In entertainment, winning an award usually produces instant change. On the positive end, it can raise a celebrity’s overall profile, and perhaps that person will be able to score jobs a lot easier and get bigger paychecks. But on the not-so-wonderful side of things, an award can slow down one’s career.
Take actress Kim Basinger, for example. In 1998, she won best supporting actress at the Oscars for her role in L.A. Confidential, telling the crowd, “If anyone has a dream out there, just know that I’m living proof that they do come true.” However, her onscreen prospects didn’t take off as some probably would have thought, with GQ noting of her “curious career” in 2016 that Basinger “has never quite shaken the bizarre stigma that comes with being a sex symbol.”
If an award does hurt someone’s future, it could be for various reasons. Maybe the win was attached to a big old scandal, or possibly the award raised expectations so high that the trophy winner simply couldn’t live up to them. Regardless of the reason, we’ve gathered a list of stars who were never the same after winning their own huge award.
Taylor Swift's VMA win forever connected her to Kanye West
Before we begin, it’s important to set the background: The year was 2009, and Taylor Swift’s video for her single, “You Belong with Me,” was ubiquitous. So perhaps many weren’t surprised that she won best female music video of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards. But Kanye West seemed to be shocked by it, believing that Beyoncé’s video for “Single Ladies” should’ve taken the prize. After jumping on stage, he infamously interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech by grabbing the microphone. What he said next would go down in awards show history. “I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time,” the rapper uttered.
Before that night, West was already considered controversial for his braggadocios ways, but he was completely vilified for interrupting Swift’s speech. “I’m soooooo sorry to Taylor Swift,” he later wrote on his website (via Spin). “I like the lyrics about being a cheerleader and she’s in the bleachers! I’m in the wrong for going on stage and taking away from her moment! Beyoncé’s video was the best of this decade!”
Of course, Swift and West didn’t know it then, but that incident would connect them for at least the next decade. They publicly made amends in 2015, but butted heads again soon after, which had to do with how West referred to Swift in his controversial song, “Famous.”
Milli Vanilli winning an award exposed a cover-up
It might be considered the Grammy Awards’ biggest scandal. In 1989, Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, better known as German-French pop group Milli Vanilli, seemed to have the perfect career. Their Girl You Know It’s True album sold 6 million copies in the United States, and spawned hits like “Blame It on the Rain” and “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” as well as the title track. Plus, their videos were all over the place. But everything would change for the duo on the night of Feb. 21, 1990, when the 32nd Grammy awards were held, and they won best new artist.
For most, winning the award would probably be a dream come true — but for Milli Vanilli, it was a complete nightmare. Why? Because it was later learned that they didn’t sing one single note on their album, and winning the award helped expose that. “Rob and I hugged each other,” Morvan told Variety in December 2020. “It may have looked like joy and happiness, but inside it was pure confusion. We knew this would come back to bite us in the butt.”
And Morvan was right, because nine months later, Milli Vanilli gave back their Grammys in a Hollywood press conference, which were already “revoked” by the former head of the Academy one day earlier, per The New York Times. The group was also dropped by Arista Records. Sadly, Pilatus died on April 3, 1998 at age 32 by accidentally overdosing on prescription pills and alcohol.
Halle Berry said that she was disappointed by her Oscar win
It could easily be surmised that winning an Oscar can take someone from being an actor who has to audition for roles, to a person who gets jobs handed to them. But perhaps surprisingly, things only got harder for Halle Berry after she won the Oscar for best actress in 2002 for Monster’s Ball. Based on her acceptance speech, she thought the award would change her career, as well as other actresses of color. “This door tonight has been opened,” said Berry, who’s the first (and so far, the only) Black woman to win in this category.
But in 2017, the Ohio native told former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Elaine Welteroth, why she was disappointed with the win. “That moment really meant nothing … I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing,” Berry explained. She also said that acting opportunities for women of color hadn’t changed much after her win.
In regards to her own career, Berry noted that the door she spoke of during her speech remained closed, and she was never given a key. “I thought, ‘Oh, all these great scripts are going to come my way; these great directors are going to be banging on my door.’ It didn’t happen,” she told Variety in September 2020. “It actually got a little harder. They call it the Oscar curse. You’re expected to turn in award-worthy performances.”
Fun. parted ways after winning a huge award
For most bands, it would be safe to assume that winning a Grammy would serve as the ultimate reason to get back into the studio and crank out another album. But that wasn’t the case for pop group Fun., who parted ways after the band received six Grammy nominations for the album, Some Nights, in 2013. The group also won best new artist. “Some Nights was a successful album and it would have been very easy for us to jump back in the studio and capitalize on our momentum,” the “We Are Young” hitmakers later wrote on their website. “But making records and touring when it’s good for business means nothing to us. We make records and tour when we are inspired to do so.”
Since Fun. stopped making music together, lead singer Nate Ruess released his debut solo album, Grand Romantic. He also reunited with his band The Format in 2020. Meanwhile, guitarist Jack Antonoff went on to crank out tunes with The Bleachers and produce for others, including none other than Taylor Swift. Third member Andrew Dost began scoring films, like 2015’s D Train.
Speaking with Forbes, Ruess talked about his decision to stop making Fun. records, comparing the move to someone climbing Mount Everest. “I’m happy if that album is a commercial peak for me. I don’t want to stay at the top and fight for oxygen,” he analogized. “I want to move down a bit where I can breathe easy and feel like myself.”
Mo'Nique went to war with three powerhouses after she won an Oscar
An Oscar may bring new professional relationships for some actors, and strengthen their connections in the film industry. But for Mo’Nique, the opposite occurred after she won best supporting actress in 2010 for her role in the film Precious. In an incredibly bold move, the actress and comedian picked a fight with none other than Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Lee Daniels — three powerhouses in entertainment — and then accused them of getting her blacklisted in Hollywood.
Per The Washington Post, Mo’Nique claimed she was rumored to be “difficult” and was ostracized by the industry after refusing to do international press for Precious, which Daniels directed and Winfrey, as well as Perry, executive produced and helped promote. “You are not paying me equally, you are not treating me fairly,” said Mo’Nique during a 2017 standup routine at New York City’s Apollo Theater. She also spoke about her problems with Daniels, Winfrey, and Perry during a stop at The View the following year. “I did all of my contractual obligations, and I was done,” she stated. “Then when I start getting calls from Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Lionsgate, and they wanted me to come work for free to go over … and promote this film internationally.”
In November 2020, during an interview on Out Loud with Claudia Jordan, Mo’Nique claimed that this powerful trio had robbed her and her family of “generational money.”
Macklemore felt guilt for winning a Grammy
Seattle rapper Macklemore had a big night for himself on Jan. 26, 2014. That’s because he received five Grammy nominations and won three, including the award for best new artist. Plus, his album with producer Ryan Lewis, The Heist, won best rap album. But the Grammy ceremony would be a mixture of celebration and guilt for Macklemore.
After the win, he apologized to fellow rapper Kendrick Lamar, who was up for seven nominations that year but didn’t win anything — leading people on the Internet to call Lamar being Grammy-less an injustice. Macklemore agreed with that assessment, based on a message he sent to Lamar. “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and it sucks that I robbed you,” typed Macklemore, who shared the text on Instagram days later.
His message caused quite the stir among music fans and celebrities. “I was like, ‘You won. Why are you posting your text message? Just chill. Take your W, and if you feel you didn’t deserve it, go get better, make better music,'” Drake, for example, later told Rolling Stone. Lamar also addressed the message in an interview with Billboard that same year. “That text surprised me, but Macklemore is a genuine dude,” he said. “He touched people’s souls, and no one can take that away.” Since The Heist, Macklemore has released another LP with Lewis called This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, as well as a solo album titled Gemini.
Cameron Diaz retired a few years after receiving an award
Cameron Diaz nabbed herself a Teen Choice Award in 2011 for her comedic role in the film Bad Teacher. Then, just three years later, she shockingly walked away from the movie industry altogether after portraying Miss Hannigan in the Razzie-winning Annie remake. The California born-actress had been making films at a rapid pace since the mid-90s, and in August 2020, she spoke with pal Gwyneth Paltrow about her decision to retire.
“I just decided that I wanted different things out of my life. I had gone so hard for so long, working, making films, and it’s such a grind. And I didn’t make any space for my personal life,” said Diaz in an interview with In Goop Health: The Sessions. “And then I decided … to stop making movies and really focus on my personal life, my personal relationships with my family, my friends. And then Benji [Madden] and I met each other and we got married pretty much immediately, because we both knew that we both had to do it.”
Diaz then said she found a “peace in [her] soul” after taking a much needed break from being in the public eye. But that doesn’t mean she’s just sitting around. In 2020, Diaz started a natural wine company with Who What Wear founder Katherine Power called Avaline (via Forbes) — and she hasn’t ruled out a return to acting completely.
Fiona Apple became known as a rebel after her VMA win
It was the acceptance speech that showed Fiona Apple is far from the cookie-cutter pop princess type and will rock the boat, even if the waves cause public ridicule. After winning MTV’s VMA for best new artist in 1997, Apple seemed to shock many when she criticized the public’s interest with celebrities. “What I want to say is, everybody out there that’s watching … this world is bulls**t,” she stated. “And you shouldn’t model your life … about what you think that we think is cool, and what we’re wearing, and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself.”
After getting lambasted by the media, the Tidal singer addressed the controversy on her website in a message that’s since been deleted. “When I won I felt like a sellout,” Apple began (via Rolling Stone). “I felt that now … all of those people who didn’t give a f**k who I was … were now all at once just humoring, appeasing me, and not because of my talent, but instead because of the fact that somehow, with the help of my record company and my makeup artist, my stylist and my press, I had successfully created the illusion that I was perfect and pretty and rich, and therefore living a higher quality of life.”
As of this writing, Apple’s latest album is the very much celebrated Fetch the Bolt Cutters, which in November 2020 received three Grammy nominations.
Adrien Brody said that this huge award win led to typecasting
When Adrien Brody won the Oscar for best actor in 2003 for playing Polish composer Władysław Szpilman in The Pianist, it looked like his career was about to soar. But the award actually grounded him, according to what he told the Independent in 2017. In that interview, Brody said that he was “perceived as this very serious, dramatic actor,” which stunted his career.
The New York native won the Academy Award at just 29 years old, and has remained the youngest actor ever to win in that coveted category. And although he performed in a long list of films after winning the golden statue, none of those roles would get him back to the Oscar stage.
Brody also spoke about his post-Oscar career during a 2014 interview with The Guardian, and seemed to take everything in stride. “There’s no guarantee that you deserve anything in this life and there are an infinite amount of gifted people that do not ever receive any opportunity or recognition,” he reasoned. “So do I have standards and hopes that I could find a caliber of material on a par with The Pianist more frequently, and collaborations with filmmakers like that more frequently? Yes. Those are out of my control for the most part.”
Andre 3000 lost confidence after scoring a Grammy win
Confidence can often be a fragile thing, and it can be broken with even the smallest negative comment. But for rapper Andre 3000, praise and commercial success seemed to shatter his confidence. In 2004, OutKast — the legendary rap group that includes Andre and Big Boi — won album of the year at the Grammys for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which included the duo’s hit single, “Hey Ya!” Not too long afterward, Andre pretty much walked away from music: OutKast released an album called Idlewild after the Grammy win, and Andre featured on other people’s songs, but his days with OutKast were pretty much all but done. He stopped touring, and eventually, even the one-off features came to a halt.
In 2019, the Georgia native spoke about why he stopped releasing music during a conversation on Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast. “My focus is not there, my confidence is not there,” he admitted to the record producer. “… I haven’t been motivated to do a serious project. I’d like to, but it’s just not coming.” Andre added, “In my own self, I’m trying to figure out, ‘Where do I sit?’ I don’t even know what I am, and maybe I’m nothing, maybe I’m not supposed to be anything. Maybe my history is kind of handicapping, in a way.”
It’s safe to say there are legions of OutKast fans who wished Andre 3000 felt differently.
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