Sometimes the biggest success comes on the heels of dreadful failure. And no one proves that better than the people in our list of the biggest celebrity comebacks of 2011. These five celebrities prove that, no matter how severe the hardship, how big the setback, it's still possible to turn your life around.
Jennifer Hudson In 2008, former American Idol competitor Jennifer Hudson seemed to be at the top of her game: Newly engaged, the star had won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and several Emmys. But that October, Hudson's personal life took a devastating turn when her sister's estranged boyfriend murdered Hudson's mother, brother, and nephew. A grieving Hudson stayed out of the spotlight in the weeks that followed, but a few months later she emerged to give an impassioned performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XLIII.
In the three years since, Hudson has begun the healing process, and has only grown more successful as a result. She welcomed her first child in 2009, dropped 80 pounds through Weight Watchers in 2010, and released her second album, I Remember Me, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts in 2011. She also took on a role in the Farrelly Brothers' new Three Stooges movie in memory of her late mother, who loved the comedy trio.
Paul Reubens In 1986, Paul Reubens debuted his children's show, Pee-wee's Playhouse, which featured Ruebens as the character Pee-wee Herman. Herman instantly resonated with a generation of children who wished they could be friends with the man-child living in a house full of puppet furniture. But when Ruebens was arrested in 1991 after exposing himself in an adult theater, his show vanished from syndication, and he all but disappeared from public life. In 2010, after several years of cameos and special appearances, Reubens revived his Herman character for the Broadway play, The Pee-wee Herman Show. The performances proved to be so popular that Reubens had to move the show to a larger venue. An extra performance was taped for HBO, which debuted in March 2011, and sources say Reubens is working with Judd Apatow on a new Pee-wee feature film.
Michael Vick NFL star Michael Vick became one of the most loathed figures of 2007, when he was charged with running an illegal dog-fighting ring. After his prison conviction, Vick lost his NFL salary and his product endorsement deals, forcing him to file bankruptcy. But more importantly, he lost the love of his fans, and nearly every NFL team distanced themselves from the corrupted quarterback.
In 2008, shortly after his release from prison, Vick signed on to the Philadelphia Eagles with renewed purpose. His athletic performance earned him the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year title, and landed him in his fourth Pro Bowl.
It wasn't until after he led the Eagles to the NFL playoffs in 2011, that Vick experienced the true signs of a comeback: His first endorsement since his release from prison. Vick signed a two-year contract with Unequal Technologies, a company that produces football pads. Then Nike officially signed Vick in July—the first time a sponsor has ever brought an athlete back on the roster after dropping them.
Britney Spears Whether we wanted to or not, we all witnessed the meteoric rise and dramatic descent of Britney Spears' career. Some of her lowest moments include a 55-minute marriage to friend Jason Allen Alexander; the premiere of her reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic; and that strange British accent. But it was the infamous head-shaving incident of 2007 that effectively stalled Spears' career and her personal life. After the court placed her under the temporary conservatorship of her father James Spears, and gave custody of her children to then-husband Kevin Federline, Spears did some reassessing.
Spears, now 30, is finally turning her life around. In addition to her successful 2011 album Femme Fatale, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, rumors say she will regain at least partial custody of her children in the new year, and that her long-term relationship with former agent Jason Trawick may turn into marriage when her conservatorship is slated to end, most likely in early 2012.
Mike Tyson When it comes to hitting rock bottom, Mike Tyson has had the market cornered for more than two decades. Was he at an all-time low when he went to prison for sexually assaulting a beauty queen? When he was banned from boxing after biting off competitor Evander Holyfield's ear? Or maybe it was the time he decided to get that face tattoo? No matter—it now seems that Tyson has put that all behind him to become a kinder, gentler man in his retirement.
In 2011, Tyson revealed to the press that he had never been happier, thanks to sober living, a vegan diet, and his 2009 marriage to Lakiha Spicer. Tyson also showed his softer side in the premiere of his new show, Taking on Tyson, a TV series that follows Iron Mike's experiences with homing-pigeon racing. You can't help but soften a little as you watch Tyson tenderly cradle, nurture and, yes, even kiss his birds before they race. "We have plenty of winners," he says as he holds his favorite pigeon, " but this one is for me, because he never gives up."