Reality star relationships with uncomfortable age gaps

Since 2014, British reality TV fans and American Netflix subscribers have had the misfortune of witnessing the Channel 5 series Age Gap Love. To be clear, it's definitely sweet to know that love is not bound by generation, but when you start bringing teenagers into the mix, things get really uncomfortable. It's not surprising that, according to The Sun, the show came under fire for "normalizing grooming."

Of course, not every age gap has sinister intentions behind it, and Age Gap Love isn't doing anything reality TV hasn't been doing for decades in terms of exploiting unusual situations for shock value. Moreover, these May-December romances are actually littered throughout our favorite reality TV shows — from British hits like The X Factor to stateside staples like Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives. In some cases, a massive age difference caused a couple's demise, and in others, it gave them strength, insight, and a whole lot of money. But in all cases, eyebrows were raised. Here are some of the most uncomfortable age gaps in reality TV history. 

Wait, Liam Payne was how old when he met Cheryl Cole?

Before Liam Payne was heating up the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack, the former One Directioner was heating up The X Factor — at least in the eyes of Cheryl Cole. This is pretty awkward once you consider Payne was just 14 years old at the time, and Cole was a cool decade older. 

According to Mirror, the shaggy-haired teen initially impressed Cole with a rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon" during his 2008 X Factor appearance. It was like at first sight, and after Cowell gave Payne his patented verbal beating, Cole claimed, "I like you, I think you're really cute." It still took a few years, two divorces, and another X Factor appearance for the singer to romantically link up with the One Direction star. The pair reunited in 2015, where they were spotted "cuddling" on-set during a commercial break, but not everyone was thrilled.

In an interview with Celebs Now, Payne's ex Sophia Smith admitted his romance with Cole was "so weird." Of course, a 10 year age gap wouldn't be all that strange if Cole hadn't meet Payne before he was even old enough to drive. As of this writing, the couple share a child named Bear, but have called it quits on their relationship.

Courtney Stodden was Doug Hutchinson's teenage bride

Courtney Stodden is a true career reality star. She's appeared on various editions of Big Brother, did a stint on Couples Therapy, and made cameos on Hollywood Hillbillies, Dr. Phil, and The Doctors. She even premiered her own eponymous reality show in 2019, where she serves as co-executive producer. Nonetheless, the thing Stodden is still most famous for is her controversial relationship with Green Mile actor Doug Hutchison. Their 35 year age gap was particularly uncomfortable when everyone realized Stodden was going to become a teen bride, and her parents actually gave their consent.

According to Fox News, the teenager should have been celebrating her Sweet 16 when she married her manager in 2011. He was 51 years old, and as relationships between middle aged men and teen girls generally go, things were rocky as heck. After multiple separations, the couple divorced for good in 2016. 

"We both really love each other. We still talk. I mean, we just talked today," Stodden told Fox News. "We never wanted this divorce. ... But we realized the unconventionalness [sic] of our marriage. We both are taking responsibility in that, especially him. He's taking responsibility for marrying me at such a young age. He and I agreed on this divorce." Okay, then.

Lala Kent's much older 'man' was finally revealed

In 2018, Vanderpump Rules firecracker Lala Kent officially retired the phrase "my man," which she used ad nauseum on the series to describe her then-46-year-old boyfriend Randall Emmett while protecting his identity amidst his divorce. She shouted the phrase from his private jet, and while referencing the car he bought her. She also dropped the term while defending the litany of other expensive gifts he buys her, like the Gucci slides he confiscated amidst a very temporary breakup.

According to Entertainment Tonight, Kent was able to go public with her relationship once her film producer beau inked the divorce papers, and it seems like the couple is stronger than ever despite their 18-year age gap. They've managed to endure the 0% Rotten Tomatoes score for Gotti (a huge critical and commercial flop for Emmett); somehow made it through Kent accosting James Kennedy's girlfriend while wearing Jennifer Lopez's 2000 Grammy Awards dress; and endured actual difficult stuff like the death of Kent's father and her struggle with alcoholism. 

In the wake of their engagement, their 18 year age gap only gets a little awkward when you realize the 40-something father has very continuous, serious beef with James Kennedy, one of the youngest cast members on the series. You'd think he'd have something better to do like argue with 50 Cent or pay someone alimony, but you know what they say — the couple that publicly feuds together stays together. They truly seem like a match made in Hollywood.

The age gap isn't the only strange thing about Kris Jenner and Corey Gamble's relationship

The Kardashians somehow getting wrapped up in the world of Justin Bieber is one of the most bizarre timelines in Hollywood history, especially because it doesn't seem like Kris Jenner would tolerate neighborhood eggings (this is Calabasas, not Mischief Night in midwestern suburbia). If the rumored relationship between eldest Kardashian sister Kourtney and the "I'm Sorry" singer wasn't bizarre enough, the fact that Mama Jenner is dating one of Bieber's team members tips it over the edge.

According to People, Kris connected with Corey Gamble, a former tour manager for Biebs, around Halloween 2014 amid her divorce from Caitlyn Jenner, but her daughters weren't thrilled about their new potential step-father (though they reportedly don't plan on ever getting married). Corey is about the same age as Kim Kardashian, and in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians (via People), Khloe Kardashian admitted the pair's 25-year age difference was "creepy." Even Kanye West was skeptical, and he's the same guy who once thought repeatedly discussing slavery on TMZ was a good idea. In other works, if Kanye has reservations, they should be taken seriously.

Despite the initial push back, it seems like the Kardashian sisters eventually welcomed Corey into their clan, just maybe not as a father figure. The couple is still going strong at the time of this writing, and Kris even admitted during a KUWTK episode (via People) that "Corey is really taking care of me like no one ever has in my entire life."

Scott Disick views his age gap with Sofia Richie as 'different'

If Lord Disick could find the one loophole that allowed him to be knighted into a half-baked version of British royalty, it's not really all that shocking that he convinced a teenager to fall in love with him. According to Us Weekly, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star has been romantically linked to Sofia Richie since September 2017. At the time they first started dating, Sofia was 19 years old and Scott was 34. It wouldn't be nearly as uncomfortable if their relationship wasn't filled with weird politics.

Justin Bieber once again worked his way into the world of Kardashians because Sofia happens to be the singer's ex. That's apparently just what happens when you're young and dating in Hollywood. Justin was also linked to Kourtney Kardashian around the same time Sofia shacked up with the eldest Kardashian sister's ex. In essence, the stars traded partners, but Sofia's father — famed singer Lionel Richie — was less than pleased with his little girl's budding love affair with the fake lord. He told Us Weekly, "I'm scared to death, are you kidding me?"

Despite the couple's massive age gap, Scott described Sofia as "different," and swore his relationship with her was really good for him. During the KUWTK Season 15 premiere (via StyleCaster), Disick admitted, "It's definitely the first girl besides Kourtney that was a real relationship ... part of me is really happy that I'm able to care about somebody again."

Chloe Green is closer in age to Marc Anthony's daughter than she is to him

In our minds, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez will forever be a thing (despite whatever happened with Drake during those strange couple weeks in 2016 ). Unfortunately, JLo isn't the only one who's moved on from their marriage. Mark Anthony briefly dated a reality star-slash-heiress who was 23 years his junior.

According to the Daily Mail, the singer went public with his relationship with Made In Chelsea star Chloe Green in 2013, before his divorce with Lopez was even finalized. For those unfamiliar, Made In Chelsea is basically the British version of The Hills but with really, really rich people and Stephanie Pratt. Greene, who was 21 years old when she started dating the then 44-year-old singer, is two years younger than his eldest daughter Ariana.

Anthony's rebound didn't last very long. The Daily Mail reports that Greene was so smitten that she moved to the United States to be with her new beau, but he allegedly dumped her a few weeks later. At least Green had the Topshop fortune to ease her breakup blues, not to mention the realization that she won't have to play stepmom with someone who's two years older. That could have gotten really awkward.

Six decades were nothing to Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris

Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris truly proved that age is nothing but a number. Despite their enormous 60 year age gap, the Girls Next Door star wed the late Playboy mogul on New Year's Eve in 2012, and remained with him in the infamous mansion until his death five years later, according to AOL. His passing was not easy on the model, who admitted in an interview with Access that she struggled with his absence.

"The first three months were really, really hard, and from then on I just thought, 'Okay, I need to get out of here, and go do something.' So, I started traveling and I've kind of been all around the world since. ... I'm trying to find myself, because I was such a part of Hef's world for ten years, and at the mansion most of the time," she said.

According to E! News, Harris was 26 years old when she married the 86-year-old icon. There's no doubt that the relationship was loving, but it was also a little uncomfortable, at least with intimacy aspect. Harris finally squashed our curiosities and divulged the nitty gritty details of their love life to Access in 2018. It was both sweet and nonexistent. "At that point in his life, that wasn't all that important to him," Harris said. "Movie night and backgammon [were what he cared about]." There you have it: Harris loved Hef for Hef, even if it meant playing backgammon.

Real Housewife Erika Jayne is no golddigger

Erika Girardi, better known by her stage name Erika Jayne, is one of the most perplexing of the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members. The star, who goes exactly nowhere without her glam squad, reportedly spends "$40,000 a month on hair, makeup, and clothes," according to E! News. While she claims to pay all her own bills, there's no doubt she has at least a little bit of her husband's money to fall back on, but don't get it twisted. The star, who proves age is nothing but a number, didn't marry for her husband Tom Girardi's $30 million reported net worth.

Eirka is 33 years younger than her famed lawyer husband, who inspired Erin Brokovich. According to People, they met in Los Angeles when she was 27 years old, raising her son as a single mother, and cocktail waitressing to make ends meet. After a solid year of friendship, the attorney finally asked her on a date. She moved in with him shortly thereafter, and they were engaged in just six months. Though they've been married for nearly two decades at the time of this writing, Erika is still fielding naysayers who question the age gap. "Everyone thought I was marrying him to have a baby and lock down the money, as ugly as that sounds," she told People. "I see it less and less now." Hey, can't someone marry for love and get some cash as an added bonus?

These 90 Day Fiance stars have way more issues than their age gap

It's almost impossible not to rubberneck at Angela Deem and Michael Ilesanmi, the breakout stars of 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days. If the couple's relationship wasn't already awkward because Deem basically treats the streets of Africa like it's The Maury Povich Show, their 22-year age gap causes some very uncomfortable problems.

At the end of Season 2, Deem had an absolute meltdown when Ilesanmi called her his "elder," despite the fact that she is, in fact, his elder. If that wasn't enough, they have spent the better part of Season 3 discussing their fertility options and begging Deem's daughter to donate an egg. Apparently, as fans will never be able to purge from their minds, Deem can "tote" it in her "beautiful uterus" but she's only got one egg left, which could very well be fried given the sheer amount it seems like she tans. 

If your head is spinning, you're not alone. Deem's egg instantly became a meme with fans commenting, "Is anybody else trying to figure out how to go as Angela's lonely egg for Halloween?" and "Can we all take a moment of silence for Angela's 85 year old egg?" Others simply posted pictures of very unhappy looking fried eggs. Suddenly, we're hungry for a bacon, egg and cheese.

Were all the guys from One Direction cougar bait?

Long before Harry Styles ever fell into the arms of Taylor Swift, he was dating X Factor presenter Caroline Flack. The Dunkirk actor appeared on the series in 2010 and lost, despite finding worldwide success with One Direction. Though his boy band seemed to rise to stardom with nary a controversy, his short-lived relationship with Flack did not go over so well. 

According to NME, the pair linked up in 2011 when Styles was 17 years old and Flack was hosting the X Factor spin-off The Xtra Factor. At the time, she was in her early thirties and reportedly knew Styles had a crush on her, because he kept mentioning it magazines. One round of paparazzi photos later — which showed the teen leaving her home with an overnight bag — and the secret was out.

"I've never felt I was much older than Harry," she told The Sun on Sunday (via NME).  "It began to go wrong when he was pictured coming out of my house one morning. And that was that. In the street people started shouting 'pedophile' at me in the street and 'pervert.'"

Flack later admitted to The Telegraph that their relationship was "quite strange" but she wasn't going to "apologize for it." Honestly, it's hard to imagine what a 30-something woman has in common with a 17-year-old, even if that 17-year-old is Harry Styles.

This Real Housewife is younger than her stepchild

Ashley Darby might one of the youngest — if not the youngest — member of The Real Housewives of Potomac, but the star's husband is nothing of the sort. According to the Daily Mail, the pair shares a nearly 30-year age gap. At the time of this writing, Darby is in her early thirties and her Australian hubby Michael is in his late-50s.

Though the age gap is apparent, it doesn't seem that strange unless you frame it in the context of family. According to the Daily Mail, the former beauty queen, who met Michael when she was 18 years old, is two years younger than his son from a previous relationship. When the pair tied the knot after dating for four years, Ashley became a step-mom to Michael's 21-year-old and 24-year-old children. At the time, she was just 22. Needless to say, she probably couldn't ground them for bad behavior. 

Because of the huge age gap, Ashley also has to stay practical about having children. She gave birth to her first child in 2019, but isn't sure how many more she can realistically have. "Michael has some limitations and he's practical about his lifestyle and his age." she told People. "He's very practical. Like, 'I don't want to be in this position of not being able to be there for my kids.'"