Here, we honor the celebrities who died in 2021: their legacies, their careers, and their impact. We hope their loved ones find peace during this difficult time.
Betty White, the legendary actor and comedian, has died just a few weeks ahead of her 100th birthday. White passed away in her home on December 31, according to law enforcement who spoke to TMZ. The award-winning actor was best known for playing Rose Nylund in the 1985 series The Golden Girls, which ran until 1992, but she starred in over 100 projects throughout her career. Memorable performances include roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Proposal, Hot in Cleveland, and more.
"Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever," her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas told People in a statement. "I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again."
The acclaimed film and television director passed away on Sunday, December 26, at his cabin near Quebec, Canada, People confirms. The 53-year-old's cause of death is currently unknown. Vallée was best known for directing the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club starring Matthew McConaughey and also served as director and executive producer on HBO's Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects. He won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or a Dramatic Special for his work on Big Little Lies.
"He was a friend, creative partner, and an older brother to me," Nathan Ross, a partner in Vallée's production company Crazyrose, said in a statement. "The maestro will sorely be missed but it comforts knowing his beautiful style and impactful work he shared with the world will live on."
The pioneering journalist, novelist, and screenwriter has passed at the age of 87. Influential across mediums and decades, Didion was widely known for her memoirs The Year Of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, in which she reckoned with the untimely deaths of her husband, writer John Dunne, and their daughter, respectively. In 2013, President Obama presented her with a National Humanities Medal. The New York Times reports that she died from Parkinson's disease at home in Manhattan on Thursday, December 23.
Former Vogue editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella died on December 23 at age 91, reports the New York Times. Mirabella helmed the fashion bible for 17 years, from 1971 to 1988, before launching her own magazine, Mirabella.
Famed gothic fiction writer Anne Rice, best known for Interview With a Vampire, has died at 80. The author's son announced her passing on December 11 and shared that the influential author died “due to complications resulting from a stroke.”
Virgil Abloh, the men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton and founder of beloved luxury streetwear brand Off-White, has died at the age of 41. The designer’s death was confirmed on November 28 by a post on his Instagram account. According to the message, Abloh died of cardiac angiosarcoma, a “rare, aggressive form of cancer.”
“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend. He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues.
For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.
Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.
We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life.”
On November 26, news broke that legendary Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim, known for West Side Story, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Company, and more, died at the age of 91.
The actor, known for his roles in Bosom Buddies, Newhart, and Girls, passed away in October. He was 66 years old. CNN reports Scolari had cancer and had been ill since 2019.
As the anchor of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment during the ’90s, Macdonald influenced a generation of comics and comedy fans. He passed away in September 2021 at the age of 61 after a private battle with cancer, reported Deadline.
“Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly,” said his friend and producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with him when he died.
Clark was a musician who shot to fame as drummer Freddy in the hit movie School of Rock. Variety reported on May 26 that Clark was hit by a car while riding his bike in Chicago. He was only 32.
The actor and comedian, who worked with Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor, among others, died on Wednesday, May 19, from a heart attack. Mooney was 79, reported TMZ.
The actor passed away from bone marrow cancer on Tuesday, May 17, his son confirmed to the Associated Press. He was 86.
Elbaz—a native of Israel who was best known for his revival of fashion house Lanvin, where he worked from 2001 to 2015—has died at age 59 from COVID-19. “It was with shock and enormous sadness that I heard of Alber’s sudden passing,” said Johann Rupert, chairman of Richemont and a partner in Elbaz’s AZ Factory, per Harper’s Bazaar. “I was always taken by his intelligence, sensitivity, generosity, and unbridled creativity. He was a man of exceptional warmth and talent, and his singular vision, sense of beauty, and empathy leave an indelible impression.”
Helen McCrory, who starred in the Harry Potter franchise as Narcissa Malfoy, died of cancer at 52 years old. “I’m heartbroken to announce that after a heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family,” McCory's husband, actor Damian Lewis, shared on April 16.
“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives,” he continued. “She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”
Best known for his portrayal of Giovanni “Johnny Boy” Soprano on HBO’s groundbreaking drama The Sopranos, Siravo was also a Broadway star who took the stage in Jersey Boys for over 2,000 performances, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Siravo was 64 and had been battling cancer for some time. The news was reported on Monday, April 12.
Rapper and actor DMX, born Earl Simmons, died on Friday, April 9, a week after suffering a heart attack. He was 50 years old.
“We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50 years old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days,” his family wrote in a statement to People. “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time. Please respect our privacy as we grieve the loss of our brother, father, uncle and the man the world knew as DMX. We will share information about his memorial service once details are finalized.”
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died on Friday, April 9, at the age of 99. “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” Buckingham Palace said via a statement. “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”
Friday Night Dinner and Chernobyl actor Paul Ritter passed away from a brain tumor at the age of 54, reported Variety in April.
“He died peacefully at home with his wife Polly and sons Frank and Noah by his side,” said his agent in a statement. “Paul was an exceptionally talented actor playing an enormous variety of roles on stage and screen with extraordinary skill. He was fiercely intelligent, kind and very funny. We will miss him greatly.”
Henry’s daughter, Erin Ellwood, confirmed on Easter that the Dennis the Menace star had passed away on Saturday, April 3. Henry, who played matriarch Alice Mitchell on the classic CBS sitcom, had just turned 98.
Ellwood wrote on Instagram, “She’s flying now, free of her body. She left on a countdown 4 3 2 1 @ 3:40pm. She was such an incredible woman in so many ways. This last year with her has been beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you all for following me and supporting me on this journey - this beautiful land mine. Goodbye Momma, I love your guts forever.”
The iconic actor passed away in March 2021 at 80 years old. “It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica,” her daughter, Brooke Bowman, said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter. “A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on-screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class, and overall joie de vivre.”
Her legendary roles include Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, Malory Archer on Archer, and many more.
Wilson, a founding member of The Supremes, passed away in February at 76 years old. Her friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz, said in a statement, “[She was] a trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers.”
He continued, “Their [The Supremes’] influence not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul, and pop, they also helped pave the way for mainstream success by Black artists across all genres.”
The legendary actor, whose career spanned almost seven decades, passed away on February 5, according to his agency, ICM Partners. He was 91 years old.
“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self-deprecating humor and the music of words,” his manager, Lou Pitt, said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter. “He was a National Treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts, and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us.”
The Broadway and screen actor is known for playing Captain von Trapp in the 1965 classic The Sound of Music, Harlan Thrombey in Knives Out, Hal in Beginners (for which he won an Oscar), and so much more.
Saved by the Bell actor Dustin Diamond passed away after his battle with cancer. He was 44 years old.
“We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021, due to carcinoma,” his rep said in a statement to People. “He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful.”
The statement continued, “Dustin Diamond’s name was synonymous with Screech, his character on the hit show Saved by the Bell. He portrayed Samuel ‘Screech’ Powers for 13 years as the cast of the show grew up together in all its series: Good Morning, Miss Bell, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, and Saved By the Bell: The College Years. He starred in a handful of reality television series including the fifth season of Celebrity Fit Club, The Weakest Link, and Celebrity Boxing 2. He made cameo appearances in films such as Made (2001), Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), and American Pie Presents: The Book of Love.(2009). In December 2013, Dustin appeared on an episode of OWN’s Where Are They Now? and became a house member in the 12th season of Celebrity Big Brother.”
It ended with, “We please ask that you give room for privacy to our team and Mr. Diamond’s family during this tragic time, as we grieve and remember the memories spent together. This loss is as much stinging as it is sudden.”
The legendary actor passed on January 28. She was 96. “I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” her manager, Larry Thompson, said in a statement to Variety. “Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a star, on top of the tree.” (Her memoir Just as I Am was released in 2021.)
Tributes to Tyson from celebrities soon flooded the internet:
The rapper from duo People Under the Stairs passed away at 43 years old.
King passed in late January 2021 at 87 years old; he had been hospitalized with COVID-19 over the holidays. Ora Media, the media company cofounded by King, announced the news on January 23. “For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television, and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” a statement read.
Journalists in particular took to social media to talk about how King influenced them:
The Young Frankenstein and Mary Tyler Moore Show actor passed away at 94 years old from natural causes. “There was no one like Cloris,” her manager, Juliet Green, told Page Six. “With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh ’till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do, and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic.”
Rogers, a pianist and widow of TV legend Fred Rogers, passed at 92 years old. “Fred Rogers Productions is deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers,” the organization said in a statement, per People. “The loving partner of Fred Rogers for more than 50 years, she continued their shared commitment to supporting children and families after his death as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions.”
Known for playing Malik McGrath on ER, Deezer D passed away January 7 at 55 years old.
The actor, famous for her roles on Broadway and the film Police Academy, passed on January 7 at 73 years old.
On January 8, the country music legend passed away from natural causes.
The General Hospital and Beverly Hills, 90210 star died on January 10 at 84 years old.
The New York Dolls guitarist died at 69 years old. “As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years,” his wife, Wanda O’Kelley Mizrahi, wrote in a Facebook post. “Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain."
The 24-year-old son of model and actor Stephanie Seymour and magazine publisher Peter Brant passed away at 24 years old from an accidental overdose. “We will forever be saddened that his life was cut short by this devastating disease,” the family said in a statement to The New York Times. “He achieved a lot in his 24 years, but we will never get the chance to see how much more Harry could have done.”
The beloved host of Wonderama, a popular 1960s children’s show, died at 95 from coronavirus complications. “It is with sadness that we share the news of Sonny’s passing in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 24th, of Covid Related Pneumonia,” a statement reads. “We will post more as we learn more of where to send your condolences.”
The South Korean actor and model died at 26. “Actress Song Yoo-jung has left us,” Sublime Artist Agency wrote in the caption, translated by CNN. “Yoo-jung was a friend who always gave us happiness with a bright smile, and an awesome actress who acted with a passion bigger than anyone.”
Rest in peace to all the celebrities who died in 2021.
Originally Appeared on Glamour