It’s no secret that Donnie, Marky Mark, and the rest of the Wahlberg clan had a less-than-stellar upbringing. Born into a broken home, most of the nine (!!) Wahlberg’s siblings turned to a life of crime and drugs. But with hard work and dedication (and some serious reality checks), they were able to turn their lives around. Well, for the most part.
From spending time behind bars to illegitimate love children, and celebrity feuds, there have been more than a few bumps in the road for this Boston Irish family. So, let’s take a look at some of the biggest (and unknown) scandals that have rocked the Wahlberg family. We promise you won’t be disappointed.
Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg is the youngest of nine kids! Debbie was the eldest of the Wahlberg children, followed by Michelle, Arthur, Paul, Jim, Tracey, Robert, Donnie, and then Mark. Their mother, Alma, worked as a bank clerk and nurse’s aide, while their father, Donald, supported his family by working as a delivery driver.
When Mark was 11 years old, his parents divorced—leaving Alma to raise nine kids in a three-bedroom apartment on her own. Money was tight, and the mother of nine relied on welfare butter and cheese to feed her family. “I invented the craziest meals. English muffin pizzas, that was the big treat,” she told the Today Show. “I had no choice. I had to find them something to eat.”
The Wahlberg siblings may be super supportive of one another now, but it wasn’t always this way. Unfortunately, according to Ranker, Mark’s brothers significantly influenced the actor’s substance abuse and downright poor decisions. This is one of the most startling things about the family’s past.
With his mother working all the time, Mark says that he spent a lot of time with his older brothers, whom he looked up to. But the problem was that most of his older brothers had turned to a life of drugs and crime. The saddest part? They were all quite young when their addictions started. In fact, Mark says that he was already using drugs by the time he turned 13 years old.
With Mark’s addictions taking hold of him, the actor didn’t see the point in finishing school. So, when he was 14 years old, the youngest Wahlberg sibling decided to drop out of the ninth grade. As Mark grew older and bettered his circumstances, he grew to regret this decision.
So, at 42 years old and nearly 30 years after dropping out, Mark completed his diploma requirements by taking classes online. While Mark can now call himself a high school graduate, he is aware of how different his life could have turned out. “Most high school dropouts don’t end up with successful careers in Hollywood. I was lucky,” Mark wrote to the Huffington Post in 2013.
After dropping out of high school, Mark’s life took a turn for the worse. Not only did he join a gang and rack up almost 25 incident reports with the Boston police, but a civil action lawsuit was filed against him when he was 15 years old. The charge? Harassing a group of Black kids. Then, at 16, Mark made a decision that would change his life forever.
The teenager violently assaulted a man as he was crossing the street for no reason other than hate. Mark pleaded guilty to the charges but only spent 45 days of his two-year sentence in prison. In several interviews, the actor has claimed that it was during the time he sat in prison that he finally decided to turn his life around.
“Finally, I was there, locked up with the kind of guys I’d always wanted to be like. Now I’d earned my stripes, and I was just like them, and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted at all,” the actor later admitted.
“I’d ended up in the worst place I could possibly imagine, and I never wanted to go back.” After his release from prison, Mark turned to his local priest for some much-needed guidance and support. He also left the gang he had become a member of and focused on bettering his life.
Eventually, Mark sought a full pardon of this felony—something even his victim supported. The actor wanted to get a concessionaire’s license in California so he could drive trucks with Wahlburgers and volunteer with at-risk youth.
However, the petition was closed in 2016 after Mark failed to follow up with the parole board. The actor later claimed that he regretted even applying for the pardon. “I didn’t need that. I spent 28 years righting the wrong. I didn’t need a piece of paper to acknowledge it,” Mark told reporters.
Mark does not want the public to forget his past actions, as horrible as they were. “To the contrary, I want people to remember my past so that I can serve as an example of how lives can be turned around and how people can be redeemed,” the actor explained.
Even the victim, Johnny Trinh, has spoken out to forgive Mark. Trinh also said that he was not blinded by the attack, as he previously thought, but had lost his eyesight during the Vietnam War. “He was young and reckless, but I forgive him now,” the victim said in 2014. “Everyone deserves another chance.”
Mark wasn’t the first or the only Wahlberg sibling to go to jail. In fact, three of his brothers have done time, and one of his sisters “went to prison so many times I lost count.” While the Wahlbergs haven’t named any names, Mark’s brother Donnie says that one of their older brothers even tried to rob a police officer’s house.
“My older brother, he was a tough kid. He got into a lot of scrapes and stuff with the police. He spent most of his life in prison,” Donnie told ET Online. “One of the things he attributes to saving his life is a Boston police officer who arrested him.”
Mark and the rest of the Wahlberg clan’s lives were forever changed on September 2, 2003. Just hours after Mark’s firstborn daughter Ella Rae’s birth, he was notified that his sister, Deborah, had passed away suddenly.
43-year-old Deborah was being treated for what the hospital suspected was a kidney stone. But during the procedure, she suffered a fatal heart attack that no one saw coming. “It was the best day of his life — and the worst. Every year on the kid’s birthday, he’ll be reminded of it,” a source told E! News.
Deborah’s death was a shock to the entire Wahlberg family, especially for their mother, Alma. According to Mark, she became so depressed that she essentially lost her identity. “It was completely devastating,” the actor told Entertainment Tonight.
“My mom really went into a big, deep depression after my sister passed away … no parent should have to lose a child.” Fortunately, the family’s TV show and restaurant, Wahlburgers, helped the mother of nine cope with her grief. “The restaurant, it’s given her a fresh start and a new lease on life, so it’s made her happy,” the actor said in 2019.
Alma’s grief didn’t end after the death of her firstborn. Her other daughter, Michelle, has been a source of grief for several years. In and out of jail on drug charges for most of her life, the second eldest Wahlberg made a decision in 2008 that would change her life forever.
During an argument with her live-in boyfriend, Michelle picked up a gun and shot in his direction four times. While she sat in jail, her brothers wanted nothing to do with her. “I cry myself to sleep every night thinking, ‘How can my brothers let me rot here in jail?’” the then 46-year-old said in 2008.
Michelle also told reporters that she didn’t aim at her boyfriend; the shots were just meant to scare him off. Even still, Mark and the rest of his siblings made it very clear that they wanted nothing to do with Michelle.
“They’re millionaires who could free me in an instant, but all I’ve heard is silence,” the waitress told the National Enquirer. This interview came two years after Michelle, much to her mother’s dismay, made her feud (over money, no less) public. Unfortunately, Michelle passed away in 2019. The reason for her death is unknown, and the Walberg family did not issue a statement.
We’ve talked a lot about the Wahlberg family’s dark past, but according to Donnie, their childhood wasn’t always so negative. The rapper-turned-actor told Closer Weekly that his favorite memory as a kid was Christmas time. In fact, it wasn’t just his favorite memory, but everyone else’s too.
“I’ll always remember, and I think anyone in my family, including Mark, will tell you that Christmas time when we were kids was the best part,” he told reporters. Donnie went on to explain that whoever woke up first on Christmas morning would wake the other kids up.
The Wahlberg kids would all sit at the top of the stairs wanting to run downstairs to see what was under the tree. While the family grew up well under the poverty line, Donnie says that his and his siblings’ excitement made up for what they lacked.
“We didn’t always get a lot of stuff, but that moment, the nine kids, literally sitting together on the steps waiting for our parents to come out and say, ‘OK, go down!'” Donnie continued. “It’s probably one of the greatest memories of my life.”
Mark has clearly made it. But did you know that his career could have turned out entirely different? In fact, Mark was originally chosen to join a boyband that became known as New Kids on the Block.
Thirteen-year-old Mark followed in his brother Donnie’s footsteps by joining the band (which was previously known as Nynuk) alongside Jordan Knight and Danny Wood. Unfortunately, this was around the time that Mark began his life of drugs and crime and wasn’t all too interested in becoming a boyband member. After just a few months, Mark dropped out and was replaced by Joey McIntyre.
Seeing Donnie’s musical success, Mark decided that he wanted to get in on the fun. In 1990, he formed what is now known as Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. With Donnie’s help, the band recorded their debut album, Music for the People.
One of the tracks, Good Vibrations, was a fan favorite and launched Mark and the rest of the band into stardom. The track was so successful that it reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later certified as a platinum single. People just couldn’t get enough of Marky Mark.
After showing off his ripped abs in the music video for Good Vibrations, the world began to take notice of Mark’s chiseled physique. Calvin Klein quickly scooped up the rapper, and, before long, he became known as the face of the underwear brand.
The ads sometimes featured Mark exclusively, but the rapper was accompanied by Kate Moss for the most part. Moss, who was relatively unknown at the time, later revealed to writer Glenn O’Brien that she was “really nervous. Especially the shoot with Marky Mark, it was so intimidating.”
The Calvin Klein campaign caused a huge media sensation and launched Moss’s career into the stratosphere. However, looking back at the iconic underwear campaign, Moss says that she was a “nervous wreck” every time she had to shoot with Mark.
“At the time, he was such a d**khead. He wasn’t very nice,” she told O’Brien. Klein has also shared his feelings about what went on behind the scenes. “I didn’t want anyone else. But [Mark] was trouble,” the designer said in 2013. “He and Kate couldn’t stand each other.”
Moss later admitted that although the campaign launched her career, she regrets the entire thing. “I had a nervous breakdown when I was 17 or 18 when I had to go and work with Marky Mark and Herb Ritts,” the model told Vanity Fair.
“It didn’t feel like me at all. I felt really bad about straddling this buff guy. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I thought I was going to die.” Moss explained that her anxiety got so bad during the Calvin campaign that she was prescribed Valium.
Although Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were launched into the spotlight with Good Vibrations, they could not keep the momentum going. In fact, their second album was so bad that in 1992, Rolling Stone magazine readers voted Mark, the “Worst Singer of the Year.”
This basically ended any dreams Mark had about making it in the music world. But with his modeling career taking off, Mark knew that there was something about him that people liked. So, instead of rapping, 22-year-old Mark decided to pursue a different dream: become an actor.
The rapper decided to drop his Marky Mark moniker, and two years later, he landed his debut role alongside Danny DeVito in the movie Renaissance Man. It seemed that Mark had found his calling. The following year, he appeared in The Basketball Diaries alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, catching film critics’ eye.
Mark went to work with Leo again in the 2006 film, The Departed, for which he also received his first Academy Award nomination. Mark later said he was most proud of this role, but as it turns out, the rapper-turned-actor turned down the part several times before finally caving in.
In an interview with GQ Magazine, Mark said that he told director Martin Scorsese “no” several times. While working with the famed director may seem like a no-brainer for most actors, Mark wasn’t interested in yet another supporting role, especially for actors like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio.
“The Departed was interesting because I wasn’t committed to making the movie, and my agent told Marty that I was,” Mark revealed to GQ in 2018. “Marty called me up, and he was so excited about making this movie together. I said, ‘I’m not doing the movie.’”
According to the actor, Scorsese remained silent for a minute or two before saying “okay.” It only took Mark’s agent five minutes to call and yell at Mark for turning down the director. Despite Mark’s resistance, both his agent and Scorsese knew that part of the potty-mouth Staff Sargent, Sean Dignam, was perfect for the actor—he just needed some convincing.
“[Scorsese] knows I’m from that [Boston] world, and I talked to him about improvising and doing my own thing, and he said, ‘Dude, you’re free to do what you want to do.’” With this new agreement, Mark laid down weapons and finally accepted the role.
Mark and his siblings are always looking out for their mom. In fact, Mark moved his mother into a $5 million mansion in Beverly Hills and most recently surprised her with her favorite car— a Hyundai Azera.
“I looked out my front door today, and there was this brand-new car sitting out there with the big red bow on it!” Alma told ET in 2016. But no matter how famous her kids are and how many gifts they buy her, Alma has just one rule: Call your mother! “‘Hey Ma, how are you? I love you. Gotta go,’” she told reporters. “That’s all I’m asking.”
Alma was just 18 years old when she had her first kid. She says she grew up alongside her nine kids. “I was learning as they were,” she admitted on TODAY’s digital series, Through Mom’s Eyes. “I wanted to give them the love that I always thought I wanted and never got.”
“I wanted them to know I’m always there. Always, always.” Alma also said that while her kids may not have liked her tough-love approach to parenting at the time, they always knew that she supported them. “That’s how they all are now. They’re there for me.”
The actor has served as an executive producer for four HBO series, the most famous being Entourage (with Boardwalk Empire in second place). Ever since Entourage hit the airwaves in 2004, it has been a well-known fact that the series was loosely based on Mark and his hometown buddies’ experiences in Hollywood.
But which storylines are real? Mark will never tell. “’Deny until you die’ is my motto,” Mark later told Rolling Stone magazine. He also added that his experiences in Tinseltown in the ‘90s “were always a lot more dark and edgy” than Vincent Chase’s.
Marky Mark and Eminem may be on good terms now, with Eminem appearing on Entourage and Mark nearly casting the rapper for The Fighter, but for nearly a whole decade, these guys had some serious beef. It started when the two appeared on MTV’s TRL in ’99.
With Mark’s rapping days long behind him, he made it clear to producers that he didn’t want his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch days to be referenced on the show. Well, the temptation proved to be too strong for Eminem. When Mark joined him and Carson Daly on stage, something was clearly off.
Eminem told the cameras they were standing around like “one big fun bunch.” This pissed Mark off, who already seemed to be in a bad mood, and he called the rapper an “a**hole” under his breath. As if this wasn’t awkward enough, Mark glared at the rapper for the remainder of the segment.
The two sporadically traded disses for the next ten years before finally burying the hatchet in 2010. “I was a hater ‘cause he was a better rapper than me,” Mark admitted to GQ in 2018. “First time I am saying this in public, but it is pretty obvious.”
In 2013, Mark fessed up that he’s passed up a few good roles in his lifetime, including a part in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek. But why would he turn down such an amazing opportunity? Well, it was mainly because he had a hard time wrapping his head around all that space talk in the script.
Mark also reportedly let another role slip through his fingers. According to the ever-so-reliable Internet, Mark and Joaquin Phoenix were up for the lead roles in Brokeback Mountain. However, Mark wasn’t too comfortable with an on-screen romance with Phoenix and turned down the part.
But this wasn’t the first time Mark let Gyllenhaal get all the cred. The actor also reportedly walked away from the lead role in Donnie Darko over a disagreement with the film’s director, Richard Kelly.
Apparently, Mark thought that Donnie needed a lisp, but that was not part of Kelly’s vision. Gyllenhaal replaced the actor, and the film is now regarded as a cult classic and ranks among IMDb’s top 250 fan-favorites. However, to be fair, Mark did enjoy back-to-back blockbuster hits that same year, with The Perfect Storm and Planet of the Apes.
While Donnie was considered the “good one” out of his siblings, he still has a reputation for being a bad boy. In 1991, Donnie was charged with first-degree arson after setting the historic Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, on fire.
It all began when Donnie was out partying all night with his fellow New Kids on the Block band member, Danny Wood. When they got back to the hotel, Donnie dumped vodka onto the hotel’s carpet and lit it on fire. The singer faced up to 20 years in prison, but luckily for him, the charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor and eventually dismissed.
Back in the ‘90s, Donnie was boy-band royalty. But just like his younger brother, Donnie knew that he wanted to do something else with his life. The rapper-turned-actor eventually made his Hollywood debut in 1996 in Bullet, alongside Tupac Shakur and Mickey Rourke.
Then, in 1999, Donnie received attention for his role as Bruce Willis’ character’s patient in The Sixth Sense. It was clear to everyone that Donnie had what it takes to become an actor. Since 2010, Donnie has been starring in the drama series Blue Blood and is currently the TNT reality show’s executive producer show Boston’s Finest.
Donnie and Jenny McCarthy may be hot and heavy now, but this is not the actor’s first time at the rodeo. He met his first wife, sound engineer Kimberly Fey when the couple were in their early twenties. After eight years of dating, the two tied the knot in 1999.
The couple share two boys, 28-year-old Xavier and 20-year-old Elijah. But, as we all know, their love was never meant to last. Fey filed for divorce in 2008, citing irreconcilable differences. However, rumor has it that Donnie cheated on Fey with model Michelle Tomlinson.
In fact, the two were in a relationship for five whole years, despite the fact that Donnie was still married. This didn’t sit too well with Fey, especially after Tomlinson announced to the public that she was pregnant with Donnie’s baby.
Apparently, the former boyband member was so upset at the news that he dumped his mistress. “Donnie accused Michelle of deliberately getting pregnant because she knew his divorce was coming through, and she thought she could trap him into marriage,” a source told the National Enquirer. Donnie reportedly left Tomlinson to raise the child on her own.
With her public breakup from Jim Carrey still fresh on her mind, former Playboy Bunny Jenny McCarthy wasn’t sure that true love was in the cards for her. Not finding the right person was one of her biggest fears, especially being a single mom.
And Donnie, a divorced dad of two (three), wasn’t looking for anything special. But you know what they say, true love happens when you least expect it. The two first met on the set of Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live in 2012, and the chemistry was definitely there.
Cohen noticed the two were smitten with each other and even implored Donnie to ask McCarthy out—but he didn’t make any moves. It wasn’t until McCarthy invited him onto her show, The Jenny McCarthy Show, that things took off for the couple.
“I went a year without dating anybody,” McCarthy shared with New York’s 95.5 PLJ radio. “So, I don’t know if I was really ready, but he was there, and I gave him my phone number…I’ve never given a guy my number, but I was interested.” It took Donnie two weeks, but he called her up, and the rest is history.
While many people thought Donnie and McCarthy’s giddy PDA moments were all for show, Donnie popped the question just a year later. The actor proposed with a yellow sapphire and a little help from McCarthy’s son, Evan.
“This weekend, I was sitting with Donnie, and he went into the other room, and out came Evan with a card that said ‘Will,’” McCarthy recalled on The View. “And he ran away and came back with a card that said ‘You,’ and I knew what was happening, and I just started crying.”
Then, Evan came back out with a card that said: “Marry” (but it was spelled “Mary”) and then ran back out of the room. Then “Donnie came out with Evan and Evan’s shirt said ‘Me?’ and [Donnie] was holding the ring.”
“He asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ I, of course, said yes,” the former Playboy Bunny said as she began to tear up. “And in that moment, Evan yelled, ‘I have another dad! I have another dad.’ And it was just—it made all of us cry. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”
Donnie isn’t the only one who has found “the one.” In fact, his younger brother Mark beat him to the punch. The actor began dating model Rhea Durham in 2001, and while the two may not have followed the typical “relationship rules,” their connection grows stronger by the day.
Two years after they began dating, the couple welcomed their firstborn, daughter Ella Rae. They went on to have three more children: sons Michael and Brenden in 2006 and 2008, and then daughter Grace in 2010. Despite having kids together, Mark and Durham didn’t officially tie the knot until 2009.
The duo exchanged vows in an intimate and romantic ceremony at a Catholic church in Beverly Hills with only their children and a few other family members. Mark wore a dark suit, while Durham wore a strapless dress with silver embroidery.
“She looked like a princess and beyond stunning. Mark looked ecstatic,” an eyewitness told People magazine shortly after the ceremony. Well, of course, Mark looked ecstatic! He had just married the love of his life! It’s no secret that the former rapper has nothing but the utmost love and respect for Durham.
In fact, Mark has said that Durham is one of the reasons why he was able to achieve as much as he has. “I owe a lot to my wife. She has helped me become the man that I am and created a beautiful life for our children and me,” Mark told The Sun in 2008.
“You need the right woman in your life and that feeling that you’re going to be together for a long time. That’s especially important if you’re going to have children.” We’re not crying. You’re crying!
Mark sure has a lot to be thankful for. He has a beautiful wife and kids and a successful career to boot. His life, however, could have turned out very differently. Mark was booked to fly on American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001, along with Seth MacFarlane.
But after being invited to a film festival in Toronto at the last minute, Mark canceled his reservation. In 2012, Mark received backlash after he told reporters that “If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did.” He issued a public apology after families of the victims expressed outrage.
Mark may be tattoo-free today, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, the Lone Survivor Star told James Corden that he used to have several tattoos that covered his entire body. “I had, like, eight or nine,” the actor confessed.
“They went all the way around my neck, my stomach, my arms, my back, my leg.” Mark shared that he wanted to get his tattoos removed before his 2010 film, The Fighter, but dermatologists didn’t think it was possible. But this is Mark Wahlberg we’re talking about. Unsurprisingly, the actor squeezed a five-year tattoo removal process into just seven months. Ouch!
It’s a well-known fact that the 49-year-old Mark is a fitness enthusiast. He’s even created his own pre-work-out supplement and converted an airplane hanger into his own personal gym (complete with a boxing ring, hundreds of pieces of equipment, and a state-of-the-art sound system). Sign me up!
Just as every fitness enthusiast knows, the key to staying in shape is consistency. And, boy, is Mark consistent. In fact, he’s shared his schedule with his social media followers, and let’s just say it’s not for the faint-hearted. He starts his day at 2:30 a.m. (!!!), takes a 90-minute-long shower, and has multiple workouts. Whatever makes him happy!
In 2011, Mark, Donnie, and their older brother Paul opened a restaurant and bar called Wahlburgers. One thing led to another, and the burger joint now has 49 locations in the U.S., two in Canada, and one in Germany. They must be doing something right.
The original location was also the subject of a reality TV series on A&E, which gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at how the three brothers run the restaurant. Before joining forces with his younger brothers, Paul opened up a successful restaurant called Alma Nove. The name came from combining their mother’s name (Alma) and “Nove,” which is the Italian word for “nine.”
The reality series, which ran for ten seasons, allows fans to meet the brains behind the operation: Paul Wahlberg. As the fifth of nine children (and the first to graduate high school), Paul always knew he wanted to become a chef.
He’s worked at several restaurants, including The Charles Hotel and Bridgman’s, where he served as executive chef for nine years. Despite the reality series’ long run, Paul doesn’t get the fuss. “I think I’m as dull as dull comes,” he told reporters in 2019. “I don’t know how it makes for quality television.”
Well, clearly, something was working because 3.5 million viewers tuned in every week to watch the Wahlberg sibling rivalry (which mostly consisted of Mark and Donnie pranking Paul and Paul always being super stressed out). The series, which wrapped in 2019, was even nominated for an Emmy!
While the show depicts a successful business, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Wahlberg brothers. In 2012, Wahlburgers faced some legal trouble. The Wahlberg brothers sued their former business partner, Edward St. Croix, for a breach of duties. St. Croix then countersued, accusing the brothers of skimming wages and mismanaging company funds.
While the Wahlburgers let fans into three Wahlberg brothers’ life, there are still more siblings who prefer to live out of the spotlight. Arthur, who is Alma’s third child (and first son), made a few appearances in films like 10 and Patriots Day. But today, he spends his time remodeling homes.
Then there’s James, who was born a year after Paul. Unlike the rest of his siblings, James has completely refrained from the entertainment industry. Instead, he works as the executive director for Mark’s charity, the Youth Foundation.
Their younger sister Tracy has also decided to stay out of the limelight. All we know about her is that she is married and has three boys. And then there’s Mark’s look-a-like brother, Robert. He isn’t as famous as Mark or Donnie, but he shares their passion for acting.
He’s had a few roles in successful films, such as The Departed, Mystic River, and In Plain View. But unlike his siblings, Robert isn’t a full-time actor. Instead, he spends his time working at a power company in Boston. The Wahlberg siblings may be a colorful bunch, but it’s safe to say they’re a group of very hard workers.