Culture

A Parade of Stars of Jamaican Descent

Written by StephanieK

Jamaicans are known for their adventurous spirit and following their dreams, so it is not surprising that many celebrities have Jamaican heritage. Below is a list of celebs who have proudly come from parents or grandparents who were born and raised in Jamaica.

1) Naomi Campbell

The actress and supermodel was born on May 22, 1970, to a Jamaican mother and a Jamaican-Chinese father. She was raised in London, England, and was discovered by a fashion executive while shopping. She is the first multi-racial model to be on the cover of French Vogue. Her acting credits include “The Cosby Show,” “Coyote Ugly,” and music videos by Michael Jackson, George Michaels and Jay-Z. She is part owner of the Fashion Cafe and is actively involved in charity work through organizations like the Dalai Lama Foundation and UNESCO.

2) Sheryl Lee Ralph

The actress was born on December 30, 1956, in Waterbury, Connecticut, to an African father and a Jamaican mother. She was raised in Mandeville, Jamaica, and Long Island, New York. A graduate of Uniondale High School in Hempstead, New York, and Rutgers University in New Jersey, Ms. Ralph first gained attention in the Broadway production of “Dream Girls” in 1982. She has starred in films such as “Mighty Quinn,” “Oliver & Company,” “Mistress” and “The Flintstones.” She is married to Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes and has two children.

3) Alicia Keys

The singer, musician, and actress was born on January 25, 1981, in New York, New York. Her mother Terri Augello is Irish-Italian, and her father Craig Cook is Jamaican. Ms. Keys began playing piano – including classical compositions by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin – at the age of seven. At 14, she composed her first song, “Butterflyz.”  She attended Columbia University for a time, but later opted to pursue a musical career instead. She has released several albums including “The Diary of Alicia Keys,” “Songs In A Minor” and “Composition in Black and White.” Her acting credits include “Shaft,” “Rear View Mirror” and “Dr. Doolittle 2.” She is married to producer Swiss Beatz and has one child.

4) Wentworth Earl Miller III

The actor was born on June 2, 1972, in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England. His father Earl Miller II is a lawyer and educator of Jamaican heritage, and his mother Ivy Marie Palm is a special education teacher of Russian-French descent. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York,  where he attended Midwood High School. While at Midwood, he performed in the annual production of “Sing!,” which inspired him to pursue an acting career. He later transferred to Quaker Valley Senior High School in Pennsylvania. After graduation, he attended Princeton University where he became a cartoonist for the school newspaper. He also sang baritone in the  vocal group “The Princeton Tigertones.” Wentwort Miller is best known for his acting roles in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “ER” and “Popular.” His movie credits include “The Human Stain,” “Underworld” and “Prison Break.” He has appeared in several of Mariah Carey’s music videos.

5) Dianne Abbot

The British MP, actress, reporter, broadcaster, public speaker and politician was born on September 27, 1953, in Paddington, London, England. The daughter of Jamaican Immigrants who relocated to the United Kingdom, her father was a welder, and her mother was a nurse. She attended Harrow County Grammar School for Girls and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge. Ms. Abbot is the first Caribbean woman to be elected to the British Parliament. She is the founder of “Black Women Mean Business” and helped to form The Black Caucus within the Labour Party. Her career in Parliament includes serving on the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. She has been instrumental in establishing a committee to investigate gun-related crimes. Her inspiration for success was her father, who told her, “In order to get on, you have to be not just as good as white people, but better.” She has spoken at Ivy League universities, including Harvard. Ms. Abbot is divorced and has one child.

6) Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

The Congresswoman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 21, 1964, to Jamaican parents. She is known as the authentic voice of Brooklyn. She received a scholarship to Oberlin College and a Honorary Doctorate of Law degree from St. Francis College. She has been the recipient of the prestigious APPAL/Sloan Fellowship in Public Policy and Policy Analysis. She was elected to Congress in 2006 to represent the 11th Congressional District, which encompasses Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Borough Park. She sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Small Business. Her work for the House Education and Labour Committees has earned her the name of “After School Hero.”

7) “Downtown” Julie Brown

The dancer, actress and former MTV VJ was born on August 27, 1959, in London, England, to a Jamaican father, Valentine Brown, and a whit, English mother, Doreen Brown. Because her father was a member of the Royal Air Force, she travelled all over the world where she discovered dancing. In 1979, she was a participant in the Disco Dancing Championships, Dancer of “Top of the Pops,” a member of the dance troop “Zoo,” and she appeared on the British children’s’ program “Crackerjack.” In the 1980’s she gained fame as the effervescent host of Club MTV, promoting her famous phrase, “Wubba! Wubba! Wubba!” She has appeared in movies such as “Spy Hard,” “Spring Break ’83,” “The Weird Al Show,” “Ride,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Ru-Paul’s Drag U.” Ms. Brown is married to producer and CEO of Vision Motor Corporation, Martin Schuermann. They have one child and reside in California.

8) Tyson Craig Beckford

The supermodel and actor was born on December 19, 1970. His father is Jamaican of Panamanian descent, and his mother is Jamaican Chinese. He was raised in Rochester, New York, where he attended Bay Trail Middle School and Pittsford Mendon High School. In 1992, he was discovered by a New York City talent scout. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited by Ralph Lauren to represent the company’s line of Polo sportswear for men. He has appeared on shows such as “I’m a Celebrity! Get Me Outta Here!” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” He has been an ardent supporter of the National RESPECT! Campaign against Domestic Violence, and the voice of Giverespect.org website. Mr. Beckford is currently the host of “Make Me a Supermodel.” He resides in New Jersey with his 10-year-old son.

9) Corbin Bleu Reives

The actor and singer was born on February 21, 1989, in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jamaican father, David Reives, and an Italian mother, Martha Reives. His father is an actor, so Mr. Bleu dropped the name Reives to avoid confusion between his father’s career and his own. He started acting at the age of two, appearing in advertisements for Nabisco, Hasbro, and Life Cereal. Corbin Bleu attended  the Preparatory School Medical Program at Johns Hopkins University. He is best known for his role as Chad in “Walt Disney’s High School Musical.” His first album, “Another Side,” was released in May 2007 by Hollywood Records.

10) Karim Dule’ Hill

The actor and tap dancer known as Dule’ Hill was born on May 3, 1975, in Orange, New Jersey,  to Jamaican parents. His father is an entrepreneur and his mother an educator. His dancing career began at age three when he enrolled at the Wildey School of Dance in East Orange, New Jersey.  He also attended Sayreville War Memorial High School and Seton Hall University. His first acting role was on Broadway in “The Tap Dance Kid” where he was Savion Glover’s understudy. He has appeared in other musicals, including “Shenandoah,” “Little Rascals” and “Black and Blue.” His rise to fame occurred when he played the starring role in “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk” on Broadway. His film appearances include “Sugar Hill,” “She’s All That,” and “The Ditch Digger’s Daughter.” Mr. Hill is most remembered for his starring role on the television show “Psych” along with James Roday. He is married to Canadian actress, model and dancer, Nicole Lyn.

11) Harold George Belafonte, Jr.

The Calypso singer, songwriter, actor and social activist was born on March 1, 1927, at Lying-in Hospital, Harlem, New York. His mother, Melvina Love, was a housekeeper of Jamaican descent. His father, Harold George Belafonte. Sr. was from Martinique and worked as a chef in the Royal Navy. Harry Belafonte lived in Jamaica with his Jamaican grandmother for eight years of his life. After returning to America, he attended George Washington High School and then joined the Navy, where he served in World War II. He attended a performance by Sidney Poitier,  which inspired him to become an actor. His musical career began in the club where he performed to raise the funds for acting classes. Mr. Belafonte has become famous for songs like “Matild.,” “Calypso” and the famous “Banana Boat Song.” He has recorded songs in several genres, including blues, show tunes, folk and American standards. His television and film appearances include “The Tonight Show with Belafonte,” “The Muppet Show,” “Buck and The Preacher,” “Uptown Saturday Night” and “White Man’s Burden.” He has been a civil rights activist and a humanitarian who has loaned his celebrity status to help organizations such as  the Campaign Against HIV/Aids and the Cancer Society for Prostrate Cancer Awareness. He is currently a member of the Trans Africa Forum and the Institute of Policy Studies. He is married to Pamela Belafonte and has four children.

12) Christopher “Kid” Reid

The actor, comedian and rapper was born in the Bronx, New York, to a Jamaican father and an Irish mother. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and graduated from Lehman College. He is best known as part of the 80’s hip-hop duo “Kid ‘N’ Play.” He has worked as a stand-up comedian, appearing on shows such as “Your Big Break,”  “Martin,” “Sister, Sister” and  ”It’s Showtime at the Apollo.” He wrote the theme song for “Real time with Bill Maher” and has made guest appearances on “Celebcadabra,” “The Dawn and Drew Show,” ”Comics Unleashed” and has played the role of “The Rhymer” on Nickelodeon’s “Supah Ninjas.”

13) Ben Gordon

The professional basketball player and member of the NBA was born on April 4, 1983, in London, England, to Jamaican parents. He migrated to the United States as an infant and resided in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Mount Vernon High School and the University of Connecticut. While playing basketball at the University of Connecticut, he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 2004 NBA draft. He played for the Chicago Bulls from 2004 to2009, representing the United States in the 2003 Pan American Games. His career highlights include being named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2005, NBA All Rookie in 2004 and NCAA Champion in 2004. In 2009, Ben Gordon signed a five-year deal with the Detroit Pistons, continuing his role as a high scoring athlete. In 2012, he announced his intention to represent Great Britain in the Olympics.

14) Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr,

The rapper, producer and actor known as “Busta Rhymes” was born on May 20, 1972, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, to Jamaican parents Geraldine Green and Trevor Smith. He attended George Westinghouse Information and Technology High School, where some of his classmates were Jay-Z, DMX and The Notorious B.I.G. He transferred to Uniondale High School and graduated in 1990. Busta Rhymes became famous with his first song, “Woohah! Got You all In Check!” from his album “The Coming.” He followed up his success with the albums “When Disaster Strikes” and “Will Reign Supreme.” He has received several nominations at the  BET Hip Hop Awards and a number of Grammy Nominations. He recorded a song entitled “Drummer Boy” for Justin Beiber’s album “Under The Mistletoe.” He lives in New York and has three children.

15) Kim Victoria Fields

The actress was born on May 12, 1969, in New York City, New York. She recently learned of her Jamaican heritage. Her mother is actress Chip Fields. Kim Fields attended Burbank High School and Pepperdine University. She acted in school plays and got her first starring role in 1979 playing the lovable “Tootie” on “Facts of Life.” Her other acting roles include appearances on “Living Single” and “Good Times.” She participates in stage work and directs movies produced by her production company, Victory Productions.  Kim Fields is divorced and has one child.

16) Tonya Maxine Williams

The Canadian actress, writer, producer and director was born in London, England on July 12, 1958, to Jamaican parents. As a young child, she lived in London and Jamaica. She and her mother migrated to Ontario, Canada, when she was four years old. As a teenager living in Canada, she modeled for Eaton’s Catalogues and danced on a television series called “Boogie!” She was crowned, “Miss Black Ontario” and attained national attention when she appeared in the daytime drama, “The Young and The Restless.,” playing Dr. Olivia Barber Winters. Ms. Willliams’s career highlights include hosting the Canadian children’s’ show “Polka Dot Door,”  and appearing in shows and movies such as ”Check It Out,” ”Generations” and “A Very Brady Christmas.” She is the winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series. She is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, founder and president of the Toronto Reel World Film Festival, and contributing writer and executive producer of “The Tonya Lee Williams Gospel Jubilee.”

(Biographical information collected from Wikipedia)

About the author

StephanieK