It’s no secret that being a celebrity can be tough. Whether you’re a child star or find success later in life, many celebs crack under the pressure of all that fame. Some celebs gracefully fade into the background, but some are unfortunate enough to have a highly-publicized fall from grace. While that’s gotta be tough, some are able to get their careers back on track and have a celebrity comeback that makes them more successful than they were to begin with.
There’s nothing the people love more than a success story. Seeing our favorite celebs go through rough times is hard, but seeing them come out on top is seriously inspiring. That’s why we’ve made a list of 16 of the most iconic celebrity comebacks.
1. Britney Spears
No one had a more public downfall and subsequent celebrity comeback than Britney Spears. After getting her start with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, then immediately becoming one of the world’s most famous teen pop stars, Spears had been in the spotlight for nearly her whole life.
After her highly-publicized breakdown in 2007, many thought that Spears’ issues with mental illness may keep her out of the music game forever. Luckily, Britney pulled one of the most iconic comebacks of all time in her VMA performance of “Gimme More.” Although she was criticized for that performance (and thus started the “Leave Britney alone!” meme, she’s been able to pull herself back to the top ever since. Bless.
2. Justin Timberlake
For those of you who didn’t grow up listening to ’90s/early 2000s boy bands, you may have forgotten that Justin Timberlake got his start as a teen pop sensation in N*SYNC. That’s right, who would have thought that the angel-faced, ramen-haired member of N*SYNC would have one of the most successful celebrity comebacks of all time. Justin Timberlake’s solo career got it’s start with hits like “Like I Love You” and “Cry Me a River,” and it’s been going strong ever since.
3. Robert Downey Jr.
While some of us may not have been alive for Robert Downey Jr‘s earlier years, we now all know and love him as Iron Man. Many of us ~millennials~ may not be familiar with some of his pre-celebrity comeback work as a young star. In the mid-late ’80s, Downey starred in the teen sci fi comedy, Weird Science and the drama Less Than Zero. Like an unfortunate amount of young stars, Downey struggled a lot with substance abuse in the late 90s-early 2000s. Thankfully, after time in treatment, he got back into the acting game in a big way.
4. Drew Barrymore
The story of Drew Barrymore’s comeback is a pretty wild one. You may know her now as one of Hollywood’s most wholesome rom-com stars, but Drew Barrymore lived an entire life as a childhood star and Hollywood wild child before her more contemporary career.
After dealing with substance abuse, rehab, and severe mental illness after starring in E.T., Barrymore finally committed to her sobriety after being emancipated from her parents at age 14. In the ’90s, Barrymore got her career back on track and is now a well-known face in hits such as The Wedding Singer, Charlie’s Angels and Donnie Darko.
While not necessarily a celebrity “comeback,” Fergie was able to completely reinvent her image after merely being known as “that one girl in the Black Eyed Peas.” While her time with the group was highly successful, after releasing The Dutchess, everyone was pretty much like “Will.I.Am who?” Let us not forget how Fergie stormed onto the scene with bangers such as “Fergalicious,” “London Bridge” and “Glamorous.” And of course, she showed off her truly incredible pipes with the tear-jerking middle-school slow dance song, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
6. Nicole Richie
TBT to when Nicole Richie was pretty much only know as Paris Hilton’s edgy sidekick on their hit show, The Simple Life, as well as being the daughter of Lionel Richie. While Nicole was relatively well-known in her own right, she truly had a celebrity comeback a few years after the reality show came to an end.
After getting her life together with a brief stint in rehab, Nicole began building her family life and focusing on her career in fashion. You can now catch Richie all over hubby, Joel Madden‘s Instagram and starring on NBC’s Great News.
7. Amanda Bynes
Can we just say how thankful we are to finally hear from Amanda Bynes after a 4-year silence. Check out her most recent interview here! After a highly successful career as a teen star with her own Nickelodeon variety show (The Amanda Show) and various successful teen movies like She’s the Man, things took an unfortunate turn for Bynes.
What began with bizarre tweets and public behavior turned into a full-fledged breakdown that ended with serious legal trouble and the star’s mental evaluation. While it may not be a full-fledged comeback yet, it was super exciting to see one of our favorite childhood idols finally looking happy and healthy.
8. Natasha Lyone
Believe it or not, Natasha Lyone is no stranger to the screen. The Orange is the New Black star began working as an actress in her teens. While Lyone appeared in numerous films and shows at that early age, she had some legal issues after receiving a DUI and coping with serious drug issues.
Once she got her health back on track, she became pretty well-known for her role as Jessica in the American Pie series. But it’s safe to say that starring on Orange Is the New Black , one of the most popular and critically well-received shows of our time, qualifies as a celebrity comeback.
9. Green Day
Regardless of your feelings on this punk trio, Green Day definitely had a seriously successful celebrity comeback. After storming into the ’90s post-grunge scene with their hit album Dookie, they continued to find mild success but had a hard time living up to hits such as “Basket Case” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”
After a few year hiatus, the trio had one of the most successful musical comebacks of all time with their rock opera American Idiot boasting songs like “American Idiot,” “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
10. Mariah Carey
Of course, no celebrity comeback was quite as dramatic as that of pop music’s biggest diva, Mariah Carey. After becoming crazy-popular in the early-mid nineties for her unbelievable range (to the point where some of those notes she hit where def only heard by dogs) and hits like “Be My Baby,” the star faced a few years with little recognition.
However, in 2005 she released The Emancipation of Mimi and reclaimed her crown. Who could help but scream along to songs like “We Belong Together” and “Shake it Off”? No one, that’s who.
11. Missy Elliott
Speaking of iconic musical comebacks, we had to mention Missy Elliott. This may be a kind of incomplete celebrity comeback, so call us hopeful, but after years of silence, Missy is finally back in the studio. You may recall some of Missy’s work from the early 2000s and her bangers such as “WTF,” “Get Ur Freak On” and “Lose Control.”
After some serious issues with health and a disappearance from the public eye, Missy is back in the studio. The rapper began hinting at a comeback album in 2015 after her surprise guest spot at the Super Bowl with Katy Perry, and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
12. Rob Lowe
Believe it or not, Rob Lowe lived an entire, highly-publicized life before starring as everyone’s favorite super-peppy health nut, Chris Traeger on Parks and Recreation. He gained recognition as a teen heartthrob in the ’80s as the star of popular movies like The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire. However, when he was 24, Lowe’s personal life took a pretty nasty turn when multiple sex tapes of the star having group sex were released — one included an underage female. Despite his fairly tarnished reputation, Lowe was able to turn his career around by getting sober and starring in a few TV shows, most notably The West Wing and Parks and Rec.
13. Ellen Degeneres
While we could technically classify this as more of a “reinvention” than a celebrity comeback, we had to give Ellen Degeneres some serious credit for taking a personal controversy and turning it into her highly successful career. We all know Ellen as the country’s favorite talk show host and an outspoken activist for gay rights.
But before getting her own show, Ellen was a sitcom star who lived a relatively private life. Her coming-out in 1997 was pretty unprecedented and left her surrounded by controversy. In a big FU to her haters, Ellen continues to promote activist work and hosts one of the most popular talk shows of all time.
14. Fall Out Boy
That’s right, everyone’s favorite emo boys. After a three-year hiatus in 2009, the group got back together and has been going strong ever since. It was pretty difficult for the group to top the success of From Under the Cork Tree’s “Sugar We’re Going Down.”
After frontman Patrick Stump dealt with some personal issues and Pete Wentz focused on some side projects and family stuff, the group decided to get back together in 2012. With hits like “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” and “Centuries,” the boys are showing no signs of stopping.
15. Jared Leto
Jared Leto has had a pretty long and diverse career. Although he became super well-known by acting as the frontman for 30 Seconds to Mars, Leto had a few fairly successful gigs as an actor in movies such as Fight Club, American Psycho and Requiem for a Dream.
Leto decided to take a few years off from the acting game to focus on the band but came back in a big way. After starring in Dallas Buyer’s Club, he solidified his status as a serious actor.
16. The Sprouse Twins
This one was definitely an unexpected comeback. After starring as troublemaking pre-teens in Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, the twins took a break in their late teen years to focus on living regular lives and pursuing education (you may remember people spotting Dylan and Cole around the city during this time at NYU). However, the two started coming back into the spotlight with their social media presence, gaining a pretty huge Twitter following. And of course, you can always spot Cole Sprouse starring in The CW’s breakout hit, Riverdale as Jughead.