World-renowned musician Seal has shifted over 20 million records across the globe, won four Grammys and scored a U.S. number one. But he’s arguably as well known for his facial scars as he is for his musical achievements. So here’s a look at how the acclaimed singer acquired them.
Seal, whose real name is Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel, was born in Paddington, London, in 1963 and grew up in foster care. Years later, after studying architecture, the star took several different jobs while also performing at various local bars. Then, following spells in a Thailand blues band and a British funk outfit called Push, he met Adamski, a producer who would help change his life forever.
Indeed, the pair’s 1990 collaboration, “Killer,” topped the U.K. chart and landed Seal a solo deal with ZTT Records. His subsequent 1991 eponymous debut album, produced by Trevor Horn, featured a new version of “Killer” and the transatlantic hit single “Crazy.” Then in 1992 Seal became the first artist to win three BRIT Awards in the same year: Best British Male, Video and Album.
Seal’s winning streak continued with a second self-titled effort in 1994. A remix of that album’s third single, “Kiss from a Rose,” later featured on the Batman Forever soundtrack and reached pole position on the U.S. Hot 100. The track also netted Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1996 Grammy Awards.
Recorded amid some behind-the-scenes woes, third album Human Being arrived in 1998 – but failed to inspire the same critical acclaim as his two previous LPs. The shelving of a 2001 album provisionally named Togetherland proved another career hitch. However, he did go on to record hit collaborations with Mylene Farmer, Santana and Jakatta a year later.
Still, Seal got his career back on track in 2003 with his fourth album, again titled Seal. Peaking at number three on the Billboard 200, it became his highest-charting U.S. LP. A 2004 hits compilation and 2005 live album was then followed by 2007’s System and 2008’s covers collection, Soul. Since then he’s released a further four records: Seal 6: Commitment, Soul 2, 7 and Standards.
Seal has also ventured into television, serving as a coach on The Voice Australia in 2012 and 2013. And after winning both seasons, he took a break from the show before returning in 2017. A year prior to this return, Seal played Pontius Pilate in The Passion, a musical version of The Passion of Christ staged by Tyler Perry and screened by Fox.
Seal’s career hasn’t been without its controversy, though. In 2011, for instance, he came under fire for performing at a birthday celebration for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who stands accused of various human rights atrocities. In 2018, too, L.A. police investigated allegations that Seal had sexually assaulted actress Tracey Birdsall, but the case was dropped.
These incidents are not the first times in which Seal has made the news, of course. In fact, Seal first became a regular tabloid figure in 2004 when he started dating Heidi Klum. At the time, the German supermodel had split with Formula One boss Flavio Briatore and was pregnant with his baby. A year later, though, Seal and Klum tied the knot at a ceremony in Mexico, and in 2009 Seal legally adopted Klum’s daughter Leni.
By that point, Seal and Klum already had three children of their own. Their first-born, Henry, came into the world in 2005, while son Johan and daughter Lou arrived in 2006 and 2009, respectively. Nevertheless, the celebrity couple split up in 2012, with their divorce completed two years later. Reportedly, though, the pair continue to be friends.
Seal was later linked to singer/actress Delta Goodrem, his co-star on The Voice Australia, during their time together on the talent show. Both parties denied any romantic involvement, although Seal did admit how much he admired her while speaking to The Herald Sun. “Her understanding of her craft is incredible, and I sit there in awe, sometimes, watching her work,” he said in June 2017.
Of course, alongside his glittering career and high-profile personal life, Seal is also renowned for his distinctive facial scars. Indeed, rumors have circulated about just how he got them ever since he burst on to the scene in the early 1990s. One of the most common stories is that he acquired them in a terrible accident.
Another enduring theory is that Seal had the scars inflicted during an ancient ethnic ritual. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the star revealed he was aware of the rumors. “People always want them to be tribal scars. That’s just the nature of the media and of people’s imaginations,” he said.
But the real cause is a condition called discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), which can leave large scars on the skin of those who have it. These wounds typically form an inflamed, crusty and scaly red patch and frequently affect parts of the face and scalp as well as the arms. DLE sufferers are particularly vulnerable to sun exposure and ultraviolet light, too.
It’s not yet known what specifically causes DLE. However, the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology reports that “it is thought to be autoimmune with the body’s immune system incorrectly attacking normal skin.” According to the Lupus Foundation of America’s health educator Dawn Isherwood, 10 percent of sufferers will also later be diagnosed with full-blown lupus.
Seal has revealed in various interviews that he first started to be affected by DLE in his teenage years. Alongside the noticeable scars on his cheek, the condition also caused his hair to fall out. But although these side effects will stay with Seal for life, he’s thankfully now in remission from the condition.
In a 1996 interview with The New York Times, Seal argued that the condition helped him to grow as an artist. “I believe that in all forms of art there has to have been some initial adversity: that is what makes art, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “And it’s not something you outlive: once you experience it, it’s always with you.”
But Seal has admitted that his scars used to get him down, often leaving him severely depressed. However, while speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, the singer claimed that his attitude towards the scars has changed entirely. In fact, he said, “Now I really like them.”
Although Seal may be the only famous face to suffer from this particular condition, there are several other celebrities battling various types of lupus. In 2013, for instance, Selena Gomez went through chemotherapy following her diagnosis. Toni Braxton, Nick Cannon and Kristen Johnson are just a few other familiar names who have battled the disease, too.
For now, though, Seal is back to business as usual. Indeed, in 2018 he returned to London for a show featuring covers of popular jazz tracks and his own hits. And a few months later he joined the likes of Herbie Hancock and Bobbie McFerrin at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Seal, however, isn’t the only celebrity with an intriguing scar. Yes, these 19 celebrities have marks on their skin, too. And not only do they hold the key to some fascinating stories, but they sometimes serve as poignant reminders of a troubled pasts.
19. Kylie Jenner
In a 2011 Celebuzz interview Kylie Jenner finally set the record straight about the scar on her left leg, revealing what is actually quite a painful story. A five-year-old Jenner was playing outside when she slipped and fell on a pole; as she remembered, “I tried pulling away to get the pole out, but it just tore through my whole leg.” Ouch.
18. Parminder Nagra
The burn scar on actress Parminder Nagra’s leg is so noticeable that the writers of Bend It Like Beckham actually decided to write it into the script. The real-life scar story is a little different to that proffered in the movie, though: at the age of seven, the ER star accidentally set her pants on fire while cooking.
17. Tommy Flanagan
You could be forgiven for thinking that the scars worn by Tommy Flanagan in films like Braveheart are the work of a talented make-up artist, but they’re 100 per cent real. Before he became an actor, Flanagan was knifed in a Glasgow pub and received the infamous “Glasgow smile” – a facial cut from ear to ear. The joke’s on his attackers, though, because those scars arguably helped make Flanagan famous.
16. Kaley Cuoco
Big Bang Theory babe Kaley Cuoco was left with a large scar on her left leg after her horse crushed her in 2010. The actress actually came pretty close to having her foot amputated, but she recovered and is still a keen equestrian today.
15. Sean Bean
Sean Bean’s scar has a pretty Hollywood backstory. Bean was working on the set of the 1992 film Patriot Games when fellow actor Harrison Ford smacked him with a boat hook. It was all an accident, of course, but it left Bean with this scar below his eyebrow. You can see it clearly in The Lord of the Rings, where it was deliberately left uncovered.
14. Padma Lakshmi
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi refuses to conceal this seven-inch scar on her arm, received when she fractured the limb – and a hip – in a car accident at 14. Lakshmi felt self-conscious about the mark at first but has since grown to love it; in a 2001 article for Vogue, for example, she wrote, “The scar has singled me out and made me who I am.”
13. Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen injured himself so often on the set of the Lord of the Rings movies that it would be surprising if he didn’t have a scar somewhere. However, the noticeable mark on the actor’s upper lip actually predates the trilogy. In 1999 Mortensen told the Calgary Sun that at 17 he’d received the injury from “a combination of a fist and a barbed-wire fence on a particularly bad Halloween night.”
12. Luke Perry
The scar running along Luke Perry’s eyebrow isn’t always easy to see now that he’s older, but it’s definitely there. As a child the actor was frequently getting into very dangerous mischief and even used to jump out of windows. This particular scar, however, is a result of Perry running head first into a drinks machine at a bowling rink.
11. Miles Teller
Whiplash star Miles Teller narrowly survived a car accident when he was 20 and he has the scars to prove it. The actor has previously spoken of his belief that his facial markings had held him back from winning major film roles; in the past, moreover, he turned to laser surgery to try to remove them.
10. Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone usually hides the large scar on her neck with clever cosmetics or large necklaces, but her fans still know that it’s there: not least because the famous bodily feature actually used to have its very own blog. The Basic Instinct star cut her neck horse riding as a child, after galloping straight into a rigid piece of cord.
9. Harrison Ford
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, young Indy hits himself in the face with his own whip and receives a scar to the chin. Harrison Ford’s real-life scar story is a lot less Hollywood, though, if no less painful-sounding: the actor injured his chin at the age of 20 when he drove his Volvo 544 straight into a telephone pole.
8. Michael K. Williams
A violent razor attack at 25 left Michael K. Williams with a massive vertical scar running down his forehead. The assault proved to be a blessing in disguise though – with the new scar, Williams found himself winning more gangsta-style acting roles. He was eventually cast as The Wire’s Omar Little, and the rest is history.
7. Steve Buscemi
In 2001 Steve Buscemi and Vince Vaughn were enjoying some time out while filming Domestic Disturbance when they got caught up in a rather nasty bar brawl. As a result of the fight, Buscemi suffered potentially life-threatening injuries that left permanent scars on his face and neck. Yet just months later, the resilient fireman-turned-actor was back in action and volunteering with the 9/11 rescue effort – bravo.
6. Queen Latifah
When actress and rapper Queen Latifah was a child she hit her head playing a game of chase and was left with a two-inch laceration. Latifah doesn’t remotely mind her scar, however. As she explained to InStyle magazine, “I’d never cover it up. It gives my face character.”
5. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix has had his famous facial scar since birth. It’s caused by a microform cleft, which is a less serious form of the cleft lip condition. What’s more, the Walk The Line star has revealed that, despite speculation to the contrary, he hasn’t had any surgery to correct the issue.
4. Catherine Zeta-Jones
As a child, Catherine Zeta-Jones underwent a critical operation on her windpipe that left her with a one and a half-inch scar at the base of her neck. “Make-up artists are always trying to cover it up, but I don’t want to hide it,” the actress told People in 1998. “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have this scar.”
3. Jonah Hill
In a 2010 Rolling Stone interview Jonah Hill revealed that after his mom’s cancer diagnosis, he became “not a good kid.” Things came to a head, then, when the teen crashed a SUV and smashed up his arm – and after that wake-up call, the actor cleaned up his act. “I look at this scar every day,” he added to the magazine. “That reminds me to work hard.”
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s scars tell an exceptionally tragic story. Aged 11, the Dirty Pretty Things actor was in a car with his dad when it slammed into a truck. His father and three others were killed as a result, but Ejiofor escaped with serious injuries and the marks to remind him forever. As you would expect, the incident had a huge impact on his life: not only through Ejiofor’s loss, but also by seemingly encouraging him to make the most of whatever came his way.
Tina Fey was so conscious of the scar running down her left check that she tried to make sure only her right side was filmed on the set of 30 Rock. And when she finally opened up about the mark to Vanity Fair in 2008, everyone was shocked. The scar turned out, Fey revealed, to be the result of a vicious, random attack she had endured from a stranger when she was aged just five.