Girl Power – 27 Women Who Revolutionized Hollywood

The legend of Hollywood began in the early 20th century, and ever since its origins, countless female stars have risen to stardom. Many of these talented actresses have defied social norms and the stereotypes of femininity of their time. On top of that, most of these stars have been part of some of the most famous controversies and scandals which you probably remember or have heard about. So here’s a list of 27 controversial and scandal-stridden female celebrities who have revolutionized Hollywood. Are you ready?

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

#27. Joan Jett

As her #1 hit Bad Reputation says, she doesn’t care what you think about her, and her entire life and career are proof of this. Since her early years on the industry, Joan Jett has dismissed the typical girly stereotype that plagued young Hollywood stars. Her rebellious nature is also mirrored in her first steps in the music scene with her girl band that rocked harder than most boybands of the time.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

She became a female icon of the century and helped pave the way for those girls who wanted to be in the Rock and Roll scene. In 1999, she spoke her famous phrase “There’s nothing more threatening than a girl with a guitar.”  She’s never been afraid of speaking out her mind and that made her a face of the feminist movement.

#26. Madonna

As one of the most iconic female artists of all time, Madonna has reinvented herself over and over again during her -still- pop-star years. She has sparked quite a few controversies throughout her career, either because of the way she spoke, the way she dressed, or the way she behaved. Her intimidating and crucial cultural impact has turned her into the indisputable “Queen of Pop”, but let’s not forget that she also made a name of herself in Hollywood.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Madonna’s career is often applauded but sometimes disapproved, mostly for how she exhibits her sexuality. She performed her first full-frontal nudity photo session in 1977, causing a great fuss in the entertainment world. However, one of the most controversial moments of her career was when she burned crosses on the music video of Like a Prayer in 1989, causing John Paul II to speak out against her and to try to boycott her Blond Ambition tour in Italy.

#25. Winona Ryder

One of Hollywood’s favorite outcasts became famous with 80’s cult films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Heathers. While filming Edward Scissorhands, Winona met her ex-fiancee, Johnny Depp. As a romantic yet controversial act, Depp tattooed the words “Winona Forever” on his arm.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

In December 2001, Ryder was arrested for stealing $5.500 worth of designer clothes and accessories from Saks Fifth Avenue. She was accused of shoplifting charges and convicted a year later to three years’ probation, 480 hours of community service, $3,700 in fines, and $6,355 in restitution to Saks store. Later, she admitted in an interview that at the time she was clinically depressed and that made her shoplift. Now, she has made a comeback at her amazing role in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

#24. Carrie Fisher

With a tumultuous career under her arms, Carrie Fisher had battled with addiction and struggles with bipolar disorder, and openly discussed these in her book Wishful Drinking. During Meet&Greets and Q&A sessions at fan conventions, she even told stories about the time she partied with The Rolling Stones a few hours before filming scenes of The Empire Strikes Back.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Fisher eventually admitted that her Star Wars’ role pushed her drug addiction to the highest levels, and in 2008, she even confesses she wished she had turned down the most important role of her life. Fisher always did what she wanted to and fought in her own way the issues of sexism and ageism in Hollywood. Filmmaker Naomi McDougall Jones revealed that Carrie “took the sex-symbol image off the pedestal and flipped it on its head.”

#23. Courtney Love

Courtney Love is known as the lead singer of Hole and for being the wife of Kurt Cobain. Also, Courtney has been the center of so much negative attention throughout the years. Since her first appearance on the music and film scenes in the early ’90s, Love has been involved in many scandals and has made headlines -almost- every time she appeared in public.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

As we’ve said, Love has been wrapped in many controversial moments. Some of the most remarkable ones include her throwing a shoe at Madonna in an interview at the 1995 VMAs, or Love flashing David Letterman during The Late Show. She even went to the limit during the 1995 Vanity Fair Oscar party when she attempted to attack a Vanity Fair journalist using Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar statue as a possible -and nearest – weapon.

#22. Jane Fonda

Also known as “Hanoi Jane”, Jane Fonda was – and still is – a political activist, actress, and model. When she went on a trip to North Vietnam to witness the effects of the war with her own eyes, she earned the nickname “Hanoi Jane”. In this trip, she was also photographed while sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.

Photo: Courtesy of Clarín

This picture went viral and sparked anger all across America, though at the same time it earned her the admiration of millions of ordinary citizens. She has never lost her revolutionary spirit since just two months ago she was imprisoned after protesting to raise awareness on the climate change crisis in the US Capitol.

#21. Drew Barrymore

Actress Drew Barrymore has had a crazy Hollywood lifestyle from a very early age, since she started attending the infamous nightclub Studio 54 when she was only 12. After her famous role in E.T., Barrymore’s party lifestyle was all the media talked about.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

At the age of 14, Barrymore emancipated from her parents and moved to Hollywood, and was thus regarded as one of the most rebellious teens of the 90s. She became the talk of the town once again when she flashed David Letterman in front of the cameras during The Late Night Show. Later on, she became a multi-faceted actress who starred in countless blockbusters.

#20. Kate Moss

Just like Drew Barrymore, Kate Moss became a popular topic in the tabloids in the 90s when she was just a teenager. She rose to fame after starring in the 1993 Calvin Klein campaign at the age of 19 and went on to become one of the world’s greatest supermodels.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Hudson received widespread negative media attention for her party lifestyle and was often depicted as heedless and immature. Far from bothered, Moss played into the “bad girl” character by dating the controversial rock singer Pete Doherty and partying wildly with some of the most famous supermodels. Unfortunately, she was dropped from many campaigns after being involved in a major drug scandal in 2005. Ever since then, she pursued a career in Hollywood, starring in many famous comedies like Zoolander 2.

#19. Joan Crawford

Throughout her long and prominent career, Oscar-winning actress Joan Crawford has always been the subject of tabloid gossip. To begin with, she was famous for being part of one of the most intense celebrity feuds in Hollywood history – of course, we’re talking about her endless rivalry with Bette Davis.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Back in her 20s and 30s, endless rumors were saying that she partied every weekend, danced naked for money, and used her sexuality as a weapon to land roles in important films. She was married and divorced 4 times and was involved in many relationships with both men and women, and let us remember that such a degree of sexual liberation was frowned upon at that time. But one thing’s for sure: she was one of the greatest actresses of all time!

#18. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is often regarded as the first sex symbol in American history, and it’s hard to find a single person in the world who doesn’t know who she was. She was the #1 topic in the tabloids throughout the 40s and 50s and she would appear in a headline almost every week.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Monroe had a very public love life and the endless rumors of her affairs with prominent artists and politicians – such as President J.F. Kennedy – consolidated her career and her fame. She also became the first Playboy cover girl and went on to star in several Hollywood comedies.

#17. Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie was once one of the baddest girls in the entertainment world, at least until she married Brad Pitt and became a mother and activist. She started out as an adult film star, though she went on to star in famous Hollywood blockbusters since the early 90s.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

She has been part of numerous scandals, from wearing a vial full of his ex-husband’s blood on her neck to mouth-kissing his brother at the Red Carpet. She has been in relationships with both men and women and has publicly come out as bisexual. Also, she was unfairly condemned for being a homewrecker after dating Brad Pitt when he was still married to Friends star Jennifer Aniston. Nowadays, she’s not only one of the most successful and well-paid actresses in the world, but also an activist for education and women’s rights causes.

#16. Loretta Young

Loretta Young was one of the greatest icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, having won an Academy Award in 1948. In the mid-30s, she was involved in one of the biggest Hollywood scandals of all time after rumors spread that she was pregnant and that Clark Gable – who was at that time a married man – was the father.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

In an attempt to hide her pregnancy, Young moved to England for several months and sent her daughter to different orphanages to avoid being seen together. Mother and daughter reunited 4 years later and Young tried to convince the world that she had adopted her. However, in spite of her efforts to conceal the truth from the press, the rumors made it to the headlines. Talk about gender oppression, right?

#15. Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood was one of the first famous child stars in Hollywood history, having received 3 Academy Award nominations before the age of 24. On another level, her unexpected death is regarded to this day as one of the greatest tragedies in Hollywood.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Wood got married to actor Robert Wagner in the mid-70s but died in the most horrible of ways 5 years later. The actress drowned while sailing with his husband and actor Christopher Walken, who the media believed she was having an affair with. While the death was pronounced an accident, her body was found covered in bruises. The case remains unsolved to this day.

#14. Rita Hayworth

Famous for her lead role in Gilda, Rita Hayworth is one of the best actresses of all time. In spite of her scandalous career, she always tried to keep her personal life to herself. She married for the first time at the age of 18 to her manager Edward Judson. The marriage ended in a scandal, and she once claimed that “I married him for love, he married me for an investment“.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Hayworth married 4 other times, and all of them ended in public controversies too. Also, Hayworth would always change her looks in order to fit the hegemonic beauty standards and was often criticized for that very same reason, like the time when she had an inch of her hairline removed with electrolysis.

#13. Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor is not only famous for her 6 Academy Award nominations, but also for her whopping 8 marriages. She ruled Hollywood for 5 decades, so she was bound to be part of at least some scandals, wasn’t she?

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

She married for the first time at the age of 18 to Conrad Hilton, the man who inherited the famous hotel chain in 1957. During the late 50s, she was branded as a homewrecker after engaging in an affair with her co-star Eddie Fisher. This led to her divorce from Reynolds and to the beginning of an endless feud between the two. But we should speak less about her love life and more about her raw talent, as she became the first actress to be paid $1 million for a role after starring in Cleopatra.

#12. Lindsay Lohan

What can we say about Lindsay Lohan that you don’t know already? Her party lifestyle, drug problems, and rebellious behavior have been a topic in the tabloids for years. Who would’ve thought that the Parent Trap star would end up involved in so many media scandals?

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Many of Lohan’s public scandals and financial problems have been taken to court, and this has had a negative impact on her career. She was eventually turned down from many roles because she would always show up late to the rehearsals. During the past few years, she has led a low-key lifestyle and went on to open a few nightclubs and beach houses in Greece.

#11. Bettie Page

Back in the 50s, there wasn’t a single middle-aged man who didn’t have a Bettie Page pinup on their wall. In fact, she came to be known as the Queen of Pinups! Her signature shoulder-length brunette locks revolutionized the fashion world.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

During the peak of her fame, she participated in a controversial photoshoot which included nude pictures with two cheetahs. However, her life took a 180-degree turn after she became a strict Christian, after which she even looked down on her career as a model.

#10. Lana Turner

Even though Lana Turner was famous for playing rather innocent and childish characters, she was one of the baddest girls out there. She was always criticized for her liberal sex life and she became the talk of the town when her boyfriend Johnny Stompanato was murdered by her own daughter.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

However, little did this scandal ruin her career, as she then went on to star in the drama film Imitation of Life, which became one of her greatest successes. She got married 6 more times, and in an interview, she once said: “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around“.

#9. Shannen Doherty

Does Shannen Doherty ring a bell? Of course she does, as you’ve probably seen her in the role of Brenda Walk on the teenage drama series Beverly Hills, 90210. Did you know she wrote an autobiography titled Badass: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude? Well, that pretty much says it all.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Doherty’s constant fights with her 90210 co-stars earned her the reputation of a total diva, and she was once referred to as the “iconic Hollywood bad girl” by People Magazine. Both the cast and the production crew claimed that she would always be late to set and that she would constantly pick up fights for the most trivial reasons.

#8. Zsa Zsa Gabor

After being named Miss Hungary, Hungarian actress and model Zsa Zsa Gabor moved to the U.S. and became one of the most beloved European actresses in Hollywood. However, she was most famous for her sumptuous lifestyle as well as her countless marriages.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

She was married 9 times, including famous stars, including Elizabeth Taylor’s ex-husband, Conrad Hilton. During an interview, she once joked: “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house”. It seems that she never minded the scandals, as she once confessed she had had a sexual encounter with Nicky Hilton, her stepson.

#7. Mabel Normand

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and go back to the silent film era. Mabel Normand was one of the greatest actresses and comedians during the 20s, and she worked with the scandal-plagued directors Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle. She was also married to director Mark Sennett, in what was one of the first major celebrity couples in Hollywood history.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Her marriage to Sennett didn’t last, but she soon married another famous director, William Desmond Taylor. She saw herself involved in a tragic scandal after his husband was brutally murdered, and she happened to be the last person to see him before the tragedy. A few years later, in 1924, she made it to the headlines when her lover, Courtland Dines, was shot by her chauffeur. I’m still waiting for her biopic to be released!

#6. Gia Carangi

Just as Marilyn Monroe is regarded as the first sex symbol in history, Gia Carangi is considered the world’s first supermodel. At the age of 18, she had already starred in campaigns with Armani, Dior, Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent. Next to her, I feel like a total loser, work-wise!

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

But above all, Carangi is considered to be the first openly gay model. She was known for her rebellious and apathetic nature, famous for her sneering glare. At the age of 23, she entered rehab after a drug abuse scandal. One year later and after a fast recovery, she began working as a prostitute and was soon diagnosed with AIDS. She was the first female celebrity to die from that disease in 1986.

#5. Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield will always be remembered not only as a Hollywood star but also as one of Playboy’s first cover girls. Also, she was one of the most famous supermodels of the 50s and 60s, and she would frequently do photoshoots at her home wearing nothing but a bikini.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

Also, Mansfield was one of the first actresses to ever shoot a nude scene on film, for Donovan’s classic 1963 film Promises, Promises! Just a few years before, she had been photographed topless after her red bikini came off after diving into a pool.

#4. Mae West

If you’re a millennial, you may probably not know who Mae West was, but let me tell you she was a true star during her time. She began her career as an actress as a Vaudeville artist and went on to star in countless Hollywood classics during the 30s and 40s.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

She was heavily criticized and looked down on because of her liberated sexual lifestyle. In 1926, she wrote, produced, and directed a Broadway play called Sex, which sparked quite a bit of controversy among religious organizations. In fact, someone pressed charges against her and she was sentenced to 10 days of jail. Why, you may wonder? For “corrupting the morals of youth“. Had she been born in the 80s, she would now be an LGBT icon, that’s for sure!

#3. Tallulah Bankhead

As you can see, the stars on our top 5 are not as well-known today, but you should know they did take part in some of the greatest scandals of the 20th century. As regards Tallulah Bankhead, she is most remembered for her controversial lifestyle than for her career as an actress.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

She is thought to have created the catchphrase “dah-ling” and she was also famous for her sexual independence. She had lots of celebrity boyfriends and girlfriends, and you know what? Allegedly, she once told Joan Crawford: “Dah-ling, you’re divine. I’ve had an affair with your husband. You’ll be next.” Wow, what a badass!

#2. Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow was another of the biggest stars of the silent film era, and her life was plagued with so many scandals that an entire TV series could be made based on her life. She rose to fame when she was just a teenager after doing a nude photo session, though she was famous before that for being the daughter of a famous mobster.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

However, she became the trending topic in the tabloids after she married Paul Bern, an actor 22 years older than her. A few months after they got married, Bern was found dead with a suicide note by his side. Although she died of kidney disease, many rumors surrounding her death were spread.

#1. Clara Bow

You’re all familiar with the term “It-girl”, right? Well, you should know that this concept was coined after Hollywood star Clara Bow. She reached fame after starring in The Roaring Twenties and she became one of the first sex symbols in the film industry.

Photo: Courtesy of History 101

In an interview, her co-star Lina Basquette said the following:

“She wasn’t well-liked amongst other women in the film colony. Her social presence was taboo, and it was rather silly because God knows Marion Davies and Mary Pickford had plenty to hide“.

Related posts:

  • About Author

    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

  • Advertising

  • Advertising