No. 3: Sandra Bullock

At the start of 2010, actress Sandra Bullock seemed to have it all. The previous year she had two of her biggest hits, “The Proposal” and “The Blind Side,” and according to Oscar handicappers, the best actress award was hers to lose for the role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, adoptive mother of offensive lineman Michael Oher.

Her personal life appeared to be similarly sewed up: Bullock and husband Jesse James had won a custody fight for his daughter, Sunny. Her perpetually grinning husband had made his name as the tough-guy host of reality show “Monster Garage” and as the CEO of West Coast Choppers. He was close at hand as she made the rounds during awards season. “To my husband, there is no surprise that my work got better when I met you, because I never knew what it felt like for someone to have my back. So thank you,” she declared during her Golden Globe acceptance speech. Both an Oscar and a Razzie were hers in a public relations coup.

Many observers were just as blindsided as Bullock when In Touch broke the news that the seemingly dutiful hubby, who had gallantly held an umbrella over his wife’s coif on the red carpet, had been cheating. Was James “the Most Hated Man in America,” as one Entertainment Weekly headline proclaimed (and as James called himself in his first sit-down interview), besmirching the happiness of America’s sweetheart?

Bullock would later tell People, “I had no idea about anything until that day when I got the call [that the tabloid was publishing a story about James’s infidelity]. Never in a million years did I foresee something like this happening. I wish it hadn’t, and it still doesn’t seem real.” But Bullock pulled yet another public relations coup. She laid low, out of the public eye, and managed to secretly adopt a baby, Louis, whom she had initially planned to adopt with James.

Bullock came out on her own terms to People (and helped make the May double issue among the magazine’s best-selling issues). The message of single motherhood came through clearly: The independent woman was far too busy being a new mom to worry about a no-good man. As for the life-imitates-movies angle, she admitted to People, “I had to smile at all the parallels.”

–Kimberly Chun