Celebs That Hid A Tragic Secret For Years

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Content warning: The following article includes allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

We have more access to our favorite celebrities than ever before. You can write them a private message on Instagram, send them a Snap, or even pay for some exclusive pictures on OnlyFans. Although it can be difficult for those in the public eye to have a private life, it's not impossible. So that makes it all the more shocking when we finally learn the severity of the secret a celebrity has been struggling with. 

We're still mourning the tragic death of "Black Panther" actor Chadwick Boseman. After his untimely death at 43, it was revealed he had been diagnosed with colon cancer years prior. When Gene Wilder died in 2016, news broke that the "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" star had kept his Alzheimer's diagnosis a secret for three years.

But is it any wonder why stars decide to keep their private pain a secret? We all watched as stars such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton were relentlessly hounded by paparazzi and became tabloid fodder. It wasn't until years later we discovered the details of Spears' "abusive" conservatorship. In her heartbreaking court testimony, the Grammy-winning artist revealed she had been drugged, forced to perform against her will, and forbidden from having any more children. Meanwhile, Hilton revealed the alleged abuse she suffered at Provo Canyon boarding school in Utah.

In order to preserve their image and avoid press intrusion, these stars and others kept their tragic secrets hidden from the fans who adored them.

Corey Feldman's serious accusations

In 2020, the world recoiled in horror after Corey Feldman named the men he says sexually assaulted him and his late friend, Corey Haim. In his documentary, "My Truth: The Rape of Two Coreys," Feldman claimed that Haim told him he was raped by actor Charlie Sheen on the set of the 1986 film "Lucas." Haim was just 13 and Sheen 19 at that time. Sheen adamantly denied any wrongdoing in a strongly worded statement to Entertainment Weekly: "These sick, twisted and outlandish allegations never occurred. Period." 

But fans were moved by Feldman's emotional testimony when describing Sheen's alleged abuse of his best friend. "This wasn't like a one time thing he said in passing. It wasn't like, 'Oh, by the way, this happened.' He went into great detail," Feldman said in the doc about Haim, who died in 2010.

In the documentary, Feldman also named three men he had previously accused of sexually abusing him: Jon Grissom, an actor who had small roles in "License to Drive" and "Dream a Little Dream" co-starring Feldman and Haim; nightclub owner Alphy Hoffman; and former talent manager Marty Weiss. He also said Dominick Brascia, a former actor and one-time friend of both Coreys, sexually abused Haim. Brascia died in 2018. Grissom previously denied the allegations in a YouTube comment, according to Page Six. Meanwhile Hoffman has not publicly addressed the allegations since Feldman first named him on "The Dr. Oz Show" in 2017.

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).

Charlize Theron's mom killed to protect her

When Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron was 15, her father Charles (who she previously described as an alcoholic, per a 2019 interview with NPR), came home drunk and carrying a gun. He fired through a door at Charlize and her mother, Gerda. Acting to protect herself and her teen daughter, Gerda retrieved a handgun. She fatally shot Charles in an incident that was ruled self-defense by authorities. 

After winning an Academy Award for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2004, Theron thanked her mom in an heartfelt speech. "You've sacrificed so much for me to be able to live here and make my dreams come true and there are no words to describe how much I love you. And I'm not gonna cry. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Theron has spoken at length about that terrifying night in June 1991 in the years that followed, including a candid 2017 interview with Sirius radio host Howard Stern (via People). The "Monster" star admitted she would often tell others her father died in a car accident because she didn't want to share her story. "They don't know how to respond to that. And I didn't want to feel like a victim. I struggled with that for many years until I actually started therapy." In 2008, Theron's experiences as a young survivor of domestic abuse led to her being named by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. The South African native is now tasked with promoting efforts to end violence against women.  

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.

Oprah Winfrey pregnant at 14

In an emotional 1986 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," broadcaster and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey revealed she was molested by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend. As a result of her horrific abuse, Oprah found herself pregnant at age 14. "I was raped at 9 years old by a cousin, then again by another family member, and another family member," Winfrey told her audience. She added that she tried to hide her pregnancy because she felt so much "pain and shame." Winfrey gave birth prematurely to a son who tragically died a short time later. "The Color Purple" star says she eventually discussed the alleged abuse with family members at age 24, but they reportedly refused to believe her account. 

In 2015, Winfrey opened up again about her painful past when speaking in Melbourne, Australia. "I did an interview with a reporter before I came to Australia and she said you should name the baby son who died," Winfrey, 67, told the audience of 15,000. "So I have named him, I had a little boy named Canaan. I did have a son. And I named him Canaan because Canaan means new land, new life." Although Oprah did not go on to have any more biological children, she considers herself a "mother to the world's children." Winfrey invested $40 million into the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls south of Johannesburg, South Africa. The private boarding school opened in January 2007 and caters to 450 children.

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).

Charlie Sheen reveals his HIV status

Actor Charlie Sheen was once a staple on the tabloid press after one too many scandals in the public eye. On October 26, 2010, the police removed Sheen from his suite at the Plaza Hotel after he reportedly caused $7,000 in damage. According to the NYPD, Sheen admitted to drinking and using cocaine the night of the incident. Then in March 2011, he was fired from his lucrative role on "Two And Half Men" after publicly making derogatory comments about the series' creator, Chuck Lorre. Warner Bros. attorneys also claimed he "engaged in dangerously self-destructive conduct." But on November 17, 2015, the "Scary Movie" star garnered sympathy when he revealed in a Today interview that he had contracted HIV. Sheen also revealed his HIV positive status had been diagnosed four years previously. 

More disturbing truths emerged. The dad-of-five confessed that he had paid millions to sexual partners in order to keep his disease secret and admitted he'd been the target of "shakedowns." Sheen said that he had unprotected sex with some women after his diagnosis but claimed he had done so safely to ensure that none would contract HIV. He insisted that he informed his sexual partners of his diagnosis prior to engaging in sexual relations — something that has been contested by at least one former sexual partner. But his frank admission resulted in a vast increase of online search queries for HIV prevention and testing, which was later dubbed the "Charlie Sheen effect."

Jamie Lee Curtis' struggle with addiction

Hollywood actress Jamie Lee Curtis bravely told the world in 2018 that she was dependent on opiates for 10 years. Her addiction to Vicodin stemmed from a minor plastic surgery procedure. "I was ahead of the curve of the opiate epidemic," she told People. "I had a 10-year run, stealing, conniving. No one knew. No one." The "Halloween" star admitted she's lucky to have survived the secret addiction that began in the late '80s. Addiction is something that has sadly affected the Curtis family over the years. Her father, "Some Like It Hot" star Tony Curtis, abused alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. Jamie admits that she once did drugs with him. In 1994, her brother Nicholas Curtis died from a heroin overdose. He was just 23.

Curtis attended her first recovery meeting in February 1999. She finally told her husband of 33 years, actor-director Christopher Guest, about her struggle with opiates that day. The couple have two kids: daughter Annie, 31, and son Tom, 22. The Golden Globe-winning actress celebrated 22 years of sobriety in February 2021 with a touching post on Instagram. "With God's grace and the support of MANY people who could relate to all the 'feelings' and a couple of sober angels ... I've been able to stay sober, one day at a time ... To all those struggling and those who are on the path ... MY HAND IN YOURS.'" The "Perfect" star continues to attend meetings and sponsors those who are struggling with addiction.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Terrence Howard's childhood secret

In an extraordinary interview with Rolling Stone in 2015, actor Terrence Howard recalled a traumatic event that has forever influenced his life. In 1971, when he was just 2 years old, Howard claimed he witnessed his father, 21-year-old Tyrone Howard, kill a man. The pair were waiting in line in a Cleveland, Ohio department store to see Santa Claus. Jack Fitzpatrick, a 36-year-old man, was there with three of his own children, while his pregnant wife shopped with their oldest daughter. An argument soon took place between Fitzpatrick and Tyrone Howard. The two went back and forth about who was next in line, with Tyrone grabbing hold of a nail file and stabbing Fitzpatrick to death.

The encounter came to be known as the "Santa Line Slaying" and made national headlines. "I was standing next to my father, watching," Terrence 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." Tyrone was charged with second-degree murder and eventually convicted of manslaughter and received a sentence of one-to-25 years in prison. He spent 11 months in jail and was eventually paroled for good behavior. Despite alleging he was abusive to him growing up, Terrence says his father taught him to be a man. "My daddy taught me, 'Never take the vertebrae out of your back or the bass out of your throat. I ain't raisin' sheep. I raised men. Stay a man,'" he said.

Zayn Malik's eating disorder

In 2016, former British boy band star Zayn Malik revealed he developed an eating disorder while performing as part of One Direction. In March 2015, after missing out on a number of appearances with the chart-topping group, Malik quit the band. In excerpts from his memoir aptly titled "Zayn," the 28-year-old says seeing pictures from 2014 made him realize "how ill" he was. "Something I've never talked about in public before, but which I have come to terms with since leaving the band, is that I was suffering from an eating disorder," he writes. "It wasn't as though I had any concerns about my weight or anything like that. I'd just go for days — sometimes two or three days straight – without eating anything at all. It got quite serious, although at the time I didn't recognise it for what it was." 

The "PILLOWTALK" singer felt powerless and suffered from anxiety. He controlled his food intake to such a degree that he became ill. His anxiety was serious enough for him to cancel appearances. However, Malik is determined to overcome his anxiety and resume his career, by starting small and gradually working toward bigger shows.

If you are struggling 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).

Chadwick Boseman kept his cancer private

Fans around the world took in a sharp intake of breath after "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman's death was announced on August 28, 2020. He was just 43 years old. Boseman was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2016. It eventually progressed to stage 4. Despite concerned fans speculating over pictures of him appearing worryingly skinny online, he never publicly spoke about his cancer diagnosis. A source close to Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter that the actor was convinced of his survival until about a week before his death. The Howard University graduate was well known for his work with cancer and children's charities. He donated money to the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem and would often visit terminally ill children as he underwent grueling chemotherapy treatments himself. 

Only a handful of non-family members knew that Boseman had cancer, with some unaware of how ill the "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" actor really was. Boseman died at his Los Angeles home with his wife, singer Taylor Simone Ledward, and his family by his side. On August 29, 2020, the day after Boseman died, the tweet in which his family announced his death on his Twitter account became the most-"liked" tweet in the site's history. A public memorial service was held on September 4, 2020, in Anderson, South Carolina, where the speakers included Boseman's childhood pastor, as well as Deanna Brown Thomas, daughter of James Brown, whom Boseman portrayed in "Get Up."

Demi Moore's alleged sexual assault at 15

In 2019, Demi Moore bared her soul in her New York Times best-selling memoir, "Inside Out." Fans of the "Ghost" actress were able to gain an insight into her Hollywood marriages to Ashton Kutcher and Bruce Willis, as well as her struggles with anxiety and eating disorders. One of the more shocking revelations in Moore's memoir was her admission that she was raped by a man who was in his "40s or 50s" when she was just a teenager. Shortly after the traumatic incident, Moore says her mother, Ginny, had her assailant help them move into a new place. Moore wrote that it made her feel as if "there was nowhere safe to go." 

It sent the "General Hospital" star into a spiral of "smoking, drinking, and clubbing," which she started while in middle school. She soon dropped out and moved in with her much older boyfriend. When she was 21, now a familiar face on the small screen, Moore was cast in the '80s cult classic "St Elmo's Fire." However, her addiction to drugs and alcohol were soon noticed by the cast and director Joel Schumacher. They gave her an ultimatum: go to rehab or lose her role in the movie. Moore checked into the Betty Ford clinic at age 21."'St. Elmo's' will always be the movie that changed my life. If I hadn't gone to rehab to make that film, I really wonder if I'd still be alive," Moore admitted.

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).