Being tagged in an unflattering and embarrassing photo on Facebook is something to which most social media users can relate. A photo that doesn't portray your best self (think half-closed eyes, food in your teeth, or an unfortunate stain on your shirt) might be posted for hundreds of people to view after a friend has posted it. In some cases, you can ask your friend to take it down if it's really THAT bad. But, for celebrities who are victims to phone hacking and photo leaks, there often isn't a way to stop what's started once private photos of them are distributed.
Not only are far more than just a few hundred people likely to see these leaked celebrity photos, but they're also usually even more upsetting than just being seen with food in your teeth. Sadly, most celebrity photo leaks involve nude, or sexually explicit photos of themselves being shared with the world. These photos were usually just intended for a very specific and small audience, but when cruel hackers have their way, the whole world has nude photos of stars at their fingertips. It's difficult to imagine just how upsetting this would be and how violated one would feel when their intimate moments are shared publicly. Some of these photo leaks die out quickly and aren't talked about for long, even though the photos are still available to view if you try hard enough to find them. Others are HUGE news stories that remain on the front page for months, and you can bet these photos are virtually impossible ever to have permanently removed from the internet. No matter how publicized these images become, it is no doubt a crime and a gross violation of a person's privacy to have them stolen and shared in the first place. Here are 15 of the biggest photo leak scandals of all time.
15 Blake Lively
Blake Lively is a stunning blonde actress, best known for her role as Serena van der Woodsen on the CW's hit show "Gossip Girl." These days, her biggest role is that of Ryan Reynold's wife and mother to their baby girl, James. Unfortunately, in 2011 she was the alleged victim of a photo leak of 17 personal photos. The photos showed a woman who closely resembles Lively in various states of undress. The woman had the same fake tattoos Lively wore for her role in 2010's "The Town" however, her rep insisted, “The photos of Blake Lively which have just surfaced on various websites including Perez Hilton and Zap2it.com are 100 percent FAKE. Blake has never taken nude photos of herself. Blake will pursue legal action against the publication that initially published these photographs and any other outlets that republish them in any manner.” Fake or not, photo hacks are a gross violation of a person's privacy and deserve to be treated as such.
14 Vanessa Williams
Vanessa Williams' photo leak scandal is a particularly interesting one because it took place before the days of social media. The actress became the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss America in 1984, but due to intense pressure from the media following a photo leak, she eventually resigned. Nude photos of Williams were leaked and offered to Playboy's Hugh Hefner. However, he turned them down because he did not have her consent to share them. Penthouse's Bob Guccione did not seem to be phased by that lack of consent and went ahead and published her nude photos in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse. Williams went on to sue Guccione for $500 million but eventually dropped the claim, saying the "best revenge is success." She certainly has gone on to be successful, with an impressive film, television, and music career behind her and more to come.
13 Chris Brown
Oh, Chris Brown. Where to begin? He seems to find himself in the middle of a wicked new scandal each week, and his nude photo leak was no exception. In 2011, private images reported to be of the then 21-year-old were leaked to the media. They show the young man standing nude in front of a mirror, and taking a picture of himself. The photos were allegedly leaked by a vengeful ex-girlfriend, although he never confirmed who it was. What he did say, however, was regarding being accused of leaking them himself for attention: “Let me be honest with you. I didn’t want to put no pictures out; that’s not my intention. A lot of people were saying, 'Yo, he leaked the pictures, he was trying to get promotion. For me, I was always a singer, so unless I’m planning on trying to do porn, I don’t think I’d want to just leak my wang out to the world before my album comes out.” No matter who did, in fact, leak the photos, they did result in a lot of talk about the singer, but in true Chris Brown style, it wasn't all positive.
12 Vanessa Hudgens
She started her career as a Disney star with her lead role in all three High School Musical movies. She also had a very publicized relationship with fellow HSM actor and heartthrob, Zac Efron, from 2006 to 2010. In 2007, she was only 18 when nude photos of Hudgens shot in her home and taken from her Gmail account were leaked to the public. Hudgens spoke out recently about how difficult the whole thing was for her, "That was just a really s**tty situation that sucked. That was by far the worst moment of my career." Not long after the leak, she also apologized to her young fans for the images that were shared.
11 Ashley Greene
Ashley Greene rose to fame thanks to her role as Alice, Edward Cullen's psychic sister in the Twilight film saga. She also had a string of high-profile relationships with celebs like Joe Jonas, Reeve Carney, and Jared Followill. Unfortunately, in 2009 Ashley Greene was another young starlet to fall victim to a photo leak scandal. When the intimate photos were shared, Greene was understandably upset and had her lawyer explain: "The photos in question, which appear to be of our client, are illegal and are being unlawfully displayed. Our client intends to take legal action," along with threatening to take legal action against anyone who shared the unlawfully obtained photos.
10 Heather Morris
Heather Morris handled her leaked photo scandal like a pro, and before long, it wasn't on the forefront of everyone's mind. The actress and dancer was one of the most beloved characters, Brittany S. Pierce, on the hit television show, Glee. These days, Morris is focusing on her important role as a mother to her son, Elijah, and wife to her husband, Taylor Hubbell. Before her phone was hacked in 2012, Morris also had photos leak from a pre-Glee photo shoot that were also au natural. However, Morris took it in stride, saying, "I understand completely where it came from. For me, I think they are beautiful. It's not something I'm ashamed of. Everybody should do tasteful beautiful nudes, so when you get older you're gonna be like, 'Oh, that's when my body looked so great!' " Hopefully, her attitude about the second photo leak was just as positive.
9 Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst has been a famous actress since she was a child, and with that has experienced her fair share of highly publicized stories about her life. When nude photos of Dunst were leaked in 2014, she spoke publicly about the incident: "I try to have a sense of humor about a really unfortunate situation. The FBI is investigating, so they're handling it right now." She was commended for putting on such a brave face about what happened to her, and she also tweeted "Thank you iCloud" with a pizza and a poop emoji beside it. Seems fitting!
8 Brett Favre
While most photo leaks seem to happen to female celebrities, there have been some very high-profile male celebrities that have experienced similar situations. Football pro Brett Favre was one of them. Favre played in the NFL for 20 years, most notably as the Green Bay Packer's quarterback, and was a highly celebrated athlete when he found himself in the middle of an embarrassing media firestorm in 2010. Because the scandal involved another woman, it was exasperated by the fact that Favre was a married father and grandfather. A 26-year old woman who worked for the New York Jets alleged that Favre (or someone pretending to be him) had sent her nude photos and inappropriate text and voice messages in 2008. Said messages and photos were shared with the public and the NFL launched an investigation to determine if Favre had acted unlawfully. He was eventually charged $50,000 for not cooperating with the investigation.
7 Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba began her career as one of the hottest and most popular actresses, but these days her focus is on her business empire, The Honest Company, as well as raising her two young daughters. When she was pregnant with her first daughter, Honor, she took some private photos on her cellphone, which was later hacked, and these photos were shared with the world. While the photos of Alba that were leaked may not have been as NSFW as those of other celebrities, it is no doubt a gross violation of her privacy and property.
6 Christina Hendricks
Mad Men fans remember Christina Hendricks character, Joan, fondly. She was the curvaceous, courageous, and bold employee who rose to the top alongside Don Draper. In 2012, a hacker released photos of who they claimed was a nude Christina Hendricks, along with other photos in various stages of undress. Hendricks later admitted that her phone was indeed hacked, and some of the photos were hers. However, she explained that the photo of bare breasts did not belong to her. Because Christina Hendricks' figure is so widely celebrated, the photos, her or not, spread quickly throughout the media because people just couldn't get enough of them.
5 Amber Rose
Amber Rose is a model whose name you likely first heard when she was dating rapper Kanye West. Later, she married and had a child with rapper Wiz Khalifa, and they also had one son together. In 2014, amid a plethora of celebrity phone hacking scandals, Rose took it upon herself to have a little fun with the public. She posted a picture on her Instagram of herself lying nude on a bed, explaining that she wanted to beat the hackers to it and show what she really looks like from behind. Later, she was indeed still hacked, making her one of over 100 female celebrities to have their iCloud hacked in 2014.
4 Jennifer Lawrence
One of the most prominent figures to have her photos leaked in 2014 was actress Jennifer Lawrence. The Hunger Games star had incredibly intimate portraits of herself shared with the whole world. Lawrence was understandably outraged and took it upon herself to try and explain the severity of this crime in an interview with Vanity Fair: "Just because I'm a public figure, just because I'm an actress, does not mean that I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It's my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can't believe that we even live in that kind of world . . . It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It's disgusting." She couldn't be more right.
3 Mary Elizabeth Winstead
While many people who were victims of the 2014 celebrity photo leaks denied that it was in fact them in the pictures, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead bravely defended herself publicly (although she certainly doesn't need to defend herself). She called out not only those who leaked the pictures, but those who chose to share and seek them out, on Twitter: "To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves. Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only image the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked." Her tweets point out just how extreme the efforts of those who hacked celebrity phones were. Her comments also sparked an important discussion about the tragic culture of blaming the victim and just how unfair and unjust these crimes are.
2 Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle Union was another actress whose private photos intended for her husband, NBA basketball player Dwayne Wade, were leaked to the public. Union and Wade spoke out publicly about the event: "It has come to our attention that our private moments, that were shared and deleted solely between my husband and myself, have been leaked by some vultures." Vultures may not be extreme enough a term, but it's difficult to verbalize just how senseless and cruel phone hacking and picture leaking is.
1 Kate Upton
Often touted as the modern day Marilyn Monroe, model Kate Upton is no stranger to her body being the topic of many conversations. However, in 2014, her phone was hacked, and incredibly intimate photos of her were shared, and the conversation took a whole new turn. Many people ignorantly voiced their opinion that a woman who regularly shares photos of herself nearly nude shouldn't complain about that being taken one step further. Those ignorant comments speak to a larger problem in society about misogyny and the blaming of female victims. No matter what Upton, or anyone else, does for work, if any photos of them are stolen and shared illegally and without consent, they have every right to be outraged and to take legal action. Upton's lawyer explained they would be doing just that: “We intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible."