22 Pop Culture Moments That Defined 2022

From Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian's breakup to Will Smith's Oscars slap, we’re reflecting on the biggest celebrity news stories of 2022.

By Lindsay Weinberg Dec 16, 2022 3:00 PMTags

Not everyone was feeling '22. 

While 2022 saw many celebrity couples put a ring on it, the year also marked the end of the road for other famous flames, including Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson, who split in August, sources revealed exclusively to E! News, after nine months of globetrotting date nights.

And Kete wasn't the only duo to call it quits. Leonardo DiCaprio and Camila Morrone split after four years together, while Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde ended their romance following months of speculation about just what happened on the set of their movie, Don't Worry Darling. (Remember #Spitgate?)

Also in the Kardashian-verse, Kim's sister Kendall Jenner became a free agent after her breakup, reconciliation and breakup with basketballer Devin Booker. But Kourtney Kardashian got in the marriage game, tying the knot with Travis Barker in Las Vegas. And then Santa Barbara. And then Italy.

Yet, one of the most talked about celebrity moments of the year involved a couple that will celebrate 25 years of marriage on New Year's Eve. Yep, we're talking about the slapWill Smith—now infamously—hit comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars over an insensitive joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith, later apologizing and resigning from the Academy over the outburst.

2022 Celebrity Breakups

Drama aside, there were plenty of joyful moments to celebrate in 2022, including new additions to the family for Kylie Jenner and Travis ScottRihanna and A$AP Rocky; and Nick Cannon and Bre Tiesi...and LaNisha Cole and Brittany Bell and Abby De La Rosa, who all make up his self-described "big ass family."

Picturegroup/Shutterstock;ABC via Getty Images

So, which pop culture moments truly came to define 2022? Keep reading to find out.

Kylie Jenner Welcomes a Son—and Changes His Name

Wolf Webster no more! Kylie Jenner gave birth to her second baby, a boy, with longtime partner Travis Scott in February 2022. However, a month after sharing that they'd named him Wolf, Kylie announced that they weren't wild about the name, saying, "We just really didn't feel like it was him."

So, what's he called now? That remains a mystery. In September, Kylie confirmed the couple still hasn't legally changed their son's name. She even told James Corden that Travis continues to play around with names and "change it again."

"We're just not officially, probably going to change it until…," Kylie began, before mom Kris Jenner jumped in, "He's 21."

The Super Bowl Puts on a Halftime Show Spectacular

The L.A. Rams weren't the only champions at the 2022 Super Bowl. Hip-hop legends Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eminem took the stage for an epic and nostalgia-inducing halftime show, performing "The Next Episode," "Family Affair," "Lose Yourself" and more '90s and '00s hits.

"I'm super proud of myself and I've never thought I'd ever be able to say that in my lifetime," Mary told Apple Music after the showstopper. "I don't even have the words to explain how full and how huge of an accomplishment that was. I just felt so strong. I felt like, first of all, grateful to have been asked, but I definitely felt like I earned that moment."

Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars

The most talked-about moment in recent award show memory came courtesy of Will Smith's anger. He slapped Oscars presenter Chris Rock over a "G.I. Jane" joke the comedian made about Will's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who struggles with hair loss and has been candid about her alopecia.

Will later apologized to Chris and admitted, "My behavior was unacceptable." The Academy banned him from attending the ceremony for the next 10 years.

Bennifer Gets Engaged (Again) and Married (Twice)

Jennifer Lopez's love don't cost a thing, but it is pretty splashy.

Almost two decades after breaking up, Ben Affleck and J.L got engaged again and finally tied the knot in two wedding ceremonies with four dresses (but who's counting?).

The singer confirmed the proposal in April, sharing a photo of her stunning green diamond engagement ring. They couldn't wait to make it official, saying "I do" in Las Vegas three months later.

They really got loud by topping off the celebrations with another lavish wedding in Georgia in August. His three children Violet, 17, Seraphina, 13, and Samuel, 10, (who he shares with ex Jennifer Garner) took part in the ceremony, alongside J.Lo and ex-husband Marc Anthony's twins Max and Emme, 14.

"For us, this was perfect timing," Jennifer wrote in her newsletter afterward. "Nothing ever felt more right to me, and I knew we were finally ‘settling down' in a way you can only do when you understand loss and joy."

Olivia Wilde Is Served on Stage

Fans were sent buzzing in May when a woman stepped onto the stage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas and handed Olivia Wilde a manila envelope labeled "personal and confidential."

While it originally sparked memes with theories of the contents, a source later told E! News that the envelope actually contained custody papers from her ex, Jason Sudeikis, the father of her son Otis, 8, and daughter Daisy, 6.

Though a source told E! News that Jason had "no prior knowledge" about when or how she would be served, Olivia later accused him of purposely embarrassing her at the event. 

As she wrote in court filings obtained by the Daily Mail, "He chose to serve me in the most aggressive manner possible."

Blac Chyna Takes the Kardashians to Court

The Kardashians came out victorious after Blac ChynaRob Kardashian's ex—accused Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Kris Jenner of defamation and contract interference. The verdict was reached only after several bombs were dropped in court, including testimony about Rob's social anxiety and a 2016 incident involving Chyna putting an iPhone cord around Rob's neck, which she said was done to get his attention "jokingly" and "not to strangle him." 

Met Gala Moments Go Viral

Kim Kardashian got criticized for wearing Marilyn Monroe's original "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" nude dress; Emma Chamberlain went viral for her awkward (and completely relatable) reaction to Jack Harlow saying "love ya" in their interview; and, once again, the carpets matched the Blakes thanks to Blake Lively's Lady Liberty-inspired dress at the 2022 Met Gala. 

Rihanna Becomes a Mom

The "We Found Love" artist certainly did when she gave birth to her first baby, a boy, with A$AP Rocky in May. They haven't revealed their little one's name just yet, but Rihanna has shared plenty about how motherhood is suiting her.

Rihanna recently admitted to E! News that she's becoming more like her own mom, Monica Braithwaite. "It is weird," RiRi shared. "Even the little things that annoy me about her, I do it. I literally make all of the same faces. I say the same things. I clear my throat the same way. I move my mouth the same way."

But her favorite thing about her son? As she told British Vogue, "No matter what you're doing or what you're feeling, when he smiles at you, everything else goes away."

Kravis Ties the Knot

Kourtney Kardashian said "I do" for the first time, making her the only Kardashian-Jenner who is currently married. She drunkenly wed her fiancé, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, in Las Vegas, followed by a courthouse wedding in California and then a blowout ceremony in Italy with their family decked out in Dolce & Gabbana garb.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Hold Court in Televised Trial

The world watched as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard took the stand in their defamation court case this past spring. The case brought to light several shocking revelations about their relationship and included some "bizarre" moments in the courtroom, which was really the only word Amber's attorney could use to describe one witness who appeared on video while vaping from his car.

Ultimately, the jury found that the Aquaman actress defamed Johnny in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed by calling herself a "public figure representing domestic abuse," even though she did not name her ex directly. He was awarded about $10 million in damages, and she was granted $2 million in her countersuit. They are both appealing the verdicts.

There's Rain on the Funny Girl Parade

Rachel Berry got to live out her dream after this switcheroo.

Broadway's biggest drama of the year saw Lea Michele step in to play Fanny Brice in Funny Girl after Beanie Feldstein bowed out early.

"Once the production decided to take the show in a different direction," Beanie wrote on social media in July, "I made the extremely difficult decision to step away sooner than I anticipated." 

Fans clamored for Lea to land Barbra Streisand's iconic role, fulfilling her Glee character's destiny. Lea opened in September to standing ovations, saying of her casting, "A dream come true is an understatement." 

JoJo Siwa Calls Out Candace Cameron Bure

JoJo Siwa slammed Candace Cameron Bure not once but twice this year, starting in July when she labeled the Full House star the "rudest celebrity" she's ever met. But after it turned out the inciting incident happened when an 11-year-old JoJo tried to get a pic with Candace at a red carpet event but was turned down, the pair seemed to clear the air.

However, four months later, Candace made headlines talking about her new gig as chief creative officer at the Great American Family network, and noting their goals to "keep traditional marriage at the core" of its programs. JoJo, a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, responded, saying, "to purposely exclude someone because of who they love, that's s--tty."

The Dance Moms alum doesn't think she'll ever speak to Candace again. 

Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson Welcome Baby After Scandal

In July, Khloe Kardashian's rep revealed she was expecting her second child, via surrogate, with Tristan Thompson. But there were a few fouls along the way. It turns out that Khloe and the athlete—secretly engaged at the time—did the embryo transfer in November 2021, just days before news broke that Tristan was expecting now 12-month-old son, Theo, with Maralee Nichols.

Khloe and Tristan ended their romantic relationship in December 2021, and he apologized publicly the next month. 

"I take full responsibility for my actions," he shared on social media in January. "Now that paternity has been established I look forward to amicably raising our son. I sincerely apologize to everyone I've hurt or disappointed throughout this ordeal both publicly and privately."

Their baby boy was born at the end of July, joining big sister True Thompson, 4. "I've been on the fence about having Tristan come to the hospital or not," Khloe admitted of the moment on The Kardashians. "But Tristan wants to be here, so I just figured why not? Let him come. I'll never get this moment back." 

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson Break Up

Kete—or Pim, if you prefer—split in August after nine months of dating. Sources exclusively told E! News that Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson had "a lot of love and respect for each other," but found their schedules made it challenging to maintain their relationship, which took them from Staten Island and the Bahamas to the Beverly Hills Hotel and the steps of the Met.

"Pete has the best heart," Kim shared while filming The Kardashians earlier this year. "I feel like people they have this, like, idea of him that he dates all these hot girls. And he does. But he's just the sweetest, most thoughtful person."

They Brought the Va Va Voom to the VMAs

The biggest thing to happen at the 2022 MTV VMAs didn't involve music so much as a makeout sesh. 

Sheri Easterling—mom to TikTok star Addison Rae—attended the award show with Yung Gravy, who she was seen smooching on the red carpet. However, their PDA-packed outing got a little more buzz than the duo expected.

"I never watched a red carpet thing before," Yung Gravy told E! News in November. "I didn't really know what it meant. I was like, ‘Oh, I need a date. It would just be a fun little date.' I guess everyone just assumes if you bring someone that you're together together."

He explained that they simply flirted online and then he invited her to attend. "We got a couple of nights beforehand to chill before the actual thing," the "oops!" singer shared. "It wasn't like we just met, but she was just a sweetheart. We had a good time."

Maren Morris and Brittany Aldean Feud Over Trans Rights

The most major feud in country music this year came after Jason Aldean's wife Brittany thanked her parents in August for "not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase."

Fellow country star Maren Morris seemingly weighed in by tweeting, "It's so easy to, like, not be a scumbag human? Sell your clip-ins and zip it, Insurrection Barbie." 

Maren later said the interaction added to her trepidation about the industry as a whole. "I hate feeling like I need to be the hall monitor of treating people like human beings in country music," she told the Los Angeles Times in September. "But there's a very insidious culture of people feeling very comfortable being transphobic and homophobic and racist, and that they can wrap it in a joke and no one will ever call them out for it." 

As for Brittany, she has said her words were "twisted" and "taken out of context."

Leonardo DiCaprio and Camila Morrone Split

In August, news broke that the longtime couple split up, just weeks after Camila Morrone turned 25, continuing the perception that Leonardo DiCaprio has never publicly dated a woman over that age.

He later struck up a romance with fellow model Gigi Hadid, 27, with a source telling E! News in October that they were "having a lot of fun."

"Gigi is grateful he came into her life during this time and has said it's exactly what she needed," the insider shared of the model, who ended her relationship with Zayn Malik last year. "Leo is very laidback and she likes that their relationship is casual and easy. It's going well so far."

Queen Elizabeth II's Reign Ends After 70 Years

The United Kingdom went into a period of mourning on Sept. 8, when Queen Elizabeth II died at age 96 as the longest-reigning monarch in British history. A new era began when her son ascended the throne as King Charles III, with his wife Camilla Parker Bowles earning the title of Queen Consort.

Spitgate Explodes Amid All That Don't Worry Darling Drama

Don't worry darling, we're still obsessed with this story.

Fueled by the belief star Florence Pugh seemed reticent to promote the flick, fans became convinced that drama went down on set when director Olivia Wilde began dating her leading man Harry Styles.

The gossip ramped up this year when Florence skipped some press appearances at the Venice Film Festival in September, due to a scheduling conflict.

Then came spitgate: A viral clip of Harry appearing to spit in co-star Chris Pine's lap at the movie's premiere. 

Chris' rep denied that spitgate happened. Harry joked about the incident at his concert. The cinematographer denied the set was anything but "harmonious." And Olivia shut down "untruths," telling Elle, "Florence had a really wise comment that we didn't sign up for a reality show."

The film finally hit theaters in September. As an epilogue, Olivia and Harry broke up in November after two years together. 

Adam Levine Denies He Had an Affair

While expecting baby No. 3 with wife Behati Prinsloo, Adam Levine faced cheating allegations from 23-year-old model Sumner Stroh.

The Maroon 5 front man denied having an affair, but admitted to questionable behavior. "I used poor judgment in speaking with anyone other than my wife in ANY kind of flirtatious manner," Adam said in a statement in September. "I did not have an affair, nevertheless, I crossed the line during a regrettable period of my life."

He continued, "My wife and my family is all I care about in this world... To be this naïve and stupid enough to risk the only thing that truly matters to me was the greatest mistake I could ever make." 

Nick Cannon Welcomes 4 Kids in 6 Months

Nick Cannon welcomed four children in 2022 and with one more on the way, he'll soon have an even dozen. Joining the roster: Son Legendary Love with Bre Tiesi in June, daughter Onyx Ice with LaNisha Cole in September and son Rise Messiah with Brittany Bell just nine days later.

He and Abby De La Rosa welcomed baby girl Beautiful Zeppelin in November, right around the time Alyssa Scott announced she was pregnant with Nick's 12th child.

Musical Milestones Make History

No one was feeling '22 more than Taylor Swift, who earned her honorary doctorate degree at NYU in May, released her 10th studio album Midnights in October and became the first artist to ever claim the entire top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 in a single week. The "22" singer proceeded to announce her upcoming tour (which broke the internet and—later—Ticketmaster).

Other major music moments this year? Beyoncé released her highly anticipated seventh album Renaissance in July, Adele finally kicked off her Las Vegas residency and Bad Bunny was named Spotify's No. 1 most-streamed artist of the year, setting the record by topping the list for the third consecutive year.

Better add them to that New Year's Eve playlist!

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