Surprising lessons we can learn from celebrities who almost lost everything

Lady Gaga attending the 60th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden.
Lady Gaga attending the 60th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden.

We often look at the lifestyle of celebs as something to aspire to. And why not? Because they certainly seem to have it all.

Fame, beauty, wealth and access to a lifetime’s worth of free products in exchange for using their brand to promote other brands.

It’s naturally very easy to assume that they lack for nothing and because of that we often ascribe deity to them, forgetting that being famous doesn’t mean they're not fallible humans. Or that having access to wealth means they’re good at managing money.

It seems too easy to take joy when they experience misfortune but instead of basking in their bad luck, let's take the following into account when we’re struggling with our own finances.

Their lessons can help us highlight troubles we all go through and how we can learn from them:  

READ MORE: 5 celebrities who've donated thousands (and even billions) of rands to charity

Image: Getty images

Money doesn’t last – and emergency funds are always useful

Back in 2015, rapper 50 Cent surprised everyone by filing for bankruptcy. Shocking right? Because how is it possible that a musician who has had hit after musical hit, could actually run out of money?

Turns out losing lawsuits and incurring bad debt are some of the most common ways that celebs run into financial problems. 50 filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay a lawsuit of $5 million (around R60 million) after buying, editing and posting Lastonia Leviston’s sex tape online without her permission.

Aside from living the high life, in addition to the lawsuit, 50 was also ordered to pay $17 million to headphone manufacturer, Sleek Audio for copyright infringement of one their designs. That's over R200 million.

He has since bounced back from that disastrous era, but besides these ethical errors in judgement what this teaches us is that having money for a rainy day is a must. You never know when you might get caught off guard and need to dip into your savings.

Image: Getty images

Appearances are deceiving – just because someone looks wealthy doesn’t mean they are

And on that note, it might surprise you to learn that Lady Gaga, while on of her biggest tours – the Monster Ball tour – had very little to her name.

According to, Gaga revealed that she literally had $3 million to her name and used all of that to go into designing the stage for her tour. Okay, barring the fact that $3 million (R35 million) is to her what R3 is to us, what she did here was take an immense career risk that left her struggling for quite a while.

In fact, she revealed that her father often said that he couldn’t understand why she barely had a “pot to piss in” when her music was being played all over the radio. What we saw was a woman who put on the show of a life time in terms of both her tour and image, but behind the scenes no one knew that she was struggling to make ends meet.

Thankfully the gamble she took paid off and changed her life for the best. Just goes to show that wearing fancy clothes, and being on a worldwide platform isn’t an indicator of wealth or net worth. A good thing to remember while you're working your way to the top.

READ MORE: 6 of the best rags to riches stories ever

WATCH: 10 Ridiculously Expensive Celebrity Purchases

Celebrities can be as wasteful and as terrible with managing money as any of us

Locally, it might surprise you to know that television presenter and personality Minnie Dlamini, at one stage, lost the first million that she made at the age of 20.

According to Channel24, in an interview with Anele Mdoda, the star is very candid about the fact that she blew the money she first made, stating that at one point she had one million, but the next she had nothing in her account.

Totally understandable, but also a valuable lesson learnt for her. Today she’s wealthy, successful and signed a deal with Multichoice in a 3-part TV special Becoming Mrs Jones, which after the first episode had broken records officially becoming the highest rated show in the history of the channel.

Dear art, the older I get I realize how deep my love is for you ??: Prem

A post shared by Khanyi Mbau METANOIA (@mbaureloaded) on

Another celeb who made it big but quickly ran out of money before she worked her way back up again, is Khanyi Mbau. In an interview with Marie Claire, the star admits and confesses that she got everything too fast and that she went from super rich to having no money.

She adds that she was forced to move out of her home and live with a friend for a few months before she got back on her feet again. Today, she’s bounced back and is living life according to her rules – fiercely, unapologetically and with the kind of flair we totally wish we could own.

That said, it’s clear that both Minnie and Khanyi learnt some valuable lessons, but most importantly they learnt that with a lot of hard work, dedication and more responsible spending, it’s totally possible to bounce back.

Image: Getty images

Always pay your taxes

So many celebrities have actually gone bankrupt over something that could so easily have been avoided – paying their taxes.

For example, according to, Pamela Anderson was not only forced to sell her house after owing over $800 000 (R9.5 million) to the construction company who built her house, but she also lapsed on paying taxes and had to pay back more than $1 million (around R12 million).

Image: Getty images

Another actor who also owed the tax collector’s a heap load of money was Nicholas Cage. While it was rumoured that he didn’t quite go bankrupt, according to the, his compulsive spending habits and evasion of taxes left him with a number of lawsuits and a tax bill of $6million. Over R70 million...

So, yes, it's an absolute pain to pay taxes – but it’s that much worse if you don’t.

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