Even on the best of days, celebrity wax sculptures are a little bit unnerving — and when they go wrong, they go horribly wrong. Despite the intense amount of work involved in making a wax figure — « about 350 hours, » according to The Washington Post — the fruit of this labor occasionally turns out rather rotten.
Don’t believe us? We’re talking about a Britney Spears sculpture with animatronic breasts, and a shirtless, shiny Justin Bieber replica with unblinking, come-hither eyes. That’s to say nothing of the sacrilegious fever dream starring wax figures of David and Victoria Beckham — a spectacle that managed to outrage the Vatican.
Over the years, these eerie wax replicas have riled social media, spooked magazine editors, and presumably startled innumerable tourists. And now it’s time to experience the horror yourself. You can’t run. You can’t hide. All you can do is stare helplessly at these terrifying celebrity wax sculptures — while they stare back at you.
Welcome to Nicki Swift‘s House of Wack. You can never go home again.
Britney Spears’ wax sculpture will not leave you alone
It’s not Britney, b****h. In May 2006, Madame Tussauds New York launched a no-holds-barred attack on the senses, and we still haven’t fully recovered. According to TMZ, this Britney Spears wax sculpture was ostensibly part of a « grassroots movement » to « Bring Back Britney, » who was going through a rough patch at the time. (According to CBS News, 2006 was the year Spears « [filed] for divorce from Kevin Federline » and was voted « worst celebrity dog owner » by The Hollywood Dog and The New York Dog.)
Christened « Britney Spears 2000, » the slinky, pole-dancing wax likeness was intended to be a throwback to Spears’ better days. Janine DiGioacchino, the former General Manager of Madame Tussauds New York, explained that « Britney’s public pop star persona has taken a hit, and we’re thrilled to spearhead a movement to help Britney regain her former glory » (per City Guide NY). It’s an odd thing to say considering the creative decisions on display. Press materials (per TMZ) assured that the Britney figure was « sexy and scantily clad with heaving breasts, » which « feature animatronic engineering that move them up and down. » No wonder the sculpture’s « facial expression read more ‘this is terrifying’ than ‘this is fun' » (per MTV).
We doubt the waxwork helped lift the pop star out of her funk, but many oglers were thrilled, with one gentleman passionately telling Reuters: « Yeah, it looks a lot like her. I especially like the breathing in her chest and all that. That’s hot. »
Holy horror: David and Victoria Beckham
Do you see what we see? In December 2004, NBC News reported that Madame Tussauds London staged « a daring version of the Christmas Nativity scene » starring a wax likeness of David Beckham as Joseph and his wife Victoria as Mary. The move understandably raised a number of pious eyebrows. A Vatican spokesperson wasted no time condemning the spectacle, telling Reuters in Rome (per NBC News): « This is worse than bad taste. It is cheap. You cannot use contemporary personalities as the central figures in the Nativity. »
Evidently, you can. Evidently, you do. And the wax Beckhams certainly weren’t the only peculiar detail in this particular spectacular. NBC News reported that the sacrilegious scene was rounded out by wax sculptures of talk show host Graham Norton, then-President George W. Bush, and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, each of whom were cast as one of the three wisemen. (No word on how « incense, gold, and myrrh » duties were allocated.) Meanwhile, a wax statue in the likeness of pop star Kylie Minogue portrayed a majestic angel, who watched over the stately tableau from on high.
Shortly after the story broke, the Independent reported that the display was unceremoniously « closed » following a « vandal attack. » Reportedly, « a man in his twenties » was seen « repeatedly punching the waxwork figures and escaping into the street. » Overcome with sorrow, the Victoria Beckham statue presumably wept.
Nicolas Cage’s wax figure was evidently over Nicolas Cage
File under He’s Just Not That Into You: In January 2012, Nicolas Cage was photographed rubbing elbows with his wax figure at the Musée Grévin, a wax museum in Paris. Of course, it takes two to tango, and numerous publications noted that this particular wax sculpture was just not having Nicolas Cage. Complex understandably found the whole spectacle « creepy. » The sight of Nicolas Cage living his best possible life alongside his worst possible wax replica struck StyleCaster as « unbearably weird. » Meanwhile, Gawker pointedly asked its readership: « Have you ever seen a wax figure look so fundamentally disinterested in his counterpart? »
When the story first broke, it seemed like the entire publishing industry was trying to get to the bottom of Cage’s relationship with his glassy-eyed rage-doll. Both Buzzfeed and Men’s Health dedicated entire features to the meet-cute, with the latter admitting: « We had to stare for a few seconds to figure out which of these was the real Nicolas Cage. It was a tough call. » Perhaps oddest of all, US Weekly hyperbolically claimed that the « statue aged Cage by about 50 years, » which in 2012 was akin to saying « the statue » made Nicolas Cage look 98-years-old. We wouldn’t go that far — but we certainly wouldn’t want to face off with this menacing wax figure in a dark alleyway. Nor in the Musée Grévin in Paris, for that matter.
Justin Bieber’s « sorry » wax figure
What does this mean? In October 2016, a Justin Bieber wax figure was proudly « unveiled » at the Madame Tussauds London, just before the real Justin Bieber kicked off a string of concerts in the United Kingdom (per USA Today). An overzealous Madame Tussauds spokesperson effectively deconstructed the wax sculpture to the Evening Standard, laboriously explaining that « the 22-year-old singing sensation’s figure is topless, showing a toned torso off to perfection. » At the time, it was widely touted that the shirtless Bieber statue was sporting a « wet look, » and MTV News reported that the figure was « being routinely showered with water, showing off those glistening six-pack abs. »
That’s not to say the Bieber wax sculpture was « being routinely showered » with praise. PopCrush called the tribute « depressing as hell, » and said it looked like the statue was « staring into space, desperately searching for meaning while trapped in his eternal wax hell. » The Independent noted that « Justin Bieber fans » could freely ogle the statue if they were « unable to gaze longingly at his washboard abs in real life. » As grim as that is, plenty of fans took the advice to heart: The Sun reports that « Beliebers turned out in force » and « puckered up for a selfie with the statue. » And now we’re depressed as hell, too.
Zac Efron’s wax figure was also up for the role of Ted Bundy
« As much as I love Madame Tussauds, I don’t think I could ever go in there. » That’s Zac Efron, confessing his feelings about wax sculptures on The Ellen Show in May 2019. We completely understand. On April 4, 2017, this Baywatch-themed replica was unleashed upon the public, courtesy of Madame Tussauds Berlin. Clad in a body-hugging wetsuit and cradling what we’ll call a « strategically-placed lifeguard buoy, » the wax figure instantly sent shockwaves through the easily rattled publishing industry. Startled Elle editors offered up this Goth-tinged provocation as a headline: « Zac Efron’s New Wax Figure Will Haunt Your Dreams. » The magazine also observed that the aloof, black-clad sculpture gave off « a bit of a burglar aesthetic » and had « vacant blue eyes, » evocatively daring its readership « not to shiver. »
Meanwhile, an InStyle writer revealed that she’d been looking forward to seeing the wax figure so she could « stare [at] that chiseled jawline and those piercing blue eyes without Zac Efron the human getting creeped out. » Which, we’re getting a little creeped out. Nevertheless, she didn’t feel the sculpture did any justice to the actor, wondering: « Who is this weird, mustachioed imposter? » Elsewhere around the web, Yahoo noted that « the Internet » felt the sculpture looked « more like Adam Levine » than Zac Efron, and suspected this had to do with « the perfectly coifed hair or the five o’clock shadow. » For whatever reason, our « perfectly coifed hair » is standing on end.
Ariana Grande’s withering response to her wax figure
Now we know what it’s like to have « no tears left to cry. » In May 2019, Madame Tussauds London proudly premiered its Ariana Grande statue, announcing on Twitter that the likeness of the pop princess was based on « Classic Ari, » hence the signature ponytail, floppy sweater, and knee-high boots. Well, in case you haven’t already guessed, Twitter denizens were far from pleased with the results.
As Jezebel reports, Grande’s fans — or « Arianators, » if you must — deluged the microblogging site with rafts of hate mail, with one perturbed fellow telling Madame Tussauds London: « Y’all need to melt her face a[nd] start ove[r] because this ain’t it!! » Another Twitter user saw an uncanny resemblance to the pop star’s half-brother, insisting that « this is Frankie Grande in a wig. » Meanwhile, another fan simply couldn’t contain his disappointment: « I hate Ariana’s new wax figure. It’s not her face. She deserves more respect you know. »
The media was hardly more charitable in its assessment. Vice provocatively suggested that « Ariana Grande’s Wax Figure Is Her, Minus Pretending to Be Black. » The publication even claimed the wax creation harkened back to « the younger, paler version » of Grande « before she discovered (and then appropriated) Black culture. » Meanwhile, the real Ariana Grande weighed in on the wax sculpture herself, only adding to the nontroversy (per CNN). She cryptically wrote on Instagram: « I just wanna talk. »
Terribly moving: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wax figures
Ho ho NO. In 2018, Madame Tussauds Berlin paid a special holiday tribute to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Unfortunately, that holiday wasn’t Halloween.
See, these weren’t your average absolutely terrifying wax figures … because these particular figures really moved. As in, they were actors wearing ghastly wax masks molded in the likeness of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and they were both draped in intensely ugly Christmas sweaters. (His featured sprightly reindeer bounding about; she opted for a motif of buckles, mittens, and snowflakes.) According to Page Six, the actors went through the motions of a particularly dismal Christmas morning: Photographic evidence suggests « Prince Harry » and his unmoving, ever-smiling face occasionally presented his wife with a Christmas gift, and « Markle » sometimes made a big to-do out of touching his bicep as he flexed and smiled and smiled and smiled.
Never ones to let a dreadful waxwork pass by unnoticed, Elle staffers proclaimed that the « live wax figures are seriously freaky, » pointing out that « the Meghan Markle replica even wore a fake belly. » Meanwhile, the Daily News called the presentation a « haunting display, » while PopSugar‘s Entertainment Editor Quinn Keaney perfectly summed up the situation by tweeting that « these Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wax figures are what you see right before you die. »
Taylor Swift drums up controversy wherever she goes, so it’s no surprise that her wax replica would also cause a stir. The fact is, two totally different Tay-Tay tributes have rankling the masses in recent years — and they both come courtesy of Madame Tussauds.
First up: In 2010, Madame Tussauds New York premiered its visual paean to the « Bad Blood » singer (pictured, left), prompting NPR to declare that « Taylor Swift’s wax figure is not lifelike enough to represent Taylor Swift. » Pulling even less punches, NashvilleGab claimed it was « a really terrible likeness and looked more like a mall mannequin than Taylor. » As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the real Swift was on hand to personally unveil the wax figure, which held « an acoustic guitar customized with Swarovski crystals » and wore « a Jenny Packham dress donated by [Swift]. » Suffice to say, neither Swift nor the wax replica looked particularly happy to be there.
The attack of the clones continued in 2015, when Madame Tussauds London revealed a brand-new Taylor Swift wax figure (pictured, right). This spirited tribute to the « Shake It Off » video was similarly pooh-poohed, pompoms and all. Mashable warned its readership that « London’s new wax statue of Taylor Swift is the stuff of nightmares, » while Glamour cattily quipped that « Swift’s new wax figure is having a bad hair day. » Even Time got in on all the fun, writing: « Not a fan of the sculpture? We bet its fans would say haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate. »
Chris Hemsworth’s wax was way off
Why, it’s a veritable « Who’s Who? » While attending the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron in April 2015, Chris Hemsworth unwittingly came face-to-face with a wax figure created in his likeness — well, at least in theory. Though the artists at Madame Tussauds Hollywood were clearly aiming for Hemsworth as Thor, they landed somewhere south of Garth Algar from Wayne’s World. Meanwhile, that leather vest and its oversized contrast buttons did no one any favors.
As we’ve come to expect, entertainment websites voiced their concerns in no uncertain terms. ET Online felt that « the figure has impossibly blonde hair that looks more like glam rock’s take on The Rachel than it does Thor. » Meanwhile, US Weekly felt like « having Hemsworth stand next to his Thor wax figure only makes matters worse. » Demonstrating uncharacteristic restraint, British tabloid The Mirror diplomatically noted that the wax figure « didn’t quite have the same epic feel as Marvel’s Norse God. »
As for us, we’ve never felt more connected to a single arched eyebrow in our entire lives.