Most people know Denise Richards for her beauty and her tumultuous marriage with Charlie Sheen. But this actress has a knack for staying in the spotlight, even if it’s because of scandalous behavior.
Despite her tomboy childhood, it wasn't long before Denise Richards became a self-confessed "girlie". Her high school classmates voted her Best Looking in their yearbook and as soon as she graduated high school, she began modeling. Her star was rising, but her life became plagued with drama, scandal, and personal tragedy.
Losing a parent is always hard, and Denise was only 36 years old when her mother passed from cancer. But from this tragedy came some good: Denise helped to raise money for her mother’s treatment facility. Though she's best known for her beauty, she also has heart and brains—even if she didn't let this shine until later in her life.
Perhaps unfairly, popular culture considers models…not exactly intelligent. They’re meant to sit there and look pretty, and Denise Richards was certainly a pretty teenager. She got her start in modeling at the age of 19 and her campaigns included Teen magazine, Bonne Bell makeup, and a very 90s-style video called “Modeling: What It Takes”.
Apparently what "it took," at least for Denise, was some dramatic plastic surgery.
Many people aren’t exactly happy with their bodies and teenage Denise was no exception. When her roommate at the time got implants, Denise followed suit, taking her from "flat as a board" to larger than life. But the implants didn’t help her self-confidence and she soon changed her mind about them.
But when she tried to change her chest yet again, it went so, so wrong.
Denise didn’t research her doctor—she just assumed they were good because they were a plastic surgeon—and she paid a chilling price.
She went to get her implants reduced, but after the second surgery, her chest was even bigger than before. Denise has spoken out about her regrets over the surgeries—but at the time, her preoccupation with superficial beauty sent her down a rocky path.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Denise received plenty of media attention for her beauty. Magazines like Maxim and FHM placed her on their Sexiest Women lists, and she also appeared on the covers of multiple other magazines, like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and GQ.
In terms of her career, she appeared to be riding high, especially after her star-making role in Starship Troopers. The hits kept coming, but not all of her roles allowed for a comfortable filming experience.
Denise Richards almost didn’t land a role in 1998's Wild Things because her first audition was just mediocre. Fortunately, she came back for a second audition and nailed it, with the director noting that she’d obviously thought about the role.
Of course, he also pointed out that if nothing else, at least she’d be beautiful. And she was, but the racy scenes in Wild Things were something of a nightmare.
Though her agent negotiated her contract to include a body double, Denise ended up filming the infamous scene where she bared all—though it took a pitcher of margaritas for her to do it.
As she told the other housewives on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills later in her career, it was uncomfortable—especially the thought of her father watching the scene. Though the movie helped make her a household name, it also gave her a bit of an unwanted reputation.
After the success of Wild Things, Denise had plenty of offers coming in, but only a few that she really wanted. Though she was really hoping for a light romantic comedy to star in, the majority of the scripts wanted her to take off her clothes and make out with another woman again.
She was trying to move on...and then the Bond movies came knocking.
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Who wouldn’t take the role of a Bond girl when offered? Denise was cast as nuclear physicist Dr Christmas Jones in the 1999 Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. She was ecstatic about the role, seeing the character as brainy and sassy, and an equal to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. But critics and audiences definitely disagreed.
The Bond girls have always been beautiful and Denise was no exception—but that beauty led many to think her casting as a nuclear physicist was laughable. Variety called her "the least plausible nuclear physicist in the history of movies” and Entertainment Weekly ranked her one of the worst Bond girls of all time. Ouch.
The costume department’s decision to have Denise wear mostly low-cut tank tops and hot pants certainly didn’t help either. But Denise persevered and continued to land roles—including the TV guest spot that would change her life forever.
When you think of Denise Richards, you probably also think of Charlie Sheen and their rocky marriage. Denise and Sheen met on the set of Spin City in 2001, when she landed a four-episode part as the love interest of Sheen’s character. From there on out, there was no slowing down.
By the end of the year, they had gotten engaged, and in June 2002, they married. It was a fairytale wedding, but their relationship quickly began to go downhill.
Charlie Sheen had a reputation as a bad-boy womanizer, not to mention his issues with illicit substances. By the time he and Denise met, he was attending AA regularly and claimed his previous addictions were behind him. They had a daughter together in 2004 and Denise became pregnant again in 2005.
However, she threw Hollywood for a loop when she abruptly filed for divorce—and began to reveal the horrible secrets of their marriage.
The honeymoon should be a time to relax and bond with your new spouse, but Sheen had a different way to relax: Xanax. Denise claimed that Sheen began gambling and ordered her to keep the Xanax use a secret, as AA considers this drug use. But that wasn't all.
His mood began to sour when he lost money while gambling, and Denise was often the target of his wrath as he screamed awful slurs at her. She might have left him sooner—but once she started a family with him, everything changed.
Denise and Sheen had two daughters together: Sam, born in 2004, and Lola, born in 2005. Sadly, Sheen was already unstable during Denise’s first pregnancy, and when Denise took Sam to get vaccinated, Sheen accused her of hurting his child. Despite this, Denise became pregnant again and this time, Sheen promised to clean up his act and be a real husband and father.
As with most things Charlie Sheen said, this proved to be a lie.
According to Denise, Sheen continued to lose money through gambling. Not only that, but he began to follow various conspiracy theories and hurt her through his perpetual selfishness.
On one disturbing occasion, Denise asked him to hold one of the children because her back was hurting. Sheen's reaction was chilling. He punched the headboard so hard that he broke the bones in his hand. And when she was pregnant and had unexplained bleeding, he ignored her in favor of his basketball game.
Denise had a hard decision to make: stay with her husband or escape with her children.
While six months pregnant with Lola, Denise Richards filed for divorce and asked for a restraining order against Sheen, claiming he made threats to her life. In later interviews, she said that she had to think of her daughters, asking herself if she would be happy if they had married a man like Sheen.
When the answer was no, she knew she had to get out. But Sheen wasn’t going to let her go so easily.
Hollywood couples have a tendency to sling mud at each other when they break up, but Denise and Sheen took it to another level. When filing for divorce, Denise claimed Sheen visited certain websites featuring underage performers, and threatened her life shortly before she filed.
A judge granted her restraining order, extending it a few times throughout the next year. Through it all, Denise tried to keep her children’s father in their lives, despite Sheen’s unstable nature.
Denise gave birth to her second daughter, Lola, in June 2005, but Sheen flaked out on supporting her at the hospital when her doctors admitted her to the ICU.
Despite this, they attempted to reconcile shortly after, moving back in together for a brief time. Sadly, Sheen continued with his wild ways, despite Denise’s best efforts to keep their family unit together. And in the end, his constant cheating and betrayals left the actress no choice.
Sometimes you just have to know when to walk away—especially when you’re a public figure. After the restraining orders and the accusations thrown both ways, Denise and Sheen seemed to come to a more amicable agreement.
They even began dating other people; Sheen with Brooke Mueller, his soon-to-be new wife, and Denise with the guitarist, Richie Sambora. When Sheen and Mueller got engaged, Denise even congratulated them. But their truce turned out to be only temporary.
Denise sought custody of Sam and Lola from the start, but this just led to accusations from Sheen that she prevented him from being a father to his children.
In 2007, Sheen filed for more visitation rights, stating that he wanted his visits to be "unpolluted" and that Denise just wanted to embarrass and extort him. Despite still holding love for Sheen, Denise knew she had to go on the offensive to protect her children.
Denise Richards was a mother who just wanted the best for her young children—and who had intimate knowledge of Charlie Sheen’s less desirable traits. She claimed inappropriate and explicit behavior from Sheen, including sending naughty pictures online, and sought to restrict him from overnight visits with the children.
For his part, Sheen accused Denise of thinking she owned their children and stated that a "day of legal reckoning" was coming.
Despite her ongoing battles with Sheen, Denise wanted to expand her family. She succeeded in 2011 with the adoption of her third daughter, Eloise, but before then Sheen accused her of asking for his, uh, biological contribution.
Sheen’s rep provided an email allegedly from Denise as proof, in which she said that she and Sheen had produced beautiful, healthy children already and they would sign an agreement so they couldn’t add this third hypothetical child to their custody battles.
This wouldn’t be the first time Sheen leveled wild accusations against Denise—and definitely not the last—but then his new fiancée decided to get involved.
Denise and Sheen’s new fiancee, Brooke Mueller, often emailed each other—but when Denise accused Sheen of an attraction to underage women, Mueller didn’t take it lying down.
She told the media that Denise twisted the truth and edited their email correspondence for the media. For extra insult, she said that she could reveal Denise’s own emails, but had too much "character and humanity".
However, despite these insults, Denise still stepped up when Mueller needed help.
In 2013, the LA DCFS took custody of Mueller's twins due to her addictions. Having already babysat on numerous occasions, Denise offered to take the boys in while Mueller attended rehab. A judge granted her temporary custody, with Sheen’s support—but not Mueller’s.
Mueller wanted the twins to go to her brother and sister-in-law instead, and after a few months, they did. By then, Sheen had surrendered full custody of Sam and Lola to Denise and she could now move on—or at least try to.
In 2011, Denise Richards added New York Times bestselling author to her resume. Her memoir, The Real Girl Next Door, promised to reveal all the scandalous details of her life so far. But perhaps having learned from her forays through the muck in her custody battle with Charlie Sheen, Denise glossed over most of their relationship.
She also wrote that she enjoyed her brief time on Dancing with the Stars with Maksim Chmerkovskiy—but also that he’d been a bad coach. Maybe that’s why they only made it to the second episode together. Still, Denise was no stranger to reality TV.
Denise wanted to tell her side of the story in the battle with Sheen, and decided on a reality show called Denise Richards: It’s Complicated. The show lasted two seasons and critics roundly denounced her for putting her children on TV. Sheen even sued to keep Sam and Lola off the show, but lost in court.
Perhaps even worse for a Hollywood star, the media and audience found the show kind of boring and didn’t really identify with such a rich actress. But that didn’t mean Denise was ready to give up reality TV forever.
Denise brought some extra glam and reputation to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when she joined the cast in 2018. And it worked out well for her, at least at first. She proved that she wasn’t as brainless as some people thought and that she truly did care about her kids.
But her protective nature over her children gave her the first taste of drama with the other Housewives.
During an episode of the show, Denise hosted a party at her Malibu home, so naturally, her kids were in attendance. But while out by the pool, the Housewives cast had a conversation about certain adult acts that Sam overheard and mentioned to her mom. Cue the mama bear.
Denise tried to talk to her castmates about it but they quickly turned the conversation around on her.
Denise married Aaron Phypers in 2018. By all accounts, their marriage is a steady one, but Denise revealed a few intimate details about her hubby during RHOBH. So when Lisa Rinna accused Denise of being a hypocrite, maybe she had a point. Rinna might have taken it too far with her next comment though.
Denise Richards can’t escape her past with Charlie Sheen, no matter what she does. During her argument with Lisa Rinna, Rinna asked her outright if she told her kids about Sheen and his escorts—including the one that came to Thanksgiving dinner.
Denise couldn't help wondering if her longtime friend had some sort of agenda in bringing it up, especially given Rinna’s later actions.
Reality TV is all about the drama, but Denise likely got sick of having it all aimed at her during season 10 of RHOBH. She had a bit of a spat with Kyle Richards when she said she didn’t feel comfortable bringing her kids to a family barbecue, worried that they'd overhear an appropriate conversation.
Kyle Richards claimed mom-shaming, and also called Denise a "ragamuffin," which is definitely an insult I thought was last used in the 1800s. And Kyle Richards wasn’t the only castmate Denise feuded with.
Denise Richards and Lisa Rinna were friends for twenty years, so they knew plenty about each other—and how to twist the dagger in. After a bombshell revelation from Brandi Glanville about an alleged affair—more on that shortly—Rinna wondered if Denise was just weaponizing their friendship and manipulating her.
It all came to a head at the reunion, where Denise called her castmates "vicious" and Rinna called her a liar. So did she have an affair?
In short, Brandi Glanville claimed she and Denise had an affair—despite Denise’s marriage to Aaron Phypers. According to Glanville, their marriage was open, at least to other women. Denise denied this, with a reminder that Wild Things was not a documentary.
That doesn’t mean that people just took her at her word, however, especially when Glanville said she had proof in the form of text messages.
After Denise’s denial of an affair, Glanville claimed Denise made her out to be both a cheater and a liar. As a woman whose former husband had cheated on her, Brandi claimed she would never knowingly cause infidelity.
She would have brought it up at the reunion but Bravo made the decision not to invite her after she made some inappropriate comments, and then Denise Richards left the show anyway.
After all the drama with Charlie Sheen, it’s not surprising that Denise wanted to get away from more accusations. She left RHOBH after only two seasons, still denying the affair with Glanville; according to reports, she even sent cease and desist letters to keep the remaining Housewives from discussing it.
Despite this, their feud continued via Twitter and Instagram, with each woman subtweeting the other. And in Glanville’s case, outright tweeting at Denise. But speaking of Charlie Sheen, he wasn’t done causing his own drama.
You might only be able to use 280 characters in a tweet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t send a scathing message. In 2015, Sheen broke their truce by tweeting that Denise was a bad mom and couldn’t act.
He also called her a "sack of landfill rash”. To her credit, Denise ignored him, but their battles were far from over.
Child support can be a tricky business even if you’re not a millionaire in the public eye. Sheen invited Denise to move into a house near him, with their daughters, which he had paid for. Probably not the best move to make given Sheen’s instability, but Denise still wanted her children to have a relationship with their father.
But then he evicted them, so she sued him for child support.
Sheen and his lawyer claimed that Denise just wanted to get more money and that the child support she already got—to the tune of more than half a million a year—wasn’t enough for her. Denise countered that she was only looking out for her children and that the money belonged to them.
She also claimed to have overheard Sheen threatening Lola, and sending Lola texts that disparaged Denise. Sheen’s lawyer’s rebuttal to this? That the disparaging texts should have gone to Denise herself. Because that makes it all right. Denise continued to fight for support for her children, but Sheen still wasn’t easy to deal with.
Setting aside their differences for at least a short time, Denise and Charlie Sheen were even able to have a family dinner with their kids. When Denise remarried in 2018, she extended an invitation to Sheen, though he didn’t attend.
He did, however, put out a statement of congratulations and stated he wished them nothing but happiness together. A sweet thing to say, but another court battle brewed on the horizon.
In 2019, Denise Richards landed back in court trying to get child support from Charlie Sheen. In her filing, she claimed Sheen owed her $450,000 in back child support, and that her monthly income was barely half of her monthly bills. His response was shocking.
Sheen called Denise a coward and claimed she was lying in order to get more money. Denise just wanted to support her children but a heartbreaking betrayal was still to come from an unexpected corner.
Teenagers are dramatic, but usually, they don’t get to air their grievances on a national stage. Not so for Denise’s oldest daughter, Sami, who called her mother’s place a "hell house" when she left to live with her father.
Her allegations were all captured on TikTok and reported in the news, though her posts have now become private. This had to be pure heartbreak for Denise, but she still supported her daughter throughout—even when she joined a racy online platform.
Despite their strained relationship, Denise remains Sami’s number-one fan. So when Sami, newly 18, joined a certain adult subscription service, Denise put out a statement supporting her choices.
As she noted, her own youth involved Wild Things and posing for Playboy. She also praised Sami’s confidence at such a young age, but her next act truly shocked people.
Denise Richards was surprised by the amount of money that could be made on the adult subscription service her daughter used. However, she claimed she joined the subscription site for a sweet reason: to support her Sami. As a bonus, she found it empowering as a woman to take control of her own allure.
Even her friends supported her; Tori Spelling admitted to following Denise under a false name and spending $400 in two days. The one person who didn’t? Once again, Charlie Sheen.
Sheen disapproved of his ex-wife and daughter joining the subscription site, especially his daughter. Sheen has said he doesn’t condone her adult career and that it didn’t happen under his roof, but urged Sami to stay classy.
For her part, Sami is simply grateful that at least Denise supports her, and says that despite the reputation the subscription site has for inappropriate content, it doesn’t mean that’s what she’s providing. Fortunately, Sami’s decision doesn’t mean yet another battle between her parents, as she’s an adult and can make her own choices.
After all, Denise Richards is no stranger to scandal and feature stories in the tabloids.
Remember how Denise Richards dated Richie Sambora after breaking up with Charlie Sheen? Well, the tabloids definitely did. They accused Denise of stealing Richie from his wife, Heather Locklear. Even worse, Heather and Denise were friends, making it a betrayal of the highest order.
Denise denied the accusations, of course, stating that she and Locklear had stopped being friends before she started dating Sambora, and they’d both been single at the time.
After leaving RHOBH, Denise concentrated on her acting and stayed out of the headlines—but not for long. While on her way to a studio with Phypers, they became lost and couldn’t find the set they were looking for. As they searched, they became aware of a van following them, coming up close enough to almost touch the truck’s bumper.
Though they tried to lose their tail, eventually Phypers pulled over to let the aggressive driver pass—and that’s when the situation took a horrifying turn.
The driver yelled about Phyper cutting him off, and even Phyper’s apology couldn’t soothe his road rage. Instead, the driver shot at Denise’s truck. Yikes. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but Denise and her husband were understandably shaken.
Despite this, Denise still completed her one-day shoot at the studio. After all, she’d had years of learning how to pull herself back together and continue on, though she still had the occasional misstep.
Since the pandemic began, wearing a mask has become almost commonplace. It’s especially encouraged in enclosed quarters with multiple strangers—like an airplane. So when Denise posted a maskless selfie while on a plane and claimed she didn’t need one because her coat was so thick…well, people were not amused.
One Twitter user even claimed Denise should end up on the no-fly list, which seems mildly dramatic.
Realizing she’d messed up, Denise was quick to call herself an idiot and clarify that her post was only meant to be a joke. Her rep also stated that she’d been wearing a mask the entire flight, except when taking drinks of water. As scandals around Denise Richards go, at least this one wasn’t too drawn-out.
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