It’s been two years since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown on March 23, 2020, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
It was a time of immense fear and panic, fraught with uncertainty. As schools, shops, and restaurants closed and the public was instructed not to visit their loved ones, world leaders scrambled to come up with a response plan to the impending pandemic which scientists had been warning of for months.
In the years since, the UK has recorded 20,319,434 positive cases and 185, 273 have died from the virus.
Today, the UK is free of all social Covid-19 restrictions after the last of the measures were lifted last month. Free testing for Covid-19 for most groups is also set to come to an end by 1 April.
While the situation has drastically improved for most people since the early days of 2020, largely due to the invention of the Covid-19 vaccine, some memories of pandemic past are harder to forget. Namely, the countless ways celebrities proved just how out-of-touch they are with the rest of the world.
If they weren’t making cringe-worthy videos intended to inspire hope – but mostly just making us wince – they seemingly ignored the plight of those left unemployed and struggling due to the pandemic and complained about the turmoil of having to isolate in their magnificent, well-stocked abodes.
Some even had us burying our heads in disbelief as they used their far-reaching platforms to peddle dangerous conspiracy theories, at a time when vaccine misinformation was already rife.
Here’s a look back at the celebrity elite’s most bizarra pandemic moments.
Vanessa Hudgens said she respects the virus
The High School Musical actor faced backlash in March 2020 after she rejected the idea that social distancing measures could remain in effect until summer, and said that it was “inevitable” people would die.
“Yeah, ’til July sounds like a bunch of bulls**t. I’m sorry,” she said during an Instagram live.
“It’s a virus, I get it. I respect it. But at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are gonna die. Which is terrible but, like, inevitable?”
She later apologised for her comments, writing in a tweet that she realised her words were “insensitive and not at all appropriate for the situation”.
“This has been a huge wake up call about the significance my words have, now more than ever. I’m sending safe wishes to everyone to stay safe and healthy during this crazy time,” she said.
Gal Gadot’s ‘Imagine’
Also in March 2020, Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot partnered with fellow Hollywood stars on a cover of John Lennon’s 1971 single “Imagine”.
A video posted to her Instagram, which has since been viewed more than 10 million times, showed Gadot and other celebrities including Will Ferrell, Mark Ruffalo, Sia and Natalie Portman, each singing a line from the song.
The video quickly went viral and was widely mocked on social media for being “tone-deaf” and cringeworthy.
In an interview with InStyleearlier this year, Gadot admitted that the video was in “poor taste”. She said she had “all pure intentions, but sometimes you don’t hit the bullseye”.
Doutzen Kroes said Covid-19 vaccinations were unjust
Doutzen Kroes chose “courage over comfort” and said she would not be “forced” to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
In a post to Instagram in September 2021, the Dutch model likened the Covid-19 vaccine protocols to “injustice”.
“Although my hands are shaking while writing this, I feel it is time to choose courage over comfort and speak my truth. I will not be forced to take the shot,” she said.
“I will not be forced to prove my health to participate in society. I will not accept exclusion of people based on their medical status.”
Covid-19 is a ‘gift from God’, says Jane Fonda
Another well-intentioned take with questionable pay off. In October 2020, activist and actor Jane Fonda described the Covid-19 pandemic as “God’s gift to the left” when discussing President Donald Trump’s character.
“I just think Covid-19 is God’s gift to the left,” she said. “That’s a terrible thing to say.”
“I think it was a very difficult thing to send down to us, but it has ripped the Band-Aid off who he [Donald Trump] is and what he stands for and what is being done to average people and working people in this country.”
“We can see it now, people who couldn’t see it before, you know, they see it now and we have a chance to harness that anger and make a difference.”
Ellen DeGeneres compared quarantine in her luxury home to prison
Joining the onslaught of celebrities who complained about how hard it was to quarantine in their mansions, the TV host joked that being confined to her multi-million dollar home was “like being in jail”.
She made the comments during a remotely-filmed episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show in April 2020, adding: “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”
DeGeneres was widely criticised on social media as an increasing number of prison inmates were testing positive for Covid-19 across the US at the time.
Madonna described Covid-19 as the ‘great equaliser’
The Queen of Pop faced backlash after she described the pandemic as “the great equaliser” in a since-deleted video from a rose-petal filled bathtub.
“That’s the thing about Covid-19. It doesn’t care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are, what amazing stories you can tell,” she said in the video.
“What’s terrible about it is that it’s made us all equal in many ways – and what’s wonderful about it is that it’s made us all equal in many ways. Like I used to say at the end of ‘Human Nature’ every night, we are all in the same boat. And if the ship goes down, we’re all going down together.”
Many social media users criticised the singer for her “tone-deaf” comments and highlighting how the poor were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Madonna’s bathroom escapades didn’t end there. In another bizarre video, also shared to Twitter, she put on a makeshift concert in front of her bathtub.
Using a hairbrush as a microphone, she remixed her hit single Vogue with pandemic-appropriate lyrics: “Let’s go eat some fried fish. Because there’s no more pasta, so we’re gonna eat some fried fish, fried fish.”
Bemused social media users also spotted a huge studio light in the bathroom mirror reflection, suggesting that a lot of thought had been put into the video.
Florence Pugh taught us how to make toast
Even the stars get bored and run out of ideas. In March 2020, the Black Widow actor graced us with a tutorial on how to make toast.
In the video, she carefully instructed fans on how to cut sourdough bread (which she says is the hardest part), how to firmly place it in the toaster, and how to butter it once golden brown and crispy.
“The crucial part of this recipe, that I got taught very early on from my father, is that there’s no point in having a good piece of toast unless you’ve got good butter,” she said.
Julianne Moore does the dishes
Clearly missing her time on set, Julianne Moore enlisted her family’s help in turning an everyday task like washing the dishes into a cinematic masterpiece.
In a video posted to her Instagram, Moore was seen scrubbing a saucepan as omniscient music played. She said the footage had been edited by her son, who also chose the music.
“So this video of me cleaning a pot was originally 3 1/2 minutes long,” she wrote in a caption.
“It takes a long time to clean things that were put away by SOMEONE when there is clearly still something in the pot. Well it’s done now.”
Guess what b*tch? Coronaviiiiirus
Cardi B had taken up more inventive forms of entertainment by the third day of quarantine. In a video shared to Instagram in March 2020, the “Be Careful” rapper was seen running headfirst into a large tower of Jenga building blocks.
Judging by her yelling and clutching of her head immediately after, we can assume she hadn’t quite realised that the solid wooden blocks would hurt before embarking on the activity.
Rita Wilson, actor, singer, songwriter and rapper
Many of us took up new hobbies during the pandemic; Rita Wilson tried her hand at rapping.
During quarantine, after Wilson and her husband Tom Hanks both contracted the virus, the actor filmed herself perfectly rapping Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray”.
Naughty by Nature’s Vin Rock later gave her rendition a seal of approval, telling NPR that she “was killing it”.
“Most of our fans were like ‘We don’t even know the lyrics like that’,” he said.
SIA’s heartfelt message
In a since deleted tweet, Sia posted a picture of the word “virus” with the “vi” crossed out, revealing the word “us”.
The post left some social media confused about the message the singer was trying to send.
“You can’t spell virus without us,” one person said, mocking the tweet.
However, others said the message was “wholesome” and highlighted Sia’s charitable contributions to the pandemic.
In September 2020, she donated AUD $70,000 (£54,000) to Australians experiencing hardships as a result of the pandemic.
Priyanka Chopra’s awkward clapping
Another well-intentioned gesture put out into the world with little pay off.
Social media users were quick to mock the Bollywood star after she posted a video of herself clapping alone on the balcony of her home, staring off onto an empty, green open space.
Many joked that the actor was likely filmed by her husband, Nick Jonas.
“People around the world have shown their appreciation for the doctors, nurses, and all first responders battling Covid-19 by clapping on their balconies,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Although I couldn’t be there in India today to join, I am there in spirit.”
M.I.A’s controversial theory
Plenty of dangerous conspiracy theories about Covid-19 and the vaccine made the rounds on social media during the first year of the pandemic. One theory suggested that the vaccine is actually a microchip that, once injected, will be able to track a person.
Unfortunately, some of these theories were also peddled by celebrities, such as “Paper Planes” singer M.I.A.
In a post shared to Twitter in March 2020, she said: “If I have to choose the vaccine or chip, I’m gonna choose death.”
Kim Kardashian’s ‘humble’ birthday
The Keeping Up With The Kardashians star was widely criticised on social media after spending her 40th birthday on a private island with a large group of family and friends.
In numerous posts to Twitter, she said the group had undergone “two weeks of multiple health screens” and quarantine ahead of the holiday.
She said she was “humbly reminded of how privileged [her] life is”, alongside photographs from the lavish trip.
Social media users accused the SKIMS founder of being “insensitive” to families separated by the pandemic.
“A little boy in my son’s class turned 7 today and his friends weren’t even allowed to sing happy birthday to him,” one person wrote in response.
“They had to hum it for fear of the virus. There was no party or cake but he smiled through it. That’s humility for you!”
Arnold Schwarzenegger quarantined with his donkey
The terminator actor turned politician made several bizarre videos urging Americans to stay at home and practice social distancing throughout the pandemic.
In one, he sits at a dinner table and feeds carrots to a donkey and pony while he tells viewers: “The important thing is that you stay home, because there’s a curfew now. No one is allowed out.”
“After you’re 65, you’re not allowed out of the house anymore in California,” he said, adding that his donkey’s name is Lulu and the pony is called Whiskey.
Days later, he doubled down on his advice while smoking a cigar from his hot tub.
“Here I am at home, taking a jacuzzi, smoking a little,” he said.
“The reason why I’m saying that is because I still see photographs and videos of people sitting outside in cafes all over the world and having a good time and hanging out in crowds. That is not wise, because that’s how you can get the virus. That’s how you get it.”