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The Untold Truth Of Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz seemed to appear out of nowhere in the 1990s to become one of the most famous people on the planet. For the next 25 years, she could be found gracing the covers of magazines, giving friendly interviews on talk shows, walking the red carpet at premieres, and starring in some of the most era-defining blockbusters. Diaz was a true movie star with a private life that fascinated her followers just as much as her on screen persona. Then, just as quickly as she had been catapulted into the spotlight, she seemed to disappear. 

Don't worry; her retreat from the public eye was by design. We all know Cameron Diaz as the familiar face and voice from hits like "There's Something About Mary" and "Shrek," but she has a bustling and fulfilling life outside of Hollywood, as she did in the years before she became a celebrity. Though the public's view of her may have evolved from teen model to ingenue sex symbol to reliable veteran actor, Diaz has really always been the same person: a down-to-Earth beauty with a tomboy streak who doesn't take herself too seriously and isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in. But even fans who've seen her more obscure films (like 1996's "Head Above Water" which made only $32,000) or who remember the surfing accident that broke her nose probably don't know the whole truth. This is the story of Cameron Diaz's rise to and retreat from fame. 

Her parents kept her grounded

Her co-star Jim Carrey may have been the one who performed the catchy Desi Arnaz song "Cuban Pete," but it was Cameron Diaz who could actually claim Cuban heritage. As she recounted to journalist Jack Rico, her dad's side of the family is of Spanish descent and came to America by way of Cuba around the time of the Spanish American War. They first settled near Tampa where they worked as cigar rollers. Diaz still owns some of the tools of her ancestors' trade. 

Her grandparents eventually moved to California, where her father Emilio was born. He married her mother, Billie, who was Anglo-German and Native American and worked in imports, and the couple had two daughters: Chimene and Cameron. Emilio worked on pipelines for an oil company, and the pollution in the neighborhood made an impact on young Cameron, who was asthmatic. Though the family wasn't wealthy — Diaz told Stella (via SBSNews) they used to collect soda cans for extra money — her childhood was a happy and supportive one, and it set the stage for her success as an adult. Diaz's parents taught her to be hardworking and sensible with her finances, and they raised her to appreciate her cultural heritage ... especially the food. As such, this uber-successful superstar chooses to live relatively simply and spends her time and money on travel and feasts with loved ones. 

Sadly, her father passed away in 2008 at age 58 from a staph infection. She clearly takes after her dad. Diaz told People that, "his love for laughter was undeniable and he embraced life head-on in such a dynamic way that he was impossible to forget."

She went to school with Snoop Dogg

Diaz — ever the embodiment of a California girl — grew up in Long Beach and attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Most schools are thrilled to be able to claim one famous alum, but Long Beach Polytechnic was also the alma mater of Calvin Broadus Jr. (better known as Snoop Dogg), as well as Warren Griffith III (Warren G) and Nathaniel Hale (the late Nate Dogg), all of whom were a year or two older than Diaz. 

Snoop and Diaz were more like acquaintances than close friends, but he recognized her obvious charisma even back then. The rapper told Yahoo! Music that he knew her because, "She ran with my homegirls, all my little cheerleading homegirls," and described her as "fly" and "hip." For her part, Diaz told George Lopez that she remembered Snoop as someone who was tall, skinny, and a year older than her, and added that she's "pretty sure she bought weed from him." 

She projects a wholesome, all-American image in her high school cheerleading pictures, but she admitted that sometimes she got into fights, especially with boys. She fit in, but other kids sometimes called her Skeletor because of her tall, thin frame. 

Model scouts discovered her at 16

Cameron Diaz has a camera ready face and stands 5 feet 9 inches tall. It's no surprise that, by age 16, modeling scouts had noticed she had potential. Diaz told Fox News (via the Irish Examiner) she met photographer Jeff Dunas at a party, where he asked to talk to her parents about representation, and the model-turned-actress credits her start in the industry to his professionalism and integrity. Shortly after, she signed with Elite Model Management, one of the top tier agencies in the business. Elite represented supermodels like Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bündchen. (Though Diaz had a positive experience at Elite, it should be noted that misconduct accusations have plagued the agency in recent years.) 

It wasn't long before Diaz was popping up in commercials for brands like Calvin Klein, Levi's, and Coca-Cola. She scored the cover of Seventeen Magazine, and in the inside pages, she said that she thought she'd model until she was "old and gray," but that her "ultimate dream" was to be a zoologist. Modeling allowed her to travel the world; she spent time in Japan and Australia. However, when she was 19, Diaz posed for pictures that would come back to haunt her. Bored of catalog modeling, Diaz wanted to try something more avant garde. A photographer named John Rutter took racy images of her in fishnets and later tried to blackmail the actress for $3.5 million. Diaz testified in court that she wasn't embarrassed by the photos, but she wouldn't stand for being blackmailed. She sued Rutter for blackmail and won. 

She landed a role in The Mask with no experience

Actors audition for years to try and break into the entertainment industry, and most never make it. Diaz, however, had a decidedly easier journey to the big screen. New Line Cinema had plans to adapt a story from Dark Horse Comics called "The Mask." It took a few years to get the project off the ground, but once they had Jim Carrey attached, it was time to cast the female lead, Tina Carlyle. Filmmakers initially wanted Anna Nicole Smith, according to a Variety retrospective, but between her other commitments and the direction the movie was headed in (it evolved from horror to comedy during pre-production), things didn't work out. 

Back to square one, casting approached the modeling agency that shared a building with New Line, looking for a recommendation. Elite singled out Diaz, whose agent promptly submitted her headshot and enrolled her in acting and dance classes. Director Chuck Russell and casting director Fern Champion were convinced. Around the same time, the creator of "The Mask" comic, Mike Richardson and producer Robert Engelman saw Diaz on the runway and had remarked that she was the type of person they were hoping to find for Tina. A costumer sang her praises as well, as they all recalled to Forbes. But it was a risk; the recent high school grad had no real experience. 

Eight callbacks later, everyone agreed that it had to be Cameron. She looked the part, she had great chemistry with Carrey, and she could keep up with his antic acting style. She was so likeable that writers retooled the character after Diaz was cast. Tina was originally intended to turn bad, but in the final draft, she stays on Stanley Ipkiss's good side. 

She was one of Hollywood's most reliable rom-com stars

"The Mask" was a smash hit, making $350 million worldwide on an $18 million budget, which meant Cameron Diaz became one of the industry's most in-demand actresses practically overnight. Though they're not the box office gold they used to be, romantic comedies were still big in the '90s and early 2000s, and headlining them was often an actress's best chance at staking out a long and lucrative career. It's a trajectory that bona fide movie stars Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan had followed, and Diaz set herself on a similar path. At first, she filled supporting roles in films like "She's the One" and "My Best Friend's Wedding," playing second fiddle to the likes of Jennifer Aniston and the aforementioned Julia Roberts. But by 1998, Diaz — who has an edgier sensibility than other rom-com queens — was starring in one all on her own, the decidedly R-rated "There's Something About Mary." 

The Farrelly Brothers' raunchy rom-com was an even bigger hit than "The Mask," and it made an even bigger star out of Diaz. Over the next 15 years, she'd appear in a variety of comedic romances and chick flicks that ranged from tame to tawdry, including "The Sweetest Thing," "What Happens in Vegas," "In Her Shoes," "The Holiday," "What to Expect When You're Expecting," "Sex Tape," and "The Other Woman." Some made more money and got better reviews than others, but if Diaz's name and face were on the poster, there was a good chance audiences were interested. 

She's a more versatile actress than you might think

Though Diaz is probably best remembered for films like "There's Something About Mary," her filmography is full of more risk taking and genre diversity than even some of her biggest fans might realize. In between more commercial fare, the actor chose to work with visionary prestige directors like Oliver Stone, Spike Jonze, Cameron Crow, Martin Scorsese, and Ridley Scott. 

Diaz gives arguably her career best performance in Jonze's absurdist masterpiece, "Being John Malkovich." She plays Lotte, a frumpy animal lover who's stuck in a loveless marriage with an unemployed puppeteer (John Cusack). Both Lotte and her husband take turns crawling through a doorway that leads to the consciousness of the actor John Malkovich. The experience causes Lotte to question her gender identity and sexuality, and she and her husband end up falling for the same woman. Diaz gives another powerhouse performance as a football team owner in Stone's "Any Given Sunday." She's Tom Cruise's jealous ex in Crowe's "Vanilla Sky," a seductive con-woman in Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," and the notoriously oversexed, ambitious girlfriend of a drug lord in Scott's "The Counselor." 

While not all of these movies garnered their directors' usual critical acclaim, Diaz does solid work in most of them. She was nominated for several awards (particularly for "Being John Malkovich") during this phase of her career, including four Golden Globes, two SAGs, as well as myriad prizes from critics' bodies, MTV, Nickelodeon, and People's Choice. However, she was snubbed by Oscar every time, which might reveal a bias about sex symbol status and acting ability. 

She was the world's highest paid actress

Diaz may not have an Oscar, but she did hold the title of highest paid actress in the world. After becoming an A-list star thanks to "There's Something About Mary," Diaz was cast as the voice of Princess Fiona in "Shrek." She earned around $3 million for the role, including a six-digit upfront salary and more from the film's backend (a compensation model she'd return to again and again). But DreamWorks' animated fantasy comedy was such a phenomenon, she and the rest of the cast got major pay raises for the sequels. Diaz raked in around $10 million for "Shrek 2" and $30 million for "Shrek the Third" (her biggest payday to that point), making her the highest paid female voice actor at the time. 

Her work in live-action commanded astronomical paychecks too. Diaz received $12 million for the 2000 remake of "Charlie's Angels," $17.5 million for "Gangs of New York," and $20 million for the "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle." Her record-breaking payday came in 2011, when she chose to star in "Bad Teacher" for $1 million (a huge reduction compared to her typical salary), and a percentage of the film's gross ticket sales. Diaz ended up making around $42 million dollars for the movie, which elevated her to the status of highest paid actress over the age of 40. More than a decade later, her profits from "Bad Teacher" still rank as one of the top 20 payouts ever for actors of any gender of all time.

Her love life was tabloid fodder

As Diaz got more famous, cameras started to follow her away from film sets and photo shoots. In particular, the paparazzi (and the readers of the magazines and websites to whom they sold pictures) wanted to know who the beautiful blonde was dating. Diaz's thoughts about love and monogamy are nuanced. Though she grew up with happily married parents, the actress noticed that striving to settle down as an end goal didn't always make her friends and family members as blissfully happy as they expected to be. From her debut in "The Mask" to the height of her fame in the early 2010s, Diaz casually and seriously dated a number of her co-stars and other celebrities. 

After meeting on the set of "There's Something About Mary," Diaz coupled up with actor Matt Dillon for about three years. She began a relationship with actor, musician, and serial dater Jared Leto that lasted from 1999 to 2003. The year Diaz and Leto broke up, she met another actor and musician — Justin Timberlake — at the Kids Choice Awards. The pair were together for four years, and their split gave the tabloids plenty to speculate about. Rumors persisted that Diaz was jealous of other women in his life (Scarlet Johansson and Jessica Biel in particular). Timberlake did go on to marry and have a child with Biel, but Diaz did her best to quell the gossip. The fact that they worked together amicably post-break up in "Bad Teacher" indicates things were probably not as dramatic as headlines may have made them seem. 

This surfer girl has also been connected to professional wave rider Kelly Slater as well as slugger Alex Rodriguez. She's also rumored to have dated Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil and rapper Sean Combs. 

She married Benji Madden

Though Diaz never seemed eager to wed, she did eventually settle down in 2015 when she married Benji Madden, the lead guitar player and backup vocalist for the band Good Charlotte. The actress was 42-years-old at the time; her new husband was 35. They were introduced by Diaz's good friend Nicole Richie, who is married to Benji's brother and bandmate Joel. Richie, Joel Madden, and Drew Barrymore attended the small, private Jewish ceremony that they couple held at their Beverly Hills home. 

Apparently, nice guys do finish first sometimes. After dating a string of actors, athletes, and male models (as well as musicians; Diaz has a type), what attracted Diaz to Madden was his kindness and sense of humor. Though she'd long been resistant to the idea of marriage, in Madden, she felt she'd found someone who was worth going all in for. "He's really taught me to value myself a lot more," she said recently on the "Rule Breakers" podcast, explaining that she, "was receiving so much validation elsewhere and in all these other ways" from her previous relationships.

She retired from acting in 2018

In 2011, Diaz was the most bankable actress in Hollywood, but by 2014, she was unofficially retired. In the final years of her acting career, she starred in "The Other Woman," "Sex Tape," and in the critically panned remake of "Annie" as Miss Hannigan. Then she stopped accepting roles. By 2018, she announced that she had officially retired as an actress. Diaz told Vanity Fair that she found peace putting stardom behind her. She admitted that, though people who don't work in the entertainment industry might not understand, there's an incredible amount of pressure living and working in the public eye. Diaz sometimes felt like a product more than a person, and she got control back and was able to make her life more manageable by stepping away from the spotlight. 

She doesn't regret her decision. Her final film role coincided with the beginning of her relationship with Benji Madden, so it seems like her sudden change in work-life balance happened in part so that she could prioritize her marriage and enjoy the domestic bliss she'd been missing out on during her busy schedule. Diaz still keeps in touch with famous friends like Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow, who continue to appear on screen, but this actress has moved on to other endeavors. 

Today, she's an author and a winemaker

In conversation with friend Gwyneth Paltrow for her seires, "In goop Health: the Sessions," Diaz lamented that actors are "infantilized" and put in a position where their every need is taken care of by someone else. Her post-acting careers have allowed her to stake out more responsibility and control. Diaz co-authored two books — 2013's "The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body" (written and published just before her unofficial retirement) and 2016's "The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time." In both, Diaz readily admits she's benefitted from good genes, but she uses the pages of her two self-help volumes to advocate for health and body positivity with the support of information from peer reviewed academic journals. She's also one of many listed authors of "The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet." 

Diaz also started her own wine brand, Avaline, after noticing that organic products were all the rage at grocery and cosmetic stores. Since she didn't know much about the winemaking process, Diaz flew to Europe and visited experts in Spain and France, where she educated herself and formulated the blends she intended to sell. Then she flew back to Los Angeles to get the business off the ground. Avaline wines — which also come in single serving cans — hit shelves in 2020. Her new trades agree with her; writing and winemaking are more conducive to family life and she appreciates the ability to wear less makeup. 

She's a Drag Race super fan and guest judge

Cameron Diaz did recently appear on television, albeit as something besides on-screen talent. Diaz is a fan of "RuPaul's Drag Race," so when producers approached her about serving as a guest judge for the "All Stars 7" season, she was game. Former winner and current contestant Trinity the Tuck told EW.com that some guest judges don't seem very present or knowledgeable about the show. In contrast, Diaz, who appears on the premiere episode, knew everything about "Drag Race," the competitors, their backstories, and how to assess them fairly and accurately. She was enthusiastic to be there and made insightful comments. 

Diaz even went so far as to say that "Drag Race" saved her life during an interview on "Everything Iconic" (via Gay Times). She first saw the competition program on a plane around the same time that her father and a close friend passed away, and as she was feeling overwhelmed about the state of the world. The show itself brought a smile to her face, but more importantly, the drag queens' fearlessness and persistence in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry inspired her and gave her hope that people can be okay and make beautiful art even during hard times. She loves that the series, which she watches in her kitchen while she's cooking, reinforces a message about being true to yourself. 

She had a daughter via surrogate

Diaz played the reluctant and unsuitable guardian of a houseful of orphans in "Annie," but in real life, she and husband Benji Madden struggled to become parents. The actress was already in her 40s as a newlywed, and she and Madden intended to start a family right away. Us Weekly reports that they tried a combination of in vitro fertilization, acupuncture, and nutritional supplements in hopes that Diaz would be able to conceive and carry a baby, but to no avail. After about five years of frustration, Diaz (then age 47) and Madden decided to opt for surrogacy. Their daughter, Raddix Madden, was born in December of 2019, and the elated parents shared the surprise news of their miracle baby in a statement in January of 2020. 

They announced that they will not be posting pictures or details to protect little Raddix's privacy, though they gushed that she was "really really cute!" Diaz is just as apt to gush about her husband. "He's the best dad ever. I could cry, because he's just the best," she told the "Rules Breaks" podcast. For his part, Madden posted to his Instagram that he, "always dreamed of having a family like this."

In her spare time, she advocates for the environment and veterans

As busy as she was and is being a model, actor, author, entrepreneur, wife, and mother, Diaz still finds time for activism when it comes to issues that are near and dear to her heart. She was an early celebrity advocate of environmental protections. She promoted and spoke at Al Gore's "Live Earth" event, where she tried to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and how it affects our entire global community. She's also partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Though she knows they're not the "ultimate solution," she encourages individuals to do their part by making small changes. She recycles, re-uses, conserves resources like water and electricity, and was a first generation adopter of the Toyota Prius. She also recorded a documentary called "Cameron Diaz Saves the World," with the tagline "...or at least she's trying." It attempts to educate the public about pollution and fight climate change denial. 

Diaz became involved with organizations that support veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars after a friend invited her to a homecoming event for some returning soldiers. She showed up to greet the veterans and take pictures, but she couldn't help but notice how the toll of war had and would affect the veterans and their families for life. She began fundraising and advocating for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who support vets with PTSD, brain injury, and other mental health issues. She told Variety, "I want to utilize my celebrity as best as possible."