Earlier this week, when Millie Bobby Brown announced her engagement to Jake Bongiovi (son of musician, Jon Bon Jovi), many reacted with shock — and, even, disapproval. Many felt congratulations were in order for the couple, who have been together for two and a half years. But several critical Netizens couldn’t shake the fact that the “Stranger Things” star was betrothed at just 19 years old.
What followed was online discourse about when the appropriate age for marriage is, with some commenting on the complexities of marrying young and others bashing the couple’s recent decision. The debate later accompanied the trending hashtag #Shes19, under which critics commented that Brown was “far too young” to be engaged or think about marriage. Some anticipated a looming divorce and a life full of regret, with one asserting that at 19, Brown doesn’t have her life figured out.
At the crux of it all is Brown’s own fame and public image. Brown secured her first major acting role when she was 12 years old as Eleven on Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things.” From then on, she’s maintained her tween/teen persona and played similar juvenile characters in “Enola Holmes” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” So, it comes as no surprise that her ardent fanbase, who often struggle to differentiate her from the characters she plays, have reacted so strongly. In their eyes, Brown is both Eleven (character) and 11 (age) — a cringey association and joke that has been made time and time again.
In Hollywood, celebrities getting engaged — and married — at a very young age has been a common occurrence. While some relationships have been celebrated, others have been heavily criticized over their vast age gaps, which have also raised questions about consent, autonomy and agency. It’s a tricky topic that remains divisive and controversial.
Alongside Brown and Bongiovi, here’s a closer look at 15 celebrities in Hollywood who got engaged — and, eventually, married — at a very young age:
Wilde and Ruspoli — the son of aristocrat Prince Alessandro Ruspoli, ninth Prince of Cerveteri and Austrian-American actress Debra Berger — tied the knot in 2003 when Wilde was 19 years old and Ruspoli was 28.
“I really had a sense that I had stunted my growth. I think that’s one of the things that made me feel so uncomfortable in my marriage,” Wilde told Lifetime’s “The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet” in 2012. “It was really no fault of my husband. It was me realizing that I had sort of arrested development. I knew the only way I was going to grow the f**k up was to learn to take care of myself.”
In a 2013 interview with Marie Claire, she said, “I had grown up with Tao; we had just drifted. I felt I had something to prove. If you fall off a horse, you get back up. I am not a quitter. I hung on for as long as possible, until it was more hurtful to stay.”
Wilde filed for divorce on March 3, 2011, citing “irreconcilable differences.” The pair’s divorce was finalized on September 29, 2011.
Kardashian was just 18 years old when she met Thomas, a music producer who was 10 years her senior. The pair eloped in 2001, a year after meeting each other.
Years later, Kardashian recalled her first marriage in an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” saying she was high on during her wedding night. “I did ecstasy once and I got married. I did it again, I made a sex tape. Like, everything bad would happen,” she said.
Kardashian later accused Thomas of domestic violence, stating in court documents obtained by the Daily Mail, “Damon decided what we would do and when we would do it. He was very much the King of the castle.” Thomas also forced her to quit college, wouldn’t let her work and didn’t allow her to leave the house without his permission. Kardashian added that Thomas also grew increasingly violent after their marriage and began hitting her on multiple occasions.
The pair eventually divorced in 2004.
“I used to be so dependent on the guys I was in a relationship with,” Kardashian said in a 2011 interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “I don’t know why, because I wasn’t raised that way. If I looked at myself at 19, I would shake myself and be like, ‘Wake up; you are way too smart for this!'”
Amid her rising fame and struggles with childhood drug and alcohol addiction, Barrymore met Thomas at his bar in Los Angeles in 1994. On March 20, 1994, Barrymore, who was 19, and Thomas, who was 31, spontaneously got married at his bar after a friend suggested the idea to the couple. Their marriage, however, was short-lived as the pair called it quits just 19 days later.
In 2019, Barrymore recalled her controversial marriage, telling Star, “I realized my mistake the day I married him.” Barrymore had filed for divorce and claimed that Thomas, who is British, had only married her for money and a green card.
“He turned out to be the biggest schmuck I’ve ever met,” she said. “He gained everything. . . . It was a green card situation. That’s why I couldn’t tell anybody.”
The pair originally met at New York’s Professional Children’s School and after two years of dating, tied the knot in 1998 when they were both 17 years old. Just one year prior, Culkin was granted emancipation from his parents after claiming that his father mismanaged his earnings and made him sleep on the couch.
Culkin and Miner’s bombshell marriage and young age garnered widespread media and tabloid attention. The couple eventually split in April of 2000 and per Macaulay’s representative at the time, “It is very amicable and they remain best of friends.”
Their divorce was finalized in 2002.
Jackson and DeBarge began dating in the early ’80s, when Jackson was 16 and DeBarge was in his late teens. In her recent A&E docuseries, Jackson reminisced about their relationship, saying the pair developed a connection based on their similar backgrounds in musical families.
In 1984, Jackson and DeBarge secretly wed, with Jackson receiving the blessings from her sister LaToya Jackson. Janet Jackson was 18 years old while DeBarge was 21 years old. In 1985, the marriage was annulled due to DeBarge’s addiction to painkillers and sleeping pills.
Jackson said in her documentary that she suspected DeBarge was using drugs on their wedding day when he left her alone at a hotel after they got married:
“He said, ‘OK, I’ll be right back,'” she recalled. “And I’m sitting in a hotel room in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by myself, just 18. And for three hours, he never came back.
“I remember times when I would find the pills and I would take them and try to flush them down the toilet, and we would be rolling around on the floor fighting for them. That’s not a life for anyone,” Jackson added.
She continued, “I cared so much for him, and I saw the good in him as well, and I just wanted that to take precedence as opposed to this ugliness, because I knew that he needed help. But I wasn’t the help that he needed.”
Jackson also addressed the decades-long rumor that she had a “secret child” with DeBarge. The rumor was further pushed by DeBarge, who told Radar Online in 2017 that his child with Jackson was “not a secret” and that a woman had reached out to him to reveal herself as his daughter. It was later revealed that the woman and DeBarge weren’t related at all.
“I could never keep a child away from James,” Jackson said. “How could I keep a child from their father? I could never do that, that’s not right.”
Bo met actor, director and producer John on the set of his 1981 drama film “Fantasies.” An underage Bo had been cast in the film’s lead role and appeared in several risqué scenes, including ones that required her to be fully nude, per John’s request. The pair eventually began a romantic affair during filming, when Bo was 17 years of age and John was 46.
The eyebrow-raising age gap was met with plenty of backlash, so much so that one of Bo’s agents even threatened to press charges of statutory rape against John. But that wasn’t enough to convince the pair to call it quits and instead, they moved to Germany to avoid any legal troubles and only returned to the states when Bo turned 18.
Bo and John tied the knot in 1976, when the she was 19 and he was 49. They had been married nearly 22 years until John’s death in 1998.
“I don’t know about you, but when I was 17, I knew everything,” Bo said in a 2020 interview with Variety. “I was so grown up and so adult. Now, when I look back at the photos of me, I was young – 17 is young.”
She continued, “There was no #MeToo-ing with John. But, yeah, I’m very conflicted about (the age gap) when I look back. . . . It felt right at the time. I was so in love with him, and we ended up together for 25 years. I’m just so grateful he was a good person.”
Griffith and Johnson met in 1972 on the set of the coming-of-age film “The Harrad Experiment,” in which Johnson starred alongside Griffith’s mother Tippi Hedren. Griffith was 14 at the time and worked as an extra on the film while Johnson was 22. The two began dating and later moved into a rental home together in Hollywood when Griffith was 15 and Johnson was 23. In January 1976, Griffith and Johnson got married when Griffith was 19 and Johnson was 27. They separated that July and divorced in November.
In 1989, the pair rekindled their relationship and together had daughter Dakota Johnson. They were married once again from that year until 1996.
On June 19, 1942, Monroe married LAPD policeman Dougherty, who was 21 years old, when she was 16 years old. According to Schani Krug, producer of the documentary “Marilyn’s Man,” the pair met at Van Nuys High School in California. Their relationship, however, wasn’t rooted in romance. Rather, it was an escape for Monroe, who spent time in an orphanage when her mother, Gladys Baker, and her maternal grandparents were institutionalized for mental health.
Per biographer Barbara Learning, Grace McKee, Gladys’ friend, was appointed Monroe’s legal guardian: “McKee announced she and (her husband) were moving to West Virginia and could not take Norma Jeane with them. She offered Norma Jeane a choice: either she married a young man Grace had selected, or she would have to return to the orphanage.” Monroe chose the former.
In his biography “Marilyn Monroe,” Donald Spoto quoted Monroe describing her marriage to Dougherty: “My marriage didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy, either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry. We had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom.”
Monroe eventually filed for divorce in 1946, when she was 20 years of age. In 1997, Doughtery wrote a book titled, “To Norma Jeane with Love.”
The pair got married on May 6, 1950, when Taylor was 18 and Hilton Jr., heir to the Hilton Hotels chain, was 24. The actual wedding was a grand media event, considering that 3,000 fans (all standing outside the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills) and 600 guests were in attendance. MGM also organized and covered all the wedding expenses, including Taylor’s $3,500 dress.
On Jan. 29, 1951, Taylor filed for divorce after realizing that she and Hilton Jr. had very few interests in common and that he was abusive and an alcoholic. Following Hilton Jr.’s death in 1969, Hilton Jr.’s stepmother Zsa Zsa Gabor claimed that she had an affair with Hilton Jr. in 1944, when he was 18.
Jovovich married her on-screen boyfriend Shawn Andrews in 1992 while filming the coming-of-age film “Dazed and Confused.” According to Jonathan Burkhart, one of the film’s producers, “Milla Jovovich and Shawn Andrews were always stoned and staring into each other’s eyes. They were always making out. Always.”
Actor Catherine Avril Morris added, “They had a long row of individual cast member trailers, and Milla and Shawn were just doin’ it every night. Because all of our trailers were connected, they would all be rocking.”
At the time of their marriage, Jovovich was 16 years old while Andrews was 21. Two months later, the marriage was annulled by Jovovich’s mother, Russian-American actress Galina Jovovich. The pair remained married for 10 months before they divorced in December 1993.
The “Celebrity Big Brother” alum garnered public attention in 2011, when they tied the knot with character actor Doug Hutchison. The controversial relationship first began over email, where Hutchison shared acting advice with Stodden. Only a week after their first meeting, Hutchison convinced Stodden’s parents that they should get married as soon as possible.
At the time of the marriage, Stodden was 16 while Hutchison was 51. Stodden later accused Hutchison of becoming “extremely emotionally abusive” and physically abusive.
“I think that’s the ultimate power a groomer has over a child, that emotional abuse and control,” they said on an episode of the “Call Her Daddy” podcast. “I feel like I didn’t even have control over my own body, my own finances.”
After separating and reconciling multiple times, the couple called it quits in 2016. Stodden recounted the tumultuous marriage in their upcoming memoir, telling Fox News, “And that’s really one of the main reasons why I’m speaking out is because I want past victims and survivors to really tap into that part of themselves. We are so strong. It just really made me very fearless.”
Moore’s first marriage was to musician Freddy Moore, who was 29 years old, when the actor was 18. Prior to their marriage, Moore began using Freddy’s surname as her stage name and continued to do so even after their divorce was finalized on August 7, 1985.
In her memoir “Inside Out,” Moore looked back on her relationship with Freddy and revealed that she was unfaithful to the musician before their wedding night:
“The night before we got married, instead of working on my vows, I was calling a guy I’d met on a movie set,” Moore wrote, per People. “I snuck out of my own bachelorette party and went to his apartment.”
She continued, “Why did I do that? Why didn’t I go and see the man I was committing to spend the rest of my life with to express my doubts? Because I couldn’t face the fact that I was getting married to distract myself from grieving the death of my father. Because I felt there was no room to question what I’d already put in motion. I couldn’t get out of the marriage, but I could sabotage it.”
Rumors regarding the pair’s infamous relationship first circulated in 1994, when a then 14-year-old Aaliyah recorded her debut album “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” with R. Kelly as a lead songwriter and producer on the project. Following the album’s release, many speculated that there was a relationship between the 15-year-old Aaliyah and the 27-year-old who was also her mentor and later, a convicted sex offender.
The pair secretly married in August 1994 — marriage certificates falsified Aaliyah’s age as 18. In February 1995, the marriage was annulled by Aaliyah’s parents.
In Lifetime’s bombshell docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” it was revealed that R. Kelly had silenced Aaliyah and her family through a non-disclosure agreement following the pair’s marriage.
“It’s a harrowing document,” journalist Jim DeRogatis, who first broke news of R. Kelly’s sexual abuse more than two decades ago, told The New York Times. “A non-disclosure agreement on both her part and Kelly’s, vowing not to pursue further legal claims for physical abuse. So, it wasn’t just an underage sexual relationship, he hit her, allegedly, according to that court document.”
The documentary’s executive producer Jesse Daniels also told Variety that the producing team hoped to spotlight the abuse that Aaliyah had endured as a teenager without exploiting the late singer:
“We have had a lot of conversations about how to tell Aaliyah’s story every time because we really want to be respectful of her legacy,” Daniels said. “But what she went through, we can’t turn our backs on.”
From 1964 to 1975, Cher was married to her singing partner Sonny Bono. The pair met at a party in 1962, when Cher had just dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of making it in Hollywood. The day after the party, she learned that Bono, who was 28 at the time, was moving in next door to her apartment. Initially roommates, the pair quickly became lovers and tied the knot in 1964, when Cher was 18 and Bono was 29.
Together, Cher and Bono became a Hollywood “It” couple and rose to popularity as the pop duo Sonny & Cher. However, their relationship wasn’t what it seemed. In 2010, Cher told Parade that Bono had become controlling following their marriage: “He didn’t want me to grow up or have any freedom. I wasn’t allowed to do anything except work. We worked more than we lived.” There were also issues with infidelity.
Cher filed for divorce in 1974, citing “involuntary servitude.” Their divorce was finalized in 1975.
Gardner was only 19 years old when she married fellow MGM contract player and actor Mickey Rooney, who was 22, on January 10, 1942. Gardner divorced Rooney on May 21, 1943, citing mental cruelty and later, disclosing his infidelity and gambling habits.
“That doesn’t mean I let Mick off the hook. I brought up his cheating all the time. I couldn’t help myself. We fought constantly. ‘I’ve had it with you, you little s**t,’ I’d scream at him,” Gardner told Vanity Fair’s Peter Evans. “He’d look all hurt and innocent — a real Andy Hardy look. Boy, he was some actor. He’d say that no one could love me more than he did. No one could be more faithful than he was. Not once did he admit to two-timing me. Neither did he ever say he was sorry.”
Following their split, the two remained close friends:
“Being married to Ava Gardner was one of the most memorable moments of my life,” Rooney reflected in an orientation film for the Ava Gardner Museum. “And I wish her well wherever she is.”
about celebrity marriages: