What Happened To Gary Coleman?




Gary Coleman, once a beloved child star known for his iconic role in the hit sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” saw his life take a tumultuous turn as he grew older. From financial struggles to legal battles, Gary’s journey was far from the glamorous Hollywood success story. In this article, we will explore the events that unfolded in Gary’s life and shed light on the question that lingers in the minds of many fans: what happened to Gary Coleman?

Early Life and Rise to Fame


Gary Coleman was born on February 8, 1968, in Zion, Illinois. He was the adopted son of Edmonia Sue, a nurse practitioner, and W.G. Coleman, a forklift operator. Unfortunately, Coleman’s childhood was far from idyllic. He was born with a congenital kidney disease that caused his short stature, and his health struggles would continue to plague him throughout his life.


Despite his health challenges, Coleman attended school like any other child. However, his short stature made him an easy target for bullies, and he frequently faced taunts and ridicule from his classmates. Despite the adversity he faced, Coleman was a determined student and strived to excel academically.

Entrance into Show Business

It was during a family trip to Chicago that Coleman’s life took an unexpected turn. While visiting a local radio station, a talent agent noticed his charm and infectious personality, convincing his parents that he had the potential to become a successful child actor. The young Coleman soon found himself auditioning for various roles and landed his first major television role in the hit sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.”

Career in Television

The role in ‘Diff’rent Strokes’

Coleman’s portrayal of Arnold Jackson, an adorable and wisecracking African-American child adopted by a wealthy white businessman, propelled him to stardom. His comedic timing and charismatic performance quickly made him a fan favorite, and “Diff’rent Strokes” became a cultural phenomenon.

Popularity and Character Impact

The character of Arnold Jackson became an iconic figure in American television, with Coleman’s catchphrase “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” engrained in popular culture. Coleman’s popularity skyrocketed, and he became one of the most recognizable child actors of his generation.

Other Television Appearances

Following the success of “Diff’rent Strokes,” Coleman made numerous guest appearances on various television shows, showcasing his versatility as an actor. From sitcoms to dramas, he proved that he was more than just a one-hit wonder. However, despite his talent, Coleman struggled to maintain the same level of success he achieved with his breakthrough role.

Film Career

Successful Movies

In addition to his television success, Coleman also made a successful transition to the big screen. He starred in films such as “On the Right Track” and “Jimmy the Kid,” which showcased his comedic abilities and further solidified his status as a beloved actor.

Lesser Known Films

While Coleman had his fair share of hits, he also ventured into lesser-known films that failed to gain significant traction. These films, while not commercially successful, allowed Coleman to explore different genres and demonstrate his range as an actor.

Role Choices and Typecasting

Unfortunately, as Coleman grew older, he struggled to find roles that would allow him to shed the image of Arnold Jackson. The industry often typecast him as the adorable child prodigy, making it difficult for him to break free from the shadow of his iconic character. This limitation significantly impacted his career choices and led to a decline in opportunities.

Stunted Growth and Health Issues

Cause of Short Stature

Coleman’s short stature was the result of a congenital kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. This condition affects the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood efficiently, stunting growth and leading to various health complications. Despite seeking medical treatment, Coleman’s condition remained a persistent challenge throughout his life.

Kidney Problems

In addition to his short stature, Coleman also experienced severe kidney problems. These complications required him to undergo dialysis treatments, and at the age of 25, he received a kidney transplant from his father. Although the transplant initially offered hope for improved health, Coleman continued to battle numerous health issues related to his kidneys.

Other Health Challenges

Aside from his kidney-related health problems, Coleman faced a multitude of other challenges throughout his life. He wrestled with ongoing pain, mobility issues, and a weakened immune system. These health challenges undoubtedly took a toll on his physical and emotional well-being.

Financial Struggles

Bankruptcy Filing

Despite the immense success Coleman achieved early in his career, he faced significant financial struggles. In 1999, he filed for bankruptcy, citing mismanagement of his earnings as the primary cause. Coleman’s case highlighted the unfortunate reality faced by many child actors, as they often have limited control over their finances and can fall victim to unscrupulous individuals.

Lawsuits on Financial Mismanagement

Following his bankruptcy filing, Coleman pursued legal action against his parents and former manager, alleging mismanagement and embezzlement of his funds. These lawsuits further exposed the financial woes Coleman faced, leading to strained relationships with his loved ones.

Life After Bankruptcy

Although Coleman’s financial troubles weighed heavily on him, he continued to work in the entertainment industry. However, he struggled to maintain the same level of success and financial security that once defined his early career.

Personal Life

Marriages and Relationships

Throughout his life, Coleman experienced a tumultuous personal life. He was married multiple times, with his first marriage, to Shannon Price, gaining significant media attention. The couple faced numerous ups and downs, including a high-profile divorce and public disputes. Coleman’s personal relationships often played out in the tabloids, exposing him to intense public scrutiny.

Public Scrutiny

As a well-known celebrity, Coleman endured constant public scrutiny, magnifying the challenges he faced in his personal life. Whether it was his financial struggles, legal troubles, or marital woes, the media often pounced on his every misstep, making it difficult for Coleman to escape the negative press.

Private Life

Despite the constant attention from the public and media, Coleman tried to maintain a certain level of privacy in his personal life. However, the constant intrusion made it increasingly challenging to establish a sense of normalcy and cultivate meaningful relationships outside of his career.

Legal Troubles and Controversies

Assault Charges

In 2010, Coleman found himself embroiled in legal troubles when he was charged with assault. The incident took place between Coleman and an acquaintance, exacerbating his already strained public image.

Public Disputes

Throughout his life, Coleman was no stranger to public disputes and controversies. He engaged in highly publicized feuds with various individuals, including his own parents and former co-stars. These public disputes further tarnished his reputation and contributed to his decline in public favor.

Court Cases

In addition to assault charges and public disputes, Coleman faced legal battles related to his finances and contractual disputes. These court cases compounded his already mounting personal and financial challenges, making it increasingly difficult for him to regain control over his life and career.

Career Downfall

Decline in Popularity

After the end of “Diff’rent Strokes,” Coleman struggled to maintain the same level of popularity and success he had experienced during his heyday. The industry’s typecasting and public perception limited his opportunities, and he found it increasingly difficult to secure meaningful roles that would allow him to reclaim his former glory.

Attempts at Reviving Career

Throughout his later years, Coleman made various attempts to revive his career. He participated in reality TV shows such as “The Surreal Life” and “Divorce Court,” hoping to reignite interest in his talents. While these appearances brought him back into the public eye temporarily, they were unable to restore his career to its former heights.

Impact on Personal Life

The decline in Coleman’s career had a significant impact on his personal life. As job opportunities dwindled and financial struggles persisted, he faced emotional distress and sought solace in unhealthy coping mechanisms. The toll of his professional and personal challenges undoubtedly took a heavy toll on his overall well-being.

Death and Legacy

Cause of Death

On May 28, 2010, the world was shocked by the news of Gary Coleman’s untimely death. He passed away at the age of 42 due to a tragic fall at his home, hitting his head and suffering a brain hemorrhage. Coleman’s death sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry and left fans mourning the loss of a beloved talent.

Reaction to His Passing

Following his death, an outpouring of grief and tributes flooded the media. Fans, fellow actors, and friends mourned the loss of a man who had left an indelible mark on their lives. The media reflected on Coleman’s tumultuous career and personal struggles, prompting a reevaluation of his life and legacy.

Legacy in the Entertainment Industry

Despite the challenges he faced, Gary Coleman left a lasting legacy in the entertainment industry. His portrayal of Arnold Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes” broke barriers and paved the way for future child actors of diverse backgrounds. Coleman’s influence on television and popular culture remains significant, and his iconic catchphrase continues to be referenced in media to this day.

Gary Coleman’s Influence Today

Impact on Pop Culture

Gary Coleman’s impact on pop culture is undeniable. His portrayal of Arnold Jackson resonated with audiences and shaped the way child actors were perceived in the industry. His catchphrase, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”, has become a cultural phenomenon, often referenced and parodied in various forms of media. Coleman’s influence continues to permeate popular culture, reminding us of his enduring legacy.

Influence on Future Actors

Coleman’s groundbreaking portrayal of Arnold Jackson opened doors for future child actors, particularly those from marginalized communities. He showed that young actors could command attention and carry a show, inspiring a new generation of talented performers. Coleman’s determination and resilience in the face of adversity serve as an enduring example for aspiring actors today.

References in Media

Even years after his passing, Gary Coleman’s presence is still felt in the media. His memorable catchphrase, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”, has been referenced in countless television shows, movies, and commercials. These homages are a testament to Coleman’s lasting impact on the entertainment industry and his enduring place in pop culture.

In conclusion, Gary Coleman’s life and career were marked by both triumphs and challenges. From his rise to fame as Arnold Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes” to his battle with health issues and financial struggles, Coleman’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the complexities of fame and the importance of proper management and support. Despite the adversity he faced, Coleman’s influence on the entertainment industry and popular culture remains significant, ensuring that his legacy will continue to be remembered for years to come.


To compile this comprehensive article, extensive research was conducted using a variety of sources. Interviews statements from the celebrity, industry experts, and those close to celebrity were analyzed to provide accurate and well-rounded insights. Additionally, reputable news sources, articles, and publicly available information were consulted to ensure the highest level of accuracy.

Efforts were made to maintain transparency and avoid sensationalism throughout the research and writing process. Any potential conflicts of interest were taken into account, and the focus remained on providing a balanced view of the celebrity’s journey and current standing in the entertainment industry.

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