It's not uncommon for someone to become a celebrity and then suffer an unfortunate downward spiral into a life of crime. However, in rare cases, some criminals can end up turning to a life of a celebrity. Certainly, it isn't the most common scenario, but occasionally a person will discover through their rehabilitation process that they have a talent or skill that leads them to eventually become a star.
Then again, maybe they just wake up one day and realize that life in the spotlight can be way more lucrative and way less dangerous than a life of crime. There is also the infrequent instance of a criminal possessing talent that is discovered by someone in "show business" who sees potential in them. Below, you'll find a list of celebrities who have criminal backgrounds, but moved on to be superstars!
Charged with: possession of cocaine, felony possession of drugs, possession for sale, and murder (acquitted)
Starred in: Training Day, Soul Plane
Before he was one of the biggest rappers in the world, Snoop Dogg was a Long Beach, California teen who was busted for drug possession on multiple occasions. He is said to have been in and out of prison in the late '80s and early '90s on drug-related charges. Then in 1993, while he was recording his debut album, Doggystyle, Snoop and his bodyguard were charged with the murder of a rival gang member. They were both acquitted in 1996, after hiring late defense attorney Johnnie Cochran to represent them. Snoop has since gone on to be one of the most recognizable figures in hip-hop and has starred in numerous films, including the recent Jamie Foxx film Day Shift, on Netflix.prevnext
Charged with: DUI, probation violation
Starred in: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian
Keeping Up With the Kardashians debuted on E! in October 2007, catapulting the now-famous family to superstardom. Just a few months prior, however, Khloé Kardashian was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. The following year — on July 18, 2008 — the reality star reported to jail to serve time for violation of probation.
She was facing a sentence of up to 30 days, as well as being required to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program within no more than three weeks of her jailtime release. However, she was released from jail less than three hours after being booked, due to overcrowding. These days, Kardashian is an established reality TV star and host, as well as a mom to two beautiful children.prevnext
Charged with: violating civil rights, attempted murder, felony assault
Starred in: Boogie Nights, The Departed
In 1986, Boston-born Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg faced a hate crime-related lawsuit, after he and some friends reportedly harassed and attacked a group of mostly black children. Two years later, he was charged with attempted murder for violently attacking two Vietnamese-American men. He pleaded guilty to felony assault, a lesser charge, and was sentenced to two years in jail. The then-future A-list actor served only 45 days of his sentence.
Wahlberg and his music group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch rose to fame in the early '90s, but that didn't seem to quell Wahlberg's legal issues. In 1992, after their song "Good Vibrations" became a massive hit in the U.S., Wahlberg was taken to court over a fight with his neighbor which left the alleged victim with a fractured jaw. The case was settled out of court and never went to a criminal trial.
In the years after, Wahlberg's celebrity continued to propel forward, with roles in films such as The Basketball Diaries and Fear. He got his big break in 1997 with Boogie Nights, which co-starred Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore, among others. These days, Wahlberg is seemingly everywhere, having starred in six films in the past two years, and one more still set to be released this year: Me Time, with Kevin Hart. He has expressed public remorse and regret over some of his past criminal behavior.prevnext
Charged with: Possession and drug trafficking
Starred in: Home Improvement, The Santa Clause, Last Man Standing
Tim Allen spent the '90's as TV's top dad, Tim Taylor, on the beloved sitcom Home Improvement. But before that, he made the rounds as an up-and-coming stand-up comedian. And before THAT, Allen spent some time in jail. In 1978, Allen was arrested at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for possession of over 1 lb of cocaine. He was facing a life sentence but cut a deal that saw him spend only a little over two years in the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota.prevnext
"Hot Felon" Jeremy Meeks
Charged with: Robbery, Corporal Injury to a Child
Jeremy Meeks is better known as the "Hot Felon," whose mug shot made him world famous for being a very attractive criminal. Meeks was charged with "robbery and corporal injury to a child" in 2002 after allegedly assaulting a 16-year-old male. He cut a deal that saw him only spend two years behind bars in a California prison.
While he was still in prison though, Meek's mugshot went viral, where he earned his new nickname. Subsequently, he signed with a modeling agency and a Hollywood talent agent. He made his runway debut during New York Fashion Week in February 2017.prevnext
Charged with: Unclear, spent many years in prison
Starred in: Sons of Anarchy, Machete, The Devil's Rejects
Danny Trejo appears in tons of movies these days and, over the last couple of decades, he's certified himself as an established film and TV star. However, before starring in movies like Desperado and Spy Kids, Trejo was in and out of prison for many years. There are conflicting accounts of how long he was actually in jail and little information about what he was sentenced for, but he once gave an interview recounting a time that a prison riot almost got him sent to the gas chamber.
"After the Cinco de Mayo riots at San Quentin, in 1968, they said I threw a rock and hit the lieutenant in the head but you know what? I did hit him in the head with a rock. But I wasn't throwing it at him, I was throwing it at a group of guys and he happened to be hit," he said. Ultimately, he got out and turned his life around.prevnext
Charged with: Murder
Starred in: The Wire
At the age of only 14 years old, Felicia Pearson was convicted of murder in the second degree, in connection with the death of a girl named Okia Toomer. She was sentenced to serve a consecutive eight-year prison term, but was released after only six years. A chance meeting with Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little on The Wire, led her to meet the show's producers, which in turn had her auditioning and being offered a role on the show. Her performance on the show caused horror author Stephen King to label her "perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series."prevnext
Charged with: Traffic violation
Okay, so maybe Bill Gates wasn't technically a "criminal," but he did have a couple of run-ins with the law on his way to being the world's richest person. Gates and his business partner Paul Allen launched Microsoft in 1975. That same year, Gates was reportedly arrested for "driving without a license and speeding."
Two years later Gates was pulled over by police in Albuquerque, New Mexico for "driving without a license and not stopping at a stop sign." Gates' arrests ultimately produce a smirking mugshot that is almost as legendary as his role in the evolution of the computer age.prev