It’s never an easy choice to cut off contact with someone in your family. But as celebrities like Meghan Markle, Matthew McConaughey, and Jennifer Aniston can all attest, sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s a choice at all. You can say “family first” all you want, but when someone in your life hurts you over and over and shows no sign they’re interested in changing, it becomes a matter of self-preservation. And a surprising number of stars have made the brave choice not only to set those boundaries, but to share their stories with the world. For many, it was the matter of celebrity itself that became a sticking point with family members, or dramatically changed how their loved ones were behaving. But for others, a close relationship with their parents was never on the table, and their talents in the arts were a welcome escape from home.
Perhaps the most well-publicized case of estrangement in recent years has been that of Meghan Markle and her father Thomas, in large part because of Thomas’ undying interest in rehashing the matter with the media. Their troubles began with just this sort of behavior, with Thomas staging paparazzi photos in his hometown in the weeks leading up to Meghan’s royal wedding, cashing in on her newfound fame, and ignoring her pleas to stop.
In new memoir Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey opens up about a similar experience of finding his mother intoxicated with his success and willing to speak to the press about him, leading him to cut her out of his life for nearly a decade. In the memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey, meanwhile, the singer describes a childhood where she was drugged, attacked, and put into danger by her older sister, years before her career would begin. For all the differences in their stories, all these accounts of family estrangement share the same pain: the realization that they couldn’t trust someone they’d loved so much.
For anyone who’s ever struggled with the decision to cut off family contact or dealt with feelings of shame that follow — especially around the holidays — these stars’ stories are proof that you’re not alone. Read on to see which other stars have opened up about being estranged from family.
A version of this story was originally published in Nov. 2020.
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