“All I See Are A Number Of Inaccurate Statements”: 11 Celebrities Who Were Accused Of Lying About Their Background And Upbringing

11 Celebrities Accused Of Lying About Their Background

1.

Ian Ousley plays Sokka in Netflix’s new live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Showrunner Albert Kim said the show was “a chance to showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people.” According to the biography posted by his manager, the actor is “mixed-race, Native American and is a Cherokee tribe member.”

But Cherokee Phoenix reported that social media users looked into Ian’s background and discovered he’s not a member of Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, or Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Twitter screenshots claim the only tribe to confirm Ian as a member was Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky. Cherokee Phoenix described this as “one of dozens of federally unacknowledged tribes decried as false by the three recognized Cherokee governments.” Ian’s casting sparked fierce debate online, and a petition called on Netflix to “get the facts straight.”

2.

In 2019, Forbes named Kylie Jenner the “youngest self-made billionaire” in history. “There’s really no other word to use other than self-made because that is the truth,” she said at the time. “That is the category that I fall under… I used 100% of my own money to start the company, not a dime in my bank account is inherited… and I am very proud of that.”

But the backlash was swift and severe. Many pointed out that Kylie calling herself self-made was disingenuous considering she was born into a wealthy family, grew up on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and likely wouldn’t have enjoyed the same success with her cosmetics company if not for the fame of her sisters. She quickly changed her tune, telling the New York Times, “I can’t say I’ve done it by myself. If they’re just talking finances, technically, yes, I don’t have any inherited money. But I have had a lot of help and a huge platform.”

In a shocking twist, Forbes announced the following year that Kylie was not a billionaire. When she sold 51% of her company to Coty Inc., financial details apparently came to light. In this video, Forbes editor Chase Peterson-Withorn said, “It’s clear that for years, the Jenners have been lying… The sale has laid bare one of the Jenner family’s biggest secrets, which is: Kylie Cosmetics is not nearly as big of a business, or as successful of a business, as they spent years leading the entire world — including Forbes — to believe.”

3.

Last year, Sydney Agudong was cast as Nani Pelekai in the live-action remake of Lilo & Stitch. Initially, this sparked a viral debate on colorism. At the time, many believed Sydney was light-skinned with Native Hawaiian ancestry, and that the role should have gone to a Native Hawaiian with a darker skin tone.

However, many social media users quickly dove into Sydney’s background and found no indication that she is actually Native Hawaiian in any databases, newspaper clippings, etc. According to internet sleuths, her mother is white, and her father is Filipino — meaning she has no Polynesian ancestry at all. This sparked fierce backlash, but Disney seems to have ignored Pacific Islanders’ calls for the role of Nani to be recast. Many have accused Sydney of misrepresenting herself and her background, but the actor has yet to make a statement.

4.

Over the years, Ariana Grande has spoken extensively about manifestation. In her song “Just Like Magic,” she sings lines like “manifest it, I finessed it” and “I get everything I want ’cause I attract it.” On a 2021 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she said, “I have this weird manifesting gift, I think.” She recalled asking to audition for a Nickelodeon show when she was 4 years old (she went on to play Cat in Victorious, a Nickelodeon show). Jimmy also played a clip of Ariana singing the national anthem at a Florida Panthers hockey game when she was 8 years old.

But many have called out the singer’s insistence that she simply manifested a successful career. That Panthers game where she sang the national anthem? Her parents were seasonal ticket holders and secured her early exposure. Ariana’s mother was the CEO of a company that manufactured communications equipment for the Marines and the Navy, and her father founded a graphic design firm.

5.

Throughout his career, John Leguizamo said he was Puerto Rican and Colombian. The actor — who moved from Colombia to New York City at 3 years old — said his Puerto Rican heritage comes from his father’s side. He was named Puerto Rican Day Parade Global Ambassador of the Arts in 2011.

However, just a week before the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, John’s father told a newspaper that they are not Puerto Rican. “It hurts me that John is lying to the Puerto Ricans and not backing up his Colombian roots,” he said. John denied the accusation, telling reporters as he marched in the parade, “I am Colombian-Puerto Rican. I don’t know why he’s saying that. I say that I love him, and why is he saying that?”

Last year, John appeared on an episode of Finding Your Roots — a PBS show where celebrities learn about their ancestral histories. The actor’s lineage included notable figures like Sebastián de Belalcázar, a Spanish conquistador, and Higinio Cualla, who served as mayor of Bogota, Colombia. The show did not find any trace of Puerto Rican ancestry.

6.

In the 2023 Beckham documentary series, Victoria Beckham — aka Posh Spice — said she grew up “working class.”

But she was immediately called out by husband David Beckham. He popped his head through the door and told her to be honest. “I am being honest,” she insisted. So, he asked her what car her dad drove her to school in. Victoria wouldn’t give a straight answer at first.

When David insisted on an honest response, she admitted, “Okay. In the ’80s, my dad had a Rolls-Royce.”

7.

Kelsey Asbille is best known for playing Monica in Yellowstone. Her character was a Native American woman passionate about Native rights, culture, and history. Kelsey has said in interviews that she is of Chinese, European, and Cherokee descent but did not grow up in a Native community.

However, Kelsey’s casting sparked backlash and a call to boycott the show. Though the New York Times reported that she was a descendant of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the nation’s Tribal Enrollment Office declared the tribe had no record of her. Additionally, they could find no evidence that she was a descendant. Saulteaux actor Adam Beach — who proposed the initial boycott — told BuzzFeed News, “What got me jolted by it was that I have a lot of Native female actors that need a job. I immediately called it out.”

8.

In Kid Rock’s 1998 “Cowboy” song, he says, “I ain’t straight outta Compton, I’m straight out the trailer.” He built his entire public persona around being a self-described “lowlife.”

However, multiple outlets reported that he actually grew up in a 5,660 square-foot mansion with seven bathrooms, a guest house, and a pool. His childhood home sits on a 5.5-acre lot, complete with a regulation tennis court.

9.

For years, many people believed Hilaria Baldwin was from Spain. In this 2012 Good Morning America episode shortly after her wedding to Alec Baldwin, her accent is apparent. She’s been featured in publications like Latina magazine and Hola magazine and captioned many Instagram posts in Spanish. Additionally, Spain was listed as her birthplace in the bio of her agency’s website and on Google.

But in 2020, social media users claimed Hilaria was faking the accent, sparking public scrutiny. The world discovered that Hilaria was born Hillary Thomas in Boston, Massachusetts. Her parents are not Spanish; in fact, her father once made a blog post stating his family is Midwestern, and Spanish food and culture deeply influenced his life despite not having “an iota of Latin blood.” Though her parents traveled to Spain throughout Hilaria’s life, they didn’t move there until 2011.

In a now-deleted Instagram video, Hilaria addressed the situation, saying, “I’m born in Boston, and then I spent some of my childhood in Boston, some of my childhood in Spain… There was, like, a lot of back-and-forth my entire life.” She also touched on her ever-changing accent. “It’s one of those things that I’ve always been a bit insecure about… If I get nervous, or I get upset, then I start to mix the two.”

10.

In 2016, Gwyneth Paltrow told Glamour, “People think, ‘She’s just a rich kid.’ Until I was 18, I was. Then I was broke. I’ve never taken a dime off my parents. I’m completely self-made.” She recalled dropping out of college and living in an apartment with a roommate to pursue acting. “I worked as a hostess at a restaurant; I would scrounge quarters to buy Starbucks — and walk there to save gas… Those were the days. Enough to know the value of money.”

Her romanticizing of poverty and insistence that she’s self-made has drawn a lot of criticism over the years. Many pointed out that Gwyneth’s mother is actor Blythe Danner, her father is film producer/director Bruce Paltrow, and her godfather is Steven Spielberg — who cast her as teenage Wendy in his 1991 movie, Hook.

11.

And finally, Lana Del Rey has insisted that she grew up poor on a number of occasions. In October, she made a since-deleted Instagram video saying she came from a rural town and only attended an elite boarding school because her uncle worked there, entitling her to financial aid. “I had such a tough time there because everyone knew how much money everyone had. Unfortunately, my experience every day was having people call me WT from LP: white trash from Lake Placid” (the town where she grew up). She claimed that her father didn’t find wealth until later, with his internet domain company. In the comments, she wrote, “We had absolutely no money.”

However, a 2012 Guardian article reported that her father was a millionaire who supported her career — though it’s worth noting that Lana recently called the article “tabloid-psycho untrue” in an interview with the Sunday Times.

Even so, people criticized Lana for saying she grew up with “absolutely no money.” Before her father founded his company, he worked as a copywriter at an advertising agency where he met Lana’s mother, an assistant account executive. Their wedding announcement was published in the New York Times. After they welcomed Lana, they moved to Lake Placid, where her mom became a teacher and her dad worked in real estate and created furniture that was featured in design publications. Fans have pushed back on Lana’s insistence that she grew up in poverty and said her upbringing sounds solidly middle-class, even if she wasn’t as wealthy as her schoolmates.

Any other celebs who’ve been accused of lying about their upbringing or background? Share them in the comments below.

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