The Most Famous Celebrity from Your State
It's time to find out who grew up in your neck of the woods.
Do you ever feel like your home state is so boring, there’s no way anyone interesting could have sprung from it? Well, that’s hardly the case. All 50 states have birthed numerous people who’ve gone on to become household names. And we’re about to prove it to you. Read on to discover the most famous celebrity from every state. Soon, you’ll see the place you grew up in is a lot cooler than you gave it credit for.
Alabama: Lionel Richie
“All Night Long” singer Lionel Richie was born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama. He grew up on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute, where his grandfather had worked with the college’s founder, Booker T. Washington. Richie eventually enrolled at Tuskegee himself, but it wasn’t long before he met some Tuskegee freshmen who were forming a musical group and approached him because they’d heard he had a saxophone. Soon, he dropped out of Tuskegee to pursue his musical dreams as a member of The Commodores.
But his upbringing is what helped him redefine musical genres. “Growing up in Tuskegee, Alabama was the bubble,” Richie told Esquire. “In the bubble, I learned no limitations. My grandmother’s a classical pianist. Country music is outside the community. R&B is in the community and the gospel choir is on the campus. Jazz. It was all just music to me.”
Alaska: Sarah Palin
Politician Sarah Palin moved to Alaska from Idaho when she was only a few months old. In 1972, her family settled in Wasilla, where she attended the local high school, headed the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and was named Miss Wasilla in 1984.
The former governor of Alaska—and former vice presidential candidate—has always been proud to call Alaska home. “Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, ‘Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?'” Palin told Katie Couric in 2008. “Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.”
Arizona: Lynda Carter
Yes, Wonder Woman herself was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Lynda Carter dabbled in acting at a young age, but her first love was music. She went on to attend Arizona State University, before dropping out to pursue music.
In the early 1970s, she became Miss Phoenix, then Miss Arizona, and then, Miss World USA, proudly representing her home state. After that, she turned to acting, eventually landing in Los Angeles. She was almost ready to give up and return to Arizona in 1974 when she won the superhero role we know her for today.
Arkansas: Bill Clinton
The former president was raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he excelled both academically and musically at the local Hot Springs High School.
At the age of 17, Bill Clinton was elected to represent his local American Legion at a visit to the White House, getting a chance to shake hands with then-president John F. Kennedy, a sign of things to come. He moved out of Arkansas to complete his upper education: Georgetown University undergrad, Oxford with a Rhodes Scholarship, and then Yale for law school. He returned home to become a law professor at the University of Arkansas—and it wasn’t long before he became the governor of his home state.
Clinton and his wife, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have long been champions of the state. “She loved her teaching and she got frustrated when one of her students said, ‘Well, what do you expect, I’m just from Arkansas,'” Clinton recalled of his wife at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. “She said, ‘Don’t tell me that, you’re as smart as anybody, you’ve just got to believe in yourself and work hard and set high goals.’ She believed that anybody could make it.”
California: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Everyone’s favorite muscle-bound movie star grew up in Hayward, California to—no surprise here—a family of professional wrestlers. Though Dwayne Johnson’s high school years took him around the world, from New Zealand to Pennsylvania, he eventually returned to his home state.
Colorado: Tim Allen
The Home Improvement star and voice of Buzz Lightyear was raised in Denver, Colorado. Shortly after an 11-year-old Tim Allen lost his father in a drunk driving accident, his family relocated to Michigan. But the state has always held a special place in his heart.
In 2006, Allen married actress Jane Hajduk in a small private ceremony in Grand Lake, Colorado.
Connecticut: Katharine Hepburn
Iconic movie star Katharine Hepburn was raised in Hartford, Connecticut, where her feminist mom involved her in her efforts with the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. Hepburn also became an active golfer and competed in the Connecticut Young Women’s Golf Championship.
Connecticut continued to be home for Hepburn throughout her life. Shortly after turning 96, she died at the Hepburn family home in Fenwick, Connecticut and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.
Delaware: Ryan Phillippe
Cruel Intentions star Ryan Phillippe grew up in New Castle, Delaware, where his mother ran a day care center out of their home. The actor graduated from New Castle Christian Academy in Wilmington and was signed as a Barbizon model in the same Delaware city.
Florida: Ariana Grande
The world’s biggest pop star hails from Boca Raton, Florida, where she discovered her love of singing and acting. A young Ariana Grande performed with the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theater, appearing in Beauty and the Beast and The Wizard of Oz, before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 13 to pursue her music career.
Georgia: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Historic Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. His skills as a public speaker emerged early and he was part of the debate team at Booker T. Washington High School. After passing an entrance exam, King started attending the prestigious Morehouse College at just 15 years old.
Though he traveled far and wide fighting for Civil Rights, Georgia was an important part of King’s formative years, and his later years, too. In his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, King said: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Hawaii: Bette Midler
The multi-talented Bette Midler grew up impoverished in Honolulu, Hawaii, eventually graduating from high school as valedictorian and going on to study drama at the University of Hawaii. Her first film gig was as an extra in the 1966 film Hawaii.
Though she doesn’t live there full time, in 1988, Midler bought a 38-acre property in Kauai, so in a way, she still calls the state home. In a 1974 interview with Andy Warhol, Midler said: “[Hawaii] is the only place in the world that smells like that… it’s freedom.”
Idaho: Aaron Paul
Aaron Paul, who’s known for playing the infamous Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, was raised in Emmett, Idaho. In his hometown, Paul discovered his love of acting by performing in church plays. After graduating from Centennial High School in Boise, he and his mother moved to Los Angeles to chase his dreams.
But Paul still has tons of love for his home state, which he uses to get away from Hollywood. “I love that Idaho is this sort of kept secret,” he told Men’s Journal. “But everyone visualizes Idaho, as this dirt field filled with potatoes … but that’s not accurate at all. It’s just nothing but mountains and rivers and lakes.”
Illinois: Betty White
Ageless superstar Betty White was born an only child in Oak Park, Illinois. When she was just two years old, her family moved to Los Angeles, where she eventually would break into show business. But this golden Hollywood girl is indeed an Illinois native.
Indiana: Michael Jackson
The King of Pop was born in Gary, Indiana, where he joined his family’s musical troupe as their lead vocalist at just five years old. It wasn’t long before Michael Jackson and the whole family moved to Los Angeles after signing a record deal with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records.
Today, many people still visit Jackson’s childhood home in Gary to see where a legend was born.
Iowa: Ashton Kutcher
That 70’s Show star Ashton Kutcher grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and later moved to the town of Homestead. After winning a modeling contest while attending the University of Iowa, Kutcher dropped out and headed to New York to pursue modeling.
Though he’s been gone for awhile, Kutcher’s appreciation for Iowa has grown. “I left Iowa wanting to get out of Iowa, and the older I get the more I want to come home,” he told The Demoines Register in 2017. “In part, because the more places I go, the more I realize how great it is here, and the more I realize that I almost owe everything of who I am to where I come from.”
Kansas: Bob Dole
The one-time presidential candidate grew up in the small town of Russell, Kansas, where he excelled in sports and worked as a paperboy before going on to attend the University of Kansas. Eventually, Bob Dole was elected into the Kansas House of Representatives and became senator of his home state.
In 2014, Dole went on a “thank you” tour of Kansas, visiting each of the state’s 105 counties. “When I served in the Senate, I tried to serve everybody. So I hope to see everybody,” he told The Wichita Eagle at the time. “I’m not asking for money or asking for votes. I just want to shake hands, share a few stories. Answer any questions. I want to thank all the people who supported me for 30 years. And maybe eat an oatmeal or a chocolate chip cookie at every stop.”
Kentucky: Jennifer Lawrence
One of the world’s current biggest leading ladies began her life in the small town Indian Hills, Kentucky. Jennifer Lawrence developed a love of acting early on and got herself a modeling gig in New York at just 14.
After she won an Oscar for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook in 2013, her big brother, Ben, told The New York Daily News that his sister is still “a Louisvillian at heart.” “The kid had a crazy dream,” he said. “Lousiville’s a blue-collar town. It’s not known for producing movie stars.” Well, someone had to change that!
Louisiana: Ellen DeGeneres
Beloved comedian and television host Ellen DeGeneres grew up in Metairie, Louisiana, before moving to Texas at 16 in the wake of her parents’ divorce.
It wasn’t long, however, before she returned to her home state to start college at the University of New Orleans. She only attended for one semester, dropping out to pursue a career in stand-up. But DeGeneres has long showed her support for New Orleans, particularly after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. “If this was Washington or San Francisco … anywhere else, this wouldn’t be happening,” DeGeneres said at the time.
Maine: Stephen King
Prolific novelist Stephen King was born and raised on Portland, Maine. He attended the University of Maine, where he wrote for the school newspaper. His column was called “Steve King’s Garbage Truck.”
Derry, the town in which many of his books are set, is modeled after Bangor, Maine, where King still lives today.
Maryland: Babe Ruth
Baseball superstar Babe Ruth was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Though he was sent away to a reformatory school in Baltimore when he was 7, it turned out to be a blessing for Ruth. The school’s monks introduced him to the game of baseball and he was signed to play minor-league baseball for the Baltimore Orioles at 19 years old.
Before he died in 1948, Ruth made a final visit to Baltimore, where he’s a hometown legend. And now, there’s a Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in the Baltimore row house where Ruth was born. It’s three blocks away from Camden Yards, where the major league Baltimore Orioles play today.
Massachusetts: Mark Wahlberg
The Wahlbergs have never been shy about their Massachusetts upbringing, particularly actor Mark Wahlberg. He was raised in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, where he was known to get into his fair share of legal trouble. He eventually emerged as rapper “Marky Mark” and began his career in entertainment, but Wahlberg is a Boston boy, through and through. He and his brother, New Kids on the Block member Donnie Wahlberg, started a restaurant chain called Wahlburgers in Hingham, Massachusetts.
“Growing up, I think I was arrested 20-odd times by the Boston police,” Wahlberg admitted to Redbook. “The good news is that I’ve been able to use those experiences in a lot of my roles, and that has been a blessing.”
Michigan: Serena Williams
Tennis superstar Serena Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but she didn’t spend much time there. The Williams family relocated to the Compton area of California when she was young.
It was there that Serena and her older sister, Venus Williams, began training for a career in tennis under the tutelage of their father.
Minnesota: Bob Dylan
Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, where he began forming his own bands and performing at local cafes in high school. The young talent, who was born Robert Zimmerman, eventually took on his nom de guerre while attending the University of Minnesota. “He was that weird kid from Hibbing that a lot of people didn’t understand, but he’s more Hibbing than a lot of people give him credit for,” Aaron Brown, who helped run the Dylan Days Festival in Hibbing, told MPR News.
Dylan has found ways to honor his hometown throughout his career. His 1965 album, Highway 61 Revisited, for example, was named after the road that took Dylan from Minnesota to those southern cities known for their musical roots, like Memphis, New Orleans, and the Delta blues area of Mississippi.
Mississippi: Oprah Winfrey
The media mogul had humble beginnings on a small farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Since her mother was a teen when she had her, young Oprah Winfrey was largely raised by her grandmother. “I was raised on a tiny farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, by my grandmother, and she grew everything. Never went to town for food. Other than baking powder, baking soda, and maybe some yeast, we bought nothing,” Winfrey recalled on her website. “We churned the butter, we milked the cows, we killed the hogs, we cured the meat in the smokehouse. Above all, we tended our little garden.”
Growing her own fruits, vegetables, and herbs is something Winfrey still does today, and doing so has really dictated her life’s work. “Whatever our dreams, ideas, or projects, we plant a seed, nurture it—and then reap the fruits of our labors. That lesson was there for the taking way back in Mississippi,” she wrote.
Missouri: John Goodman
The patriarch of Roseanne was raised in Affton, Missouri, where he excelled in football. In fact, if it wasn’t for an injury he suffered while playing for Southwest Missouri State University, John Goodman might have never become a professional actor.
Though he eventually left Missouri for Hollywood, Goodman continues to make an impact on his home state. In 2018, Goodman protested Missouri’s “right-to-work” law, which would’ve banned unions from collecting mandatory dues had it passed. “It’s being sold as a way to help Missouri workers,” the actor said in a political ad he did for the cause. “But look a little deeper, and you’ll see it’s all about corporate greed.”
Montana: David Lynch
Convention-defying director David Lynch was born in Missoula, Montana, but moved around a lot because his father was a research scientist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Still, Lynch has an affinity for Montana, which has helped shape his filmmaking. “I’m just a guy from Missoula, Montana, doing my thing, going down the road like everybody else. We all reflect the world we live in,” he wrote in his book Catching the Big Fish. “And so, even though I’m from Missoula, Montana, which is not the surrealistic capital of the world, you could be anywhere and see a kind of strangeness in how the world is these days, or have a certain way of looking at things.”
Nebraska: Marlon Brando
Cinematic legend Marlon Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but he grew up in Illinois, where he dug ditches in an effort to save money for acting school in New York City. Even after he made it big, Brando still headed back to where it all began every now and then: a big yellow house in Omaha.
According to The Omaha World Herald, shortly after Brando won an Oscar for The Godfather in 1973, he knocked on the door of his childhood home unannounced and asked for a tour. Brando also eventually bought his parents a ranch in their home state.
Nevada: Jimmy Kimmel
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel grew up in Las Vegas after moving to Sin City when he was just nine years old. It wasn’t long before Kimmel started his career in entertainment, working as a DJ while still in high school for KUNV, a radio station at the University of Nevada.
“The first thing I ever did in any kind of show business was a college radio show on Sunday nights in Las Vegas at KUNV. I was in high school at the time,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “And I would look in the telephone book and I’d find people who seemed like interesting characters and then I would goof on them.” Kimmel stayed on the airwaves while in college at Arizona State, but Nevada is where he got his start.
New Hampshire: Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire, on the campus of the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy, where his father worked as math teacher. Brown himself eventually graduated from the school as well.
New Jersey: Meryl Streep
Consummate actor Meryl Streep grew up in Summit, New Jersey. Though she appeared on stage in junior high at the Oak Street School in nearby Basking Ridge, she wasn’t seriously interested in theater until later on.
Eventually, her family moved to Bernardsville, where Streep was a high school cheerleader for the Bernards High School Mountaineers and was also named homecoming queen her senior year.
And since New Jersey is where she spent her formative years, she still backs up the Garden State. “Good that they think that it’s not nice,” Streep said of New Jersey stereotypes in 2018. “So stay away. It was great to grow up here. It was just fantastic.”
New Mexico: Demi Moore
Ghost star Demi Moore was born in Roswell, New Mexico, but she moved all over the country before settling in Los Angeles at the age of 15.
She returned to her home state in 2018 to film Corporate Animals, a movie about a CEO, played by Moore, who takes her staff on a team-building caving excursion in the Land of Enchantment, where things go horribly awry.
New York: Jennifer Lopez
“Jenny from the Block” has always been loud and proud about her Bronx roots. No matter where her career as an actor, dancer, and singer has taken her, Jennifer Lopez continues to show her love for New York—whether it’s by dating New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez or helping victims of Hurricane Sandy in her hometown. “Just knowing how so many people were affected by it and when you really hear the stats of it … there’s not enough you can do,” she told Billboard in 2012.
North Carolina: Michael Jordan
Basketball great Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, but he spent most of his formative years in Wilmington, North Carolina. Funnily enough, he failed to make his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore, due to his height.
But he showed loyalty to his home state when he chose to play for the University of North Carolina—under famous coach Dean Smith—turning down offers from Duke, South Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia.
North Dakota: Josh Duhamel
Actor Josh Duhamel was born in Minot, North Dakota, where he excelled at sports and eventually became quarterback for the Minot State University football team. Though he moved on to Hollywood, he still showed love for his home state, even becoming the face of North Dakota Tourism’s advertising campaign.
“I’ve always been very vocal about the pride that I have in this state,” Duhamel said of North Dakota. “It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s where I can find a quiet spot to fish or go mountain biking or golf a round with old friends. I love the open roads, the simplicity of the countryside, the people and the pace. It is the peace I find when I am there that I miss the most.”
Ohio: John Legend
Grammy winner John Legend grew up in Springfield, Ohio, where he began his singing career in the local church choir as a child. He also was a standout student: Legend won the 1989 Springfield City School District spelling bee and skipped fourth grade.
Over the years, he’s continued to return to Ohio—he even helped open the John Legend Theater at the Springfield Center of Innovation in 2016. “I have so many fond memories of growing up here,” he said at the time. “I wouldn’t be here without Springfield.”
Oklahoma: Blake Shelton
Country music star Blake Shelton was raised in Ada, Oklahoma, where he won the statewide award for top young entertainers before moving to nearby Nashville, Tennessee to pursue his singing career. But in a way, Oklahoma is still home for Shelton.
He has a ranch and a Hawaiian-style lake house in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, where he also donated money to establish a park and opened up a bar called Ole Red. “I like California, but I’m dyed-in-the-wool Oklahoma,” he told Men’s Journal.
Oregon: Tonya Harding
But the state also had a hand in her undoing: Evidence about Harding’s part in the infamous assault on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, emerged at a local Portland bar.
Eventually, due to harassment, Harding moved from Oregon to Washington. “Oregon was buttheads,” she told The New York Times. “I’ve had rats thrown into my mailboxes, [expletive] left on my door, left in my mailbox, all over my trucks. You name it.”
Pennsylvania: Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart, one of the world’s most popular comedic actors, was born and raised in Philadelphia, just like Will Smith. It’s also where Hart’s career began. He began pursuing stand-up comedy after getting the bug during an amateur night at a club in Philadelphia.
“After Philadelphia, the world’s easy,” Hart told Esquire. “I mean, you gotta have something. I couldn’t fight. My weapon was jokes.” His tough upbringing paid off and in 2017, Philadelphia made his birthday the citywide “Kevin Hart Day.”
Rhode Island: Debra Messing
Will & Grace star Debra Messing moved to Rhode Island at three years old and grew up near Providence, eventually being crowned Miss Junior Rhode Island in 1986.
She said it took her years to lose her Rhode Island accent while she trained to be an actor at New York University. “I had to study how to speak for three years and it was intense. I moved to Rhode Island when I was young… You know, ‘You goin’ to the Warwick Mall?'” she joked in her original accent on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
South Carolina: Darius Rucker
Hootie & The Blowfish singer Darius Rucker grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where he sang in the church and high school choirs. He went on to attend the University of South Carolina, where he tried to make it by touring the local bar scene.
Today, Rucker still lives in his home state, where he plays an annual HomeGrown Concert.
South Dakota: Bob Barker
Bob Barker, the longtime host of The Price Is Right, was born in Washington state. But he spent most of his youth on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota, where his mother was a teacher.
“We had what amounted to a one-room schoolhouse,” Barker told ABC of his childhood in South Dakota. “This was before television. Radio was in its infancy. And we played baseball in baseball season, football in football season, ran track in track season and played basketball of course.”
Tennessee: Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus was raised in Franklin, Tennessee. The eventual actress and pop star attended Heritage Elementary School before her family relocated to Canada (where her dad, Billy Rae Cyrus, was starring on a television series).
But eventually, the Cyruses found their way back to Tennessee, which is where Cyrus calls home today. Though she has houses in California as well, Cyrus and her husband Liam Hemsworth, recently got married in a small secret ceremony at their Tennessee mansion.
As Beyoncé famously says in “Who Run the World?” she was raised in Houston, Texas, baby. Growing up, the young Ms. Knowles competed in and won multiple local talent shows, ultimately making it onto Star Search.
And Beyoncé has actually become known for her hometown catchphrase, “H-Town Vicious,” which she sings in the song “Flawless.” Whenever Houston has needed her, Bey’s shown up, whether it’s helping Hurricane Harvey victims or showing her support for Beto O’Rourke.
Utah: Roseanne Barr
Controversial sitcom star Roseanne Barr was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. Though her family was Jewish, Barr’s mother kept the family’s faith a secret in the predominantly Mormon city. In fact, she had them attend church services. At just six years old, Barr discovered her first public stage, “lecturing on the faith to Mormon congregations throughout Utah and becoming like a little preaching rock star,” according to the Jewish Journal.
Eventually, Barr moved out to Colorado, where she started her stand-up career. Her home state has been her safe haven though. In 2018, after the controversy that lost her Roseanne, Barr returned to Utah to regroup.
Vermont: Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
Yes, we know the men behind Ben & Jerry’s ice cream—Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—grew up in New York, but this frozen dessert treat and the state of Vermont go hand-in-hand.
Ben & Jerry’s was officially born in the bustling college town of Burlington, Vermont in 1978. Ever since, Greenfield has called the state home.
Virginia: Pharrell Williams
“Happy” singer Pharrell Williams was raised in Virginia Beach, where his interest in music emerged. He was even in his high school’s marching band. Though he no longer lives in Virginia, Williams still continues to breathe life into the city that raised him. “I’m just so happy that Virginia gave me my roots,” he told NPR in 2013. In 2014, the mayor of Virginia Beach gave Williams a key to the city and declared June 7 as “Pharrell Williams Day” in the state of Virginia.
Williams also recently created a three-day concert festival in his hometown called “Something in the Water.” “I’ve learned that no matter how much you love your city of your state, no matter how connected you think you might be, sometimes you have to step outside to see its true potential,” Williams said in his proposal.
Washington: Jimi Hendrix
Legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, receiving his first electric guitar at the age of 16 from his father.
In 2018, the Northwest African American History Museum in Seattle held an exhibit in Hendrix’s honor. “It gives people a chance to get to know Jimi, local west coast Seattle boy as he called himself,” Hendrix’s sister, Janie, said at the time. “Seattle shaped him and he certainly helped shape Seattle,” the museum’s executive director added.
West Virginia: Steve Harvey
Family Feud host Steve Harvey was raised in the small town of Welch, West Virginia, before his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.
Even then, Harvey would spend summers on his grandfather’s farm in West Virginia, which was a formative experience for him. “A farmer really understands more than most people will ever achieve in their life. I really respect farmers and their commitment,” Harvey said.
Wisconsin: Chris Farley
SNL alum Chris Farley grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where he was known to make his Catholic school peers laugh. He eventually went on to study theatre at Marquette University, also in his home state.
Almost 10 years after Farley’s death, the Wisconsin Historical Museum created an exhibit in his honor in 2008. “A lot of (stars) never came back. He loved Madison. He loved Wisconsin. He carried that love of the state into his work,” the exhibit’s curator said at the time.
Wyoming: Jackson Pollock
Legendary painter Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, but spent most of his young life in Arizona and California. And now that you know where they grew up, check out the 23 Celebs Who Still Live in Their Hometown.
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