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15 Celebs With Real Genetic Mutations

Many of us look at celebrities and think that their lives are perfect in every way—they have good looks, fame, all the money they could ever need and more. But, celebrities are humans, too. And just l

By Selena Singh Published Dec 31, 2016
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Many of us look at celebrities and think that their lives are perfect in every way—they have good looks, fame, all the money they could ever need and more. But, celebrities are humans, too. And just like the rest of us, they are not immune to illnesses or genetic mutations that cause physical deformities.

When you hear the term “mutation”, you probably think of the X-Men, but the mutations we’ll be addressing in the article below don’t cause superstrength or the ability to read minds (unfortunately). Some of them are still really, really cool, though. And you’ll still be surprised to see which star has extra toes or which one was born with a tail (yes, we’re talking about a real tail)! These celebrities prove that no one is without flaws. We can learn from many of them that accepting your flaws and persevering, no matter the odds that are against you, is very important. Here are 15 celebrities you probably didn’t realize have genetic mutations.


15 Ashton Kutcher: Syndactyly (Webbed Toes)

Ashton Kutcher once appeared on Jonathan Ross’ talk show to display his webbed toes! It wasn’t a prank, either! The actor says, “I have slightly webbed toes. When everything else is this good-looking, something has to give!” Well, that’s true. And at least he can hide his feet with socks and shoes. Jonathon Ross attempted to separate Ashton’s toes with a pair of scissors, but the Punk’d star quickly backed away.

The exact cause of webbed toes (AKA syndactyly) is unknown, but it is associated with genetic mutations. We can’t help but wonder if his webbed toes help Ashton to swim better. He did play the role of a competitive swimmer in The Guardian, so maybe there’s some connection there.

14 Elizabeth Taylor: Distichiasis (Double Row Of Eyelashes)

Elizabeth Taylor is an icon. At the peak of her acting career, she was known as the most beautiful actress in Hollywood. It’s not hard to see why. She had striking violet eyes, dark hair, porcelain skin and lush eyelashes. Speaking of eyelashes, there’s a reason hers is so thick (and it’s not because of mascara or fake lashes). Taylor was diagnosed, at birth, with a genetic mutation in the FOXC2 gene. This gene is responsible for making a protein that plays a critical role in the formation of many organs and tissues. The mutation led Taylor to having an extra row of eyelashes, a condition known as distichiasis. It sounds great, but it can lead to eye irritation (though it has never been reported that Taylor suffered from this). If anything, this mutation only added to her natural beauty.

13 Megan Fox: Brachydactyly (Clubbed Thumbs)

Many people look at Megan Fox and think she’s physically perfect. But, the Transformers actress actually has a deformity caused by a mutation. Luckily for her, it doesn’t affect her money-maker (which—let’s face it—is obviously her face) or any other part of her body. So, what’s the mutation? Well, look closely at her hands and you’ll see that she has clubbed thumbs (also called brachydactyly type-D or BDD)! That means her thumbs are short and round with a wide nail bed. It’s caused by a mutation in the HOXD13 gene. It’s a good thing she didn’t dream of becoming a hand model! Megan was on Jay Leno’s talk show, where she revealed that her thumbs are her least favorite part of her body due to this. See? Even Megan Fox has insecurities.

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12 Kate Bosworth: Heterochromia (Different Colored Eyes)

Kate Bosworth is a beautiful actress known for her role in Blue Crush and Superman Returns. You may not have known that Bosworth has heterochromia. It sounds serious, but it only means that she has two different colored eyes. Pretty cool, huh? Kate has one hazel eye (her right eye) and one blue eye (her left eye). How does this happen? Well, it’s caused by an alteration in two genes that control eye color, EYCL1 and EYCL3. She usually wears contact lenses to hide it while filming, however during Superman Returns, she showed off her genetic mutation as Lois Lane.

Bosworth’s not the only one in Hollywood with this cool mutation; Jane Seymour, Elizabeth Berkley and Josh Henderson all have it, too! Even British heartthrob, Benedict Cumberbatch, has heterochromia. But, he has sectoral heterochromia (which is responsible for his eyes seemingly changing from green to blue, depending on the light). No wonder those eyes are so mesmerizing!

11 Kate Hudson: Polydactyly (Extra Digits)

A surprising number of celebrities actually have 11 fingers or toes. Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn and star of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Bride Wars, has extra toes. Halle Berry also has extra toes! It really isn’t a big deal, but it goes to show that even the people you thought were physically perfect have flaws, too. The unusual feature is caused by a relatively rare genetic mutation, which occurs in one out of around 500 people. Also known as polydactyly, the condition is caused by mutations in multiple genes. It’s likely that the trait was inherited from their parents, but polydactyly can occur even if there is no family history of the condition.

10 Catherine O’Hara: Situs Inversus (Reversed Organs)

You’ll know Catherine O’Hara from her role in one of the most popular holiday movies, Home Alone. The actress has a condition known as situs inversus, which sounds like a spell from Harry Potter. Situs inversus is actually a rare genetic condition (it only affects about 1 in 10,000 people) which causes the major organs to be reversed. So, instead of her heart being on the left side of the thorax, it’s on the right side. The other organs in her chest are also mirrored. Fortunately, the condition has no adverse effects on health. However, it can be a problem if an individual with the condition requires an organ transplant. On the bright side, it’s great for avoiding death by assassination (as demonstrated in the novel, Dr. No). So, it’s kind of like a superpower, right?

9 Angelina Jolie: BRCA1 Mutation (Increased Breast Cancer Risk)

Angelina Jolie needs no introduction; she’s constantly in the tabloids (most recently for her personal life than her work). In fact, you may have likely even heard about the genetic mutation she has, as it was quite a big story in the news. Jolie made headlines when she announced she would be getting her breasts removed to lower her chances of getting breast cancer. She made the decision after testing positive for a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. This mutation is inherited (Jolie’s own mother died of ovarian cancer at age 56). Having a mastectomy dropped her chance of getting breast cancer by over 80%. We definitely applaud her bravery and the fact that she helped to raise awareness about the issue.

Shortly after Jolie’s revelation, there was a rise in testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2. Kelly Osbourne revealed that she also had the BRCA1 gene, but did not undergo surgery as of yet (but plans to in the future). Her mother, Sharon, underwent a double mastectomy in 2012, when she learned she carried a gene for breast cancer.

8 Selena Gomez: Lupus

Most of us are pretty well aware about Selena Gomez’s struggle with lupus. Many people thought she went to rehab for a drug or alcohol addiction, but she was actually receiving treatment for lupus. The former Disney actress recently revealed that her surprise diagnosis was behind her hiatus from the spotlight. So, what exactly is lupus? Well, it’s an autoimmune disease (meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body instead of only foreign particles). For people suffering from lupus, the immune system can affect any part of the body, but typically it affects the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. Gomez says, “I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges.” Toni Braxton and Nick Cannon also have lupus.

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In recent years, the genetic cause of lupus has been identified. It is a genetic mutation in a gene that usually repairs errors in DNA sequences which leads to the disease.

7 Carrie Underwood, Mark Wahlberg: Third Nipple

If you watched American Idol back in the day (or like to re-watch popular auditions on YouTube), this one won’t come as a surprise. Country superstar, Carrie Underwood, was just a shy 21-year-old when she auditioned for Randy and Simon. They probably sensed her nervousness, which led them to ask some silly questions about herself to break the tension. Simon asked her, “Do you have something you shouldn’t have had?” Carrie then went on to tell the story of her third nipple. She said it looked like a mole but she had it removed because she was self-conscious about it.

Carrie’s not the only one in Hollywood with a third nipple. Harry Styles, Lily Allen and Mark Wahlberg all reportedly have at least one extra nipple, too!

6 Kesha: Vestigial Tail

Kesha’s one of those musicians that’s really out there. And apparently, she’s been like that since birth! The singer was born with a tail! She says, “I had a tail when I was born. It was a tiny tail, about a quarter of an inch. Then they chopped it off and stole my tail.” Sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but it is possible (though very rare). Technically, all human embryos begin with a stubby tail (it’s an evolutionary leftover from when our ancient ancestors all had tails, AKA a vestigial trait). As we evolved, there were genes turned on that suppressed the expression of the tail. However, genetic mutations can cause the feature to pop up every so often.

In some countries, like India, having a tail comes with perks. For example, one child born with a 13-inch tail was believed to be a reincarnation of a Hindu God, so people literally worship him.

5 Paul Stanley: Level 3 Microtia

Paul Stanley was the lead singer of KISS, one of the biggest rock bands in the world at the height of their career. So, it may come as a surprise that he was born with a defect that caused him to be deaf in one ear. Paul has a condition called level 3 microtia, which means that he has no ear canal on his right side. The condition is rare, occurring in only one out of every 8,000 births.

Paul says, “I may not hear music the way other people hear it, but I have nothing else to compare it to, or didn’t for most of my life… I have no sense of the direction of sound, yet I have no trouble mixing a stereo album.” He wears a hearing aid and now supports a charity for children with microtia.

4 Joaquin Phoenix: Microform Cleft

What is there that Joaquin Phoenix hasn’t done? The man can act, produce, direct, compose and so much more. If you look closely at a picture of his shaven face, you’ll notice a scar above his lips. Most people associate this kind of scar with people who have had cleft palate surgery. However, Phoenix hasn’t had surgery to repair a cleft palate; he was born with a mild form of cleft palate (called microform cleft). This deformity is associated with mutations in the BMP4 gene. Clearly, it hasn’t stopped him from achieving lots of success. In fact, it gives him an especially distinct look, which can be advantageous in the film industry.

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3 Peter Dinklage: Achondroplasia

This one may be rather obvious, but Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones) has a genetic mutation resulting in his short stature. He has achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder which is a common cause of dwarfism. The disorder is caused by a genetic mutation in fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3).

Dinklage is four feet five inches tall. Dinklage now accepts his condition, but he found it challenging to deal with while growing up. He says, “When I was younger, I definitely let it get to me. As an adolescent, I was bitter and angry, and I definitely put up these walls. But the older you get, you realize you just have to have a sense of humor. You just know that it’s not your problem. It’s theirs.” The actor can be seen as a role model because he not only found success in an industry focused on looks, but he also refuses to take parts that are degrading.

Of course, there are many other actors with achondroplasia, like Verne Troyer and Michael Anderson. There are also some actors (like Danny DeVito), who have a short stature, which is not the result of achondroplasia, but of another genetic mutation.

2 Jessie J: Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome

Jessie J, singer of “Price Tag”, “Bang Bang” and other catchy tunes, has a condition called Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, which is caused by a genetic mutation. Her father also has the condition. The rare syndrome causes a very fast heart rate (160 to 220 beats per minute, compared to the normal 60 to 100 beats per minute). It can also cause lightheadedness, low blood pressure and shortness of breath. Jessie J suffered from a minor stroke as a result of the disease at the age of 18. She also had to take medications since she was a child. She says, “There were times when I’d be acting normal and then I’d just collapse. It was only then that people would realize I wasn’t well. I suppose I was good at covering it up and I know I’m very good at that now.”

1 Robin Williams: Lewy Body Dementia

We’ve all likely heard of Alzheimer’s disease, which is believed to be caused by mutations in the genes APP, PSEN1, or PSEN2. However, there’s a similar condition called lewy body dementia, which seems to be lesser known (although it isn’t really rare, as 1.4 million people in America suffer from it). The condition is associated with mutations in the gene GBA1.

Comedian and actor, Robin Williams, actually suffered from the condition and it’s believed that it played a large part in his shocking death. Lewy body dementia can cause slowed movements, sleep disturbances, hallucinations, delusions and other psychiatric disturbances, such as depression. Sadly, the condition was wrongly diagnosed as Parkinson’s, in Robin’s case. His wife stated, “Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it.” The beloved Mrs. Doubtfire actor was found dead, as a result of hanging himself, in August 2014.

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About The Author

Brachydactyly Megan Fox

Selena Singh (34 Articles Published)

Selena Singh is a freelance writer and junior editor whose work (covering health, travel and more) has been published on various websites, including Healthversed and TheThings. When she isn’t writing a list or finding ways to incorporate chocolate into her meals, you can catch her travelling or attempting a craft project. She can be contacted on her Facebook page, Selena Singh.