The United States is home to many of the greatest, and most famous, actors, models, musicians, athletes, and politicians — and for good reason. The U.S. entertainment and professional sports industries, as well as its many prestigious colleges and universities, make the United States an attractive place for all sorts of talented individuals to come and build a career. The success that famous immigrants have in the U.S. is a great testament to the endless opportunities available for individuals who decide to make the U.S. their home, temporarily or permanently.
Whether they came to the U.S. to live or work, at a young age or as an adult, this article includes some of the United States’ most famous people that were not born in the United States.
There is no country with more celebrities than the United States. But some stars who’ve made it big in the United States were born elsewhere. Here are some celebrities who were born outside the United States.
The star of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever, 19 year old Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was born in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. She landed her break-out acting role in the Netflix series filmed in Los Angeles, California and created by executive producer Mindy Kaling. Despite Ramakrishnan’s Canadian roots, her parents are Tamil refugees who immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka due to the civil war being fought there.
Multi-award winning rapper Nikki Minaj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago. She began her life in the United States at the age of five. Minaj and her brother moved to the U.S. to live with their parents in South Jamaica, Queens, New York. Minaj’s parents moved to the U.S. after Minaj’s mother got her Green Card at age 24. Minaj’s mother attended Monroe College in the Bronx, New York.
Chart-topping musician Rihanna was born in Saint Michael, Barbados and immigrated to the U.S. after an American record producer heard her perform in her home country. She was introduced to American rapper Jay-Z, and then-CEO of Def Jam Recordings, with whom Rihanna signed to a six-album contract.
After finding success as Hermoine in the Harry Potter films, actress Emma Watson moved to the United States in 2009 to attend college at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Watson was born in Paris, France, where she lived until the age of five, when her parents were divorced and she moved to England to share time between her mother in Oxfordshire and her father in London. Watson graduated from Brown University in 2014 with a degree in English Literature . She now lives in London and New York.
Pop singer Justin Bieber was born in London, Ontario, Canada and was raised in Stratford, Ontario. After becoming famous from online videos of the then-teenager singing pop and r&b songs, Bieber landed with a U.S. record label based in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of thirteen. Bieber is reportedly in the United States under an O-1 visa or a Green Card, though he is now also married to United States citizen Hailey Baldwin.
The future of Bieber’s immigration status was brought into question in 2014 when he was arrested for street racing and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Bieber admitted to police that he had been drinking and smoking marijuana the night of his arrest. A White House petition received over 250,000 signatures of people demanding the pop star be deported. Bieber has avoided legal trouble in more recent years. In the past, Bieber has said he does not have an interest in obtaining U.S. citizenship, and he owns homes in both Beverly Hills, California and Ontario, Canada.
There are many celebrities who were born in the United States but whose parents were born elsewhere. Here are some famous people whose parents moved to the United States before they were born.
Rapper Pitbull was born in Miami, Florida in 1981, a year after his father made it to the United States through the visa lottery. Pitbull’s mother fled Cuba in the 1960s during the Cuban Revolution, which Pitbull’s grandmother was involved in.
Actress America Ferrara was born in Los Angeles, California, but her parents were originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras before immigrating to the United States in the 1970s. Ferrara’s mother worked as the Director of Housekeeping at a Hilton Hotel, and her father returned to Honduras after the couple divorced when Ferrara was seven.
Actor Wilmer Valderrama was born in Miami, Florida to a Colombian mother and a Venezuelan father. When Valderrama was three, he moved with his parents to Venezuela and then Colombia, but returned to live in the United States with his family when he was fourteen.
As leaders of the U.S., politicians shape the United States’ values, culture, and, of course, law. Below are some U.S. politicians you probably didn’t know were born outside the U.S.
Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia and grew up in Baidoa, Somalia. Omar and her family fled Somalia during its civil war and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp near the Somali border. In 1995, Omar’s family received asylum in the United States, arriving first in New York City, then moving to Arlington, Virginia before settling permanently in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2000, at age 17, Omar became a U.S. citizen.
Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was born in Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan. Chao immigrated to the United States in 1961 at the age of eight. Three years after Chao’s father moved to the United States on scholarship, she moved to the United States with her mother and two younger sisters who travelled for 37 days on a freight ship. Chao was naturalized as a U.S. citizen at the age of 19.
United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. When Granholm was four, her family immigrated to California, United States, where they lived in Anaheim, San Jose, and San Carlos. Granholm attempted an acting career before becoming involved in politics. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1980 at the age of 21.
United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba. As a one year old, Mayorkas’ parents fled Cuba for the United States following the Cuban Revolution in 1960. Mayorkas and his family became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1961. Mayorkas’ family first lived in Miami, Florida before settling in Los Angeles, California where Mayorkas attended Beverly Hills High School.
Many U.S. professional sports teams feature key players who were not born in the United States. Here are some impressive athletes who were not born in the U.S.
Back-to-back NBA MVP and Champion Giannis Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece to Nigerian immigrants. Antetokounmpo didn’t receive Greek citizenship until 2013, just before the NBA Draft. In 2015, Antetokounmpo also gained Nigerian citizenship but plays for the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Antetokounmpo’s three brothers also play professional basketball in Greece and in the NBA.
NBA All Star and Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons was born in Fitzroy, Australia outside of Melbourne. He played basketball throughout his youth in New Castle, Australia and moved to the United States to play basketball for Louisiana State University before being drafted number one in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons has since become a dual citizen of both Australia and the United States.
Olympic diver Jordan Windle was born in Sihanoukville, Cambodia despite representing the United States in the 2020 Olympic Games. In Cambodia, Windle spent eight months in an orphanage after his parents died at the age of one. At eighteen months old, Windle was adopted by a single man in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he developed his extraordinary swimming ability.