If there’s one thing 2016 was good for, it was headline-grabbing celebrity scandals.
With every passing day, the year 2016 has felt more and more apocalyptic, and the entertainment world has spiraled accordingly. A summer of fun, flirty, phallic paparazzi shots gave way to some seriously dark shit—the Kim Kardashian Parisian jewel heist, Kanye’s temporary psychosis, and Brangelina’s heartrending divorce announcement. This year, celebrity gossip didn’t just entertain—it left us screaming, shook, and ugly-crying all over our keyboards.
The Year of Celebrity Peen
With all of the bad things that happened this year, it’s easy to forget that we also saw a bunch of celebrity peen. Apparently, when God closes a door, she pantses a celebrity. Summer’s NSFW penis parade kicked off with Orlando Bloom’s now-iconic naked paddle boarding pictures. Everything about these paparazzi shots—aside from the alarming invasion of privacy—was incredible. In addition to being naked, Bloom was also accompanied by his girlfriend, dedicated Hillary Clinton supporter/pop star Katy Perry. Perry’s vacant expression marked the telltale disassociation of a woman who has come to terms with her boyfriend’s ridiculous and embarrassing hobbies, whether that’s craft beer tasting, bad black-and-white photography, or paddle boarding with his dick out.
Bloom’s “everyday dick” quickly sparked a trend amongst his Hollywood cohorts. Next to bare all was Justin Bieber, Bloom’s Ibiza arch-rival. In a suspiciously timely leak, Bieber’s nudes hit the Internet just days after Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, and Orlando Bloom’s penis’s well-documented triple date. Many suspected the pop star of deliberately posing naked for the paparazzi in order to taunt Bloom with his bigger member—a (third) arms race, if you will.
Rounding out the summer of the D was Adrian Grenier confirming a former Bachelor contestant’s allegations that he has a massive peen. In her memoir I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends, the famously bitchy Courtney Robertson wrote that she and Grenier hooked up after bonding over “mutual loneliness in L.A.” She also confided that he “had the biggest penis I’d ever seen—and the biggest bush!” This is why print will never die. While Robertson’s literary triumph didn’t earn her a Pulitzer, it did result in a particularly entertaining episode of Watch What Happens Live. Grenier, a noted produce enthusiast, didn’t shy away from an honest discussion of his aubergine. The 40-year-old actor boasted to host Andy Cohen that he was “just glad she got the size right.” He continued, “I mean, you’re always on the edge of your seat waiting for something bad to be revealed about you…And then every once in a while it’s not so bad.” Also in August, we got to watch rapper 50 Cent pleasure himself on TV.
Prince Harry’s New Girlfriend
Did you dream of being a princess when you grew up? Too bad, because the world’s most eligible royal bachelor is officially taken. For decades, Prince Harry was an aspirational sex symbol for unloved redheads everywhere. Whether it was his boyish charm, his ruddy cheeks, or the fact that he’s fifth in line for the British throne (probably that), Harry has become something of a mark for ambitious commoners. Unfortunately for the rest of us, actress Meghan Markle appears to have the single prince completely besotted. The Suits star reportedly visited the U.K. four times in the past three months, and has been spotted on multiple dates with Harry, including a casual stroll through the busy streets of Piccadilly. The 35-year-old Markle has even started staying with Harry at his
two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace. Unfortunately, Markle’s updated relationship status has also led to an increase in racist comments and social media trolls. The Twitter attacks against the biracial actress became so intense that Prince Harry felt moved to issue a rare personal statement, condemning “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.” He went on to insist that “a line had been crossed” in regards to the racialized relationship backlash.
The Breakup of Brangelina
This September, two famous people split up, leaving behind a trail of European real estate and tabloid tears. After 12 years together Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt called it quits amidst accusations that Brad had become angry and abusive. No two celebrities had more children or better bone structure. The dissolution of their union also marked the death of love as we know it. For more than a decade, Brangelina was all of the inspo—couple goals, real estate porn, and facial hair inspiration. As Brad and Angelina proceeded to duke it out in the tabloids, all but ensuring a messy divorce, it quickly became apparent that these beautiful celebrities are actually flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. This was a deeply unwelcome and rude awakening, cementing 2016’s status as a nightmare year we wished we could wake up from.
Taylor Swift, Snapchat-gate, and Gossip Christmas
Of course, the greatest celebrity story of 2016 is inarguably the blood feud between Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West. Over the course of the year, we’ve lost countless hours of screen time to this gossip Bermuda triangle—a story so big that it was deemed “Gossip Christmas.” In actuality, this scandal was a lot more like “Gossip Hanukkah”: a tiny portion of beef that ended up satiating our ravenous appetite for clickbait all summer long. This unexpected miracle began over a petty squabble, with Taylor Swift taking offense at some derogatory lyrics in Kanye West’s “Famous.” West counter-claimed that he had actually asked the pop star beforehand if the rhymes were kosher. Unfortunately for Swift, Kim Kardashian West had had it up to here with the press turning West into the bad guy (an interesting turn, given that it’s a role Kanye seems so eager to play).
No stranger to public image manipulation, Kim launched a counter-campaign, citing Swift’s approval and labeling her a fake-ass phony. This she-said, he-said, she-said finally blew up courtesy of Kardashian’s Snapchat. In one pretty-epic-for-a-15-second-video clip, Kim released never-before-seen footage of West rapping his rhymes for Swift in the studio. Kim’s Snapchat story pushed the boundaries of recording ethics, receipts, and journalism as we know it. In one fell swoop, Kim did something that Calvin Harris, Katy Perry, and all the entertainment reporters of the world never could, ripping off a layer of Swift’s reptilian skin and completely ethering her public image in the process. The fallout from this initial blast lasted longer than we ever could have dreamed, launching ripple feuds between various Kardashians and members of Taylor’s squad. Selena Gomez was cancelled, Swift’s childhood friend really came out of the woodwork, and Khloé Kardashian tweeted a picture of a stranger’s asshole.
Kim Kardashian’s Traumatic Robbery
On the night of October 3rd, Kim Kardashian West was relaxing after a long day of Parisian runway watching when five men disguised as police officers raided her luxury residence. The thieves burst into her room, tied her up and locked her in the bathroom, ultimately making off with over $10 million in luxury jewels. While Kim emerged physically unscathed, her family maintains she suffered psychological trauma in the wake of the attack. Prior to the heist, Kardashian was known for her 24/7 social media presence, and many people opined that this ritualistic flaunting of wealth may have triggered the theft. Perhaps in response to these accusations, Kim has done a 180 on privacy, going silent on social media and rarely venturing outside for public appearances. Adding insult to injury, Kim’s attack spiraled into a series of very unfortunate events, culminating in the very public breakdown of her ever-controversial husband, Kanye West.
The New, Unpopular Kanye
Oh, Kanye. The producer turned hip-hop legend turned fashion maverick was the cultural cautionary tale of 2016; a true superstar who flew too close to the sun. After besting TayTay in the row over “Famous,” Kanye and Kim were inarguably on top. Unfortunately, Kim’s robbery seemed to push Kanye into a mental tailspin, which coincided with his grueling “Life of Pablo” tour. Soon, the rapper started to malfunction on stage, as his sets devolved into strange rants and unpopular political musings. At one performance, he claimed that he would have voted for Donald Trump—if he had bothered showing up to the polls. In another, he made the poor decision to come for Jay Z and Beyoncé, insisting, “I’ve been sent here to give y’all the truth. Jay Z, call me, bruh! You still ain’t call me! Jay Z, call me! Jay Z, I know you got killers, please don’t send them at my head. Just call me! Talk to me like a man!” West ultimately cancelled his tour and was hospitalized for temporary psychosis. According to sources, Kanye’s doctor called police dispatchers to report that the rapper had attempted to assault a staff member at a gym, and asked that his patient be placed in a psychiatric hold.
Unfortunately, Kanye’s involuntary R&R didn’t rehabilitate him in the way that fans may have hoped. Instead, West celebrated his release by heading to New York to meet with Donald Trump. Kanye subsequently tweeted, “I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future President if we truly want change,” making him one of the only celebrities who has publicly pledged to work alongside the president-elect. Naturally, Kanye’s supporters—the ones who remember his political stands against George W. Bush and hip-hop homophobia—have all but given up on this iteration of their fallen idol.
Blac Chyna Bests the Kardashians
It takes a lot of lady balls to out-hustle the Kardashians. No one knows this better than Blac Chyna, the exotic dancer turned video girl turned eyelash entrepreneur who recently captured the heart of reality TV’s first son. Blac Chyna and the Kardashians had previously maintained a fraught relationship, mainly because her baby daddy, Tyga, is currently dating Kylie Jenner. Clearly unaware that keeping up with the Kardashians is some people’s literal job description, Chyna threw everyone for a loop when she announced that not only was she dating Rob Kardashian, but she was also pregnant with his child. That baby’s name is, obviously, Dream.
Since home videos are so ’90s, Rob and Chyna decided to chronicle their pregnancy journey through reality TV, premiering Rob & Chyna on E!. Thank Ryan Seacrest for this masterclass in balancing scripted reality TV show snafus with the omnipresent plot line of a clinically depressed romantic lead. Rob & Chyna, with all its dark ruminations on self-worth, weight gain, and the limits of romantic love, isn’t really “ha ha” funny. But it sure is GIF-able! The series culminated in the Rob & Chyna Baby Special, or as I call it, the time I watched a stranger’s C-section for work.
According to some recent social media drama, Dream’s first month on earth has been as melodramatic as a Keeping Up with the Kardashians season finale. In the weekend leading up to the baby special, news broke that Chyna had allegedly left Rob, taking Dream with her. A highly suspicious “hacking” of Chyna’s Instagram appeared to leak conversations between the reality TV star and other famous dudes, implying that Chyna has had one foot out the door for quite some time. Meanwhile, Chyna is in an ongoing struggle with the Kardashian sisters over her attempt to trademark the name Angela Renee Kardashian. Rob may still be crying over his stolen Eggos, but Blac Chyna is all about her business.
Ryan Lochte’s Rio Screw-Up
This summer, American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte really made us look bad after a series of truly deplorable actions at the Rio De Janeiro Olympic games. This ugly American story happens to feature more international intrigue and public urination than most. Our tale begins, as so many stories about adult men do, with Lochte trying to make himself look better by lying to his mom. After a night of partying, Lochte allegedly told his mother that he and his teammates had been robbed at gunpoint. Realistically startled, she spilled the beans to a media outlet, which naturally elevated the anecdote to a breaking news story. So embarrassing, mom! Even more embarrassingly for Lochte, it quickly became clear that he had made the entire thing up.
In actuality, the hard-partying group of bros had drunkenly damaged a gas station bathroom, after which they were confronted by a justifiably concerned security guard. It appears that Lochte, the new face of white male privilege, was embarrassed about his destructive night out, and believed that Rio’s reputation as a crime capital could disguise his egregious behavior.
And while so many men merely act like they can get away with anything, Lochte actually did. Naturally, there was some performative castigation in the immediate aftermath, and a number of the swimmer’s sponsors abandoned ship. Then Lochte scored a cushy gig on Dancing with the Stars, a stepping stone to reputation rehabilitation and/or a Trump cabinet position. Now he’s a father-to-be, and appears to have left his offensive platinum-blonde period behind him. It’s always nice to see a wealthy athlete receive an infinite number of second chances. Still, the Ryan Lochte story will serve as a cautionary tale for athletes, tourists, and hospitable host countries for years to come. Who knew a man could swim so quickly and yet be so dumb.
Selena Gomez vs. Justin Bieber vs. the World
Justin Bieber has always pushed boundaries, whether he’s defying the law or challenging our conception of Canadians as well-mannered, polite people. This year, the pint-sized bad boy pushed fans to the limits of their adoration, betraying his Beliebers with a slew of very well-publicized one-week stands. Justin’s interchangeable gal pals were as blonde as they were vaguely familiar. Sofia Richie, Hailey Baldwin, and Sahara Ray all fell for the 22-year-old pop singer with a rap sheet. When whiplashed fans starting bashing Richie on social media, Bieber felt the need to defend her, Instagramming a pic with the 17-year-old captioned, “I’m gonna make my Instagram private if you guys don’t stop the hate this is getting out of hand, if you guys are really fans you wouldn’t be so mean to people I like.”
Luckily for those of us who really wanted this situation to get out of hand, Justin Bieber once dated Selena Gomez, a genuine pop star who also happens to be horrible at social media. In a very ill-advised maneuver, Gomez used her verified account to support Bieber’s fandom in their anti-Richie war, proving once and for all that Selena Gomez really can’t keep her hands to herself. Bieber quickly retaliated, accusing Gomez of cheating on him with Zayn Malik and then deleting his Instagram altogether. Scorned blondes and overlooked brunettes flooded to the #JustinDeactivatedParty. Kylie Jenner became the fifth-most followed person on Instagram and the world continued to turn, albeit with far fewer Bieber nudes and selfies.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s Bitter Divorce
It was a classic tale of boy meets girl, girl accuses boy of domestic abuse, girl gets victim-blamed and slut-shamed. After one year of marriage, Amber Heard filed for divorce from her A-list husband, citing intimate partner violence. She also got a restraining order. Naturally, Depp’s Hollywood friends quickly came to his defense, accusing Heard of being a gold digging floozy. It was a scorched-earth tabloid battle, with both teams allegedly leaking info to the press. Eventually, the duo reached a $6.8 million divorce settlement, which Depp is now refusing to deliver. Heard has pledged to divide the promised money in its entirety between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
In the wake of this buzzy split, Heard has become an advocate for survivors, speaking out about her abuse in open letters and PSAs (all while tiptoeing around her and Depp’s confidentiality agreement). Meanwhile, Depp is slated to remain as big a star as ever, starting with his ill-timed international fragrance campaign for Dior’s hyper-masculine “Sauvage.” Because nothing says “real man” like the rugged hands of an accused abuser.
The Trolling of Leslie Jones
In 2016, Leslie Jones was a rare beacon of hope—a once in a lifetime content creator and comedian. The SNL actress has given us so much, from hilarious Game of Thrones recaps to a female Ghostbusters reboot to her entire Twitter presence. She even provided a ray of hope at the Rio Olympics, offering a necessary diversion from the destructive riptide of white privilege that was Ryan Lochte. For bringing joy to men, women, and children, Jones was repaid with the social media equivalent of a flaming bag of dog poop on her doorstep. By July 18, Jones was living in a “personal hell,” largely orchestrated by alt-right asshole Milo Yiannopoulos. Along with his dedicated troll army, Milo doctored fake tweets from Leslie, wrote disgusting reviews of Ghostbusters, and sent Jones obscene, racist images, including Photoshopped gorillas. Jones responded by exposing her attackers on the Internet and pleading with Twitter to increase security. When help wasn’t forthcoming, she took a hiatus from the platform.
While Yiannopoulos was subsequently banned from Twitter, Leslie’s attackers returned with a vengeance. Their efforts culminated in a criminal hack, as the comedian’s personal website was deliberately flooded with images of her passport and driver’s license, alongside naked photos allegedly cribbed from her iCloud. They also uploaded a tribute video to the meme Harambe, because racism. Jones’ trying summer served as a testament to Twitter’s ability to kind of, sort of get its act together, and to the numerous celebrities and social media users who supported the comedian through #LoveForLeslieJ. But for all the silver linings, it was mostly just a reminder of the myriad difficulties of being a black woman on the internet.
The Revelations of Lemonade
On a Saturday night in April, Beyoncé Knowles dropped a surprise visual album on HBO. She called it Lemonade, and it was very, very good. The hour-long cinematic experience, complete with spoken word verses and Serena Williams twerking, instantly raised the bar for pop culture excellence. While Beyoncé’s now-iconic offering delved into many themes, including black womanhood, family, and the American South, fans quickly picked up on the many references to divorce and marital infidelity. Listeners interpreted the visual album as a personal chronicle of Beyoncé’s relationship with her rap mogul husband, Jay Z. Cheating rumors have plagued the legendary duo for years, culminating in the infamous 2013 elevator fight between Jay and Beyoncé’s sister, Solange.
Leave it to Beyoncé to take betrayal lemons and turn them into Lemonade, an unparalleled accomplishment that also happened to draw tons of eyeballs to her husband’s music streaming service. In addition to making bank, the Carters also started a massive scandal. Beyoncé’s fiercely loyal BeyHive scoured the album for clues about Jay’s other woman—“Becky with the good hair.” Two likely suspects, designer Rachel Roy and ANTM backup host Rita Ora, got immediate social media heat post-release. Whoever said there’s no such thing as bad publicity has clearly never been on Stan Twitter.