Despite the perks, being a celebrity is no walk in the park. Sure, there are legions of fans and inordinate amounts of cash, but the price that stars pay for all the glamour is the harsh scrutiny of every move they make. Brian McKnight must have been reminded of this when he released his X-rated song, "If You're Ready to Learn," on Monday. It was met with a backlash from fans who expect and prefer his more wholesome side. But McKnight isn't the only star who has miscalculated how his actions might be received. Whether they thought the public would approve of their moves or their actions would go unnoticed, here's our list of celebrities whose missteps were met with criticism we're sure these stars didn't expect.
In a YouTube announcement about his aspirations within the adult-mixtape industry (we didn't know there was such a thing), McKnight speaks eagerly about his new song, "If You're Ready to Learn," which uses what is arguably the crassest language to describe female anatomy in R&B since … well, we can't remember. His Twitter fans hated it, causing McKnight to become a trending topic, which is probably the most publicity he's had since the '90s. The backlash was so bad that hours later he tweeted that the song was a joke. Not sure if we believe him.
We're sure Minaj thought she was pushing the envelope with her creepy, dark, Exorcist-style 2012 Grammy performance of "Roman's Revenge." But she just ended up pushing the buttons of the Catholic League, who didn't take too kindly to the use of religious imagery in her performance, which included a Catholic confessional and dancing bishops.
In a post-Michael Vick-dog-scandal world, it is never OK for anyone, especially a black man, to threaten the life of an animal. 50 Cent, who is no stranger to Twitter controversy, hadn't gotten that memo when he posted pictures of himself wielding a knife against his dog, Oprah, in 2010. Clearly, PETA wasn't thrilled.
Kardashian had just announced the end of her epically short marriage to Kris Humphries when it was announced that she would co-star in Perry's upcoming film, The Marriage Counselor (oh, the irony). Perry's mostly black female audience was outraged that a non-black actress, whose acting skills remain to be seen, landed a major role in a Perry film. So he thought it would be a good idea to write a letter explaining his casting decision. He was wrong. Perry took some not-so-subtle stabs at his female fans in the letter, and they struck back, reminding him to be careful not to bite the hand that feeds him.
No matter how you feel about Jay-Z as a rapper, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't respect his business sense. Perhaps that's why fans were shocked when his apparel company, Rocawear, announced that it would sell Occupy Wall Street-inspired T-shirts for profit. We're surprised he didn't think it was awkward to make money off a movement whose main gripe was that the rich continue to make money by exploiting the poor. It looked as if he'd come to his senses when he pulled the T-shirts off the market after coming under heavy criticism. But they didn't stay away for long.
Nas thought he was being revolutionary when he announced that the title of his ninth studio album would be N—ger. "If Cornel West was making an album called N—ger, they would know he's got something intellectual to say," he told MTV in a 2007 interview. But the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the NAACP weren't buying it and spoke out against the album title. Def Jam listened, and Nas left the record untitled.
In 2004, during the most televised event of the year, Jackson became part of arguably the biggest scandal of the decade when a "wardrobe malfunction" during her halftime performance with Justin Timberlake caused her to flash her breast to the estimated 140 million viewers watching. Nipplegate was so huge, it overshadowed the game (does anyone remember who won that year?) Jackson apologized profusely, and the FCC fined CBS $550,000. The fine is currently under appeal.
Michael Jackson caused quite a stir in 2002 in Berlin when he dangled his newborn baby, Prince Michael II, or Blanket, from a hotel-room balcony, leaving the hundreds of fans standing in front of the hotel in shock. Jackson later admitted that his action was a terrible mistake. "I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children," Jackson said. But the rumors that he was an unfit father had already begun to spin out of control.
Blige, who has done a fairly good job of staying away from controversy in the later part of her career, found herself wrapped up in one with the release of a Burger King commercial in which she sings loudly about a fried-chicken wrap. It obviously drew tons of criticism from her fans for reinforcing a stereotype about African Americans and chicken. "I understand my fans being upset by what they saw," Blige said of the spot, which she called "unfinished." Burger King has since pulled the spot from its YouTube channel.
We're sure Oprah didn't think that building a lavish, all-girl boarding school in South Africa would upset her stateside fans. But some didn't take too kindly to the project, saying that there are plenty of American kids who could benefit from Oprah's help. There is also, of course, the molestation scandal that rocked the school in 2007.
The former slugger shocked the sports world when he was photographed at the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards with a noticeably whiter face. Critics took the drastic change as an opportunity to talk about colorism in black and Latino communities. Charles Barkley made "light" of the incident by wearing white makeup. We're still not sure if Sosa, who claimed that a cream he uses to make his skin softer was the cause of the color change, thought that his new complexion would go unnoticed. It didn't.