10 Squeaky-Clean Teen Pop Stars Who Spiraled Out of Control
Fame and fortune may be the dream of many tweenagers, but stepping into the limelight at a young age isn’t without its pitfalls. Those who made it big during or even before their teenage years might feel pressure to retain the clean-cut image that made them idols to millions worldwide, or else be anxious to keep up the stellar success of their heyday. This may go some way toward explaining why certain pop stars later hit the headlines owing to altogether more alarming behavior – think drug and alcohol addictions, mental health issues and eating disorders – and all have seemed, at some point, to be spiraling out of control. Here are ten formerly squeaky-clean teen idols whose lives turned sour.
10. Justin Bieber
Once a fresh-faced boy plucked from YouTube, Justin Bieber is a figure whose exploits since achieving spectacular worldwide fame have made him less boy next door, more menace to society. The seemingly above-suspicion star’s 2010 breakthrough song “Baby” was a global hit when Bieber was just 15, and he’d scored a record-breaking five U.S. number one albums by age 19. Continuing reports of brattish behavior suggest that such success has gone to his head, though, while repeated brushes with the law have tarnished his onetime wholesome image. Chief among these incidents was a 2014 arrest for DUI in Miami, after which the active chemical in cannabis was found in his system. Bieber has also been in the news for vandalizing a wall in Brazil, making violent threats toward a photographer in London and, bizarrely, urinating into a restaurant cleaning bucket. His 2014 album Journals, meanwhile, suffered extremely disappointing sales.
9. Britney Spears
In 1998 a 16-year-old Britney Spears stormed onto the pop scene, raising eyebrows with her raunchy video for debut megahit “…Baby One More Time.” A provocative cover for Rolling Stone magazine – featuring Spears in little more than her underwear – followed in 1999, causing one Christian group to instruct “God-loving Americans to boycott stores selling Britney’s albums.” Southern Baptist-reared Spears countered by asserting her intention to remain chaste until she married. Perhaps it was the pressure of a convolutedly squeaky-clean image that led to 2003-divulged confessions of sex or her 2007 decisions to shave her head and attack a paparazzo’s vehicle with an umbrella. Spears has since been to rehab and, despite continuing to perform and record, is still under conservatorship in her thirties.
8. Aaron Carter
In 1998 British magazine TV Hits! wrote, “Aaron Carter has a squeaky-clean image, but is he really that sweet ‘n’ innocent?” In an interview with the publication, the then child star replied, “Most of the time I can truly say I am the best behaved boy in pop.” He added, however, that he does “still get in trouble now and again.” The words were prophetic: following platinum-certified albums in 2001 and 2003, Carter’s transition into adulthood was a little checkered. A police stop for speeding in 2008 revealed Carter to be in possession of marijuana. Then a year later, during a stint on Dancing with the Stars, the singer – in a bid to overcome stage fright – got addicted to Xanax. He subsequently went to rehab and in 2013 declared himself bankrupt.
7. Nick Carter
In 2009 Backstreet Boys star Nick Carter opened up to People about his problems with alcohol and drugs, claiming it was only a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, that made him reassess his substance abuse. Carter said of his decision to get healthy, “I don’t want to be that person people read about and think, ‘That’s sad that he couldn’t stop it and killed himself.’” The singer’s issues came after a stellar musical career as part of the boy band in which he achieved worldwide fame from the age of 16 with tracks such as 1997’s “(Everybody) Backstreet’s Back” and eventual global album sales topping 100 million. Back then he was, as the New York Daily News surmised, “the very embodiment of the teen-pop phenomenon[:] pretty, happy and bland.” Now, having seemingly conquered his addictions, a considerably more grown-up Carter has continued to record and tour with the Backstreet Boys.
6. Demi Lovato
Disney Channel’s 2008 made-for-TV film Camp Rock made Demi Lovato an almost overnight – and on the face of it thoroughly wholesome – star. Off the back of the movie, the then 16-year-old embarked on a pop career, with 2008 album Don’t Forget shifting more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. Behind the scenes, however, Lovato was far from well. In 2011 she told ABC News about her long struggle with eating disorder issues and self-harming. The singer also revealed that the reason she hit one of her dancers on tour boiled down to “not taking medication for depression,” adding, “I literally was so emotionally whacked out that I took it out on someone that meant a lot to me.” After a stint in rehab in 2010, Lovato returned to the spotlight and has since gone from strength to strength in her musical endeavors.
5. Leif Garrett
Teen actor Leif Garrett took advantage of his pin-up status to launch a music career back in 1977. The star’s biggest hit was the disco-styled “I Was Made for Dancin’,” though he carried on singing well into adulthood. In 1979, the same year he enjoyed his greatest U.S. chart success, Garrett crashed his vehicle, leaving the passenger permanently paralyzed. Further troubles were to come in later life, namely in the form of substance abuse. In 1999 Garrett was arrested for purportedly attempting to procure drugs from undercover police officers, and seven years on he was jailed for a substance-related offense. A 2010 stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew then saw the former teen idol reveal his drug abuse issues on TV.
4. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera followed in the footsteps of fellow Mickey Mouse Club star Britney Spears by becoming a pop sensation in 1999. Single “Genie in a Bottle,” released when Aguilera was 18, turned into an international smash hit – along with the idol’s self-titled album from which the track came. Aguilera then somewhat rebelled against her squeaky-clean Disney roots with 2002 album Stripped, whose song “Dirrty” featured provocative lyrics and an equally raunchy video. However, it wasn’t until 2011, not long after her divorce from ex-husband Jordan Bratman, that reports began to surface of Aguilera’s troubled relationship with alcohol. The star’s booze-filled antics allegedly included a globe-trotting drinking spree during 2010 film Burlesque’s press tour and getting “wasted” at a celebrity party, eventually culminating in Aguilera being taken into custody on charges of public intoxication in 2011.
3. A.J. McLean
Like fellow teen star Nick Carter, A.J. McLean has been a Backstreet Boy since 1993, with the boy band owing its success as much to its members’ clean-cut image as to their music. However, for McLean – who was only 18 when the group’s multi-platinum-selling eponymous first album was released in 1996 – fame apparently wasn’t all that wonderful. In 2001 the idol told his bandmates that he was entering rehab on account of mental health and alcohol abuse issues. Bandmate Kevin Richardson said to MTV News at the time, “It would be late, and after that he would go off on his own. He didn’t just want to go back to the room and go to bed… He was becoming a vampire.” Another stint in rehab ensued a year later, and a third spell followed in 2011 ahead of a tour with New Kids on the Block.
2. Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan’s misdemeanors have been so well documented over the past few years – partly because they’re ongoing – that it’s hard to believe she was once a Disney-friendly starlet with a burgeoning pop career. In fact, Lohan’s star-making movie roles in Freaky Friday and Mean Girls led to her debut studio album, Speak, which entered the top ten of the Billboard 200 and then in early 2005 went platinum – while Lohan was just 18. Such promise has, however, unfortunately been marred by Lohan’s wild child ways: she has been arrested for driving under the influence and has done stints in rehab and jail. Lohan continues to act, though she proved to be somewhat unreliable and disruptive while filming 2013 feature The Canyons.
1. Michael Jackson
The stage was set for Michael Jackson to become a megastar when a pre-teen, untarnished boy and his four brothers hit it big in 1970 as The Jackson 5. Released nine years later, Jackson’s fifth solo studio album, Off the Wall, launched him into the highest echelons of pop, and the subsequent success he achieved is pretty much unparalleled in modern music. His 1982 album Thriller has sold tens of millions of copies around the world, and his iconic hits and stage moves earned him the moniker “King of Pop.” During his career, however, Jackson fell into spiraling drug addiction that led to a stay in rehab in 1993 due to painkiller abuse. And although the idol was thought to have kicked that particular habit, his unforeseen death in 2009 was the result of overdosing on doctor-administered propofol, an anesthetic he depended on to battle insomnia.