Biggest Celebrity Stories of 2019: Alex Trebek, Felicity Huffman, Miley Cyrus and More
By Stacy Lambe
In 2019, there was no shortage news, whether it be scandals (ahem, Felicity Huffman and Jussie Smollett), clapbacks (thanks, Taylor Swift!), or relationship drama (too many names to highlight here). But it wasn’t all bad news. While the past 12 months was dramatic for some, it also marked the joyous birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first child, Archie, capping off a remarkable year for the royal couple in the one year since they got married.
As another year comes to a close -- as well as a decade -- ET is looking back on the biggest celebrity stories that captured the world’s attention.
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 Empire, which was canceled after six seasons.
It’s Revealed That Tristian Thompson Allegedly Cheated on Khloe Kardashian With Jordyn Woods
Just days before Khloe Kardashian was to give birth to her daughter, True, in 2018, news broke that her partner, Tristan Thompson, had allegedly been unfaithful to her. The two worked through it but months later, in February 2019, Thompson was again accused of cheating with Kylie Jenner's best friend, Jordyn Woods. While Thompson and Woods denied the allegations, Kardashian ended her relationship with the pro athlete. “Everyone has their truth and their story, so you just go with it," Woods told ET about the Kardashian family speaking out about the cheating allegation on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. “Everyone has the right to speak their truth.” Less than a month later, Woods would appear on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk to tell her side of the story. “The last thing I wanted to do was be that person. I'm no homewrecker,” she explained.
Luke Perry Dies Unexpectedly at 52 After Suffering a Stroke
After suffering a massive stroke, Luke Perry died at the age of 52 on Mar. 4. “He was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancé Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, step-father Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends,” his rep said in a statement to ET at the time. The actor’s death came at the height of a resurgence in his career, thanks to his role as Archie’s father on The CW’s Riverdale and playing a supporting part in Quentin Tarantino’s highly-anticipated ninth feature film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. At the same time, Beverly Hills, 90210 -- the series that made him a household name -- was eyeing a comeback by reuniting the entire cast for a revival FOX series. Chris Nassif, who was Perry's agent during his time on the hit primetime soap, issued a statement saying, “Luke will be missed, a friend gone way too soon. It seems like yesterday that I was Luke’s agent negotiating his role on Beverly Hills, 90210.” His passing was one of the more unexpected and shocking deaths to rock 2019 that also included actor Peter Fonda, novelist and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Descendants star Cameron Boyce and 33-year-old rapper Nipsey Hussle.
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.
Alex Trebek Reveals He’s Battling Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer
In March, Alex Trebek revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The longtime Jeopardy! host took to his YouTube page to open up about the news. "Normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this, and I'm going to keep working," Trebek said at the time. "And with the love and support from my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rates statistics for this disease." Months later, in May, he sat down for his first interview with Good Morning America to give an honest update about his health. "My oncologist tells me I'm doing well, even though I don't always feel it," he said, before it was revealed that he was "near remission" and that some of his tumors had shrunk more than 50 percent. In September, however, he had to do another round of chemotherapy. But despite his ongoing health battle, the host has not left the game show and has been met with continued support from celebrities, fans and contestants alike.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Welcome Their First Son Archie
After much anticipation, Baby Sussexfinally arrived on May 6 -- nearly one year after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married. His proud dad addressed the press by saying that “Mother and baby are doing incredibly well. It’s been the most amazing experience I could ever possibly imagine…. How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension, but we’re both absolutely thrilled.” Shortly after, it was revealed their son was named Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor. And the newborn made his world debut with a televised appearance from inside Windsor Castle. “It's magic. It's pretty amazing. I have the two best guys in the world, so I'm really happy," Meghan gushed at the time. “He has the sweetest temperament.”
R. Kelly Charged in Sexual Abuse Case After More Allegations Surface in ‘Surviving’ Docuseries
In May, longtime singer and performer R. Kelly was charged with 11 felony counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse related charges. The charges filed by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office consisted of five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and two counts of criminal sexual assault for incidents that allegedly occurred between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 31, 2010. Kelly has denied all allegations against him, and his crisis manager, Darrell Johnson, told ET in a statement at the time, "It's horrible that these people are coming out with this foolishness. I'm not going to call anyone a liar, but what I will tell you is my client is innocent and we're going to stick by that. We're going to fight this thing all the way to the end, and I'm here with him. I believe in him, I trust what Mr. Kelly has told me.” The charges came after the singer was accused of multiple sexual abuse allegations and inappropriate encounters with girls and young women over the years and the the release of Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly docuseries in January, in which more women came forward with allegations of abuse against Kelly. In an intense interview with Gayle King for CBS This Morning earlier in the year, Kelly spoke out on the allegations against him. The singer continuously claimed that everyone featured in Surviving R. Kelly is "lying" and maintained that he has "absolutely not" broken any laws. "If you really look at that documentary… everybody says something bad about me. Nobody said nothing good," he said. "They're going back to the past, and they're trying to add all of this stuff now to that. To make all of this stuff that's going on now feels real to people."
Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun Feud Over Big Machine Records Purchase
In June, Scooter Braun -- through his holding company, Ithaca Holdings -- purchased Big Machine Label Group for a reported $300 million. Doing so gave him the rights to Swift's master recordings that were made prior to her exit from the label in 2018. After the news broke, Swift took to Tumblr to blast the deal, claiming that she wasn't told about Braun's purchase before it became public and was never given a chance to buy her music. Just hours after Swift released her lengthy statement, Scott Borchetta fired back, claiming that Swift was given the opportunity to buy her music. Later, after things quieted a bit, Swift revealed that she "absolutely" plans to re-record her early music. The feud was reignited again in November when Swift took to social media to share a lengthy statement accusing Borchetta, Braun and Big Machine of blocking her from performing a medley of her older songs at the American Music Awards, where she's set to take home the Artist of the Decade Award. After months of silence -- and a cryptic post about kindness -- Braun finally spoke publicly about the feud for the first time. During a Q&A at the 2019 Entertainment Industry Conference, which was co-sponsored by Variety and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Braun spoke about "toxic division" and the "confusion" that can come through a social media feud.
Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk Split Months After the Actor and Lady Gaga Slay the Oscars
After four years of dating, news broke in June that Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk had split. Cooper and Shayk share a daughter, 2-year-old Lea De Seine, and were first linked together in April 2015. The two have been notoriously private about their relationship, and only made their red carpet debut together at last year's Met Gala. A source told ET just prior to news of their breakup that couple had been “unhappy in their relationship for some time,” and even considered splitting during the release of the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born, which Cooper both directed and starred in alongside Lady Gaga. Though the two stayed together throughout the following awards season, which concluded with the Cooper-Gaga duet, “Shallow,” winning the Oscar for Best Original Song after a stunning performance, it wasn’t without much speculation that the pop star had come in between them. "Quite frankly, I think the press is very silly," she said of the romance speculation. "I mean, we made a love story. For me, as a performer and as an actress, of course we wanted people to believe that we were in love."
Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth Split After She’s Spotted Kissing Kaitlynn Carter
On Aug. 9, Miley Cyrus was spotted kissing Kaitlynn Carter in Lake Como, Italy, just one week after TheHills star and Brody Jenner jointly announced their decision to “amicably separate” after five years. The bikini-clad women were seen making out poolside, where they also sunbathed and wrapped their arms around each other. “They were not trying to hide it at all,” an eyewitness told ET at the time. “There were other people sitting by the pool.” The next day, the singer and Liam Hemsworth confirmed their split to ET. “Liam and Miley have agreed to separate at this time,” the rep said. “Ever-evolving, changing as partners and individuals, they have decided this is what’s best while they both focus on themselves and careers.” Shortly thereafter, a source told ET that, though Cyrus was the one to ask for the break, both she and Hemsworth “knew it was coming.” And in the months since, Cyrus has split with Carter to start dating Cody Simpson, while Hemsworth has rumored to have moved on with Maddison Brown. In December, the former couple reached a divorce settlement -- just one year after tying the knot.