You May Have Thought These Stars Were Born in the USA, but Their Lives Started Overseas

Thu Mar 03 2022

America is a melting pot of so many different ethnicities and cultures. No matter where someone hails from, they can seemingly always find a little piece of home, no matter where they go. Plus, they bring new cultural contributions from across the globe.

Though they may speak the same native language – maybe even not – these stars have brought their experiences from life outside of the USA and have channeled their favorite parts of their native land in the work they do. From cultural clothing on stage to influence in musical style, these celebs have brought the best of their home nations with them.

Natalie Portman – Israel

Actress and Harvard graduate, Natalie Hershlag (Natalie Portman to the rest of us), was born in the global city of Jerusalem. Her father was an Israeli-born fertility doctor, and her mother was an American-born homemaker that would quickly become her agent.

The family relocated in the 1980s to the New York City suburb of Syosset, New York, an affluent and cozy community on Long Island. She landed her first role in the film Léon in 1994 after a short modeling stint. Little did she know, her whole career would be launched.

Rihanna – Barbados

Rihanna is known for creating waves throughout pop culture. She’s a style icon, musician extraordinaire, and soon, she’ll add loving mother to her list of qualifications for why she’s simply the best. However, this jet setter was not born and raised in the USA, but nearby in the Caribbean.

This Caribbean queen hails from Barbados, where she always lived on island time and dreamed of making it big. She’s channeled her native flavor into so much of the work that she’s done and has even traced her roots with different musical and fashion stylings on stage and in videos. One great example is Hulu’s Guava, where she stars alongside Donald Glover.

Jackie Chan – Hong Kong

Legend Jackie Chan was born to impoverished parents in Hong Kong in April 1957. When he was just six years old, his family relocated to the Australian capital of Canberra. However, within a year, his parents sent him back to Hong Kong to study Jingxi, a form of Chinese theater.

From ages 7 to 17 he studied acrobatics, singing, martial arts, and mime. This would quickly land him roles as a child actor, and eventually, as a stuntman. It turns out, getting sent back to Hong Kong to study ended up paying off in more ways than he thought possible.

Gal Gadot – Israel

Wonder Woman herself, actress Gal Gadot, hails from the holy land. The 2004 Miss Israel Gal Gadot was raised in Rosh Ha’ayin and won her title at just 18 years old. She served as a combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces, giving her a leg up on her competition for Wonder Woman.

She remains quiet overall when it comes to significant world issues regarding that side of the world, but doesn’t change her feelings to fit with expected narratives. She feels a strong sense of pride for her homeland, returning whenever she can.

Margot Robbie – Australia

Actress Margot Robbie comes from Dalby, a rural area of Queensland. Her father was a former farm owner and a tycoon in the sugar cane industry, and her mother was a physical therapist. She was ultimately raised by a single mother on a family farm.

She managed to break into the entertainment industry and eventually earned herself an Academy Award for her performance in I, Tonya. Like a good Aussie, she’s appeared in features for publications like Vogue and Elle, appearing in videos like “Margot Robbie Teaches Aussie Slang,” amongst other cute and creative bits.

21 Savage – United Kingdom

Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, best known by his stage name 21 Savage, this rapper was born in London before relocating with his mother to Atlanta, Georgia, where he is currently based. This guy is really colorful, covered with tattoos and body art unique to him.

His experience stateside recently was drastically changed when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tried to deport him. He reportedly overstayed a visa, though he came as a child. His case is currently pending, and he can’t leave the USA until further notice.

Nicki Minaj – Trinidad and Tobago

If you haven’t had a sing-a-long to Nicki Minaj’s song, “Trini Dem Girlz,” seriously, what are you waiting for? The rapper traced her island roots back to her home country, Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caribbean islands. She lived there until age 5.

The rap sensation’s mother had previously left Nicki with her cousins back in Trinidad, so she could go to New York in search of work that would allow her to bring her whole family (or at least her kids) to the USA. She relocated from the hot Caribbean sun to the cold NYC winter.

Schoolboy Q – Germany

Quincy Matthew Hanley became Schoolboy Q, a world-renowned rapper in the south side of Los Angeles. However, he spent the earliest days of his life in West Germany, where he was born. He was born on an army base to parents who were divorced by the time he was born.

His father stayed behind in Germany when the rapper and his mother moved to Texas, before settling down in California. He’s never been back to Germany and doesn’t seem too interested in rushing back for a visit. Whatever floats his boat.

Priyanka Chopra – India

Global sensation Priyanka Chopra is one of India’s highest-paid actresses. She won the Miss World pageant in 2000, representing her home nation. She was launched into superstardom, appearing in Bollywood films before breaking into the US market.

This actress and model became known as a key figure in American pop culture on her own, but marrying musician Nick Jonas only illuminated her. Now, the two are proud parents to a baby girl, as well as a loving rescue pup. They’re truly living the American dream together.

Sofia Vergara – Colombia

Actress Sofia Vergara was born and raised in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, just two hours from each Cartagena and Santa Marta. Barranquilla is home to Colombia’s national soccer stadium, their national Carnaval celebration, and one other major star… but you’ll have to keep reading to figure out just who we’re referring to.

The actress grew up in Colombia during a time known for drug trafficking and violence, and though she loved her home country, she felt it would be best to leave. Her family had been protected by their economic status previously, but Sofia herself didn’t want to chance it. She took her son to live in the capital city of Bogota, before jumping at an opportunity to relocate to Miami, Florida.

Antonio Banderas – Spain

Actor Antonio Banderas is another beautiful specimen coming from coastal Spain. The actor was born and raised in Málaga, Spain, the same city Pablo Picasso was born in. Two world-famous artists coming from the same small city seem to happen more often than we thought possible.

This hunk moved to Hollywood in pursuit of an acting career in 1989, and within just three years, he had already landed a major role. He’s shown us his range as an actor, from playing the dad in Spy Kids to The Mask of Zorro, from Desperado to voicing Puss in Boots in Shrek 2, making the move to Hollywood was definitely the right move for this guy.

Nicole Kidman – Australia

Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman is Australian, but did you know that she was born in Hawaii? Yep, this Aussie was born while her parents happened to be in Hawaii on student visas. Her mother was a nursing instructor, as well as a book editor for her husband. Her father was a scientist pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Her parents moved back to Australia when she was four years old. She grew up in Sydney, attending Lane Cove Public School and North Sydney Girls School. She’s an Australian and American dual citizen, and she will always have that unique twist under her belt.

Djimon Hounsou – Benin

Actor Djimon Hounsou was born in Benin, West Africa. When he was twelve, his parents emigrated to Lyon, France with him and his brother. Not long after arriving, he dropped out of school, even experiencing homelessness for a spell. He had met a photographer who introduced him to a prominent fashion designer, which ultimately kickstarted his career.

After working his way from model to Marvel and DC star, he’s truly worked his way through the ranks of success in the entertainment industry. He successfully completed a Calvin Klein underwear campaign, which might be the best part of this all. That’s just beautiful.

Isla Fisher – Oman

Actress Isla Fisher was born to Scottish parents in Oman, nestled in the Middle East. Her father was working at a bank in Muscat, where the actress lived before her parents relocated to Perth, Western Australia. She’s always got that connection to her first home.

She lived an active and exciting, outdoorsy life in Perth, after moving there are age 6. She credits her sensibility to her Australian upbringing, as well as her laid-back attitude and easygoing lifestyle. She may not live there anymore, but it will always be home.

Lupita Nyong’o – Mexico

Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico City, Mexico while her father was teaching at a university there. Her father was a Kenyan politician, and Nyong’o moved to her family’s native land when she was just a year old. So, the actress doesn’t have many memories there.

Her name, Lupita, came as a result of Luo tradition. Her family is of Luo descent, an ethnic group native to West Kenya and Tanzania, and they traditionally name children based on the events of the day. She was named Lupita after Guadalupe, so she will always have that connection.

Keith Urban – New Zealand

Musical legend Keith Urban may have been born to the Kiwi culture in New Zealand, but he identifies himself as a true-blue Aussie. When he was just two years old, his parents relocated from Whangarei, North Island, New Zealand to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Urban inherited his love of American country music from his parents, leading him to live in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Nicole Kidman. They recently relocated back to Australia, to live closer to Nicole’s mom. They live with their daughters in Byron Bay.

Nathan Fillion – Canada

Nathan Fillion is one of the many precious gifts given to the entertainment industry by the great white north, Canada. The Alberta native first gained notoriety for his role in the soap opera, One Life to Live. He became a USA-Canada dual-citizen in 1997.

The actor moved to New York City when he landed his role on his breakout soap opera, and just stayed in the USA afterward. We’re certainly understanding of not wanting to spend the rest of his life dealing with those cold AF winters they’ve got up there…

Charlize Theron – South Africa

Charlize Theron is an award-winning, graciously compensated actress from South Africa. She grew up in Benoni, part of what is now known as Gauteng province. She was the only child of parents who worked in road construction. She had a rough start, growing up on her parent’s farm near Johannesburg. There was no way for her to know what would happen while living there.

While living in South Africa, Theron’s father struggled with alcoholism and frequently made advances that physically threatened Charlize and her mother. After one incident, her mother had taken a gun and shot him dead in self-defense, after he fired at them both. However, that experience could never take away from her connection to her homeland.

Shakira – Colombia

Much like Sofia Vergara, Shakira’s origin story also begins in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia. She is often referred to as the Queen of Latin America. She recorded her first album with Sony Music Colombia when she was just 13 years old.

She quickly rose to fame in the region, releasing all of her albums in her native language. She didn’t break into the English-speaking market until 2001. Her songs “Wherever, Whenever”, and “Underneath Your Clothes” are what helped the rest of the world see her as the treasure she is.

Wyclef Jean – Haiti

Musician Wyclef Jean is from Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. When he was nine years old, he emigrated with his family to Brooklyn, New York. They eventually settled in East Orange, New Jersey, not far from Newark. His mother recognized his potential to become one of Haiti’s greatest musical exports, and she bought him a guitar.

Despite spending the majority of his life outside of Haiti, he feels a strong connection to his roots. He filed for Haitian presidency in 2010, however, he was ruled ineligible because he had spent the last five years living outside of the country. He continues to strive for justice and relief for the Haitian people.

Sean Paul – Jamaica

Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques, best known as Sean Paul, is a Jamaican dancehall-style musician. He’s known for bangers like “Get Busy” and “Temperature”, and we have his native home of Jamaica to thank for that. He’s a descendent of immigrants who came to Jamaica from Portugal.

His paternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews, and despite growing up Catholic, he attended a Jewish day school in Jamaica. He is a mixture of many cultures, coming from Portuguese as well as Afro-Jamaican roots. His mother is of English and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

Joaquin Phoenix – Puerto Rico

Actor, producer, and animal rights activist Joaquin Phoenix was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. He descended from Ashkenazi Jews from Russia and Hungary on his mother’s side. Though they had those roots, his family became involved with the cult Children of God, and did missionary work for the organization.

The family grew out of the cult and settled in Florida for a while, before ultimately moving to and settling in Los Angeles. Phoenix and his siblings managed to break into the world of entertainment from a young age, but he will never forget his roots.

Sebastian Stan – Romania

Actor Sebastian Stan was born in Constanța “Tomis,” Romania. His parents divorced when he was just two years old, and his mother moved with him to Vienna, Austria, when he was eight. They left after the Romanian Revolution, before ultimately settling in Rockland County, New York.

Once moving to the USA, he fully threw himself into theater. He attended Stagedoor Manor, a summer camp for performing arts where he excelled and appeared in several shows, including Little Shop of Horrors. He came out of this experience wanting to seriously study acting. He became a US citizen in 2002.

Mila Kunis – Ukraine

Actress Mila Kunis was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, in the Former Soviet Union. Her family came to the USA as Jewish refugees and were able to come to the country because they already had family living in Los Angeles. Once arriving in Los Angeles, Kunis started taking after-school acting courses.

Kunis came to the USA at age 7, so she’s spent most of her life stateside. She recalls that she had blocked out her entire second grade school year in her memory, because she had such a hard time adjusting to life in the USA and didn’t understand the culture shock at such a young age.