Celebrities Who've Had Complicated Relationships with Their Parents

Matthew McConaughey

In their first joint-interview, Matthew and his mom, Kay McConaughey, stopped by Red Table Talk to chat about what caused the two to become estranged for eight years.

“I was trying to find my own balance with fame and stuff. And I would share things with her… some of those things I would share might show up in the six o’clock news three days later,” he recalled as Kay sat next to him.

The father of three said he was shocked to find his mother had allowed cameras for the tabloid news show Hard Copy into the family’s home. McConaughey remembered watching the segment on TV as his mother showed the cameras his childhood bedroom and shared private family stories. The moment caused the Dallas Buyers Club star to shut Kay out, saying, “I was not able to talk to her as my mom for about eight years.”

Over time, McConaughey was able to get the handle he wanted on his career, saying, “My boat was built well enough where I didn’t feel like she could sink it. We healed that up in 2004.”

Kay admitted to “enjoying his fame more than he was, I guess.”

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Mariah Carey

In her just-released memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey, the singer unpacks the rollercoaster bond between herself and her mother Patricia.

Carey explains the depths of her ″trauma and deep sadness,″ which stems from her rocky relationship with her family, in particular with her mother Patricia, noting “our relationship is anything but simple.”

After many years of difficult interactions, with Carey wishing for ″genuine, sustained interest″ from her mother before Patricia asking for money or favors, she sought therapy to help her “reframe” her family.

″I had to stop making myself available to be hurt by them. It has been helpful. I have no doubt it is emotionally and physically safer for me not to have any contact with my [siblings],” she said. “The situation with Pat, on the other hand, is more complicated. I have reserved some room in my heart and life to hold her — but with boundaries. Creating boundaries with the woman who gave birth to me is not easy — it is a work in progress.”

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Ryan Lochte

The Olympic swimmer hasn’t spoken to his mother in years. 

In an interview with In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Lochte revealed how his parents’ 2011 divorce changed his family dynamic.

“When it happened, it was — we were all on my mom’s side,” he said. “But then later on in life, when I told her that she was going to be a grandma … she said some very, very hurtful things that kind of ended our relationship, me and her.”

Lochte and his wife Kayla Rae Reid share two children: their daughter Liv Rae and son Caiden Zane. The couple married in 2018.

Now, years removed, Lochte said he’d welcome an apology, but until then, he’s come to terms with the estrangement. “My job is to protect my family,” he says. “And I will do anything, no matter what, to protect my family.”

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Selena Gomez

The superstar was born to mom Amanda Teefey when she was just 16 years old. Though she wed Gomez’s father Ricardo at the time, they split when the star was 5.

“I blamed my mom a lot [for the divorce] because I wanted a family so bad,” Gomez once said on an E! special. “I remember just being angry with my mom. I still feel really bad about that. Having me at 16 had to have been a big responsibility. My mom gave up everything for me.”

The star and her mom-ager hit a few bumps as Gomez grew up, including when she decided to seek new management in 2014, but they reconciled: “They decided it’s better to focus on being a family than talking about business all the time,” a source said.

Then in 2017, Gomez and Teefey hit another rough patch. Fans noticed that the two unfollowed each other on social media around the time Teefey had voluntarily sought treatment at a hospital in L.A. Teefey dismissed a report that it was because of an argument with her daughter over rekindling things with ex Justin Bieber — whom Gomez dated on-and-off from 2011 to 2015. “It’s been a stressful time for Mandy and she made the decision herself to go to the hospital and make sure everything was okay,” a source told PEOPLE.

“When they fight, they fight hard. But when they love, they also love hard,” a source close to the family added. However, the two have made up and Teefey has since shared sweet posts of her daughter on Instagram, including one of Gomez and little sister Gracie in matching outfits at the Frozen 2 premiere in 2019.

“Frozen Family Night! My princesses!!! XOXO,” the proud mom captioned the pics.

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Justin Bieber

In a 2016 interview with GQ, the star told the outlet that he and mom Pattie Mallette had a falling out “sometime around 2014.” The next few years were rough for Bieber, who was, at the time, experiencing a lot of growing pains going from child star to adult global phenomenon. 

“I was distant because I was ashamed,” Bieber told Billboard in 2015. “I never wanted my mom to be disappointed in me and I knew she was.”

The singer said he was working on rebuilding the trust that was lost during the two years he and Mallette didn’t speak. He conceded that reconnecting was hard because Mallette lived in Hawaii.

“She’s an amazing woman and I love her,” he said.

The two are now back to being close and Mallette is thrilled to be mother-in-law to Bieber’s wife Hailey Baldwin.

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Ariel Winter

After joining the cast of Modern Family in 2009, Winter sought out her on-set teacher Sharon Sacks for help regarding her mother, Chrisoula Workman. The star said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that she was prepared to go to foster care to escape her mother’s alleged physical and emotional abuse, until her older sister Shanelle Gray agreed to take her in.

At 14, Winter took Workman to court over the abuse claims. The years-long family drama eventually culminated when Gray became the actress’ guardian in 2012 after the Department of Children and Family Services found evidence of Workman emotionally abusing Winter. (The Department found that the allegations of physical abuse by Workman were “unsubstantiated.”) At the time, Judge Michael Levanas confirmed that Ariel’s father Glenn Workman would serve as temporary guardian of Winter’s estate.

Winter eventually officially became an emancipated minor in 2015.

“I am now officially emancipated!!!” the star tweeted at the time. “I’m really lucky I have an amazing support system and lovely people in my life who have given me the support and guidance to have been given this wonderful opportunity.”

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Demi Lovato

In a heartfelt personal essay for Vogue, Lovato opened up about attempting to heal from memories of late father Patrick Lovato in an effort to put her mental well-being first.

“There was the anniversary of my father’s death, which is a couple of days after Father’s Day — a really hard time of year for me,” wrote the singer, who has been open about her “abusive” and “mean” father in the past. “But this year, something happened.”

“I wrote a gratitude letter to him, thanking him for all the things that I got from him,” she explained in the September 2020 essay. “It was this beautiful release of all the resentments I had toward him. I realized, for the first time, that I wasn’t going to have daddy issues for the rest of my life.”

Lovato’s mother Dianna De La Garza — who detailed several instances of domestic abuse in her 2018 memoir — and daughters Dallas and Demi had a complicated relationship with Patrick until he died in 2013.

“I was very conflicted when he passed because he was abusive,” Lovato said in 2015. “He was mean, but he wanted to be a good person, and he wanted to have his family. When my mom married my stepdad [Eddie De La Garza], he still had this huge heart where he would say, ‘I’m so glad Eddie’s taking care of you and doing the job that I wish I could do.'”

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Macaulay Culkin

After a custody dispute between the Home Alone star’s mother and father, the then-15-year-old Culkin sued his parents to remove them as legal guardians in control of his multi-million dollar fortune. The family’s accountant was put in charge of his finances until he turned 18.

In 2018, Culkin told Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that his father was “physically and mentally” abusive and that he was “jealous” of what he had achieved at such a young age, the Sun reported in August. (Culkin’s father did not respond publicly to the allegations.) The tumultuous experience prompted the star to quit acting altogether for years, the outlet added. 

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Mischa Barton

In 2015, The O.C. actress sued her mom Nuala Barton, claiming she had stolen money to buy a $7.8 million Beverly Hills home, where Mischa was not welcome to visit, according to court papers obtained by PEOPLE.

Alex Weingarten, Mischa’s lawyer at the time, called Nuala “a greedy stage mother” in a statement to PEOPLE.

“From the outset, Nuala positioned herself to siphon her daughter’s hard-earned money by purportedly acting as her talent manager – a role for which Nuala had absolutely no experience or training,” Weingarten said.

According to the complaint, neither Nuala nor Barton’s father Paul had a job independent of Barton in over a decade.

Nuala attempted to get the “false and defamatory” lawsuit cut down. Eventually, Mischa reportedly dismissed the case without prejudice, which means she could still refile in the future.

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Angelia Jolie

Jolie and dad Jon Voight were estranged for seven years and not even on speaking terms until 2010, at the urging of Jolie’s then-partner Brad Pitt, who convinced the actress to mend their relationship.

The actress has previously discussed the pain caused by what she says was her father’s infidelity during his marriage to her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who  divorced Voight in 1980. Things got worse in 2002 when Voight publicly claimed that Jolie needed “help” amid the actress’s adoption of son Maddox.

The father and daughter have since mended their relationship, and both attended the First They Killed My Father premiere in N.Y.C. in 2017 together with Jolie’s six children.

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Leighton Meester

The actress sued her mom Constance in 2011 for misappropriating the money she sent to care for her brother Alexander, who had several medical issues at the time.

Constance used the $7,500-per-month allowance for cosmetic procedures, among other personal expenses, the suit alleged, and claimed Constance threatened to sue Leighton for $3 million if she didn’t raise the monthly allowance to $10,000.

“This whole thing’s been really tough on Leighton,” a source told PEOPLE at the time. “Her only concern has always been taking care of her brother.”

Constance fought back by filing a counter-suit, which she later withdrew, claiming that she had sacrificed almost everything to advance her daughter’s acting career, only to have Leighton break financial promises and even physically attack her. She accused the actress of withholding funds that would allow Constance to provide proper care for Alexander.

The judge ended up ruling in Leighton’s favor after Constance stopped defending against Leighton’s claims, The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time.

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Drew Barrymore


The host of The Drew Barrymore Show found fame at age 7 in E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial, and accelerated from there: pre-teen drinking and drug use eventually led to her institutionalization at age 12; she became an emancipated minor living on her own by 15.

Now a mom of two daughters, Olive and Frankie, Barrymore has come to terms with her past and forgiven her parents for her unconventional upbringing.

In a Father’s Day Instagram tribute to her dad, John Barrymore, the actress explained that she parented her children with “love and togetherness and availability” — unlike what she had as a child — but she appreciates what he did give her.

“I don’t have a picture of a dad today to show how great everything was. I have a picture to show what it was. And that is my story. And that is perfect in itself,” she added. “My dad gave me the gift of life! A wicked sense of humor! And that wildness that I truly do cherish.”

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Paris Hilton

In her recent documentary, This Is Paris, the star addresses her rebellious years as a teen in N.Y.C., which led parents Kathy and Rick Hilton to send her to boarding school in an attempt to curb her behavior.

“It was so easy to sneak out and go to clubs and parties,” Hilton told PEOPLE. “My parents were so strict that it made me want to rebel.”

Eventually, said Hilton, her parents sent her to Provo Canyon School, where Hilton would stay for 11 months. Almost immediately after she arrived, “I knew it was going to be worse than anywhere else,” said Hilton. The abuse she faced, she said, took place on a daily basis.

(When reached by PEOPLE for comment on the allegations, the school responded: “Originally opened in 1971, Provo Canyon School was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to this time.”)

Before the making of the film, Paris had never told her family about what happened to her. “My parents were in New York [at the time]. They didn’t know,” she said. “I was so angry and so upset. I hated them.”

However, filming the documentary was “almost therapeutic” for the star, and also brought her a lot closer to her parents.

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