While 2020 was a year to forget for sports and entertainment, in 2021 East Tennessee celebrities bounced back on a grand scale – won championships, released new music, and became forever hall of fame performers.
However, some celebrities have faced controversy in their industry.
Let’s look back on what some of East Tennessee’s most iconic faces accomplished in 2021 and what others hope to leave behind.
There is no greater accomplishment for a professional wrestler than winning the WWE Women’s Championship. Unless, of course, the title is won by everyone on the biggest stage. That’s huge.
Bianca Belair, a former track and field athlete at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville and the University of Tennessee, did just that when she defeated SmackDown women’s champion Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37 in Tampa.
Belair no longer holds the title but was ranked # 1 women’s wrestler by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2021. She ranked 23rd on the Top 150 list in 2020 and is perfecting her craft as a member of the WWE Raw list.
The dirty stuff:After surviving the wrestling mayhem, Bianca Belair joins the podcast
Vols legend Peyton Manning also makes headlines in 2021, five years after hanging his shoes.
He’s joined his brother Eli as an alternate announcer for NFL games “Monday Night Football” this season, and a video pretending to be an intern at the Denver Broncos went viral as the team’s schedule in May was announced.
But the biggest news of all was Manning’s well-deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His acceptance speech was unforgettable, full of jokes and the sheriff’s emotions.
“A legacy is only worthwhile if there is a future to fuel,” Manning said during the speech. “God bless you and God bless football.”
Peyton Manning:Hall of Fame speech was “a love letter to the football game”
Peyton Manning wasn’t the only athlete to step into a hall of fame in 2021.
Knox County’s Mayor Glenn Jacobs, known internationally for his Kane personality in World Wrestling Entertainment, accepted an inductance into the WWE Hall of Fame just days before the start of WrestleMania in Tampa.
During his acceptance speech, Jacobs described his on-camera relationship with The Undertaker as “the greatest story WWE has ever told” and nodded to the superstars who helped him on his journey.
Kane:WWE star is looking for one of his “Most Wanted Treasures” – the original mask
“You are, in my opinion, the most talented, the most versatile – the best entertainer in the world,” he said of WWE cast members. “It may sound cheesy and cheesy, but you put a smile on your face. And the world is better for it.”
When WWE Superstars put a smile on their faces, Jackass stunts destroy them.
Just ask Steve-O, featured in the trailer for the upcoming “Jackass Forever” film, removing a false tooth while sitting in a wheelchair with a neck rest on.
Jackass co-creator and Knoxville native Johnny Knoxville made headlines for the film – which was advertised as the last film in the series – in 2021 and was delayed due to COVID-19.
Knoxville was also in the news when Bam Margera named him Variety in a misfire lawsuit earlier this year, Paramount and director Spike Jonze. The Variety report said Margera was allegedly fired for violating a “wellness agreement” he signed with the movie’s producers.
Donkey:What has Johnny Knoxville been up to since the last movie?
“Jackass Forever” is now slated to hit cinemas in February 20222.
Actress Megan Fox will continue to draw attention to herself in 2021 – not for a specific movie, but for who the Oak Ridge native was with.
While Fox and the r -per turned punk machine gun Kelly have been dating since May 2020, their love blossomed with the public through 2021.
Fox and Kelly, who met on the set of “Midnight in the Switchgrass”, -peared next to each other on the autumn / winter cover of British magazine GQ Style and continue to be celebrated as a Hollywood power couple with a penchant for PDAs.
Megan Fox:Machine Gun Kelly talks about relationship with East TN actress
Calling 2021 a breakout year for Kelsea Ballerini seems a bit strange considering she’s been a Nashville favorite for years. But now she has the awards to back it up.
“Half of My Hometown,” performed with East Tennessee compatriot Kenny Chesney, won Music Event of the Year and Music Video of the Year at the 55th Annual Country Music Association Awards.
The video was shot in Knoxville, primarily Fountain City, where Ballerini attended high school. In fact, a cutaway shows ballerini in red near the 50-yard line of the Central High School football field.
Kelsea Ballerina:Go behind the scenes of the music video with the Central High cheerleaders
Ballerini also stepped in as a voice coach for Kelly Clarkson on “The Voice” in 2021, co-hosted the CMT Music Awards and recently published her own book of original poems.
No East Tennessee celebrity has had a more turbulent year than pop country star Morgan Wallen.
Let’s first look back at 2020, which was partly sh -ed by controversies following social media videos of Wallen’s maskless celebrations. This eventually led to his “Saturday Night Live” performance being canceled.
The Sneedville native also started controversy in 2021 by transpiring songs from his own album after Walmart put it on shelves early. The following month, Big Loud Records suspended Wallen after a video showing him portraying a racist slur.
Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned:Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous” deals with his past
But Wallen is looking for redemption, because from February he will be on a 46-city tour in support of “Dangerous: The Double Album”.
Briston Maroney could have the deserved year in 2021 after shows were canceled the previous year when the singer-songwriter broke out.
“Sunflower”, the Knoxville native’s debut album, was released in -ril and quickly became a hit with alternative music fans.
Maroney’s first headline tour of the United States in 2021, with stops in Canada and Europe. Maroney also toured in support of Mt. Joy and was part of major music festivals.
‘Sunflower’:Briston Maroney shares Knoxville’s inspiration for his debut album
Although Candace Parker is no longer wearing Tennessee Orange and Lady Vols Blue, she continues to give the East Tennesseans reason to cheer.
Parker won two championships on the hardwood while playing in Knoxville and brought one championship to Chicago in 2021.
The Chicago Sky, which also includes former Lady Vol Diamond DeShields, won its first WNBA championship in October.
Candace Parker:How the WNBA star gives back to all of her homes, including Knoxville
Parker was honored at Neyland Stadium during the Vols Football homecoming game on November 13 for leading her team to the title.
Dolly Parton was her typical self in 2021 – collecting money and raising eyebrows.
Parton and the Dollywood Foundation raised $ 700,000 for the United Way of Humphreys County to help those affected by floods. And when it comes to the iconic theme park, there are big plans for the future.
Knox News exclusively reported that the Dollywood Foundation will add HeartSong Lodge & Resort in 2023 and invest more than half a billion dollars in their Pigeon Forge properties over the next 10 years.
In addition, the Smoky Mountain Songbird released their debut fragrance Scent from Above earlier this year.