You know what they say: haters are going to hate, except they don’t all hate in the same way. Some online trolls are absolutely merciless, and the glamorous lives and facial-fresh faces of the rich and famous are major targets. Some say it’s the price of celebrity, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. If you’re scrolling through personal attacks before bed in a multi-million dollar home, you’re still scrolling through personal attacks. We’re all people, here.
Trolling gets especially bad when scorned celebs send armies of online mercenaries to slam fellow stars after perceived slights. Never underestimate the hive mind of a rabid fan base. Case in point: That time reality star Kim Kardashian threw pop star Taylor Swift into a veritable snake pit that sucked the joy of her life. For others, like comedian Leslie Jones, alt-right leaders launched targeted racist and sexist attacks that were so awful that Twitter had to step in and try to shut down the dirt.
The following celebs were all viciously attacked by online trolls, but some found the nerve to fight back.
Taylor Swift was thrown into a snake pit
Taylor Swift had a rough 2016. It started with a brief spat with ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris after Swift’s camp revealed she helped write his hit, « This Is What You Came For, » under a pseudonym. The Scottish DJ took to Twitter to accuse Tay of « trying to tear [her] ex bf down for something to do » and needing « someone new to try and bury like Katy [Perry]. » (Swift and fellow pop star Perry had bad blood for years). Perry reacted with a gif of politician Hillary Clinton, and according to Paper, an army of trolls flooded Swift’s Instagram with snake emojis. The #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty started trending on Twitter.
Then, there was Kim Kardashian, who pushed the snake motif further by famously tweeting on National Snake Day that « they have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days! » Kardashian was referring to the infamous argument between Swift and Kim K’s husband, rapper Kanye West. In short: Swift was angry about West calling her « that b***h » in his song « Famous, » but Kardashian uploaded Snapchat footage that seemingly showed Swift approving that song in advance. According to the Daily Mail, that’s when the #KimExposedTaylorParty got its legs … or whatever helps snakes slither along.
In an essay for Elle, Swift said the troll-fest caused her to feel the lowest she’s ever felt, but she reclaimed the snake emoji for herself by working a 63-foot inflatable cobra into her Reputation Tour. Guess that means Swift got the last hiss.
Sarah Hyland was ‘broken’ by Twitter trolls
Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland couldn’t escape online trolls, even amidst a family tragedy. In December 2018, the star revealed that her teenage cousin, Trevor, had been killed by a drunk driver in a car accident. She asked for donations on GoFundMe to help cover funeral costs and medical expenses as her uncle, who was also injured in the accident, awaited more surgery. The internet did not take kindly to a sitcom star asking for money to help her family.
According to BuzzFeed, Twitter users complained that the cost of a funeral would be nothing for Hyland, who has an estimated $14 million net worth and made at least $100,000 per episode on her hit ABC show, according to Forbes. Others were confused about why the actress wasn’t personally bankrolling her family members during their time of need instead of begging for donations. One person pointed out that Hyland only donated $1,000. Hyland responded by asking those who had « negative thoughts or opinions » to « keep them to themselves. »
Within 24 hours, Hyland felt so devastated by the avalanche of online animosity that she temporarily quit the internet. « You guys finally did it. Your horrible negative ignorant words have broken me. Happy? Staying offline for a while, » she tweeted. On the plus side, that GoFundMe raised about $45,000.
What did Scarlett Johansson really expect?
Trolls absolutely couldn’t help themselves when Scarlett Johansson, a Caucasian woman, was cast as the Asian lead in Ghost in the Shell — and to be honest, she kind of walked into that one. The hate went to new levels when a group of users hijacked the film’s online marketing.
According to Refinery29, the film’s original campaign (which included a now-defunct website) begged the question: « What makes you unique? » It consisted of a meme generator where users could write an empowering statement about themselves and overlay it on an uploaded photo. ScarJo participated with a bunch of statements relating to her character, such as « I am hunted » and « I am fearless. » But everyone knows you can’t ask people to create a meme if you don’t want to become one. Uproxx reported that Twitter user Valerie Complex took the film’s viral marketing in a whole new direction with an image of an Asian woman captioned: « I am the woman that should have been cast. » Complex reportedly added another photo of Johannson captioned: « white feminism. » The whole thing eventually got out of hand.
Needless to say, Johansson doesn’t really enjoy a loving relationship with the internet. The star once told The Washington Post (via Gizmodo), « The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the Internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause … The Internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself. »
FKA Twigs held her head high in the face of racist trolls
Twilight fandom can be fierce, but the movie franchise’s faithful really pulled out its vampiric fangs after Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) ended their tortured real-life romance amidst Stewart’s cheating scandal. Pattinson eventually found love again with R&B singer FKA Twigs, prompting a horrible racist reaction from some online trolls.
According to People, the biracial star was first spotted hanging out with Pattinson about a year after his split with Stewart — and that’s when the trouble started. FKA Twigs told the New York Times that the racial insults lobbed in her direction were « relentless. » She told the paper, « It’s really hard — I can’t begin to explain how awful it is. It makes you want to just stop everything sometimes. It makes you want to smash your face into the mirror. » She added, « There’s no amount of songs I can sing or dances I can dance that will prove to them I’m not a monkey. »
FKA Twigs managed to hold her head high, claiming it was « worth it » because she was « so happy » with the British actor. Consequently, nobody saw it coming when they split in 2017.
Internet trolls sunk to new lows with Lily Allen
Singer Lily Allen is a magnet for trolls, but in 2017, the hatred was so unusually cruel it caused the star to temporarily quit the social network. According to the Independent, Allen was attempting to « highlight prejudice against immigrants and Muslims » in a series of tweets by replacing the words « immigrants » and « Muslims » with « pensioners. » In one tweet (via the Independent) she said: « Can’t even get an appt at the doctors because pensioners just skip the queue, and claim all benefits. It has to stop. »
Things devolved rapidly from there. Some Twitter users claimed Allen was mentally ill. Instead of ignoring her haters, the musician opened up about her struggle with bi-polar disorder, postnatal depression, and PTSD. She even discussed the trauma of losing her son during a premature birth in 2010. Instead of triggering an empathetic discussion, trolls accused the star of, essentially, killing her own baby. One user said: « If you didn’t pump your body full of drugs you wouldn’t have miscarried. »
« I didn’t miscarry. I went into early labour and by [sic] son died from his chord [sic] wrapped round his neck, » Allen replied (via the Independent). Not long after, she announced that she was taking a break from the social network because it was full of « the most disgusting, sexist, misogynistic, racist s**t. » It’s hard to disagree.
Iggy Azalea went head-to-head with Anonymous
Pop star Iggy Azalea was basically chased off of the internet in 2015. It’s not really surprising, considering the rapper was almost more famous for the litany of memes making fun of her freestyling than she was for her massive 2014 hit « Fancy. » Almost, but not quite.
Much of the hate directed at Azalea seems to stem from the fact that she’s a woman (online trolls are notoriously cruel to female celebrities) and she’s a woman who has feuded with other celebrities. TMZ reports that the Australian rapper even had a fight with the Cash Me Outside girl (Danielle Brignoli) in 2018. According to the Independent, Azalea’s list of beefs also includes rap superstars such as Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Azealia Banks, but she faced a serious online opponent when the notorious hacker group known as Anonymous put a target on her back. The professional trolls-slash-hacktivists threatened to release alleged sex tape stills of the Azalea for supposedly « misappropriating black culture, insulting peaceful protesters and making light of Eric Garner’s death. »
By 2015, it seemed like Azalea was waving the white flag. The final straw may have been paparazzi photos of her in a bikini on vacation that circulated online. The « Black Widow » rapper angrily (albeit temporarily) exited the Twittersphere after calling the internet « the ugliest reflection of mankind there is. »
Emma Watson felt empowered by her nude photo hoax
In 2017, The Telegraph asked what we were all wondering: Why is Emma Watson a target for the worst kind of online trolls? It’s kind of mind-boggling that anyone would mess with an actress who’s so unbelievably likable she managed to throw a real-life college party without a single person leaking a photo. Nonetheless, the Harry Potter star has been targeted by a number of nude photo hoaxes — but the scandals have only fueled her motivation.
Watson experienced her first nude photo threat in 2014, after she landed the position of UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. The thing that caused all of the vitriol? The star spoke up about women’s rights, prompting a particular website to lob threats her way. It’s unclear what the site was expecting, considering Hermione Granger took down the oh-so-evil Voldermort in the Potter franchise. Why would she fear a few nasty people online?
Watson knew that nasty website didn’t have any scandalous photos because she knew no such photos existed. The threat was totally empty. In a conversation at Facebook HQ (via the Mirror), she said the incident drew her closer to her cause. « This is a real thing that’s happening now. Women are receiving threats, » she said (via the Mirror). « …I was raging, it made me so angry, I was like, this is why I have to be doing this. If anything, if they were trying to put me off it, it did the opposite. »
Leslie Jones’ Ghostbusters reboot made her a cyber punching bag
Leslie Jones deserves better. The SNL star suffered horrific online abuse following the premiere of her Ghostbusters’ all-female remake in 2016. The hatred was so vicious that The New York Times published an interview with the cast highlighting the sexist online criticism — and that was before professional troll-slash-alt right icon Milo Yiannopoulos stepped in to open the floodgates of internet hatred.
According to The Cut, Yiannopoulos published a review on Breitbart that claimed Jones had « flat-as-a-pancake black stylings. » The hate escalated quickly because once a celeb — especially one who is a person of color and a woman — gets Yiannopoulos’ stamp of disapproval, it seems alt-right trolls can’t help themselves. Bullies flooded social media with sexist and racist comments directed toward Jones. At some point, Yiannopoulos started tweeting directly at the actress and sharing fake tweets that he pretended were from Jones.
The real Jones called the comments « f***ing scary » and announced she was leaving Twitter. « I feel like I’m in a personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now, » she wrote. The hate campaign was so horrific that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey reached out to Jones and published a statement admonishing the comments. Twitter decided to ban Yiannopoulos from the platform.
Cara Delevingne took on an internet troll for Ashley Benson
Model and actress Cara Delevingne couldn’t help but fire back after her girlfriend, Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson, was hit with a string of homophobic comments because of their relationship. According to Elle, the drama started when a fan account posted a cute video of the then-rumored couple. The comments section was soon flooded with trolls. One claimed Benson needed to « stay away from the devil » and that a « strong handsome religious man » would probably take her. « You aren’t gay you love men and you need one, » the commenter said.
Benson played it casual and cool, telling the troll to mind his own business and « stop making things up, » but Delevingne was apparently seeing red. « You are f***ing disgusting! If you have a problem with true love then come say this s**t to my face instead [of] pathetically hating through Instagram, » the Paper Towns star wrote (via Elle). She also told the troll to « get a hobby that doesn’t involve being homophobic and hating others for being happy. »
It doesn’t seem like the actresses are sweating the negativity. They’ve remained one another’s unbelievably gorgeous plus-ones for swanky A-list events. According to E! News, the duo finally confirmed a romantic relationship in June 2019 — just in time for Pride Month.
Ariel Winter went toe to toe with her internet trolls
Actress Ariel Winter slays trolls like it’s her job. The actress kicked off 2019 by sharing a photo of her New Year’s kiss with boyfriend Levi Meaden. According to People, one particular hater had a problem with Winter allegedly drinking underage. (Both Winter and Meaden had their hands on the same glass in the photo.) Winter fired back, claiming that acidic things hurt her stomach and that she only held the glass because she « didn’t want to be the only one toasting with water. »
Another troll alleged that Winter’s slimmer figure was the result of using cocaine or meth, and that’s why she « dropped 30 ponds [sic]. » The actress had a thing or two to say about that as well. « Yup…I dropped 30 bodies of water so fast… » she replied, poking fun at the hater’s spelling mistake. Winter then opened up about how she lost weight due to switching antidepressant medications. That particular troll persisted, suggesting the star was using Adderall and adding: « Not hating. You’re actually gorgeous. » That’s when Winter went off.
« I want to cut this s**t out of my thread right now, » she said (via People). « I think it definitely counts as hating on someone when you completely ignore the truth coming from the actual person, just to follow your own fantasy narrative. » Boom.
Drew Barrymore cast her online trolls out to sea
Actress Drew Barrymore had an interesting way of firing back at trolls after an Instagram video devolved into accusations of animal abuse. According to Women’s Health, the star received an onslaught of negativity after posing next to a starfish — which matched her lipstick — in a cheeky Boomerang clip. The bronze shade of lip color was from her PETA-approved, cruelty-free makeup line called Flower Beauty. « A starfish taken out of water without its consent (which is impossible to obtain) is the same as dunking a human’s head under water, » wrote one Instagram user (via Women’s Health).
The following day, Barrymore uploaded a photo with a brand new haircut and some fresh lipstick. « Yesterday I saw comments on my Instagram feed about my post that were mean, cruel, and ugly. It hurt me. And you know what women do when they get hurt???? They pick themselves up, » she wrote. « Go get a haircut. Put on some lipstick and chant ‘if you don’t have something nice to say…don’t say anything at all.' »
Internet trolls and Demogorgons can’t take down Millie Bobby Brown
If you thought you had it bad in middle school, at least you probably weren’t being trashed by thousands of online trolls who spread rumors about you being racist and homophobic purely for the purpose of taking you down. Eleven apparently has a lot more to worry about than the Demogorgon in Stranger Things, which is precisely the reason actress Millie Bobby Brown left Twitter.
According to CNN, the hate campaign started when someone claimed the actress « refused to take a picture » with a fan unless she « removed her hijab. » The troll alleged that Brown pulled the hijab off the woman’s head. There’s no evidence that the then-14-year-old star did any such thing, but nevertheless, #TakeDownMillieBobbyBrown started trending on Twitter, and trolls used the hashtag to invent stories that linked the teen to homophobia too. Forget the fact that Brown has publicly supported GLAAD’s Together movement.
The star deleted her Twitter account amidst the flurry of fake news and spoke up about bullying during a pre-recorded acceptance speech at the MTV Movie and TV Awards. « If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say it, » Brown said. « There should be no space in this world for bullying, and I’m not going to tolerate it, and neither should any of you. »