Celebrities Whose Immigration Stories Will Inspire You
was originally published on
1. Lupita Nyong’o identifies as Mexican-Kenyan, as she was born in Mexico but primarily raised in Kenya. Due to political unrest, her family was forced to leave the African nation. Once in the U.S., Lupita graduated from Hampshire College. Before she was an Academy Award-winning actress, Lupita would play minor roles at school plays in Kenya.
2. Born in Mexico, Salma Hayek has revealed that she was once living in America as an illegal immigrant. After moving to Los Angeles in 1991, her visa expired and she dealt with racism against Mexican actresses in Hollywood. She has become an outspoken opponent of legislation attempting to label illegal immigrants as felons.
3. Before she was Bad Gal RiRi, Rihanna was an island girl. Born and raised on the island of Barbados, she grew up in a three-bedroom bungalow and sold clothes on the street to earn money. She remained on the island until she was discovered by an American music producer in 2003.
4. Although an American citizen, Zendaya had everyone talking when she explored her diverse family roots in a video posted online for Immigrant Heritage Month. With branches in Germany and Africa, the Disney star says she is proud of every part of her heritage, telling US Weekly: “I just want young people to embrace where they come from, be proud of it and share their family’s history. This country was built on beautiful stories of immigrant heritage.”
5. Before immigrating to America, Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up in Austria in a home with no phone or plumbing. When he arrived in the U.S. at the age of 21, he spoke very little English and risked deportation when he lied about the work he would be doing in America. One year later, he was a millionaire.
6. Charlize Theron was born in South Africa and her first language is Afrikaans. After relocating to the U.S., she practiced ballet until a leg injury ended her dancing career. She has since won an Academy Award for her acting, and only became a U.S. citizen in 2008 after an extensive process that involves interviews and tests about the American government.
7. Nicki Minaj was born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago before relocating to the United States on a temporary visa. In the U.S., she was raised by a single mother in Jamaica Queens, New York. “I came here from Trinidad when I was five and made my own way!” she said.
8. Growing up in Ukraine, Mila Kunis had ancestors in the Holocaust and had to hide the fact that she was Jewish due to fear of persecution. She moved to the U.S. when she was seven and spoke very little English. During her first year of school in America, she “cried every day.” Her father sent her to acting classes to improve her English and the rest is history.
9. Up and coming actor, Dayo Okeniyi, was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and a Kenyan mother. In 2003, his family moved to Indiana before relocating to California. Once in the U.S., he earned a bachelor’s degree from Anderson University, and has starred alongside Jennifer Lopez and in films such as “The Hunger Games” and the upcoming “Terminator Genisys.”
10. Born in Australia, Iggy Azalea claims to have told her parents she was traveling to Florida for vacation and simply never returned. In “Work,” the rapper discusses the experience: “No money, no family. 16 in the middle of Miami.”
11. Boris Kodjoe is German and Ghanian. Before he made a name for himself in the U.S. as an actor and heartthrob, he was born in Austria to a partially Jewish mother and he has ancestors who were killed in the Holocaust. He is fluent in German, English, French, and speaks some Spanish as well.
12. Growing up in Ireland, acting was not an acceptable career for Liam Neeson. The actor attended college before dropping out and traveling to America to follow bigger dreams. Although he describes himself as a “proud Irishman,” he became an American citizen in 2009.