd decided to consciously uncouple. "They're separated and it's best for Britney," a source told NBC News at the time.

As TMZ reported, Asghari was seeking spousal support and suggested he might attempt to challenge the prenup that he'd signed. However, as TMZ wisely pointed out, that wasn't necessarily because Asghari wanted to take the matter to court, but because he was hoping she would write him a big, fat check to make it go away.

In the caption for an Instagram video (in which, as always, she's dancing), Spears indicated she was surprised by his divorce filing, writing, "six years is a long time to be with someone so, I'm a little shocked but ..." While she didn't go into detail about what facilitated their split, she did make cryptic comments that hinted she was more relieved than shattered by their breakup. "I'm not here to explain why because its honestly nobody's business!" she wrote. "But, I couldn't take the pain anymore honestly!"

Sean Combs' longtime girlfriend alleged he was a sex-trafficking rapist

Sean "Diddy" Combs had been dating singer Cassie (aka Cassandra Ventura) for more than a decade when they split up in 2018. Fast-forward to November 2023, when Ventura sued her ex. As Deadline reported, among her many allegations was that Combs viciously and repeatedly beat her, raped her, psychologically abused her, and blew up rapper Kid Cudi's car with explosives upon learning he had a romantic interest in her. Her suit also accused Combs of sex trafficking, and claimed he'd offered an eight-figure sum in exchange for not filing her lawsuit. 

"She rejected his efforts and decided to give a voice to all women who suffer in silence," lawyer Douglas Wigdor said in a statement. "Ms. Ventura should be applauded for her bravery."

Combs's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, denied all the accusations and alleged that Ventura had been demanding Combs pay her a staggering $30 million to prevent her from writing a tell-all detailing all the allegations made in her lawsuit and then some. Blasting that attempt as "blatant blackmail," Brafman added, "Despite withdrawing her initial threat, Ms. Ventura has now resorted to filing a lawsuit riddled with baseless and outrageous lies, aiming to tarnish Mr. Combs' reputation and seeking a payday." Despite that bravado, Combs settled the suit shortly after. "We have decided to resolve this matter amicably," he said in a statement to Deadline. "I wish Cassie and her family all the best. Love."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or may be the victim of domestic violence, contact the relevant resources below: