It’s not always the star that pays the price of fame. Sometimes, when an actor climbs the ladder of success, they have to leave their old lives on the ground. Unfortunately, that can include their non-celebrity spouses. After all, aren’t actors always saying that only other actors can truly understand the lifestyle?
Of course, starter marriages aren’t just for the rich and famous. In this day and age, it’s not at all uncommon for couples in any profession to get divorced. It’s especially prevalent among couples who married young. Not that normalcy makes it any easier on the people who get left behind. It can be harder still if there are children involved.
The celebrities on this list had a variety of reasons for leaving their first loves. At times, they were seduced by the glamor of fame and wanted a shiny new spouse to match. A few felt they could no longer relate to someone who wasn’t in showbiz. Others simply fell in love with their co-stars. But one thing they all have in common is that their divorce just happened to coincide with their success.
Here are 18 Actors Who Left Their Normal Spouses When They Got Famous.
18 Jennifer Lopez
If you've never heard of Ojani Noa, it’s not for his lack of trying. Since their 1997 divorce, Jennifer Lopez’ first husband has worked very hard at monetizing his heartbreak.
Noa discussed his first love at length on Million Dollar Matchmaker. Though their marriage lasted less than a year, the former waiter took it hard when it ended. “She made the choice of her career instead of me… My heart was broken in many pieces… I was looking forward to being with her for the rest of my life.”
In 2006, Lopez successfully sued Noa to stop him from publishing a tell-all book about their time together. The suit awarded Lopez $545K. The court also ordered Noa to hand over all copies of his manuscript and forbade him from “criticizing, denigrating, casting in a negative light or otherwise disparaging” his famous ex.
17 Robin Williams
Robin Williams met Valerie Velardi in 1976 when he was bartending and working the San Francisco comedy scene. In fact, it was Velardi who encouraged Williams to pursue comedy as a career. Not long after, Williams broke out when he played a screwball alien on Happy Days and then on his own sitcom, Mork & Mindy.
By 1988, the 35-year-old Good Morning, Vietnam actor was a household name. Sadly, he repaid his wife’s devotion by knocking up the nanny and divorcing Velardi. He married Marsha Garces less than a year later, telling press that Marsha was “the one who makes my heart sing.” Garces also worked as Williams’ personal assistant and secretary for many years, until he left her for an artist named Susan Schneider. He was still with Schneider when he died in 2014.
16 Meghan Markle
The actress-turned-princess was once married to a production assistant-turned-producer named Trevor Engelson. Meghan and Trevor met in 2004 and married 7 years later in a four-day celebration in Jamaica, but they split just 2 years later.
The couple cited “irreconcilable differences” (because you can’t put “too busy getting famous” on divorce papers) before going their separate ways. Markle had landed her breakout role on Suits just months before their wedding and it changed the dynamic of their relationship. Trevor worked in L.A. and Meghan was shooting Suits in Toronto.
When Markle fell in love with Prince Harry, she was determined not to let her career get in the way of her second marriage. She has retired from acting to focus on her new life as literal royalty.
15 Will Smith
Smith met Jada Pinkett when she auditioned for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in 1994. Though she wasn’t cast (on the grounds that she was too short for him) they had real-life chemistry and started dating a year later.
One person who wasn’t especially happy for them was Will’s then-wife, Sheree Zampino. Smith had married the fashion designer in 1991, a year after he landed the starring role on his own sitcom. They had a son together named Trey.
Before the ink was dry on their divorce papers, Will and Jada were a hot item, and wound up marrying two years later. In a rare case of Hollywood longevity, they are still married today, and have 2 children, Willow and Jaden.
14 Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart and his then-girlfriend Torrie dropped out of college together to pursue careers in show business. Along the way, they had 2 children together. But when Hart got famous and Torrie didn’t, he wasted no time in ditching his wife and baby mama for Eniko Parrish. Hart still denies that he cheated on Torri, blaming his failed marriage on youthful indiscretion. He also quipped, "At the same time, that was when I was in the prime of my sexy, so don't blame me. That's when I was figuring it out."
The Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle actor was apparently still figuring it out a few years later. He was caught on camera cheating on Parrish while she was pregnant with their baby.
13 Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp married makeup artist Lori Allison in 1983, one year before he landed his breakout role in A Nightmare on Elm Street. He was just 20-years-old when he met Lori through his band’s bass player. Lori happened to know Nicolas Cage, who encouraged Johnny to pursue acting and scored him an agent.
Lori and Johnny divorced in 1985 just as he hit the big time as Officer Tom Hanson on the hit cop drama, 21 Jump Street. Depp became a teen idol and serial fiancé, engaged to actresses Sherilyn Fenn, Jennifer Grey, Winona Ryder, and Kate Moss. His longest relationship was 14 years with actress Vanessa Paradis, whom he never married.
Though he finally tied the knot with Amber Heard in 2015, that relationship went up in flames - Heard filed for divorce in May 2017 and accused Depp of abuse.
12 Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone was married to first wife Sasha Czack from 1974 to 1985 and they had 2 sons. In 1976, Sly hit it big with Rocky. Czack even took part in production, manning the camera, shooting stills, and had a cameo as a smitten fan. Czack and Stallone had 2 children and she stuck with him through 3 Rockys and 2 Rambos.
But when Czack was 35, Sly left her for his Rocky IV co-star, 22-year-old model and actress Brigitte Nielsen. They married later that year and were together for 2 years. After another quick turnaround, Stallone took up with an extra from Rocky V, 19-year-old Jennifer Flavin. Despite a brief breakup, Flavin and Stallone are still married and have 3 children.
11 Harrison Ford
In 1964, the high school football star married a cheerleader named Mary Marquardt. Ford worked as a carpenter until, after 12 years of marriage and 2 kids, the 34-year-old got his big break in acting. While shooting Star Wars, Ford had a brief and clandestine affair with his 19-year-old co-star, Carrie Fisher. The movie was a hit and made Ford an instant movie star. 2 years later, Ford divorced Mary and married his second wife, E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison.
Harrison later lamented, “My greatest regret is the failure of my first marriage and the pain that it caused." But Marquardt isn’t bitter and says that Harrison has more than made up for any heartache, saying, “Harrison has stood by me, quietly asking for nothing in return, through my darkest days...” Harrison and current wife Calista Flockhart have long-supported Marquardt, who suffers from M.S.
10 Justin Theroux
Jennifer Aniston is no stranger to the pain of infidelity but that didn’t stop her from falling for someone who was unavailable. Despite calling Brad Pitt “uncool” for allegedly cheating on her with Angelina Jolie, the Friends star wounding up getting involved with her married Wanderlust co-star.
Theroux’s partner of 14 years, costume designer Heidi Bivens, didn’t learn about the affair until Justin informed her that he was moving in with Jen. Rumors of their affair had dominated the press for months, and Bivens was heartbroken to have them confirmed the hard way. Not without remorse, and perhaps plagued by a sense of hypocrisy, Aniston later sat down with Biens to apologize for how it all went down.
9 Ted Danson
When the Cheers star met Whoopi Goldberg on the set of the 1992 comedy, Made in America, he’d been married to interior designer Casey Coates for 15 years. Coates and Danson were high school sweethearts with 2 children. The birth of their oldest daughter had left Coates paralyzed.
But Whoopi was an American treasure known for her madcap comedy chops, and the Jumpin’ Jack Flash actress swept Danson off his feet. Danson declared himself smitten, saying, “I’d walk in Whoopi’s shadow for the rest of my life.” He didn’t though. A year later, Goldberg and Danson were over.
As it happens, it was all for the best. Not long after, Danson met actress Mary Steenburgen and the two are still together almost 20 years later.
8 Steve Harvey
The Family Feud host claims that he’d never set foot in a comedy club before the night he won first place and $50 in an amateur competition. The next day, Steve Harvey quit his insurance sales job to pursue his new dream. That’s all well and good for a single man, but at the time, Harvey had a wife and twin daughters. He made only $3000 his first year as a comedian. Still, Marcia and the girls stuck by him while he spent 3 years on the road living out of his car and sending money home.
1994 was a big year for Harvey. He landed a sitcom and finalized his divorce from Marcia. He eventually made enough money to support his old family, his new wife, Mary, and their son. The Steve Harvey Show star is currently on his third wife, Marjorie.
7 Lance Armstrong
When Kristin Richard met Lance Armstrong, he was already in the midst of his famous battle with cancer. But she wasn’t at all daunted by his illness and vowed to stand by him in sickness and in health. Unfortunately, the pro cyclist didn’t feel the same.
When Kristin married Lance, she quit her job and moved with him to France, raising their three children while Armstrong focused on his career. He would go on to win a record 7 consecutive Tour de France titles. But after 5 years together, Lance filed for divorce and hooked up with singer Sheryl Crow.
Kristin told The New York Times she’s comforted that Lance left her for someone famous. “If he was dating someone just like me, now that would be much tougher… But his new life has nothing to do with me.”
6 Eddie Cibrian
Before Brandi Glanville was known for The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she was unknown as Eddie Cibrian’s wife and the mother of their 2 children. But in 2009, the Third Watch actor flushed 9 years of marriage down the tubes when he fell for his (also married) Northern Lights co-star, LeAnn Rimes.
Glanville detailed the humiliation in her book, Drinking & Tweeting and Other Brandi Blunders. She insists that she confronted Eddie about his affair on several occasions, but he maintained his innocence until the day he left. After filing divorce papers with Glanville, Cibrian promptly married Rimes.
Cibrian’s ex claims that she still gets down with her baby daddy on occasion and that his marriage to the country singer will be over by 2021.
Before she entered the public eye as a contestant on The Apprentice, the frequently mononymous entrepreneur was married for 5 years to a man named Aaron Stallworth. They divorced in 2005, just as Omarosa became a household name. She later expressed regret about their breakup to People Magazine. "I wasn't as supportive to him as I could have been... He’s home on the ranch [in Texas] and I’m in L.A. working on several projects.”
Manigault later worked as a White House aid for President Donald Trump and married a pastor named John Allen Newman. She’s currently in the news claiming that she has scathing recordings she made while working in the White House. When she was abruptly fired for undisclosed reasons, Stallworth responded on Twitter with a series of snarky memes.
4 Dwyane Wade
When Dwyane Wade began dating actress Gabriel Union, the Cleveland Cavalier point guard was still married to Siohvaughn Funches. Wade met Funches when she was 15. They married one year before he was signed to the Miami Heat on a three-year, $8.5 million contract. At the time, Wade and Funches were broke and lived in Marquette, Wisconsin in a tiny apartment with their infant son.
Four years and another baby later, they landed in the midst of an ugly divorce that would take years to finalize. Despite experts testifying that Funches was a wonderful mother, the courts awarded full custody to Wade. Funches believes, “Celebrity had a lot to do with it. Money had a lot to do with it.” She also told the MailOnline, “If I had to choose between the money and the love, I would have chosen the love. But I can’t choose.”
Mo’Nique’s most famous relationship is the once-open marriage she has with Sidney Hicks. But before her star-making role on The Parkers, she was married to a man named Mark Jackson and they had a son, Shalon. She told TV One, “[Sidney Hicks] is my third marriage. [With] the first two marriages, I was chasing [fame] and really didn’t understand what it is to be a wife.”
The same year Mo’Nique divorced Jackson, she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in the film Two Can Play at That Game. By the time she reconnected with her childhood friend, Sidney Hicks, the Precious actress felt she had learned a thing or two about how to make a marriage work.
2 Bruce Springsteen
The Boss met Patti Scialfa, his wife of 27 years, when he hired her in 1985 as a backup singer for the E Street Band. It was the same year Bruce married a different woman named Julianne Phillips. Julianne gave up her life to tour with the band, supporting Bruce from backstage.
But by the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express Tour, people noticed Bruce and Patti getting cuddly onstage and off. Springsteen divorced Phillips in 1989, and married Scialfa 2 years later. He felt that Patti understood the rock and roll lifestyle better than Juli who “liked to stay in, make popcorn, watch TV and have some dinner.”
Through Bruce and Patti are still married, Bruce expressed regret about how he left things with his first wife, saying, “I didn’t protect Juli... I handled it badly and I still feel badly about it.”
1 Morgan Freeman
Legendary Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman was married to a woman named Jeanette Adair Bradshaw from 1967 to 1979. Together, they had two sons named Saifoulaye and Alfonso. Bradshaw brought along a daughter, Deena, from a previous relationship.
On the record, the reason for their divorce is unspecified, but right around that time, Freeman gained notoriety as Easy Reader on the popular children’s program The Electric Company. He married costume designer Myrna Colley-Lee in 1984 and his star continued to rise.
In 2009, Colley-Lee filed for divorce amid rumors that Freeman was having an affair with Deena’s 27-year-old daughter E’Dina. Though Freeman vehemently denied the allegations that he was sleeping with his step-granddaughter, Colley-Lee ended up with one of the biggest divorce settlements in Hollywood history.
Do you know of any other actors who left their non-famous spouses after they hit it big? Let us know in the comments!
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