Stars Banned From Other Countries

You'd think international travel would be easy if you're rich and famous — have you ever heard of a celebrity whining about their lack of leg-room in coach for a 14-hour flight? Whether it's crossing the U.S. border into Canada or flying straight across the planet, stars have the luxury of international travel usually being a cinch (and typically with a slew of adoring fans awaiting them at their destination airport). 

For some celebs, however, remembering their passport is the least of their problems, as not every nation on Earth is quite as welcoming as the good old U.S. of A. when it comes to letting in famous faces. Depending on the destination, stars get banned from entire countries for their political stances, their sexuality, and even their clothing choices. Other bans are a bit more understandable, such as celebrities with criminal histories not being allowed into certain overseas locations. These stars all faced bans from foreign countries for various infractions and perceived insults.

Zedd was banned from China over a South Park tweet

EDM DJ Zedd was "permanently banned" from China because he had the gall to like a South Park tweet, he announced on Twitter in October 2019. South Park had recently aired an episode called "Band in China," Variety reports, in which the character Randy Marsh goes to the People's Republic to sell marijuana from his farm. In the episode, Marsh is jailed and runs into Pooh and Piglet during his detention, referencing the Winnie the Pooh ban in the country due to the character's frequent comparisons to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

For their part, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone said in a statement, "Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn't look just like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?"

Chris Brown's history caught up with him in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand

By now, you know that Chris Brown launched a brutal assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna just before the Grammys in February 2009. What you may not know was that following the horrifying abuse incident, Breezy was denied entry into the United Kingdom. BBC News reported in 2010 that the "Don't Wake Me Up" singer was refused permission for a visa due to "being guilty of a serious criminal offense." Brown had been slated to perform a series of tour dates in the U.K., with stops including Glasgow, Scotland, as well as London and Manchester, England.

In September 2015, it was reported that Brown was also not allowed to enter Australia nor New Zealand. Brown tweeted at the time, "I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness on domestic violence. [I'm] not the pink elephant in the room anymore." He added, "My life mistakes should be a wake up call for everyone. Showing the world that mistakes don't define you. Trying to prevent spousal abuse." In a subsequent tweet, Brown noted, "The youth don't listen to parents nor do they listen to PSA's. The power that we have as [entertainers] can change lives."

Miley Cyrus was racially insensitive and got banned from China

In early 2009, Miley Cyrus posted a racially insensitive photo mocking Asians on her website. That didn't sit well with China, who banned her from entering the People's Republic. The Chinese foreign minister said in a statement (via Entertainment Weekly), "Miss Cyrus has made it clear she is no friend of China or anyone of East Asian descent. We have no interest in further polluting our children's minds with her American ignorance." According to TMZ, the Hannah Montana alum fired back in a statement on her website, saying she was just making a "goofy face," and slammed the press for allegedly taking the photo out of context. Cyrus issued a less flippant apology later.

China wasn't the only country to decide that they didn't want to host the "Can't Be Tamed" singer. In 2016, the Associated Press reported that Cyrus was prohibited from performing a scheduled show in the Dominican Republic on the grounds that she "undertakes acts that go against morals and customs, which are punishable by Dominican law." The country didn't specify what those acts are, but chances are Cyrus has done at least one of them onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards at some point.

Selena Gomez got banned from Russia for literally nothing

Miley Cyrus wasn't the only former Disney darling to get banned from China. Selena Gomez, who long branded herself as the "classy" good-girl alternative to Cyrus' wild child, was also prohibited from entering the People's Republic. In 2014, Gomez met the Dalai Lama at rehearsals for WE Day in Vancouver, and that was reportedly enough to get her banned from China entirely. 

However, Gomez didn't find out about China's alleged outrage over the meeting until two years later when she was planning two tour dates, one in Shanghai and one in Guangzhou. The tour stops mysteriously disappeared from her website after they were announced, with Shanghaiist speculating that it was due to her association with the Buddhist leader. 

Gomez's camp never commented one way or another on the reports, but it wouldn't have been the first time she was denied entry into a foreign land with ideologies at odds to those of the U.S. In 2013, Billboard reported that Russia denied Gomez entry to perform there for fear she'd speak out in favor of LGBTQ+ rights, despite her keeping generally quiet about political topics altogether.

Alec Baldwin is an 'undesirable alien' in the Philippines

For once, it was Alec Baldwin's off-color sense of humor — not his blazing hot temper — that got him into trouble. In May 2009, the actor made what he thought was a harmless joke on The Late Show With David Letterman about wanting more children, quipping that he was "thinking about getting a Filipino mail-order bride at this point ... or a Russian one." 

The joke wasn't actually harmless to citizens and descendants of the Philippines, however, who took great offense at the remark. One senator from the country threatened the 30 Rock star with "mayhem" if he ever visited and said that there was a law forbidding mail-order brides in the Philippines. Baldwin apologized to those he'd offended in an essay for HuffPost, in which he attempted to raise awareness of sex trafficking. 

But it was to no avail: Philippines Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan released a statement (via E! News) that while "such anger and frustration about the issue of sex trafficking is understandable," Baldwin was banned from the country. "By being in the bureau's blacklist," he explained, "Baldwin is forbidden from entering the country as he is deemed an undesirable alien."

China really hates Richard Gere

China has serious bad blood with longtime Buddhist Richard Gere for basically being BFFs with the Dalai Lama. While presenting at the 1993 Oscars, Gere gave a speech about China's alleged human rights abuses against Tibet and completely ignored the prepared comments for his segment. Not only was he banned from China and the Academy Awards for the message, he was also blacklisted from a ton of blockbusters because studios feared offending China would cost them big bucks at the foreign box office.

"There are definitely movies that I can't be in because the Chinese will say, 'Not with him,'" Gere told The Hollywood Reporter over two decades later in 2017. "I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese." Since the incident, he's mostly starred in well-reviewed indies, but even those don't always play out. Gere recalled of one particular project, "There was something I was going to do with a Chinese director, and two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, 'Sorry, I can't do it.' We had a secret phone call on a protected line. If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work."

Bjork was banned from China

Add Björk to the ever-lengthening list of celebrities banned from China for her support of Tibet. At a 2008 concert in Shanghai, the eccentric Icelandic songstress concluded her performance of "Declare Independence" — a song about fighting oppression, making your own currency, and, well, revolting into your own country — by crying out, "Tibet! Tibet!"

Reuters reported that after Björk's performance, China banned not just her, but other musicians they deemed problematic. In a statement, China's Ministry of Culture said, "Any artistic group or individual who have ever engaged in activities which threaten our national sovereignty will not be allowed in [to China]." The statement also explained that the ban applied to any artists and entertainers who "threaten national unity," "whip up ethnic hatred," "violate religious policy or cultural norms," or "advocate obscenity or feudalism and superstition."

It wasn't just the government that was peeved by Björk's remarks. The Guardian reported that her Chinese fans were also miffed. Björk's reps never commented on the controversy.

Martin Scorsese and Harrison Ford were banned from China over Kundun

Director Martin Scorsese began working on the 1997 film Kundun, which was written by Harrison Ford's then-wife, Melissa Mathison, five years before its release. The movie examined the life of the 14th Dalai Lama, who served as the spiritual leader of Tibet before his exile at the hands of the Chinese government and forces. Ford, a longtime advocate for human rights and Tibetan independence, met the Dalai Lama during Kundun's production. In 1995, Ford spoke out about the need for Tibetan independence before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

The film and the speech got Ford, Mathison, and Scorsese all banned from China. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese's ban in particular created difficulties between China and Kundun's distributor, The Walt Disney Co. It wasn't until 2012, when China agreed to release Scorsese's movie Hugo, that the ban was effectively lifted on the epic director. For his part, the Los Angeles Times reports Ford remains an outspoken advocate for Tibet's freedom.

Russell Brand isn't welcome in Japan

Russell Brand was deported from Japan in May 2011 due to his past criminal history, which was mostly rife with drug offenses, in addition to a 2010 arrest for a paparazzi scuffle (via The Hollywood Reporter). Brand's then-wife, Katy Perry, tweeted at the time, "I am so sad. I brought him all this way to show him my favorite place. #tokyodreamscrushed." Perry was on tour in Japan at the time of Brand's deportation, and the singer claimed that the Get Him To The Greek star was given the boot from the country over "priors from over 10 years ago." 

Brand later mocked his deportation on his own Twitter account, captioning a since-deleted photo of himself in a stark room (via The Telegraph), "Planning escape from Japanese custody. It's bloody hard to dig a tunnel with a chopstick." He followed that tweet with one that read, "Stockholm syndrome kicking in. Just asked my guard out for (vegetarian) sushi. He giggled."

Canada ain't playing with The Game

Whether it's American football or simply hip-hop, Canada ain't playing: In April 2011, America's hat wouldn't let rapper The Game (also known as Jayceon Terrell Taylor) into the country due to his alleged affiliation with the Bloods gang, TMZ reported. The Game was detained for several hours in Canada before being deported back to the United States. 

Substance Entertainment Group, which booked an entire tour for The Game in the country, didn't find out about the issue until the MC was already on a flight to Canada. A rep for Substance told the gossip rag that despite having previously obtained all necessary permits and approval weeks earlier, customs informed them that The Game wouldn't be permitted entry into Canada "due to new information received that Game is affiliated with organized crime and is an active member of the Bloods street gang." It's weird that would have been considered "new information," because The Game has been quite open about his Bloods affiliation pretty much forever.

The U.K. thought banning Martha Stewart was a good thing

After Martha Stewart was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice over insider trading in 2004, America's favorite homemaker spent five months behind bars — and apparently a possible lifetime barred from the United Kingdom. 

In 2008, The Telegraph reported that Stewart had been denied a visa into the U.K. due to her criminal history. The U.K. Border Agency said in a statement at the time, "We continue to oppose the entry to the U.K. of individuals where we believe their presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good or where they have been found guilty of serious criminal offences abroad." However, the media outlet also noted that an unnamed British official called the ban "a bit silly," especially considering the revenue Stewart could have generated for the country if she made appearances there. 

For her part, a rep for the lifestyle maven said she has a lot of friends across the pond, adding, "Martha loves England and hopes this can be resolved and that she will be able to visit soon."

New Zealand and the U.K. knocked Mike Tyson out for good

Mike Tyson was knocked out of entering New Zealand due to his lengthy criminal record in 2012, which includes a rape conviction, as well as cocaine possession, DUI, and assault convictions, according to The Guardian. While Tyson has maintained his innocence of the rape allegation, he served three years of six-year prison sentence for the case. In December 2013, Tyson was barred from entering the United Kingdom, where he had several promotional appearances slated, for the same reasoning.

"I have been coming to the U.K. consistently in the past decade so this change is disheartening since it affects my current entry standing," Tyson released in a statement at the time. "I apologize to my fans that were inconvenienced, however, please know I am currently working diligently with the proper authorities to regain access next year for my U.K. tour." He added, "I have a great deal of respect for the laws of the United Kingdom and will continue taking the proper steps for re-entry." A rep for the U.K. Home Office confirmed that the rules had, in fact, changed since Tyson's last trip across the pond.

Paris Hilton made us all wish we lived in Japan

It's inexplicable that Paris Hilton would have a big fanbase anywhere, but she's got a huge following in Japan — and despite that, she was banned from the country because of her criminal record. In September 2010, Hilton arrived in Japan to promote her fragrance and fashion lines and was detained and questioned for hours ... because a day earlier, she'd pleaded guilty to cocaine possession following an arrest in Las Vegas.

"I'm going back home, and I look forward to coming back to Japan in the future," Hilton told press at the time (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I'm really tired." Her rep said in a statement, "Paris is very disappointed and fought hard to keep her business commitments and see her fans, but she is forced to postpone her commitments in Asia. Paris understands and respects the rules and laws of the immigration authorities in Japan and fully wishes to cooperate with them."

Akon made a video too sexy for Sri Lanka

Akon went from "Smack That" to "scratch that" in 2010 when he was banned from Sri Lanka. The Guardian reports that the Sri Lankan government didn't appreciate the music video for the crooner's collaboration with DJ David Guetta, "Sexy Chick." The video features bikini babes shaking their booties in front of a Buddha statue, and was so controversial that it reportedly spawned violent protests in the country.

"[I] am a spiritual man, so I can understand why they are offended," Akon stated at the time. "But violence is never the answer and I am disheartened to hear about what happened in Sri Lanka." The singer also said he "never set out to offend or desecrate anyone's religion," and that he didn't even realize the statue was there. He was likely telling the truth, as in most frames of the video, the statue isn't even visible — and when it is, it's usually in the corner of frames and/or out of focus. In any case, the Sri Lankan government was mad enough to deny Akon's subsequent visa request, blaming his "controversial video images, offensive song lyrics and strong protests coming from various cultural, religious groups and organizations in the country."