Reading about celebrity paydays can be a downer: do we really need to know that a reality star’s club appearance nets more than a small nation’s GDP? But while it seems like most celebs can make it rain all day, behind the scenes there are a lot of financial obligations like agent fees, legal bills, and heating an Olympic-sized infinity pool filled with dolphin tears.
Cue the “50 Cent Doesn’t Have a Dollar” headlines—Curtis Jackson has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Despite the headlines, it’s not all bad news for Fitty—he’s using bankruptcy as a way to reorganize his debts, including two massive civil judgments against him. Still, it’s a shocking fall from grace from the guy who boasted he was going to get rich or die trying. Jackson reportedly made $60-$100 million from the sale of vitaminwater alone (he was an early investor) and made no secret of living large. He bought Mike Tyson’s flashy home (perhaps an omen of things to come?) and requested Louis Vuitton wallpaper when re-decorating. At least he still has his sense of humor (see the Insta, above).
It’s no surprise that Elton John is a big spender—the man defines champagne taste. And even though he consistently tours and has a huge catalogue of hits, in the early aughts his coffers were running low thanks to an extravagant lifestyle that included a fleet of luxury cars and estates all around the world. His demand for daily fresh flowers reportedly set him back $450,000 in just under two years. Those must have been some beautiful arrangements (and his florist was probably thrilled).
How do you go from being a glamorous Oscar-winning actress to a cash-strapped cautionary tale? You buy a town. Literally. Based on some (bad) family advice, Kim Basinger purchased most of the private land in Braselton, Georgia in hopes of turning it into a chic little vacation and film festival spot. Basinger had to eventually sell off her land, and also had some legal troubles with an ill-fated independent film, Boxing Helena. She pulled out and the studio sued her, resulting in a multi-million dollar judgment. (It was a groundbreaking lawsuit at the time, and is said to have completely changed the way A-list actors commit to roles.)
How did one of the biggest girl groups ever find themselves in financial ruin? The answer depends on whom you ask. TLC—Left Eye, Chilli and T-Boz— dominated ‘90s radio as the crazy sexy cool pop trio, but offstage there was enough drama for 10 episodes of Behind the Music (hand up if you remember lying on the couch binge-watching BTM on a lazy Saturday). Their bankruptcy problems included insurance issues stemming from that time Lopes set her boyfriend’s house on fire (it was an accident, guys—she just wanted to burn his clothes in the tub) and T-Boz’s medical expenses relating to sickle cell anemia. However, the trio claimed that it was a damaging contract with their management company that put the over the financial edge. They were able to renegotiate and continued to make records until Lisa Left Eye Lopes’s untimely death in 2002.
Nobody likes to pay taxes, but amassing a $13 million IRS bill is no joke. Nicolas Cage reportedly blew through over $150 million dollars (he used to take home $20 mill a picture) with his bonkers spending, which included 15 mansions, four luxury yachts (one had 12 bedrooms), dozens of cars, 30 motorcycles, a private jet, and two extremely rare albino cobras. In 2007, he outbid Leonardo DiCaprio at an auction for a 67 million year old dinosaur skull. Going price: $276,000.