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35 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were From Florida

September 26, 2019
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The Sunshine State is home to the fourth-largest economy in the United States, which makes it no shock that a significant number of famous people hail from all over the state: all the way from the panhandle to the keys. As a powerhouse for entertainment, sports, business, and more, here are 35 people you may not have been aware were from Florida.

35. Faye Dunaway

Faye Dunaway

One of Dunaway’s more controversial roles was Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, which found a new audience with “No more wire hangers!” becoming a meme. Shutterstock / Everett Collection

Hailing from Bascom in the Florida panhandle, Faye Dunaway has won several awards over her acting career spanning more than 50 years. She began acting on Broadway but quickly got her breakout role as the titular Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde, then starred in The Thomas Crown Affair and Network, among other notable films. Read more on Faye’s town next, Strangest Town Names in Florida »

34. Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan was born in Cuba but found success in South Florida. Shutterstock / Joe Seer

Havana-born Gloria Estefan came to Miami after the Cuban revolution, and became an integral part of the local music scene. After studying at the University of Miami and working at Miami International Airport as a translator, she met a member of the Miami Latin Boys in a church ensemble. She soon joined the band, changing the name to Miami Sound Machine. The band proceeded to sell millions of singles performing both Latin and pop music, with 1985’s Conga catapulting them to international stardom.

33. Pat Boone

Pat Boone

Interestingly, Pat Boone was the first FTC target for celebrity endorsements, pre-dating influencer crackdowns from the agency. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Pat Boone has had a vast and diverse show business career, among the most notable being a pop singer in the 50s. He sold over 45 million records and was just behind Elvis in the charts. Born in Jacksonville, Boone spent most of his childhood in Nashville and his first performances in Centennial Park set the stage for his career. He then hosted The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom variety show.

32. Chris Núñez

Chris Núñez

Chris Núñez owns Love Hate Tattoos in Miami Beach, as well as media company Ridgeline Empire which produces animated series. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Miami native Chris Núñez is a tattoo artist and entrepreneur who owned Handcrafted Tattoo and Art Gallery in Fort Lauderdale. He was a graffiti artist until his first apprenticeship at a tattoo shop as a teen. With almost 30 years in the trade, Núñez rose to stardom after being featured on Miami Ink and he is now a judge on Ink Master.

31. Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson also received seven Emmy nominations for her role in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. JStone

The Tampa-born actress is a highly influential entertainer. Paulson spent time in both Tampa and New York as a child and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. This led to various shows on and off Broadway before landing roles in American Gothic and What Women Want before being nominated for a Golden Globe in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

30. John Young

John Young

John Young joined NASA in 1962 as a pilot of Gemini 3, and was the first person to smuggle a sandwich into space. Wikimedia

John Young had the longest career of any astronaut to date, flying six missions in over 40 years of service to NASA. He was born in San Francisco, although his family relocated to Orlando when he was barely a year old, so he spent his formative years in Florida. He studied aeronautical engineering at Georgia Tech and served in the Navy during the Korean War.

29. Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen

Among Carl Hiaasen’s most noteworthy of his work to be adapted to film was Strip Tease. Wikipedia

Plantation native Carl Hiaasen is a notable author who’s written more than 20 crime novels. His books take a very humorous tone and are heavily based on the political corruption he observed in Florida over the years. Before he wrote novels, Hiaasen was also a long-running Miami Herald columnist and he got his start at the University of Florida writing for The Independent Florida Alligator.

28. Amanda Bearse

Amanda Bearse

Amanda Bearse directed episodes of Mad TV, Dharma & Greg, Veronica’s Closet, and numerous other TV shows. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Best known for playing Marcy D’Arcy on Married…with Children, Amanda Bearse has had an interesting career on both sides of the camera. Hailing from Winter Park in Orange County, Bearse’s acting career took off when she landed a role on All My Children and various B-movies before her breakout role. Bearse is also a notable LGBTQ icon who came out at the show’s height.

27. Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely is an influential entrepreneur and billionaire who grew up in Florida. Wikipedia

Sara Blakely is an influential entrepreneur and billionaire who stood down numerous challenges. Born and raised in Clearwater, she attended Florida State University and was going to follow in her parents’ footsteps to become an attorney. But after a business machines sales job, she got fed up with the humid Florida weather and being forced to wear pantyhose to do her job although she liked the way she looked in them. This led her to found Spanx which later became a hosiery empire.

26. Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns

A four-time WWE champion, Roman Reigns has been a main event several times and was in four consecutive WrestleManias. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Born Leati Joseph Anoa’i in Pensacola, Roman Reigns is a WWE wrestler signed to their SmackDown brand. A former football player at Georgia Tech, Roman Reigns had seasonal stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Edmonton Eskimos before retiring from football and moving onto Florida Championship Wrestling.

25. Carla Gugino

Carla Gugino

Carla Gugino has also had a fulfilling stage career on and off Broadway. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

A prolific film and TV actress, Carla Gugino was born in Sarasota and described her upbringing as “having two childhoods” between Florida and Paradise, California upon her parents’ separation. She landed roles in TV bastions of the 80s and early ’90s like The Wonder Years, Who’s the Boss?, and Saved By the Bell predecessor Good Morning, Miss Bliss before making her film debut in Troop Beverly Hills.

24. Tom Petty

Tom Petty

Born and raised in Gainesville, Tom Petty’s ardent interest in music led him to the set of an Elvis biopic in nearby Ocala and he credited this experience and seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show for wanting to be in a band. Shutterstock / Jack Fordyce

Tom Petty was a venerated and multi-talented musician and actor, and founder of the eponymous Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Between his solo work, singles released with The Heartbreakers, and supergroup Traveling Wilburys, Petty was one of the best-selling artists of all time.

23. Rita Rudner

Rita Rudner

Rita Rudner holds the distinction of being the longest-running solo comedy show in Las Vegas. Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

Miami-born actress and comedian Rita Rudner is a vanguard for women in stand-up comedy. She left Florida for New York to be a dancer on Broadway before she got into comedy upon noticing how few women were in the field. Rudner made her TV debut on David Letterman and she’s also dipped her toe into screenplay writing.

22. Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Noted author and scholar Zora Neale Hurston’s most salient work is Their Eyes Were Watching God. Wikipedia

Noted author and scholar Zora Neale Hurston’s most salient work is Their Eyes Were Watching God, but the influential anthropologist wrote over 50 other stories, essays, plays, and dabbled in film. While Hurston was born in Alabama, she moved to Eatonville in Orange County as a child. The town served as a setting for a majority of her work and the Zora! festival is held in Eatonville in her honor every year.

21. Brittany Snow

Brittany Snow

Brittany Snow first rose to prominence as Susan “Daisy” Lemay on the soap opera Guiding Light. Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

Tampa native Brittany Snow first rose to prominence as Susan “Daisy” Lemay on the soap opera Guiding Light at the turn of the millennium. However, the inception of her modeling and acting career began as a child model for now-defunct Miami-based department store chain Burdines. Snow then starred in Nip/Tuck, John Tucker Must Die, and Pitch Perfect as well as providing the voice for Naminé in Kingdom Hearts II.

20. XXXTentacion

XXXTentacion

XXXTentacion’s songs melded different music styles together, including trap and lo-fi, and they went from SoundCloud to the Billboard Top 100. Wikipedia

Born Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy in Plantation outside of Miami, but best remembered by his stage name XXXTentacion, the rapper had a sadly brief career and life but left behind an enormous legacy in hip hop and lo-fi. Onfroy was a pioneer of building a music career on SoundCloud, where he began uploading tracks after his release from juvie in 2013.

19. Delta Burke

Delta Burke

Delta Burke also has a clothing line sold in various department stores. Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

An Orlando native and former Miss Florida pageant winner, Delta Burke got her start on the set of Bozo the Clown which ABC filmed in Orlando in the mid ’70s. She had a few other roles on CBS series before her breakout role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in Designing Women. After the show’s cancellation, Burke went on to produce and act in other sitcoms as well as Broadway.

18. Josh Gad

Josh Gad

Most famous for providing the voice of Olaf in Frozen, Josh Gad’s work has spanned film, TV, video games, and Broadway musicals. Shutterstock / Joe Seer

Born and raised in Hollywood, Josh Gad attended Nova Southeastern University in Davie then transferred to Carnegie Mellon where he earned a BFA in drama. He played a news director on the sitcom Back to You and was a correspondent on The Daily Show prior to playing Elder Cunningham on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, winning a Tony for his performance.

17. Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph

After roles in films like 50 First Dates and Idiocracy, Maya Rudolph won two Emmy awards for her performance in The Good Place. Shutterstock / Jaguar PS

Maya Rudolph has had a long and diverse career as an actress, singer, and comedian. As the daughter of musicians, with 80s R&B singer Teena Marie named her godmother, the Gainesville native had an early exposure to music. She kickstarted her entertainment career as one of the revolving members of former Weezer bassist’s alternative band The Rentals.

16. Aaron Carter

Aaron Carter

Aaron Carter has appeared on Dancing with the Stars and shows on and off Broadway. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

The younger brother of Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys fame, Aaron Carter’s journey into pop stardom began at the age of 9. Born in Tampa, Carter frequently made appearances on Nickelodeon and toured with his brother’s band, with both of them achieving platinum records. After a decade-plus hiatus, the singer released a new single in 2016 followed by his fifth studio album in 2018.

15. Carrot Top

Carrot Top

Born Scott Thompson in Rockledge in Brevard County, the comedian and actor is better known by his stage name Carrot Top which was bestowed upon him by his high school swimming coach. Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

Carrot Top got his start in stand-up comedy while attending Florida Atlantic University which led to being a continuity announcer for Cartoon Network, prior to landing other roles in shows like Space Ghost Coast to Coast and his own performances that entail a variety of props.

14. Amy Dumas

Amy Dumas

Amy Dumas is a four-time WWE champion and hall of famer. Wikipedia

Pro wrestler Amy Dumas is better known by her ring name Lita, which was originally Angelica when she started wrestling in Mexico in the late 90s. While Dumas began her wrestling career with the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre before going independent, she hailed from Fort Lauderdale. The four-time WWE champion and hall of famer was also a roadie for various bands before forming her own punk band, The Luchagors upon retiring from wrestling.

13. Ashley Greene

Ashley Greene

Ashley Greene still roots for the Florida Gators as she’s been an avid football fan since childhood. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

An actress and model, Jacksonville native Ashley Greene became a household name among Twilight fans for the role of Alice Cullen in all five film adaptations. Greene is still friendly with her former co-stars and appeared in A Warrior’s Heart with Kellan Lutz who played Emmett in the Twilight films, along with Summer’s Blood and The Apparition.

12. Mimi Rogers

Mimi Rogers

Mimi Rogers had a semi-nomadic upbringing that took her everywhere from Michigan to the UK, but she’s actually a Florida native who was born in Coral Gables. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Mimi Rogers’ most prominent role was Sharon in The Rapture. The actress and professional poker player was a social worker and substance abuse counselor before she entered the entertainment industry after divorcing her first husband and subsequently heading to Los Angeles.

11. T-Pain

T-Pain

T-Pain has had over 50 highly successful singles and derived the T in his stage name from his hometown. Shutterstock / stock_photo_world

Grammy-winning rapper, platinum record producer, and founder of Nappy Boy Entertainment, Tallahassee-born T-Pain is best known for pioneering the usage of autotune in his songs. He has collaborated with many rap and hip hop luminaries like Lil Wayne, Akon, Rick Ross, and others with his 2007 album Epiphany becoming a chart topper in the US.

10. Bella Thorne

Bella Thorne

Actress and pop star Bella Thorne was born in Pembroke Pines, a suburb of Miami, to Cuban and Italian parents. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Bella Thorne began an acting career as a child to support her family after the death of her father. A role in HBO’s Big Love was the major breakout for her acting career as well as Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up where the character CeCe Jones is an ambitious dancer despite her dyslexia, mirroring Thorne’s own struggles with the disorder.

9. Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry was a fixture in the punk and new wave scenes in New York and London Shutterstock / Sterling Munksgard

Many people associate Debbie “Blondie” Harry with the punk and new wave scenes in New York and London, but she was actually born Angela Tremble in Miami prior to her adoptive parents relocating to New Jersey. While Harry reformed Blondie as a group in the late ’90s, she became a highly successful solo artist and Rapture is considered the first rap song to hit the top of the charts in America.

8. Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier has been both knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

Prolific veteran actor and diplomat Sidney Poitier is most well-known for late 1960s films To Sir, With Love and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner though his work spans several decades. The actor is of Bahamian descent and he was born in Miami due to its proximity to the Bahamas and his family there, though he moved to New York as a teenager.

7. Bob Ross

Bob Ross

Bob Ross passed away in 1995, but his instructional videos have found new audiences on Twitter and YouTube. Shutterstock / Zoe Cappello

Bob Vila isn’t the only Floridian who had an enduring TV presence: the late Bob Ross was from Daytona Beach and his serene instructional show on PBS about painting happy trees still has adoring fans to this day. Ross developed his soft-spoken persona and an affinity for painting after his military service and became dedicated to teaching others the craft. Ross passed away in 1995, but his instructional videos have found new audiences on Twitter and YouTube.

6. Bob Vila

Prior to the deluge of reality TV shows and HGTV offerings about house-flipping and renovations, Bob Vila was the original vanguard of TV handymen: the star and entrepreneur actually grew up in a house in Miami that his father built by hand. Vila attended University of Florida, majoring in journalism, prior to being hired as a host for This Old House. The show ran for 10 years and gave way to spokesman and licensing deals with Sears and Home Shopping Network.

5. Janet Reno

Janet Reno

Janet Reno was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general. Shutterstock / Mark Reinstein

Former Attorney General Janet Reno was the first woman to serve this role, and she served the entirety of President Bill Clinton’s term from 1993 to 2001. Reno was born in Miami and worked in two law firms in the city prior to taking a position with the state attorney’s office. However, most people are unaware Reno was also the first woman to serve as a state attorney in Florida. She was elected four times, serving Miami-Dade County for 15 years.

4. Stephen Root

Stephen Root

Stephen Root’s career as a character spans three decades and several iconic roles. Shutterstock / Tinseltown

You may know Sarasota-born Stephen Root best as Milton mumbling about setting the building on fire after getting his stapler back in Office Space or good-hearted but unlucky Army barber Bill Dauterive on King of the Hill. Root’s career as a character spans three decades and several iconic roles, and he embarked on this path with the University of Florida’s acting program after graduating high school in Vero Beach.

3. Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes has appeared in music videos for Aerosmith, Pet Shop Boys, and other artists, most notable being Will Smith’s “Miami”. Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins

Miami native Eva Mendes got her start in horror B-movies that typically end up on Rifftrax, before her breakout roles in Training Day and 2 Fast 2 Furious. The actress has also done a significant amount of work as a spokesmodel, working with brands like Revlon, Pantene, Thierry Mugler, and more.

2. Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes has had a prolific film career both in front of and behind the camera. Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

Wesley Snipes has had a prolific film career both in front of and behind the camera in addition to training in martial arts for over four decades. Snipes grew up in The Bronx, but was born in Orlando then graduated from high school there. He’s most well-known for New Jack City and the Blade trilogy, as well as a multi-million dollar brush with the IRS that resulted in serving time.

1. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande got her start in entertainment as Cat Valentine with the Nickelodeon series Victorious. Shutterstock / JStone

The multi-platinum singer and actress hails from Boca Raton and is best known for pioneering music streaming and making the most out of a huge social media following. Grande got her start in entertainment as Cat Valentine with the Nickelodeon series Victorious and the spin-off series Sam & Cat, but it was shooting covers of Adele, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and other singers and uploading them to YouTube that ultimately skyrocketed her music career.

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