Ellen DeGeneres appears during a commercial break at a taping of 'The Ellen Show' in Burbank, Calif. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File
Ellen DeGeneres appears during a commercial break at a taping of 'The Ellen Show' in Burbank, Calif. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

10 celebrity apologies that capture the strange, bleak year that was 2020

By The Washington Post Time of article published Jan 1, 2021

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By Emily Yahr

The combination of a deadly global pandemic, racial reckoning and a devastating economic crisis meant that people had less patience for famous rich person nonsense.

No, Gal Gadot, gathering a bunch of off-key stars to sing "Imagine" from their palatial estates did not give us hope.

No, Madonna, the pandemic was not the "great equalizer," and also why did you say that while sitting in your bathtub?

Don't even get us started on the Kardashians and how grateful they were to pretend things were "normal" as they jetted off to a private island for Kim's 40th birthday.

As a result, even more so than in years past, stars had plenty to atone for - some for things that happened this year, and others who expressed regret for mistakes they made in the past. Here are 10 celebrity apologies that only begin to capture the strange, bleak year that was 2020.

Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel

The late-night Jimmys were just two of the stars who came under fire for using blackface in comedy sketches - a racist practice that has long been criticized, but Hollywood tended to gloss over until this year.

In the wake of protests about racial injustice after George Floyd's death in police custody this summer, multiple TV shows ("30 Rock," "Scrubs," "Golden Girls") edited episodes to remove characters in blackface, and celebrities offered apologies for their past complicity.

Fallon, who used blackface while doing an impression of Chris Rock on "Saturday Night Live," said at first he was advised to just stay quiet. "I realised that I can't not say I'm horrified, and I'm sorry and I'm embarrassed," Fallon said during a "Tonight Show" monologue in June.

"I realised that the silence is the biggest crime that White guys like me and the rest of us are doing, staying silent. We need to say something."

A few weeks later, Kimmel said he regretted impersonating NBA star Karl Malone in the mid-90s. In a statement, Kimmel said he was "reluctant to address" the issue because he was afraid his apology would be weaponized by critics, but "there is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke."

Hannah Brown

Some celebrities were somehow apparently shocked to find out that there were consequences for racist language.

In May, former Bachelorette and "Dancing With the Stars" winner Hannah Brown sang DaBaby's "Rockstar" on Instagram Live, including a lyric with the n-word. "I did? I'm so sorry," she said, smiling and laughing when fans called her out.

Her (multiple) apologies became much more grave as she realised the extent of the backlash: "I am terribly sorry and know that whether in public or private, this language is unacceptable. I promise to do better."

Terry Crews

This year, there were plenty of discussions about colleagues supporting each other when speaking up about discrimination in the workplace, and Hollywood was no exception.

In January, Terry Crews was asked on the "Today" show about Gabrielle Union's allegations of racism and a toxic work environment on NBC's "America's Got Talent," where she previously served as a judge and he remains as host.

Crews defended the show, saying it was one of the most diverse places he ever worked, but later faced intense criticism for dismissing Union's experiences.

He soon apologised, and did so again in August when Union went on a podcast and expressed disappointment in his comments.

"This will be my 3rd public apology to Gabrielle Union," Crews tweeted. "If a 4th is needed, I will continue to apologize and push for reconciliation between the world, and more importantly, the culture I grew up in."

Jeff Lewis

Before the coronavirus pandemic upended American life, the deadly virus originated in China - which inspired some celebrities, including Bravo star and radio host Jeff Lewis to make some "jokes."

On his radio show, he and his co-hosts laughed about ways to avoid the virus, such as not eating at Panda Express and quarantining Asian employees together.

Unsurprisingly, some listeners were furious, and Lewis responded with an apology, saying they were joking and never meant to "spread hate or breed racism": "I want people to have fun when they listen to this show ... So I just wanted to apologise. I'm very sorry for crossing the line."

Vanessa Hudgens

In perhaps the earliest example of tone-deafness among celebrities in the pandemic, actress Vanessa Hudgens shrugged off its seriousness during an Instagram Live video in March: "It's a virus, I get it, I respect it. But at the same time, even if everybody gets it, yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible - but inevitable?"

Respect for the virus aside, fans were appalled, and Hudgens initially went with the time-honoured "taken out of context" excuse.

Later, she elaborated: "I'm so sorry for the way I have offended anyone and everyone who has seen the clip from my Instagram live yesterday.

“I realise my words were insensitive and not at all appropriate for our country and the world (we) are in right now."

Cardi B

As many Americans settled in for a long, lonely pandemic winter, struggling with the fact that they wouldn't be able to visit family for the holidays, some stars took a ... different approach.

"12 kids and 25 adults over the holidays. It was lit!!" rapper Cardi B tweeted to her nearly 16 million followers a few days after Thanksgiving.

After seeing criticism from fans who pointed out that maybe hosting 37 people in a pandemic wasn't a great idea, she apologised and said she wasn't trying to offend anyone.

"Sorry my bad wasn't trying to make nobody feel bad," she tweeted. "I just had my family in my home for the first time and it felt so good & uplifted me. I spent soo much money getting every1 tested but it felt worth it."

Ellen DeGeneres

This year, more long-circulating rumours about A-listers spilled out in the open - such as the public discussion about how Ellen DeGeneres, famous for promoting kindness, was possibly not-so-nice behind the scenes.

It culminated with a pair of BuzzFeed articles that alleged a toxic work environment on her set, including allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by producers.

After an internal investigation, three top producers were fired and DeGeneres publicly apologised: "I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," she said on the show's season premiere in September. "I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who are affected."

Kanye West

Even in the nonstop madness that was 2020, Kanye West managed to get plenty of headlines.

In July, West announced he was running for president, which kicked off many "Wait, is he serious?" tweets and thinkpieces.

He was, and wound up on the ballot in multiple states - but first, he held his kickoff rally in South Carolina, where he discussed very personal family issues, including details about his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and conversations they had when she found out she was pregnant with their first child.

He later apologised to her in an equally public forum, writing on Twitter: "I would like to apologize to my wife Kim for going public with something that was a private matter ... To Kim I want to say I know I hurt you. Please forgive me. Thank you for always being there for me."

Charli D'Amelio

TikTok exploded in popularity this year, and among many things the platform achieved, it rocketed 16-year-old Charli D'Amelio to fame - though, as she told The Washington Post, even she's not sure why she's the most-followed person on the app.

But TikTok stars also manage to generate plenty of controversy as they produce massive amounts of content, and D'Amelio continued that trend in November when she and her fellow TikTok-famous sister, Dixie, appeared in a YouTube video and repeatedly criticized a private chef who was serving them dinner.

After fans called her out for rude behavior and she lost nearly a million followers, D'Amelio tearfully repented on Instagram: "I'm genuinely sorry, but it wasn't something where I truly meant to be hurtful or truly meant to just put anyone down."

Tyler Joseph

Ultimately, frustration with celebrities usually boils down to the fact that they are extremely privileged but often don't understand their own impact.

Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of Twenty One Pilots, embodied this in September. When fans kept asking if he would speak up about the Black Lives Matter movement, he tweeted a picture of himself wearing platform shoes: "You guys keep asking me to use my platforms. Feels good to dust these bad boys off."

Even when followers found that response unfunny, he at first doubled down on his "fantastic" tweet. But seeing more backlash, he backpedaled. "in case you are wondering where i stand: Black Lives Matter," he wrote, adding a link to a website for BLM support and resources. "im truly sorry if it hurt anyone."

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