As the 2010s come to an end, ET is looking back on 20 of the biggest stories that captured the world’s attention, from Miley Cyrus twerking up a storm at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards to Beyoncé making history at Coachella. In between, Kardashian wasted no time breaking the internet while her stepdad came out as a transgender woman and publicly documented her transition. And then there are the Royals: With Prince William and Prince Harry all grown up, the two have sparked renewed interest in the family with their own landmark weddings. And while many were rocked by unexpected deaths of music icons, the downfall of Hollywood titans and pushback against the industry’s lack of diversity marked major positive shifts and changes worldwide.
March 2010: Sandra Bullock’s Marriage to Jesse James Rocked by Affair Claims Shortly After Her Oscar Win
On March 7, 2010, Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar — Best Actress for The Blind Side — cementing a comeback that began with the box office success of The Proposal. The career high, however, was met with a personal low for the actress when rumours that her then-husband, TV personality Jesse James, had multiple affairs with other women. By March 17, Bullock had pulled out of the European promotional tour for the film “due to unforeseen personal reasons.” A day later, James issued a public apology to his wife and kids, stating, “The vast majority of the allegations reported are untrue and unfounded… There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me. It’s because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way.” Despite efforts to save his relationship with Bullock, she filed for divorce from James a month later. Their divorce was finalized by the end of June, with the former couple citing a “conflict of personalities” for the demise of their marriage.
July 2010: Lindsay Lohan Spends Half a Decade In and Out of Court, Jail and Oprah Winfrey’s Watch
While her downfall started in the mid-aughts, Lindsay Lohan’s legal issues spilled over into the next decade as her personal struggles continued to be tabloid fodder. In July 2010, she began a 90-day jail sentence after violating the terms of her probation. After 14 days, she was released due to overcrowding. In February, she was charged with grand theft for allegedly stealing a necklace. She was placed under house arrest and required to complete community service. In June 2012, Lohan got into a car accident on the way to the set of the Lifetime film Liz & Dick and pleaded no contest to misdemeanour charges that stemmed from the incident. A year later, she moved to New York City and began filming an Oprah Winfrey-produced docuseries about her life after rehab. In May 2015 she completed her required community service, making it the first time in eight years that she was free of probation.
April 2011: Prince William and Kate Middleton Get Married in the First Royal Wedding of the Decade
After seven years of dating, Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged in October 2010, kicking off months of anticipation leading up to the first wedding for Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana’s two sons. On April 29, 2011, the couple got married at Westminster Abbey in London in front of 1,900 guests, including David and Victoria Beckham, Sir Elton John, director Guy Ritchie and Olympian Ian Thorpe. Meanwhile, the ceremony was broadcast in 180 countries, with at least 22 million people in the United States watching live on TV in the wee hours of the morning. The bride wore an Alexander McQueen satin dress with a lace bodice and a 1936 Cartier Scroll Tiara lent to her by the Queen. While Middleton’s look became iconic, her sister, Pippa, became the breakout star thanks to the sleek, form-fitting McQueen dress she wore as the maid of honour.
October 2011: Kim Kardashian Files For Divorce From Kris Humphries After 72 Days of Marriage
Kim Kardashian is no stranger to breaking the internet. The reality TV star and media mogul (and her sprawling family) has defined the 2010s with her many ups and downs documented both in headlines around the world, and the hit series Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But if there’s one moment that set things off for Kardashian, it’s her highly publicized marriage to basketball player Kris Humphries. First engaged in May 2011, the couple got married on Aug. 20. Their nuptials — which reportedly cost $10 million — were documented on a two-part TV special. On Oct. 31, Kardashian surprised everyone by filing for divorce from Humphries after 72 days of marriage. Her love lost was short-lived. Kardashian eventually started dating Kanye West and the two got married in a lavish Italian wedding in 2013. They have since had four kids together and are still going strong.
February 2012: Whitney Houston Unexpectedly Dies and, Years Later, Kristina Bobbi Brown Is Found Unconscious
On Feb. 11, 2012, Whitney Houston was found unconscious in the bathtub of a Beverly Hilton Hotel suite. She died — at the age of 48 — one day before the 54th GRAMMY Awards. In the month that followed, it was revealed that her death was caused by drowning and the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.” Three years later, on Jan. 31, 2015, Houston’s daughter and sole beneficiary of her estate, Kristina Bobbi Brown, was found face-down in her Alpharetta, Georgia, home bathtub. She was immediately placed in an induced coma by doctors and would stay that way until July 26, when she died in hospice care at the age of 22.
June 2012: Katie Holmes Leaves Tom Cruise After Five Years of Marriage
Despite a whirlwind romance and the celebrity nickname TomKat, Katie Holmes surprised everyone when she filed for divorce from husband Tom Cruise on June 29, 2012. “Tom is very sad about it,” his attorney said in a statement. The unexpected separation came five and a half years after a star-studded wedding ceremony in Bracciano, Italy, on Nov. 18, 2006, and just 13 days after the couple was photographed together in Iceland, where Cruise was filming the sci-fi action film Oblivion. Ten days after Holmes filed for the divorce, attorneys for the former couple announced they had signed a settlement, with Holmes getting custody of their daughter Suri. This marked Holmes’ first divorce and the third for Cruise, who was previously married to Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman. (Coincidentally, the divorce was filed the same day Adele announced she was pregnant with her first child.)
August 2013: Miley Cyrus Twerks During the 2013 MTV VMAs
When the singer reemerged in June 2013 with “We Can’t Stop” — her first single in three years — a new Miley Cyrus had been born. Racing to the top of the charts, the single was officially the song of the summer by the time she performed it live at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 25 during a sexually charged medley with Robin Thicke and Kendrick Lamar. It’s easy to forget the other two performers were on stage with Cyrus, who stripped down to a nude bikini and let her surprisingly long tongue hang out as she aggressively twerked for the audience. The performance quickly became the most talked-about moment of the night, with The Hollywood Reporter writing that it was “reminiscent of a bad acid trip” at the time. Meanwhile, more than 150 people filed official complaints with the FCC. On Sept. 4, in an interview with MTV, Cyrus addressed her critics by saying the performance was nothing short of expected. “Madonna’s done it, Britney’s done it. Every VMA performance. Anyone that performs, that’s what you’re looking for. You are wanting to make history.”
April 2014: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Finally Tie the Knot, but End Up Splitting Two Years Later
In April 2012, after seven years together, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — more commonly known then as Brangelina — announced that they were engaged. More than two years later, on Aug. 23, 2014, the couple finally got married in a private ceremony in Château Miraval, France. Despite their decade-long relationship and six kids — Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne — together, Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt in September 2016. As GQ put it less than a year later, “it wasn’t just a public-relations crisis — there was a father suddenly deprived of his kids, a husband without [a] wife.” When asked about what he had gone through the previous six months — from the divorce to quitting drinking and living on his own — before the interview, Pitt said “it would have come knocking, no matter what.”
January 2015: #OscarsSoWhite Pushes Back Against the Academy Awards’ Lack of Diverse Nominees
Following a notable year at the Oscars, when 12 Years a Slave and Lupita Nyong’o won major awards during the 86th annual ceremony, the nominees for 2015 Academy Awards included no actors of color in any of the categories, while female directors and filmmakers of color were also overlooked. Twitter quickly pushed back with the launch of the hashtag #Oscars So White, which forced the Academy and media alike to shine a light on the ongoing lack of diversity among the nominees. The following year, again there were no nominees of color among the acting categories, prompting changes within the Academy. By the 2017 Oscars, Moonlight unexpectedly beat out La La Land for Best Picture while multiple African-American actors were nominated and won. In the years since there’s been increasing diversity across all categories with women and African-American creatives making history at the 2019 Oscars. But then again, the divisive Green Book won Best Picture in 2019.
April 2015: Caitlyn Jenner Comes Out as a Transgender Woman
During an interview with Diane Sawyer on 20/20, the former Olympian, longtime reality star and patriarch of the Kardashian-Jenner family came out as a transgender woman. In a candid conversation, Caitlyn Jenner opened up about her battle with gender dysphoria, years of cross-dressing while presenting as a man, and her marriages to Kris Jenner and other women. A month later, she revealed her new name and image on the cover of Vanity Fair and openly discussed her transition in an interview with Buzz Bissinger. The following year, her ongoing journey as a transgender woman and coming out to her family and friends was documented on the reality series I Am Cait. In a conversation with ET around the one-year anniversary of her coming out, Jenner reflected on the past year. “After it was over with and we were six months after it, I thought, ‘What did we accomplish with that and then Vanity Fair and then the show and all that sort of stuff?’” she recalled. “What we did is we opened up the conversation. We started a conversation about a small segment of our population. [There are people] out there that have been persecuted. The suicide rate is so high. People don’t understand the difference between transgender, sexuality, and homosexuality. They just don’t get it and we started this conversation. And for the last year, it’s been the most amazing year of people coming up and talking about this issue. It’s been great. It really has been.”
February 2016: Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s Ongoing Feud Reignites
While things first started between Taylor Swift and Kanye West in 2009, when the rapper grabbed the mic from the country singer during the MTV VMAs, their feud continued throughout the following decade and became one of ET’s “biggest celebrity feuds and epic clapbacks of the 2010s.” Notably, lines were drawn again when West released the song “Famous,” which featured a disparaging lyric about Swift. Although the rapper claimed that he had gotten her approval ahead of time, Swift didn’t take kindly to the mention and swung back at the 2016 GRAMMYs. Their feud would then continue with West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, getting into the fray; the release of Swift’s 2017 album, Reputation; and subsequent high-profile interviews in Vogue and Rolling Stone. In a cover story for the latter, she revealed that “all I ever wanted my whole career after that thing happened in 2009 was for him to respect me.”
April 2016: Prince Collapses and Dies at Age 57
Legendary musician Prince died unexpectedly at his Paisley Park residence after he was found unconscious on the morning of April 21, 2016. The tragic news came just one week after a private jet carrying the singer was forced to make an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, where Prince was rushed to a nearby hospital and treated for the flu. A rep for the singer confirmed at the time that Prince had been flown home and was recovering after a brief hospitalization. Months after his death, it was revealed the singer had died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Following the autopsy, his remains were cremated and placed into an urn that is on display in an atrium of the Paisley Park complex.
November 2016: Donald Trump Goes From Reality Star to President of the United States
In 2003, longtime businessman Donald Trump became an executive producer and host of The Apprentice, making him a bona fide, top-rated reality TV star. Over a decade later, he went from the boardroom to the White House after launching his highly controversial, mockable — see Alec Baldwin’s Emmy-winning run on Saturday Night Live — and headline-grabbing 2016 presidential campaign, eventually beating out Hillary Clinton for president of the United States. His campaign and subsequent administration had no shortage of reality stars, with former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault becoming director of African American Outreach and Kim Kardashian West getting one-on-one access to lobby on behalf of the criminal injustice.
May 2017: Ariana Grande Manchester Concert Bombing Kills 23
In one of the deadliest terror attacks in the United Kingdom since the 2005 London bombings, a suicide bomber attacked a Manchester arena following an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017. A total of 23 people died with 139 wounded, while the singer was left traumatized in the months following the concert. “I don’t think I’ve been through anything as traumatic as [what] we’ve been through,” she said later in an interview with Coveteur about continuing her worldwide Dangerous Woman Tour in the wake of the attack. “For the crew and everyone involved, it’s become more than just a show for us.” Less than a month later, she headlined the One Love Manchester benefit concert, raising over $9 million for the Red Cross.
October 2017: Harvey Weinstein’s History of Alleged Sexual Misconduct Exposed
One of the biggest scandals to ever rock Hollywood broke on Oct. 5, 2017, when the New York Times published its explosive exposé detailing decades of alleged sexual misconduct and abuse levelled against Harvey Weinstein, one of the industry’s biggest and brashest power players at the time. As allegations grew in intensity — with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd speaking out — the tidal wave of reckoning crested and broke, rolling out beyond the boundaries of show business with the proliferation of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The initial controversy was followed by fiery denials from Weinstein and his legal team and then highly publicized efforts to seek treatment. After a divorce, the near-complete dissolution of the production company bearing his name, a list of accusers spanning two continents and serious questions about his legal future, Weinstein was arrested nearly six months after the Times‘ first report and was indicted by a grand jury on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act. His legal battle is still ongoing.
April 2018: Beyonce Makes History as the First African-American Woman to Headline Coachella
During back-to-back weekends in April 2018, Beyonce made history as the first African-American woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. She marked her appearance with a show-stopping performance that paid tribute to historically black colleges and universities, joined onstage by a marching band, dancers, step performers, her former Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, husband Jay-Z and sister Solange Knowles. “It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction” wrote New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica. Dubbed Beychella, the event marked her triumphant return to the stage after giving birth to twins — and the journey was captured on video in a revealing Netflix documentary, Homecoming, along with the surprise release of an accompanying live album.
April 2018: Bill Cosby Charged in Sexual Assault Case After More Than 50 Women Come Forward With Allegations of Misconduct
On April 26, 2018, longtime comedian and actor Bill Cosby was found guilty on three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault stemming from a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater, Temple University. The jury reached a verdict in court in Norristown, Pennsylvania, during a retrial after the first trial on the same charges ended with a deadlocked jury. These were the first criminal charges leveraged against the Cosby Show star after more than 50 women — including Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson — came forward, accusing him of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. The alleged incidents date as far back as 1969, though Cosby has denied all wrongdoing. In September, he was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison and has been behind bars ever since.
May 2018: Meghan Markle Goes From ‘Suits’ Actress to American Princess
After five years of co-starring on the USA series Suits, Meghan Markle began dating Prince Harry in June 2016. As soon as their relationship went public, the two became headline staples, with every moment of their romance documented along the way. In November 2017, the two announced their engagement with a wedding date set for May 19, 2018. A month before the star-studded ceremony at St George’s Chapel in Windsor — with notable guests including Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams — Markle made her final appearance on Suits in the season seven finale, in which her character gets married before leaving the show. Meanwhile, Harry and Markle’s wedding was a TV event, with a reported 29 million people watching live in the U.S. In the time since, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have continued to capture the attention of the world with various tours of the Commonwealth, the birth of their first son, Archie, and bucking of royal traditions.
January 2019: Jussie Smollett Allegedly Fakes a Hate Crime Attack Against Himself
On Jan. 29, 2019, news broke that Empire star Jussie Smollett had been the victim of an alleged racist and homophobic attack on the streets of Chicago outside his apartment. ET confirmed soon after the incident that Smollett had told police that he was approached by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, and at one point wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance — believed to be bleach — on him. Immediately, friends, family and Hollywood colleagues came to his support as details continued to emerge. In the weeks to follow, after Smollett went on Good Morning America to recount his harrowing experience, it was revealed that the actor was a suspect in his own case. It was believed that he orchestrated the attack against himself and he was eventually charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. On March 26, all charges filed against Smollett were dropped while the FBI said it was still investigating the “circumstances around the case.” Meanwhile, the actor was subsequently dropped from the Empire, which was cancelled after six seasons.
March 2019: Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin Get Caught Up in Nationwide College Admissions Scandal
America’s secondary education system and Hollywood alike were rocked when 50 people, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin as well as ringleader William “Rick” Singer, were charged in a massive college admissions cheating scam in March 2019. The charges were the end result of an ongoing investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” named after the 1999 teen film starring James Van Der Beek. In the months that followed, the fallout was swift for those involved in the scam — especially Huffman and Loughlin, who saw their star power fall to varying degrees — while Hollywood scooped up the rights to tell versions of this story onscreen. (Lifetime became the first to tackle the story onscreen with the TV movie The College Admissions Scandal.) While Huffman pleaded guilty to charges brought against her and was sentenced to 14 days in jail, Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, formally pleaded not guilty. At the time, Loughlin believed “she would just get a slap on the wrist.” Their case is still ongoing, with the actress’ next court date scheduled for January 2020.