In so many ways, this year was awful. Between the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the head-spinning presidential election and ugly displays of racial inequality, it’s safe to say no one was prepared for 2020.
On top of that, the world lost a number of beloved figures including — but not limited to — Hollywood icons, a larger than life athlete and one fierce political trailblazer. From Naya Rivera to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, scroll through the gallery below to revisit some of the toughest losses of 2020 and let’s hope that 2021 is a better year.
Perhaps an ominous preview of the year to come, 2020 started off with an unexpected tragedy On January 26, a luxury private helicopter with nine people aboard, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The former L.A. Lakers player, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, six family friends, and the pilot were all killed on impact
Following the news, more than 200 people gathered at the foot of the hill close to the crash, with many wearing Bryant’s jersey and holding basketballs. People also formed an impromptu memorial at the Staples Center, the home arena of the Lakers just hours before the arena was scheduled to host the Grammy Awards. During the ceremony, host Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men performed “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” in tribute to Bryant, and other performers, including Lil Nas X, Lizzo, Run-DMC, Aerosmith and DJ Khaled, incorporated tributes to Bryant in their performances. A week after the Oscar winner’s death, Staples Center staff began to clean up the makeshift memorial outside the arena, but promised to catalog, pack, and ship all nonperishable items to his family. Among the items recovered were 1,350 basketballs, as well as 25,000 candles, 5,000 signs or letters, 500 stuffed animals, 350 pairs of shoes and 14 banners.
In the month following the crash, Bryant’s wife and the mother of Gianna, Vanessa Bryant, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company that was transporting the passengers as well as the heirs of the estate of the pilot, Ara Zobayan.
The accomplished athlete was 41 years-old.
The world was stunned to hear the news that Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died at just 43 years old.
“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” read the statement from his official Instagram page confirmed on August 28. “Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV. A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honour of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
The Associated Press reported that Boseman’s official cause of death was listed as multiple organ failures as a result of his colon cancer diagnosis. Despite his passing, the actor’s performance in his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is garnering major Oscar buzz.
On July 8, Naya Rivera, best known for playing cheerleader and LGBTQ+ icon Santana Lopez for six seasons on the musical-comedy TV series, Glee, was declared a missing person after her four-year-old son, Josey, was found alone in Rivera’s rented boat at Lake Piru, a man-made reservoir in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California. The child told investigators that he and his mom were swimming when she told him to get back onto the boat. Police reports state that he recalled that she helped him climb back into the boat, but was unable to climb back onboard herself and then disappeared underwater.
On July 13, it was announced that Rivera’s body had been found by divers and the sheriff suggested that the 33-year-old and her son may have found themselves caught in a rip current. The following day, the Ventura County medical examiner released an autopsy report stating that the cause of death was an accidental drowning and that there was no evidence of injury or intoxication. Rivera was interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, Hollywood, a cemetery known for its many entertainment industry burials, following a private service.
Eddie Van Halen
Widely regarded as one of the greatest guitar players to ever live, Eddie Van Halen died of a stroke at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California on October 6 at the age of 65. Before his passing, the iconic Van Halen founder dealt with a number of health issues throughout his life, including tongue cancer back in 2000, alcoholism and drug abuse, diverticulitis, for which he underwent emergency surgery in 2012, chronic avascular necrosis and throat cancer. In November, his son, Wolfgang, announced on The Howard Stern Show that Van Halen would not continue as a band, saying “You can’t have Van Halen without Eddie Van Halen.
Sean Connery, who was most famous for his role as James Bond in the 007 film series from 1962 to 1983, died in his sleep on October 31 at his home in the Bahamas. The death certificate revealed that the legendary actor died of pneumonia and heart failure. Connery’s wife, Micheline Roquebrune, also said he had dementia in his final years.
Following the announcement of his death, many co-stars and figures from the entertainment industry paid tribute to the Scottish actor, including Sam Neill, Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, George Lucas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan and current 007, Daniel Craig. Connery’s longtime friend, Michael Caine, called him a “great star, brilliant actor and a wonderful friend.” James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli released a statement saying Connery had “revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”
Connery was 90 years old.
On July 12, Kelly Preston, who starred in such films as Jerry Maguire, Twins and For Love of the Game, passed away at the age of 57, two years after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her diagnosis had been kept quiet and was not widely publicised. Her husband, John Travolta, with whom she shares daughter Ella and son Benjamin, broke the heartbreaking news on Instagram.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer,” the Grease actor wrote. “She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many. My family and I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses at MD Anderson Cancer Center, all the medical centers that have helped, as well as her many friends and loved ones who have been by her side.”
“Kelly’s love and life will always be remembered,” he continued. “I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while. But please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal. All my love, JT.”
Chi Chi DeVayne
In August, RuPaul’s Drag Race star Chi Chi DeVayne passed away at the age of 34, succumbing to a battle with pneumonia after entering the hospital with high blood pressure. The Louisiana native, real name Zavion Michael Davenport, appeared on the eighth season of the Emmy winning competition series as well as the show’s third All Stars spinoff. Drag Race creator RuPaul said he was “heartbroken” to learn of the drag queen’s death.
“I am so grateful that we got to experience her kind and beautiful soul. She will be dearly missed, but never forgotten. May her generous and loving spirit shine down on us all,” he said in a statement on the show’s Twitter account. “On behalf of VH1, World of Wonder and the cast and crew of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I extend my deepest sympathy – from our family to hers.”
“Ain’t No Sunshine” since Bill Withers’ been gone. The three-time Grammy winner, whose timeless classics included “Lovely Day” and “Just The Two Of Us,” died from heart complications in Los Angeles on March 30. The singer’s death came as the public drew inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times.
Withers was 81-years-old.
Famed British model Stella Tennant passed away on Tuesday, December 22, just five days after her 50th birthday.
“It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant,” a statement from her team read. “Stella was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all. She will be greatly missed. Her family asks for their privacy to be respected.”
Her cause of death has not been determined at the time of publishing. According to a statement to BBC from a police spokesperson, there are “no suspicious circumstances” surrounding her passing.
The mom of four started modelling in the early 90s and was most well known for her androgynous look. She quickly rose to fame, becoming Chanel’s face in 1996, and walked the catwalks of Versace, Alexander McQueen, and Valentino. As the fashion industry mourned her untimely passing, industry leaders have been sharing tributes on social media, including Marc Jacobs, the Versace fashion house, Naomi Campbell, and Stella McCartney.
“From the first time I met Stella I was completely blown away. Her beauty, style, and body language combined with her manners, kindness, sense of humour and personality were like no other,” Jacobs wrote on social media. “We had so many adventures, shared flights, fun nights, shows and ads together over the years. My condolences to David and her family. What a terrible, heartbreaking loss. Rest In Peace dear Stella.”
While Nick Cordero may not have been a household name before the pandemic, his passing was certainly one of the saddest of the year. In March 2020, the Broadway star was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was admitted to a hospital in critical condition, on a ventilator, and being treated with dialysis and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). On April 18, his right leg was amputated due to a blood clot as a result of complications from his illness. By May 1, the Rock Of Ages cast member had major lung damage including “holes in his lungs,” and had a tracheostomy tube placed. On July 5, after 95 days in the hospital, the Tony Award nominee died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 41, leaving behind his doting wife, Amanda Kloots, and one-year-old son Elvis.
Using her platform as a new co-host on The Talk, Kloots emphasised the seriousness of the novel coronavirus, telling her
Instagram followers, “I still can’t believe there are people that believe this disease is a hoax, something that won’t happen to them.”
“COVID doesn’t care how old you are or if your [sic] a new dad and husband,” she wrote. “When my heart breaks it’s because of seeing pictures like this, what Elvis will miss in his life because Nick is gone. Please wear a mask and take this seriously as the numbers rise daily.”
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s Son Jack
Fans were over the moon back in August when Chrissy Teigen and John Legend announced they were expecting baby number three by way of the Grammy winner’s music video for his song ‘Wild.” The former Sports Illustrated model candidly documented her third pregnancy in which she struggled with bleeding, horrible headaches and was even ordered to bed rest. Teigen was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on September 27,, due to excessive bleeding from her placenta and ended up having multiple blood transfusions. She told her followers that she had a “huge clot” and that doctors scrambled to find a heartbeat for her baby. Sadly, at 20 weeks pregnant, the couple shared the heartbreaking news that they lost their unborn son.
“We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before,” the 34-year-old grieved on Instagram, captioning a series of pictures that showed her on the hospital bed with her husband by her side. “We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough.”
Teigen wrote that she and Legend — who also share daughter Luna, 4, and son Miles, 2, — never decide on baby names until after birth; however, they decided to call the “little guy” Jack.
“To our Jack – I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive. We will always love you,” she wrote.
Legendary actor Kirk Douglas died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by family on February 5 at age 103. His cause of death was kept private. Back in 1996, the Spartacus star and father of actor, Michael Douglas, suffered a severe stroke, which impaired his ability to speak. Doctors told his wife that unless there was rapid improvement, the loss of the ability to speak was likely permanent. After a regime of daily speech-language therapy that lasted several months, his ability to speak returned, although it was still limited. He was able to accept an honorary Academy Award two months later in March and thanked the audience. He wrote about this experience in his 2002 book, My Stroke of Luck, which he hoped would be an “operating manual” for others on how to handle a stroke victim in their own family.
Douglas’s funeral was held at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery and he was buried in the same plot as his son Eric.
James Lipton, the host of the long-running TV show Inside The Actor s Studio died of bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan on March 2 at the age of 93. His serious interviews with high-profile stars like Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg, and Barbra Streisand made him a well-known pop-culture figure for more than 20 years and the inspiration for one of Will Ferrell’s most memorable parodies on Saturday Night Live. We will miss that baritone voice.
On May 9, rock and roll legend Little Richard died at the age of 87 at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee from a cause related to bone cancer, after a two-month illness. His brother, sister, and son were with him at the time of his death. In the following days, Richard received tributes from many popular musicians, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, John Fogerty, Elton John, and Lenny Kravitz, as well as many others, such as film director John Waters, who were influenced by the “Tutti Frutti” singer’s music and persona.
“He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was only a little boy,” said Dylan. “His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I would do.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
America lost an icon when on September 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement at the time. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
According to CNN, she suffered from five bouts of cancer, most recently a recurrence in early 2020 when a biopsy revealed lesions on her liver. In a statement, she said that chemotherapy was yielding “positive results” and that she was able to maintain an active daily routine.
Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and served as the most senior member of the court’s liberal side. Dubbed the “Notorious RBG,” the beloved figure consistently delivered progressive votes on the most divisive social issues, including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, health care, and affirmative action.
“I do think that I was born under a very bright star,” she said in an interview with NPR before her death. “Because if you think about my life, I get out of law school. I have top grades. No law firm in the city of New York will hire me. I end up teaching; it gave me time to devote to the movement for evening out the rights of women and men.”
RBG’s passing ignited a political firestorm as President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans rushed to fill the Supreme Court vacancy even in the waning days of his first term. Despite the outcries of many Americans, ultraconservative judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the highest court in the federal judiciary of the U.S.
The trailblazer was 87 years old. Rest In Power.