We love their music and their movies, and we might even read the juice about their personal lives every now and then. But oftentimes we have no idea where our favorite celebs hail from, and we might wrongly assume that just because they speak English, they’re from the United States, Canada, or Europe.
For the five Caribbean celebrities below, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
They hail from the sunny shores of the islands and countries that share the waters of the Caribbean Sea.
See how many of them you didn’t realize were actually from the Caribbean:
This famous R&B/pop singer makes her native country of Barbados extremely proud. With over 250 million records sold worldwide, she’s one of the most successful singers of all time. Her hits include “Umbrella”, “Take a Bow”, “We Found Love”, and “Work”. She currently has four multi-platinum certified studio albums.
Born on February 20th, 1988 in the town of Saint Michael, Barbados, Rihanna may have had humble beginnings, but her indomitable Caribbean spirit helped her rise to the top. You may be surprised to know that she was born into a struggling family. Her mother, Monica, was an accountant, and Rihanna used to sell clothes on the street with her father, Ronald. Ronald was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, which strained his marriage and eventually resulted in his divorce with Rihanna’s mother.
Despite difficulties with her family and her health (she suffered from intense headaches as a child), Rihanna began singing around age 7, and loved reggae music. Although she studied at Combermere High School, she didn’t graduate, choosing to pursue a music career instead.
Her big break came when Evan Rogers, a record producer from the US, discovered her when he traveled to Barbados to visit family.
2. Nicki Minaj
Known for her eccentric style and mad rapping skills, this Caribbean celebrity was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago. Born on December 8th, 1982 as Onika Tanya Miraj, she has sold over 5 million albums worldwide. She has also won numerous awards, such as four Billboard Music Awards, six American Music Awards, and four MTV Video Music awards.
However, success wasn’t simply handed to her. Her parents were part-time gospel singers who also worked in finance and accounting. Her father was so addicted that alcohol and other drugs that he burned down their house when Minaj was 5 years old. After that, she was sent to live with her grandmother in Saint James.
After the family moved to the Bronx, New York, Minaj attended LaGuardia High School and dreamed of becoming an actress. However, her career simply didn’t take off, and she ended up working as a waitress. Meanwhile, she uploaded some original songs to her MySpace account, and joined various rapping groups and music labels. Eventually, she was discovered by rapper Lil Wayne, who helped launch her now very successful career.
3. Persia White
Although this actress was born in Miami, she was brought up in the Bahamas, and her father was Bahamian. She is most known for her role in the television series Girlfriends, but she’s also a singer and musician.
Like many other Caribbean celebrities, she overcame great hardship in her childhood and adolescence to begin a successful career. When she was only three years old, her father got into a terrible car accident. He was permanently paralyzed, and left his family for the US to undergo medical treatment. Persia, her mother, and her siblings also moved to Florida later on, but they didn’t meet up with Persia’s father.
White is also a human and animal rights advocate, and was named Humanitarian of the Year by PETA in 2005.
4. Wyclef Jean
Born in Haiti in 1969, Wyclef Jean is a welcome addition to our list of Caribbean celebrities because of his huge success in the music industry. Interestingly, he moved to the United States when he was 9, but later tried to become president of Haiti. Nevertheless, he was ineligible because he did not meet the Haitian government’s requirements for residency.
Although he first rose to fame with the rap group the Fugees, Jean began a solo career in 1997. After 2006, he became most notable for his collaborations with other artists. For example, he performed with Shakira in her 2006 single “Hips Don’t Lie”.
He has been involved in natural disaster relief and charity work for many years, and even ran his own charity, called Yéle Haiti, from 2005 to 2010.
5. Lena Headey
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll be familiar with actress Lena Headey. She may be last on our list of Caribbean celebrities, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less worthy. Born in Bermuda on October 3rd, 1973, Heady worked on small projects as an actress through the nineties. Her first big-budget films included The Brothers Grimm (2005), 300 (2007), and The Red Baron (2007).
However, it wasn’t until she joined the cast of Game of Thrones that hit it big. She began portraying Cersei Lannister in 2011 on the famous TV series, and soon became one of the highest paid actors on television. She was nominated four times for an Emmy Award (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series) and nominated once for a Golden Globe Award in 2016 (Best Supporting Actress–Series, Miniseries, or Television Film).
Headey was born in Bermuda because her father, John Headey, was an English police officer from Yorkshire who had been stationed there. Her family later moved back to England, where she attended Shelley College and studied acting.
Other Caribbean Celebrities:
Here’s a list of other famous celebs with Caribbean ties:
- Tim Duncan (NBA player)– Born in the U.S Virgin Islands
- Ricky Martin (singer)– From Puerto Rico
- Tia and Tamera Mowry (actresses)– Bahamian mother.
- Gwyneth Paltrow (actress)– Bahamian great-grandmother
- Cameron Diaz (actress)– Cuban ancestors on father’s side
- Beyoncé (singer)– Bahamian father
- Tyson Beckford (model/actor)– (Jamaican mother)
- Benicio del Toro (actor)– born in Puerto Rico
- Zoe Saldana (actress)– mother from Puerto Rico, father from the Dominican Republic
- Grace Jones (singer)- Born in Jamaica
- Garcelle Beauvais (actress) Born in Haiti
- Sean Patrick Thomas (actor) Guyanese parents
- Naomie Harris (actress) Jamaican mother, Trinidadian father
- Lorraine Toussaint (actress)- Born in Trinidad and Tobago