Britney Spears
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14 Celebrity Comebacks That Will Make You Believe in Second Chances

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Britney Spears
Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

Baby Come Back

Fame can be fleeting. One wrong move can tear down even the most successful celebrity. Though some of those moves might be impossible to come back from, there are a handful of stars — such as Britney Spears, whose first single in six years reached No. 1 on the charts the same day it was released — who have proven that though they might have dimmed for a moment, they could once again burn bright. 


Related: 36 Longest Celebrity Marriages

Britney Spears
Britney Spears by Glenn Francis - (CC BY-SA)

Britney Spears

Oops, she did it again. Britney Spears had a turbulent downward spiral from 2006 to 2008 throughout her whirlwind custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline, leading to her infamous head-shaving moment that became the buzz cut heard around the world. After reaching rock bottom, Spears climbed back, releasing her sixth chart-topping album, "Circus," which landed her a handful of MTV Video Music Awards. She continued to produce music, broke out of her controversial conservatorship with her father, and remarried. The release of her duet "Hold Me Closer" with Elton John (a remix of his hit "Tiny Dancer"), which marks the pop icon's first single in six years, seems to be cementing Spears' comeback, with the song snatching the top spot on music charts worldwide mere hours after its release.


Related: Famous Celebrity Meltdowns

Winona Ryder
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Winona Ryder

In the '80s and '90s, Winona Ryder was an “it girl,” starring in hit movies like "Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands," and "Heathers." Her success came to a screeching halt in 2001 when she was arrested for shoplifting and possession of illegal prescription drugs. Ryder took time away from acting and fell to the Hollywood wayside, but she has recently made her resurgence with her role in the hit show “Stranger Things.”


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Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA)

Tiger Woods

There wasn’t much scandal surrounding the professional golfing realm until Tiger Woods’ serial infidelity got out. Woods’ wife wasn’t the only one who was upset. The golfer faced widespread scrutiny from the public and media, leading him to take a hiatus from the sport in 2008. Ten years later, he returned and won a tournament. The following year, he won the Masters, earning him his fifth green jacket. To solidify his comeback, the athlete was the first member of the World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

Downey speaking at the 2019 Disney Legends Awards
Downey speaking at the 2019 Disney Legends Awards by nagi usano (CC BY-SA)

Robert Downey Jr.

Based on Robert Downey Jr.’s current success, it’s hard to recall his former fall from grace. The actor’s career was gaining traction fast in the late '80s, early '90s. But he had a few run-ins with the law and landed himself in jail for six months. After his release, Downey Jr. was determined to get back on the big screen and he did just that, scoring the starring role in the "Iron Man" movies along with plenty of other notable gigs.

Shania Twain during an interview in March 2020.
Shania Twain during an interview in March 2020. by Condé Nast (CC BY-SA)

Shania Twain

With five Grammy awards under her belt and many hit songs, country superstar Shania Twain retired from music in 2004. Twain suffered from dysphonia, a disorder caused by Lyme disease, which affected her vocal cords. The singer participated in voice therapy and lightly returned to music with a 2012 Las Vegas show and an arena tour in 2015. Her ultimate comeback, though, was in 2017 when she released "Now," her first studio album in 15 years. The album was a huge success, going platinum and securing the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.

Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris by Rhododendrites (CC BY-SA)

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris got his start as a child in the early '90s, starring in “Doogie Howser, M.D.” Like many other child stars, the actor struggled to maintain a successful career. In 2004, Harris made a cameo appearance in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," which served as his surprising reintroduction to Hollywood. He went on to snag the lead role in the hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” earning him four consecutive Emmy nominations and one major comeback.

Justin Bieber
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Justin Bieber

Pop singer Justin Bieber’s party-boy antics, particularly his DUI, lost him his role model status in 2013. His manager, however, was laser-focused on planning an epic comeback, so his team strategically booked him on the “Comedy Central Roast,” allowing people to take their frustration out on him in a comical way. The roast went off without a hitch and the Beibs released his album "Purpose," preceded by a world tour. The singer now has a suave, bad-boy image and is more beloved than ever.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Martha Stewart

When Martha Stewart was released from prison after serving five months for several felony charges, including conspiracy and securities fraud, no one could have guessed what her comeback would look like. The cook and lifestyle guru struck up a professional relationship and friendship with rapper Snoop Dogg and the pair have since worked on several wildly successful projects together.

Matthew McConaughey, Lincoln
Ford Motor Company

Matthew McConaughey

Dubbed the McConaissance, Matthew McConaughey’s comeback was quite transformative. The actor was introduced to the big screen in "Dazed and Confused" and throughout the early 2000s, he was pigeonholed into romantic comedy roles. By 2013, the actor finally took his career to new heights, starring in "The Wolf of Wall Street," earning an Emmy nomination for “True Detective,” and winning an Oscar for "Dallas Buyers Club."

Dave Chappelle
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Dave Chappelle

Dave Chapelle’s sketch show on Comedy Central was huge in the '90s, but the comedian walked away from “Chappelle’s Show” in 2005. Though he performed occasional stand-up shows, he remained pretty under-the-radar for about 10 years. After hosting “Saturday Night Live” in 2016, Chappelle released four Netflix specials, two of which earned him a Grammy award in 2018.

Paris Hilton
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Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton was famous for her party-girl lifestyle and her show “The Simple Life.” Her success came crashing down in 2006 when she was arrested for a DUI and put on probation. A year later, the socialite broke her probation and was sentenced to 45 days in jail, though she was released early for good behavior. But her good behavior wasn’t enough to get her back in the good graces of the media and public. Hilton refocused her career and began touring as a DJ. Fans also found themselves engrossed in the star’s engagement to Carter Reum, so much that her nuptials were chronicled on the 2021 reality show “Paris in Love.”

Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe by David Shankbone (CC BY-SA)

Rob Lowe

Once a member of the Brat Pack in the '80s, Rob Lowe came on the scene as a teen actor. The former heartthrob starred in several movies during his original heyday, including "St. Elmo’s Fire" and "The Outsiders." After a video of him having sex with a 16-year-old girl leaked in 1988, followed by a video of him and another man having sex with a model, the actor found himself in hot water and out of work. In 1990, Lowe hosted “Saturday Night Live” and went on to secure several television roles on shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “Brothers and Sisters,” and “The West Wing,” which earned him an Emmy nomination.

Mariah Carey 1990
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Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey released hit after hit in the '90s, and she even won Billboard’s Artist of the Decade award. By 2001, the songstress had a few stunts that caused her fan base to start seeing her in a different light, including an unannounced appearance on MTV's "Total Request Live," where she pushed an ice cream cart and performed an uncomfortable striptease. Her 2002 album "Charmbracelet" fell flat with fans and is widely considered the worst of her career. Three years later, she released "The Emancipation of Mimi," her comeback album, which helped her reclaim her pop diva throne.

Paula Abdul performs onstage
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Paula Abdul

Before she was the voice of reason on “American Idol,” Paula Abdul had a successful career as a singer and choreographer in the '80s and '90s. She had six No. 1 singles and won a Grammy award. But after a plane she was on crash landed, she went through multiple reconstructive spinal cord surgeries and had to step away from the music business. In 2002, Abdul once again became a household name when she became a judge on “American Idol” for eight seasons, followed by a few other reality TV appearances.