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You want drama? 2021 had plenty: Rewinding the year’s top 10 celebrity spectacles

Two Britney Spears supporters smile for the camera
Britney Spears supporters Jakeyonce, left, and Hayley Herms react to the news that the pop singer could hire a lawyer of her choice in her conservatorship battle at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on July 14, 2021.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

The entertainment industry was still operating in pandemic-induced slo-mo in 2021, but the drama generated by its biggest players didn’t slow in the slightest.

The Golden Globes organization and telecast imploded on the heels of a Los Angeles Times investigation. “Jeopardy” did a really bad job of picking a new host to replace the late Alex Trebek. “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was convicted of lying about an alleged racist and homophobic attack in 2019. Comedian Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special, “The Closer,” arguably got more boos than laughs.

And in one of the year’s most tragic stories, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died from a gunshot wound on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie “Rust.”

Below are 10 of 2021’s biggest dramas, from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, as they unfolded throughout the year.

Armie Hammer

A man poses in a suit with no tie
Armie Hammer spent more than half the year in rehab after a woman accused him of rape.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

In January, Instagram account @houseofeffie published messages, allegedly from Hammer, that detailed kinky sexual fantasies involving cannibalism, rape and other violent acts. The posts went viral. Model Paige Lorenze and app founder Courtney Vucekovich, both recent exes of the actor, shared their own disturbing stories about the actor.

He called it all “bulls—,” but bailed out on short notice from the rom-com “Shotgun Wedding.” His agency, WME, dropped him in February. In mid-March, a month after going to the LAPD, a woman identified as “Effie” alleged at a press conference that Hammer had raped her in 2017 over the course of four hours. Police confirmed that sex-crimes detectives were investigating the actor, who denied the allegation.

In May, Hammer, who had been living on Grand Cayman with his kids, flew to an in-patient rehab facility in Florida, where he stayed for treatment of substance abuse and sex issues until early in December. He returned to the island right around the time police sent their findings to the L.A. County D.A., and TMZ reported that charges were unlikely to be filed.

Last week, a second trailer dropped for his February 2022 movie, “Death on the Nile,” albeit with significantly less Hammer to be seen than in the first one posted last year.

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Mason poses in Goth makeup and a leather jacket
Marilyn Manson is facing a slew of lawsuits alleging abuse.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

“Westworld” actor Evan Rachel Wood accused rock musician Marilyn Manson of years of abuse in a Feb. 1 social media post, saying she was groomed by her former fiancé as a teen and “manipulated into submission.” Three other women made similar allegations simultaneously. His record label and agency dropped him, while Manson denied all the allegations. His wife, Lindsay Usich, got drawn in. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department soon was investigating domestic-abuse allegations from 2009 to 2011, coinciding with dates of the Wood-Manson relationship.

In April, actor Esmé Bianco sued the performer in federal court, alleging sexual assault and human trafficking. An unidentified woman sued in L.A. Superior Court in May, alleging rape, followed by a former personal assistant who alleged sexual assault and more.

Model Ashley Morgan Smithline alleged sexual assault — including cutting his initials into her body — in a federal case filed in June, with Manson calling her claims “falsehoods.” In a November story detailing accusers’ experiences with Manson, Bianco told the Los Angeles Times, “He’s so much worse than his persona.” Sheriff’s deputies searched Manson’s home for evidence a few weeks later.

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Morgan Wallen

A man with long, brown hair poses in a blue jacket and plaid shirt
Morgan Wallen faced fallout after using a racial slur.
(Sanford Myers / Associated Press)

Wallen, country music’s hottest artist, was drunk when he got caught on video shouting the N-word to a friend in late January. The reaction was swift and devastating: He saw his record contract suspended; got banned by most country radio stations, the CMT network and streaming-service playlists; and was bluntly uninvited to various awards shows. He canceled summer concerts, apologized more than once and took himself off the grid and into a San Diego rehab for a while.

Meanwhile, his January release, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which had debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart three weeks before the video went public, wound up staying on top for 10 weeks.

Then in November, after a handful of surprise guest appearances on other artists’ stages, he announced he was going out on his “Dangerous” tour in 2022. Good luck getting a ticket — the scandal doesn’t appear to have cost Wallen his fan base.

Kim and Kanye

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian walk the Met Gala red carpet in 2015
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West are getting divorced.
(Mike Coppola / Getty Images)

After almost seven years of marriage and months of counseling, Kim Kardashian West filed for divorce from Kanye West in February. She went her way, wrapping up “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” dating “SNL” star Pete Davidson, watching her shapewear line Skims take off and passing the “baby bar” exam.

The rapper went his way too, releasing the divisive album “Donda,” finally and dramatically, and making up with Drake. But he didn’t go too far, buying a place in Hidden Hills across the street from the home he once shared with the beauty mogul and their four kids.

Both parties changed their names too. He’s now legally simply Ye, while she will return to being Kim Kardashian upon finalization of their split. So while Kimye is done, Kim and Ye will go on.

Bachelor Nation

“The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison, right, walks with leading man Matt James.
Matt James, left, walks with former host Chris Harrison on 2021’s season of “The Bachelor.”
(Craig Sjodin / ABC)

The first season of “The Bachelor” to feature a Black man as a lead dissolved into racial controversy in late February after the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, held franchise host Chris Harrison accountable during a contentious TV interview.

In the chat, Harrison defended frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell, who had posted racially insensitive party pictures on social media when she was in college. Afterward, Lindsay was attacked online with racial slurs, as she had been when she was the star of “The Bachelorette.” Matt James proposed to Kirkconnell in the March finale, but Harrison wasn’t there to host an awkward “After the Final Rose.”

Harrison wound up getting the “Bachelorette” boot in March and saw his 20-year hosting stint end permanently in June, while Lindsay cut ties with Bachelor Nation in April over its “race problem” and later labeled a subgroup of the fandom “Bachelor Klan.”

In December, after a year marked by gains in diversity — which included Black Bachelorette Michelle Young winding up at season’s end with a Black partner, a first for the show — the franchise snapped back to its old ways, casting retread candidate Nick Viall as the lead on “The Bachelor” for a second time.

In other Bachelor Nation news, former Bachelor Colton Underwood came forward this year as a gay man, with a coming-out Netflix docuseries to boot.

Harry and Meghan and Piers and Sharon

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, sit for an interview.
(Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions)

When Oprah Winfrey sat down in March to chat with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, few anticipated the firestorm that would burn for weeks afterward. Meghan told Winfrey that the palace didn’t help her when she had suicidal thoughts — she should have asked John Oliver about that in advance — and added that a royal family member had “concerns” about what color their son’s skin might be. Boom went the dynamite while more than 17 million people watched the former royals live.

Buckingham Palace issued a brief statement. On “Good Morning Britain,” commentator Piers Morgan slammed Meghan for trashing the monarchy, then quit the show after a dustup over it with a biracial co-host over whether the duchess was lying.

Sharon Osbourne defended him on “The Talk,” then lost her cool while declaring she wasn’t a racist, then apologized, then got fired. Morgan called the firing “stinking hypocrisy,” more details emerged, and Osbourne still wasn’t over it in September, accusing CBS of setting her up.

Meanwhile, on the final full weekend of the year, Meghan got a rare front-page apology from the Mail on Sunday after a British court upheld her February win in a 2019 breach-of-privacy lawsuit, The paper had improperly published a letter she wrote to her father before marrying Harry in 2018.

Britney Spears

Britney Spears supporters carry a banner down a street
Britney Spears supporters demonstrate outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in September.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Spears is a free woman after almost 14 years in a conservatorship run mostly by her father — but it took most of 2021, with help from the #FreeBritney movement, for her to get there.

Spears first made news in April when her court-appointed attorney asked the judge to let the pop star speak in open court. Her testimony in June blew her conservatorship wide open and shed light on conservatorships in general. A couple of buzzed-about documentaries added to the drama, revealing the extensive surveillance and control that had been exerted over the performer.

Spears was allowed to select a new attorney, and soon dad Jamie Spears was out as her financial conservator — though he didn’t leave without a fight. In November the “Lucky” singer prevailed, and by the end of 2021 it was all over except for a few financial loose ends. Oh! Spears also got engaged along the way — mazel tov!

Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen poses in a mint green dress and updo
Chrissy Teigen got called out for cyber-bullying.
(Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press)

Teigen was the foul-mouthed sass queen of Twitter — right up until May. That’s when Courtney Stodden revealed how the model-turned-influencer had bullied Stodden relentlessly on social media a decade ago, including privately urging the then-teen, who was married to decades-older actor Doug Hutchison, to commit suicide. Teigen quickly apologized. Stodden accepted Teigen’s apology, but didn’t really believe it. Somewhere in there, Teigen deactivated her Twitter account.

Teigen was dropped as narrator of Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever,” with Gigi Hadid coming in as her replacement. Then the mother of two reemerged in mid-June with a mea culpa essay letting people know that she had been “a troll,” someone who was “insecure, immature,” and was suffering in her social media silence (she’s never been good at staying mum).

The cookbook author is back now, of course, but gone are the clapbacks at strangers and vigorous debates about hot-button issues. Her posts these days are mostly super positive, self-questioning or simply there to pitch products.

R. Kelly

R. Kelly walks outside a courthouse in Chicago
R. Kelly was convicted of sex trafficking and more in September.
(Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images)

R. Kelly had long been plagued by dark rumors of improper behavior with underage girls, though the music industry didn’t seem to care. But after Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” came out in 2019, the rumors stuck, and the R&B singer was arrested.

Come August 2021, Kelly found himself in federal court in New York facing nine charges related to five victims. His protégé and former child bride, Aaliyah Haughton, who died in a plane crash at 22, was one of those victims. At trial, a woman testified that Kelly impregnated Aaliyah at 15 and faked documents to marry her so she could get an abortion. Other testimony was worse.

Kelly was found guilty in late September on all counts, which included sex trafficking, racketeering, kidnapping, bribery and sexual exploitation of a child. His attorney says he will appeal the verdict.

Meanwhile, Kelly remains in custody and faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and maximum of life behind bars when he is sentenced next May. And he still faces additional federal charges in Chicago starting in August 2022.

Travis Scott’s Astroworld

Travis Scott performs on a fiery concert stage
Travis Scott was the headliner at Houston’s Astroworld, where people died and were injured in the crowd.
(Amy Harris / Invision / Associated Press)

Rapper Scott wanted the Astroworld Festival to uplift his hometown of Houston. Instead, 10 people died after having the breath squeezed out of them and many more were injured in the Nov. 5 crowd crush that surged toward the stage as he and Drake performed. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against performers, promoters, vendors, Scott’s record label and even Apple, which livestreamed the event. A federal investigation has been launched.

Scott, who has a history of rowdy concerts and was distraught after the tragedy, was slammed for continuing his set for 40 minutes after law enforcement declared a “mass casualty event.” But he said in an interview in early December that he didn’t hear screams to stop the show and didn’t know anyone had died until right before a post-show press conference.


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