Regular People Who Became Famous For All The Wrong Reasons

Fame: some people are born into it. Some work tirelessly to achieve it, perfecting their talents over years. And some people just stumble into it whether they want — or deserve — it or not. But we've become a celebrity culture, latching onto anyone who does something even remotely noteworthy and propping them up in the spotlight for their 15 minutes. Let's take a look at some people who have become famous for ... let's say "questionable" reasons.

Courtney Stodden

Reality star and tabloid cover-girl Courtney Stodden eventually became most famous for her extensive plastic surgery. But she first rose to fame back in 2011, for marrying a much, much older character actor named Doug Hutchison, when she was still a teenager. Apparently she first attempted to climb the ladder of stardom by trying to be a singer, but clearly that never worked out. So instead, she married Hutchison — who was her acting teacher — when she was 16, and has continued to thrust herself into the spotlight on whatever reality shows will have her. 

Kim Davis

As a general rule of thumb, most folks agree that intolerance is not okay — particularly if you're holding an elected office. That brings us to Kentucky's Kim Davis, who you may recall made headlines in 2015 for refusing the U.S. federal court's directive to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Kentucky in her position as Rowan County Clerk. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court telling her that's what she had to do, Davis instead said that she was working "under God's authority.

Amazingly, Davis parlayed her newfound infamy into becoming a household name. Eventually, she was turned into something of a political prop during the 2016 election cycle. Mike Huckabee virtually sprinted to her side when she was released from jail (where she spent several days for refusing a federal court order), and conservatives rushed to get Davis a meeting with the pope. It became such a bizarre circus that the Vatican had to come out with a statement distancing itself from Davis. When the actual pope has to take a few steps back from you, maybe you've pushed this whole "under God's authority" thing a little too far. 

Levi Johnston

Remember Sarah Palin, one-time Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate in 2008? Remember her daughter, Bristol, who was pregnant while still a teenager during her mom's VP run? Well Levi Johnston was Bristol's boyfriend and, eventually baby daddy. And in a just world, we'd have no idea who he was. Alas.

Johnston gained his first bit of fame when it was announced that the teenage, unmarried Bristol was pregnant, and he was the father. Suddenly, he was everywhere that the wannabe vice president and her family were. Then, after splitting up with Bristol, Johnston did the unthinkable: he didn't go away. 

He popped up in interviews, both on TV and in print, detailing his relationship with Bristol and the rest of the Palin family. Amazingly, he gained enough infamy that Playgirl featured him within its pages. And of course, as with everyone who tries to stretch their 15 minutes of fame, Johnston wrote a memoir and appeared on a reality TV show pilot you've never heard of.

Sydney Leathers

Imagine, if you can, gaining fame out of being on the receiving end of a ... Richard-pic. That's the position in which Sydney Leathers found herself. That's probably one of the most awkward icebreakers imaginable when she meets new people at dinner parties and PTA meetings. When someone asks you what you do for a living, it must be interesting to reply with, "I get sent pictures of politicians in their underpants."

But that's the career path that a man named Carlos Danger — better known as Anthony Weiner — put Leathers on back in 2013, when he engaged in a sexting scandal with her. Amazingly, that's not even the only politician with whom she's traded intimate texts. It was later revealed that Leathers had been dirty texting with Indiana representative Justin Moed. And you'd better believe Leathers has fully embraced her reputation, parlaying her notoriety into a small career in the adult entertainment industry ... in a video in which, naturally, she seduces a politician who looks suspiciously like Anthony Weiner. Hey, stick with what you know, as the saying goes.

Joey Buttafuoco

Long Island native Joey Buttafuoco shot into the spotlight in 1992 when his underage mistress decided she was tired of having to share him with his wife. Amy Fisher went to Buttafuoco's house, pulled out a gun, and put a bullet in the side of Mary Jo Buttafuoco's face. Amazingly, Mary Jo lived, and Fisher and Buttafuoco rapidly became two of the most infamous people on the planet. For his part, Buttafuoco went to jail for statutory rape, since Fisher was only 17 at the time. Yet despite being a terrible person, the world wasn't done with Joey. He appeared on a celebrity boxing show, and has even popped up in multiple movies. It's a sad state of affairs when you can sleep with a minor, get your wife shot by that same minor, spend time in prison, and still have a better IMDb page than some people who trained at Julliard. 

John Bobbitt

Back in 1993, an ordinary man named John Bobbitt found himself on the front page of every newspaper in America after his wife, Lorena ... er, cut off his penis and threw it into a field. Of course, while that's not something that should happen to anyone, let's not suggest Bobbitt was anything resembling a saint. There were allegations of spousal rape and abuse charged by Lorena, who was acquitted in the cutting crime. Considering John was later charged and spent two weeks in jail for hitting another woman, chances are good Lorena was pretty justified in her actions.

Amazingly, Bobbitt used his horrific injury to briefly become — wait for it — a porn star, in a title called Frankenpenis. He milked his fame even further, being a guest of the WWE on Monday Night Raw, before eventually fading from the spotlight amid more charges of domestic abuse

George Zimmerman

Now let's talk about George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin and later reportedly auctioned off the gun he used in that tragic encounter. Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Martin, though that wasn't the end of his run-ins with the law. In 2013 he barricaded himself inside his girlfriend's house after she called the cops for allegedly pointing a shotgun at her, and was charged with aggravated assault for throwing a wine bottle at an ex-girlfriend in 2015. In short: not a swell guy.

All that didn't stop Zimmerman from trying to stay in the spotlight and make as much money off of his notoriety as possible. In 2013, he sold a painting he'd done of the American flag for more than $100,000, and then painted a Confederate flag in an attempt to "raise money for a Muslim-free gun store." Additionally, Zimmerman tried to use his infamy to arrange a "celebrity" boxing match against rapper DMX, an event that was ultimately canceled ... partly because DMX had never agreed to it, and partly because the promoter suddenly realized what a terrible, terrible idea it was.

"Tan Mom" Patricia Krentcil

Child endangerment isn't generally something to be celebrated. Yet somehow a woman named Patricia Krentcil managed to take her child endangerment charges and become a paparazzi favorite out of the whole situation. That's not to say that Krentcil — who was better known as "Tan Mom" — didn't get into trouble for bringing her then 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, resulting in burns. She was arrested, and banned from more than 60 tanning salons in the New York and New Jersey area.

But amazingly, she became a minor celebrity for her tanning addiction and child endangerment, even becoming a semi-regular on Howard Stern's radio show. The Huffington Post has a lengthy page about Krentcil based on the number of times they've tagged her in articles, because apparently at one point the world needed to know whether or not Tan Mom thought Mitt Romney's tan was real or fake, and was just dying to see her music video

LaVar Ball

It's one thing to live vicariously through your children. It's quite another to stomp all over their reputations as you try to inflate your own. And that brings us to LaVar Ball, whose son Lonzo had a scintillating freshman season at UCLA and now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans. Dear old Dad — who apparently already had big plans to exploit the talents of his basketball playing children — quickly wrestled the spotlight away from his relatively soft-spoken son.

Ball jammed his foot into his mouth as often as possible. It all started when LaVar — who played a single season of college basketball, averaging about two points per game — claimed he'd have beaten Michael Jordan in his prime. But that was just the start. When it came to finding a shoe deal for Lonzo, LaVar demanded one billion dollars to simply partner with one of the big boys like Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour. They all declined. Instead, LaVar released his own shoe for Lonzo under his own brand, known as Big Baller. The sneaker was put up for sale at a starting cost of $495, leading to plenty of flak. Despite actions including insulting players like Kyrie Irving over the fact his mom died when he was young, he was frequently put in front of ESPN and Fox Sports 1 cameras, somehow keeping that undeserved fame going strong. As of 2019, Lonzo wasn't speaking to his father.

Kato Kaelin

Aspiring actor Kato Kaelin had never gotten his career off the ground, and was living in O.J. Simpson's guest house at the time of the notorious 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Kaelin was thrust into the national spotlight as a key witness in the case. And that's when Kaelin's cash-in began.

Thanks to his newfound fame, Kaelin actually started landing acting gigs, albeit in most cases he was popping up as himself in sketch shows like Mad TV and Mr. Show with Bob and David. He's also appeared on reality television, because of course he has, and takes seemingly every opportunity to guest on various entertainment and talk shows to continue milking his notoriety for as long as humanly possible. Considering he's been going strong as a household name for more than 20 years, you gotta tip your hat to him for that — and literally nothing else.