Virginia is home to countless famous figures, including U.S. presidents, inventors, authors and athletes. But here are a few folks that you may not have known about. These celebrities, from musical superstars to legends of the big screen, all got their start in Virginia.
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1. Sandra Bullock (actress, producer), Arlington
Known as one of the highest paid actresses in film, she has won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, both for Best Actress in the film “The Blind Side.”
2. Rob Lowe (actor), Charlottesville
Lowe became a household name in the 80s for film roles such as “The Outsiders” and “St.Elmo’s Fire”, as well as other smaller parts. Best known in recent years for TV roles including “West Wing”, “Brothers and Sisters” and “Parks and Rec.” His brother, Chad Lowe, also acts.
3. Ella Fitzgerald (singer, actress), Newport News
(1917-1996) Best known as the “First Lady of Jazz”, “Queen of Jazz” and “Lady Ella.” Still one of the best known voices of her time.
4. Shirley MacLaine (actress, singer, dancer, activist), Richmond/Arlington
One of the most accomplished actresses in Hollywood with an Academy Award for Best Actress in “Terms of Endearment”, 5 Golden Globes, the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
5. Warren Beatty (actor, producer, screenwriter, director), Richmond/Arlington
Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, won for Best Director. Nominated for 18 Golden Globes, won 6. Recipient of the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award and the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Younger brother of acclaimed actress Shirley MacLaine.
6. Dave Matthews Band, Charlottesville
After forming in the early 90s in Charlottesville, The Dave Matthews band has gone on to international success, with 9 studio albums to date and 6 consecutive albums making it to the Billboard chart’s #1 spot.
7. Katie Couric (TV personality, news anchor), Arlington
Best known for her long-time role as an anchor on “The Today Show,” Couric has also served as an anchor for the CBS Evening News, a reporter for “60 Minutes” and hosted her own talk show, “Katie.” She is a member of the Television Hall of Fame.
8. Pharrell Williams (singer, songwriter, producer, fashion designer), Virginia Beach
Best known for – everything. There’s not much Williams hasn’t done, including fronting bands like The Neptunes, designing multiple fashion lines, producing Top 40 hits and recently, serving as a coach on “The Voice.”
9. Dermot Mulroney (actor), Alexandria
Best known for his film roles, including “Young Guns”, “Where the Day Takes You”, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, “About Schmidt” and “August: Osage County.”
10. Wanda Sykes (writer, actress, comedian), Portsmouth/DC area
Award-winning writer and hailed as one of the 25 Funniest People in America. Best known for screen roles including “New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, as well as many other movies and voice roles.
11. Vince Gilligan (TV writer, producer), Richmond / Farmville
Best known as the creator, head writer and executive producer of AMC’s mega-hit, “Breaking Bad” and its recent spin-off, “Better Call Saul.”
12. George C. Scott (actor, director, producer), Wise
(1927-1999) A Hollywood legend, he is best known for his role as General George Patton in“Patton”, for which he won an Academy Award but refused it on moral grounds. Also gained fame for his roles in “Dr. Strangelove” and “A Christmas Carol.”
13. Patton Oswalt (writer, actor, comedian), Portsmouth/Sterling
Best known for his stand-up, as well as roles in “King of Queens” and the voice of Remy in “Ratatouille.”
14. Missy Elliott (singer, songwriter, rapper, producer), Portsmouth
Elliott emerged in the early 90s as a breakthrough female rapper and has since won 5 Grammys, sold 30 million records and become the first female rapper to earn 6 certified platinum albums.
15. Diedrich Bader (actor), Alexandria
Best known for his roles in “Napoleon Dynamite”, “Office Space”, “The Drew Carey Show” and “Beverly Hillbillies.”
16. Jay Pharoah (comedian, actor, impressionist), Chesapeake
Best known as a stand-up comedian and Saturday Night Live cast member since 2010, ranked Rolling Stone’s 55th funniest cast member of all 141 to have appeared in the show’s 40 seasons.
17. Patsy Cline (singer), Gore
(1932-1963) Considered one of the most influential and acclaimed vocalist of the 20th century for her powerful voice and ability to cross the line from country to pop music. Cline died in a plane crash at the age of 30 at the height of her career.
18. Casey Wilson (comedian, actress), Alexandria
Following a brief stint on Saturday Night Live, Wilson is best known for her roles on TV’s “Marry Me” and “Happy Endings.”
19. Wayne Newton (singer, entertainer), Norfolk/Roanoke
A long-time veteran and icon of the Las Vegas stage, Newton is know as “Mr. Las Vegas”, “Mr. Midnight Idol” and “Mr. Entertainer.”
20. June Carter Cash (singer, songwriter, actress, author), Mace’s Spring
(1929-2003) Began her career with her famous mother, Maybelle Carter, and the Carter Family band. Well known as the 2nd wife of Johnny Cash, with whom she performed and toured, as portrayed in the movie, "Walk the Line."
21. Willard Scott (actor, author, media personality, comedian), Alexandria
Best known as the lovable weatherman on the “Today Show.” Also remembered as the creator and first performing Ronald McDonald.
While these stars come from all over the state, from big cities to small towns, I do have to give a special shout out to Northern Virginia for their 8 megastars, followed by Eastern Virginia with 7…there must be something in the water. In the meantime, we haven’t forgotten about all of the other amazing Virginians out there – politicians, statesmen, authors and more – and we will definitely recognize them, too! But for now, there are many other big names you may know of…some of them may even be from your neck of the woods. So let us know what celebrities you share a hometown with!