Many children dream of being famous singers or movie or TV actors. But the harsh reality of having your name in lights at such a young age is nothing like the dream.
Some kids just can’t handle stardom. As these 10 stories of well-known child stars show, the riches and fame can lead kids down a path of drug addiction and other illegal behaviors. They may lose everything and ruin their young lives. It’s enough to make us reconsider whether being rich and famous is really worth it.
Born in New York City in 1986, Lindsay Lohan was first recognized by the public for her starring role as the twins in Disney’s remake of The Parent Trap. She then rose higher to fame during her roles in 2003’s Freaky Friday and 2004’s Mean Girls.
However, stardom did not do any favors for Lohan. As her fame grew, she began appearing in New York nightclubs and her life quickly devolved into a stream of negative publicity in the tabloids.
In 2007, Lohan was arrested after she crashed her Mercedes-Benz into a tree. Two months later, she was arrested again for being involved in a car chase during which she was also found to be in possession of cocaine. The result of this was two counts of driving under the influence and one count of reckless driving. She received the minimum sentence of four days in jail, although she only had to serve one.
Later in 2007, Lohan checked into rehab as required by her recent sentencing. When she was released, Lohan said that she wanted to stay sober and “out of Los Angeles.” After managing to stay clear of the press for a few years, she reappeared after being sentenced to 90 days in jail for missing a DUI hearing. In 2011, she was charged with the theft of a necklace from a jewelry store.
Since her scrapes with the law, she has managed to stay out of the tabloids aside from the time when she was bitten by a snake in Thailand in 2017. Her current projects include the Lohan Beach House club in Mykonos, Greece, and a second club in Rhodes.
Amanda Bynes appeared in her first commercial at age seven before moving on to stage productions including Annie, The Secret Garden, and The Sound of Music. Following this, she landed a role in Nickelodeon’s TV series All That while simultaneously hosting her own program The Amanda Show.
From there, her success kept growing. She soon starred in a number of roles, including her part as Holly on the WB sitcom What I Like About You. Unfortunately, her fame went to her head and she soon found her face printed on the front of tabloids for all the wrong reasons.
Shortly after her “retirement” in 2012, Bynes was involved in a car accident with a police vehicle. She was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. She was then involved in two more hit-and-run car accidents and caught driving with a suspended license after her car was impounded.
In 2013, Bynes was arrested for drug use in her New York City apartment lobby after reports that she had thrown a bong out her apartment window. For this, she was charged with reckless endangerment, drug possession, and tampering with evidence.
Later that year, she reportedly started a fire near a residential driveway in California and was placed on psychiatric hold. Later, she went into a rehabilitation center. In 2014, she appeared to have turned her life around. However, not long after getting her license back, she was charged with driving under the influence and placed on psychiatric hold again.
Fortunately for Bynes, she has finally managed to regain control of her finances and straighten out her life. She took time off from the tabloids to mend family relationships and showed interest in other hobbies, namely at a fashion design school. People Magazine has confirmed that Bynes is in a “happy and healthy place in her life” as of August 2018.
Born in December 1981 in Mississippi, Britney Spears landed her first major TV role at age 11 starring in The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. This success came after being rejected at her first audition at age eight.
In 1995, she began to focus on her music career and was quickly signed by Jive Records. They produced her first single, “ . . . Baby One More Time.” By 1999, the single had reached the top of the charts after the release of a controversial music video with Spears in a skimpy outfit.
Over the years, Spears began shedding her innocent girl image and building a mature career with which she could continue to grow. She performed her hit single “I’m a Slave 4 U” at the MTV Video Music Awards, drawing more attention as she danced with a python in a revealing costume onstage.
In 2004, Spears married a childhood friend and then annulled the marriage, all within a few days. Several months later, she married her backup dancer Kevin Federline, who had previously left his pregnant girlfriend to be with Spears. In 2005, they announced that their first child would be born in April of that year. From there, Spears’s life quickly went downhill.
In 2006, she was caught driving with her son on her lap. This led to national headlines questioning her ability to be a parent. She was accused of sending horrible messages to her fans despite her excuse that she was merely trying to get away from paparazzi.
She gave birth to their second son only two months before filing for divorce from her husband. Then she began hanging out at the club scene and reportedly checking in and out of rehabilitation. In 2007, Spears shaved her head before checking into a treatment center.
Shortly after she released another single to attempt a comeback, she was charged with a hit-and-run accident in a local parking lot. She underwent a psychiatric evaluation and spent some time in the hospital before making her debut in a triumphant return.
In 2008, she released her next album, Circus, which made it to the top of the charts and marked the beginning of her comeback. She then took a role as a judge for the popular singing show, The X Factor, before heading back into the music scene to work with big names like Iggy Azalea. She appeared to be fully recovered as she ventured on her #PieceOfMe tour.
Brian Bonsall was born in 1981 in California and grew up acting in Hollywood from a very young age. From 3–14 years old, he played roles in a variety of shows and movies, including Family Ties, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the Disney film Blank Check.
In 1995, Bonsall took a break from acting and attended high school in Colorado. There, his passion for punk music developed. He began performing in punk bands, including Late Bloomers and Thruster.
Unfortunately, his life took a turn for the worse as he was arrested for driving under the influence. In 2007, he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend and pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. This resulted in a two-year probation sentence.
However, this didn’t mark the end of Bonsall’s troubles. Between 2007 and 2010, he was arrested on a number of drug possession and minor assault charges that were all highly publicized due to his stardom. In 2009, he beat a friend over the head with a broken wooden stool while under the influence and was given another two years’ probation after being charged with felony menacing and third-degree assault.
Now living in Boulder, Colorado, he is pursuing a career in music by playing rhythm guitar in Lowjob, a local punk rock band. He is also a part of acoustic duo Bootjack & Bonz.
Born in 1975, Drew Barrymore landed a major role at age six in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Her career exploded in the 1990s as she starred in Poison Ivy, Guncrazy, Bad Girls, and Boys on the Side.
She also developed a vast character portfolio by starring in low-key films like The Wedding Singer, Ever After: A Cinderella Story, Never Been Kissed, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. She became one of the most talented actresses of her generation. However, life hasn’t always been easy for Drew Barrymore.
At age nine, her mother started taking Drew to nightclubs during the absence of her alcoholic father. It was in these years that a young Barrymore became familiar with the effects of drugs and alcohol. At just 13, she violently attacked her mother in an attempt to throw her out of the house. As a result, Drew was placed in a rehabilitation center.
After a subsequent suicide attempt, she went back to rehab and returned to her home life completely sober at age 14. To try to reclaim her life, she filed successfully for emancipation at 15 and moved into her own apartment with a job at a local coffee shop.
Drew took another wrong turn at age 19 by posing naked for the infamous magazine Playboy. Following the issue’s release, she received a quilt and a note from Steven Spielberg for her 20th birthday telling her to cover up. The note was accompanied by Photoshopped images from the magazine which had been edited to have clothes on them.
This triggered her journey to cleaning up her act for good. She now has a balanced life and is extremely successful in the film industry. Drew discusses her dark history in her autobiography, Little Girl Lost.
Born in 1986 in California, Shia LaBeouf is best known for his starring role as Sam Witwicky in the Transformers movies. He began his career by doing stand-up comedy in his hometown before being inspired by a friend in the film industry. LaBeouf instantly began looking for an agent and auditioning for parts.
As well as his Transformers role, he is also known for his parts in Disney Channel’s Even Stevens and in the 2003 movie Holes. He won a Daytime Emmy Award for his performance with Disney which sparked the beginning of an incredible career. However, he also had a troubled childhood.
Coming from a financially unstable family, LaBeouf suffered mental and verbal abuse at the hands of his father, who had developed a substance abuse problem. While it is said that this drove LaBeouf’s desire to be in the entertainment industry, the abuse must have taken its toll on such a small child.
In 2005, at age 19, he was arrested and charged with assault after he threatened his neighbor with a kitchen knife. LaBeouf then proceeded to ram the neighbor’s car with his own, claiming the neighbor was blocking LaBeouf’s path to the garage.
In 2007, he was arrested again after being asked by security to leave a Walgreens store and refusing to do so. Following this incident, he failed to appear in court and faced a $500 fine.
Not long after this, he was involved in a car crash and required three surgeries to fix his hand. He faced charges for driving under the influence and had his license suspended. Unfortunately, the last time LaBeouf appeared in the media was due to plagiarism accusations involving three graphic novels he had written.
Born in 1992 in Albuquerque, Demi Lovato landed her first role as a child star alongside Selena Gomez in Barney & Friends. From there, she was cast in a part on Disney Channel’s As the Bell Rings before landing the starring role in the Camp Rock series. It was during the filming of Camp Rock that she found her passion for recording, and since then, she has climbed the music charts.
In 2008, not long after Camp Rock wrapped, Lovato began filming Princess Protection Program, another Disney movie, with her good friend Selena Gomez. Then Lovato landed her own Disney TV show, Sonny with a Chance, which ran until 2011.
While rising in the film industry, Lovato was also climbing the music ladder with her albums Don’t Forget and Unbroken. From there, her stardom was ever growing. But what did we miss along the way?
While on tour with the Jonas Brothers in 2008, Lovato began using cocaine. She has since admitted that she couldn’t go more than an hour without it. Due to this addiction, she would smuggle drugs onto planes, doing lines in her seat while neighboring passengers slept or using drugs in the bathrooms.
Despite her growing substance abuse problem, she was still compassionate. In 2009, she teamed up with Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers to record a single to raise money for charity.
In 2011, she accepted that she had a problem and admitted herself to rehab where she was treated for bulimia, self-mutilation, and “self-medicating” with drugs and alcohol. It was during her rehabilitation that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
After sobering up in 2013, she detailed her experiences in a book, Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year, in an attempt to help other young people struggling with addiction. She states that this book provides young readers with “lessons, meditations, reflections, and daily goals.”
Justin Bieber was born in 1994 and raised in Ontario, Canada. Growing up, he always had an interest in music. Bieber taught himself to play a number of instruments, including guitar, drums, piano, and trumpet.
His rise to stardom began when his mother started posting videos of Justin performing on YouTube. His account grew, and people fell in love with him. Eventually, his videos caught the attention of talent agent Scooter Braun. The agency helped a young Bieber to obtain a record deal.
His first single, “One Time,” was released in 2009 and became a worldwide hit, going platinum in Canada and the US. This was quickly followed by the release of his debut album, My World, which was also successful on an international level. My World 2.0 was released in 2010 along with his concert film, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. However, the fame went to his head and his behavior became questionable.
His first run-in with the law came in 2011 when Bieber was just a teen. A woman claimed in a lawsuit that the 17-year-old star was the father of her child. Fortunately, DNA tests proved the pop star’s innocence and the lawsuit was quickly dropped. This was merely the beginning.
In 2013, Bieber was accused of spitting on his neighbor after making threatening comments. Shortly after, there were a number of complaints about his dangerous driving in the residential area. Later that year, he was in the press again after he was recorded urinating in public and yelling obscenities about former President Bill Clinton.
Bieber’s last big run-in with the law was in 2014 when he was arrested for drag racing and driving under the influence. He remained in custody until he was able to post bail and was further charged with resisting arrest.
Aaron Carter, brother of Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, was born in 1987 and followed his older brother into the music industry. At age seven, Aaron began as lead singer for the band Dead End before making his solo debut as the opening act for the Backstreet Boys two years later. The performance landed him a record contract, which led to the release of his first single, “Crush on You.”
In 1997, his first album was released and went gold in Norway, Spain, Denmark, Canada, and Germany. His next album, Aaron’s Party, was released in 2000. A huge success, it reached triple-platinum certification in the US. His music career also opened a number of doors in the acting industry, where he landed roles in Lizzie McGuire, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and 7th Heaven. But scandals were going on behind all this success.
In 2008, Carter was arrested for speeding in Texas and the police found marijuana in his car. In 2009, Carter secured a place on Dancing with the Stars. However, his stage fright led him to become addicted to Xanax, which he was using to relieve his anxiety.
Three years later, still addicted to the prescription drug, he was coerced to enter a rehabilitation program by his brother, Nick, and their mother. Unfortunately, it was the death of his sister from a drug overdose which drove him to sobriety in 2012. In 2013, he filed for bankruptcy to clear his $3.5 million of debt. He is now clean and back on track financially.
Macaulay Culkin is one of the most renowned US child stars. He was born in 1980 in New York City and came into contact with showbiz at age four by appearing in a number of Off-Broadway shows. At age eight, he appeared in the films Rocket Gibraltar and See You in the Morning.
In 1990, he starred in his greatest film, Home Alone, directed by Chris Columbus. Home Alone became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time and resulted in a sequel.
At age 14, Culkin starred in a number of low-rated films. The public became skeptical as to whether the child star, who was the highest-paid star of his age, had already peaked. This led to questionable behaviors by Culkin which further tarnished his once-perfect reputation.
The lead-up to his role in the sequel of Home Alone resulted in allegations that his father, Kit Culkin, was mismanaging his fortune. This was later confirmed as his parents entered into a custody battle during which it seemed that they were more interested in their son’s fortune than in their son.
In 2004, Culkin was arrested for possession of 17.3 grams of marijuana along with a stash of other controlled substances. Culkin was “demonized” by the press for his drug use despite the many other child stars who had spiraled much further than he ever did.
For a while, Culkin performed with a Velvet Underground parody band called Pizza Underground. They performed covers of songs featuring lyric changes about the topic of pizza.
Traveler and aspiring freelance journalist. Check out my stories on Medium. Contact me for collaboration at [email protected] or on Twitter.