A Year of Awkward Celebrity Apologies


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It's safe to say that 2023 has given us more than our fair share of celebrity mishaps and the subsequent apologies that range from sincere to utterly cringe-worthy. As the year unfolds, it's becoming increasingly clear that these public mea culpas often fail to address the serious harm inflicted on others, leaving the court of public opinion to wonder if they're genuine or merely attempts at damage control. 

The takeaway here is there are moments when saying "my bad" echoes just as loudly as what caused it in the first place. In this blog, Hollywood Branded reviews some of this year's awkward celebrity apologies, and we ask you to consider the critical takeaway: If you're famous, never post a video apology. 

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Drew Barrymore stirred up controversy when she announced her talk show's return without its striking writers, earning her the label of a "scab." Her attempt at an apology was textbook YouTuber style – an off-camera script, humble surroundings, and even some teary moments. Unfortunately, her words didn't quite hit the mark, as she compared the writer's strike to a pandemic, leaving many feeling her apology was more about preserving her show than acknowledging her mistake. Barrymore’s show returning was a widely criticized decision, and her show was met with picketers outside of its New York City studio on its first day of production.

The WGA condemned Barrymore’s decision to return, while SAG-AFTRA defended her. Perhaps Drew realized her misstep, as she promptly deleted the apology video and decided to pause her show's return. Even though the Writers Guild is back to work, the three WGA members, credited collectively as head writers of the show, have opted not to return to the show. The takeaway here is that once you make a video apology, it taints the situation and doesn't always end well.

SourceIndy100Photo Source: Indy100

the jimmy fallon |toxic workplace apology

A September 7, 2023 article in Rolling Stone detailed the behind-the-scenes unbalanced and toxic workplace environment at The Tonight Show. According to most employees who spoke to Rolling Stone, it’s common knowledge behind the scenes that host Jimmy Fallon’s temperament, mood, and treatment of staffers is erratic. These employees say they’ve witnessed Fallon snap at crew members, express irritation over the smallest of things, and belittle staffers out of frustration. Three former employees say that he berated them in front of other colleagues and crew members. After the report was published, Fallon issued an apology after allegations of creating a "toxic workplace."

His words on a Zoom call left much to be desired, with statements like "I feel so bad" that could come across as an attempt to garner sympathy. While employees told Rolling Stone that Fallon's apology felt "pretty earnest," the comedian may have some work to do in the court of public opinion. When news of the meeting was shared on X, (formerly Twitter), the comments were met with a backlash. "Jimmy apologizes and then says he never mistreated anyone. That is a non-apology and is disappointing," said one detractor. "He's not sorry!" another X user opined of Fallon. "Only [because] he got called out! Apologizing isn't all there is to it; it's about translating that into the workspace for staffers to feel safe and be happy." This style of apology might leave you thinking that a full-blown tantrum would have been more sincere.


Photo Source: Rolling Stone

the lizzo and her dance captain | backup dancers apology

When Lizzo and her dance captain Shirlene Quigley faced a lawsuit with serious allegations, they opted for a Notes-app apology. Lizzo expressed her desire not to be seen as a victim, but she also didn't come across as very empathetic. The passive-aggressive tone toward the former backup dancers didn't help matters.

Opting for a classic Notes-app apology statement (no video here, thankfully) Lizzo said that she doesn’t want to be looked at “as a victim, but I also know I’m not the villain”. Ah yes, the old ‘I’m not the bad guy’ trick. Lizzo then passive-aggressively scolded her former backup dancers, saying they “already publicly admitted that they were told their behavior on tour was inappropriate and unprofessional”. Perhaps Lizzo’s legal team is advising her that an apology is comparable to admitting wrongdoing, but some critics would say this has the appearance of victim-blaming.

There are many who are calling this out as a meaningless pile of words that do nothing to address most of the charges brought in the suit. But Lizzo is pushing back. The Grammy winner and recent Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award recipient made her feelings very clear about sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, and fostering a “hostile work environment” lawsuit brought against her by former tour dancers and Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls contestants.

On September 27, 2023, Lizzo filed her first legal response, in which she formally denied all allegations against her. According to Billboard, the response includes a 31-point rebuttal of the dancers’ claims and asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice (which would prevent the dancers from re-filing). However, if the court does not dismiss the case, Lizzo is requesting a jury trial, which the dancers themselves have also called for.

“This is the first step of a legal process in which Lizzo and her team will demonstrate that they have always practiced what they’ve preached — whether it comes to promoting body positivity, leading a safe and supportive workplace, or protecting individuals from any kind of harassment...Any and all claims to the contrary are ridiculous, and we look forward to proving so in a court of law" as shared by a spokesperson for Lizzo said in a statement.


SourceTheEdgePhoto Source: The Edge


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the colleen ballinger | child grooming allegations 'apology'

Okay, this one could be rough for many former fans under the age of 30. YouTuber Colleen Ballinger, known for her "Miranda Sings" character that earned her a Netflix show, has come under fire after videos of her past inappropriate behavior have resurfaced online.

During the summer of 2023, multiple videos were posted by TikTok users alleging she sexualized minors, oftentimes inviting them on stage to participate in a segment about porn. In response to the resurfaced accusations, Ballinger posted an apology – while playing the ukulele – after she was accused of inappropriate conduct around minors.

She admitted to having made mistakes, saying she may have "overshared" with young fans in the past, but said she has changed her behavior. Many social media users criticized the seemingly flippant video, saying the allegations are serious – with some accusing her of "grooming" fans, or taking advantage of their young age to manipulate them – and condemning Ballinger for not taking accountability.

GettyImagesPhoto Source: Getty Images

the ashton kutcher & mila kunis  | danny masterson support letter apology

Ashton Kutcher and his wife Mila Kunis found themselves in hot water when their letters of support for convicted rapist Danny Masterson were exposed. Kutcher and Kunis submitted written letters defending Masterson's character, prior to his conviction for raping two women. But when the public learned of these letters defending Masterson, outrage ensued. In their video apology, they expressed regret for the "pain they may have caused" with the letters. However, the apology had all the hallmarks of a classic YouTuber apology, making it seem like they were more concerned about the letters' publicity than their actual content.

The social media post was flooded with comments from disappointed followers who argued that there is no justification for supporting a rapist, no matter how good a friend he has been to Mila and Ashton personally.

In the video’s negative wake, Kutcher resigned from Thorn, the anti-child sex abuse organization that he co-founded in 2009 with then-wife Demi Moore. Kutcher served as Thorn’s chairman of the board, while his current wife, Mila Kunis, was an observer on the organization’s board. She is stepping down as well. Thorn published Kutcher’s letter to the board announcing his resignation. He cited the backlash he received after it was revealed he and Kunis wrote letters of support on behalf of Danny Masterson ahead of his sentencing for rape.

KutcherKunisapology dideo Source InstagramPhoto Source: Instagram

okay, so what makes a good apology?

"Defending oneself is not what an apology is for," said Kimberly A. Hall, an associate professor of English and digital media studies at Wofford College in South Carolina. Hall who wrote an academic paper analyzing Facebook's apology in the wake of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Hall further stated:

"An apology is a moment in which the offender recognizes the victim's claims of harm and makes it clear that they will act differently in the future." Hall says there is a whole side of YouTube dedicated to analyzing and ranking apology videos from public figures. She said what makes a successful apology is "often not the apology itself but the actions that follow the apology that do the work to restore the reputation of an individual or a brand."


In 2023, the world of celebrity apologies continues to be a minefield of missteps, insincerity, and, at times, bewildering choices. As consumers of celebrity culture, it's crucial to scrutinize these apologies, hold celebrities accountable, and seek genuine remorse and change. After all, the impact of these apologies extends beyond the realm of fame and fortune, affecting those who have been wronged and society as a whole. With a little more thought and authenticity, the celebrity apology landscape could be a much better place.

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