Though you might not be able to detect their accents on camera, many of your fave celebs grew up way down South — from Tennessee to Louisiana. Find out which Southern-born actors, actresses, and musicians fled down yonder to make it big.
1. George Clooney
Though he may have residences all over the world and be married to Beirut-born lawyer, George Clooney’s humble beginnings started in Lexington, Kentucky. His parents were local celebrities, with his mom a beauty queen and city councilwoman, and his dad a former anchorman and game show host. Though they moved around during his childhood, the eventually headed back to Kentucky when Clooney was in middle school. After he graduated from Augusta High School, he attended Northern Kentucky University and University of Cincinnati, but never graduated. Instead, he sold women’s shoes, insurance, and more odd jobs until he started acting.
2. Jennifer Lawrence
Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence knew what she wanted: to stay down South and become a mom and a doctor. But she also knew that wasn’t really going to happen. She told Vogue: “I’ve never said this before, because there is no way to say it without it being completely misunderstood, but ever since I was really little, I always had a very normal idea of what I wanted: I was going to be a mom and I was going to be a doctor and I was going to live in Kentucky. But I always knew that I was going to be famous. I honest to God don’t know how else to describe it. I used to lie in bed and wonder, Am I going to be a local TV person? Am I going to a motivational speaker? It wasn’t a vision. But as it’s kind of happening, you have this buried understanding: Of course.” She was right: After a childhood filled with horseback riding and daily visits to the farm, she started acting at age 16. And at 22, she became the second-youngest Oscar winner for Best Actress.
3. Julia Roberts
This iconic actress has Southern roots that bring her all the way back to Smyrna, Georgia, which is just a few right turns and 20 minutes away from Atlanta. The daughter of Betty Lou (yep, that’s her mom’s real name) and Walter Grady, Roberts’ parents loved the show-biz life, even if they were pretty far from that Hollywood Sign or shining New York lights. They met while performing for the armed forces and later co-founded the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop and also ran a children’s acting school in Decatur, Georgia while they were expecting their daughter. And fun fact? Because the children of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King attended the school and were coached by Roberts’ dad, Walter, they paid the hospital bill with Roberts was born.
4. Britney Spears
Britney has often spoken out about her Southern roots, giving credit to her upbringing and also for her taste in food (who can resist sweet teas and fried food?!), and there’s no wonder why: Born in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, she is Southern to her core. Though when she first auditioned to be in the Mickey Mouse Club in Atlanta, she was rejected, she would be cast two years later, alongside fellow Southerner (and future beau), Justin Timberlake.
5. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah has always been humble and candid about her early life, where she was born to an unmarried mother in Kosciusko, Mississippi. While her father hasn’t ever been officially determined, Oprah spent most of childhood living in poverty with her mom, Vernita and her grandmother, Hattie Mae. Times were so hard for Winfrey that she wore dresses made of potato sacks‚ but there was a silver lining in the strong Southern women in her life: Her grandmother taught her to read and took her to church. She spent the majority of her childhood moving around the South with her mom and siblings, overcoming abuse, running away from home and eventually, graduating from East Nashville High School and Tennessee State University. She’s given back to her roots many times, including 400 scholarships to the Morehouse College in Atlanta.
6. Ellen DeGeneres
It was Ellen’s Southern upbringing that influenced a lot of her comedic work, and likely, what gave her that warm, friendly personality on and off camera. Born in Metairie, Louisiana to Betty and Elliott Everett, she eventually moved to New Orleans once her parents divorced and her mom remarried. She ended up attending the University of New Orleans but left after one semester to work with her cousin at a law firm. Then she worked odd jobs — at JCPenney and T.G.I. Friday’s and as a house painter, hostess, and bartender. It was also in New Orleans where she first started stand-up comedy as the emcee at Clyde’s Comedy Club.
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