Brooklyn Born Celebrities
Brooklyn has reached its height of popularity in recent years. Its real estate market is booming, its residents are young, and the arts scene is hip. Evidently, this borough has it all and more. Home of Coney Island, people from all over the City head south to Brighton Beach for summertime fun. Also, the brownstone-lined streets blossom in the spring and turn bright red and orange in the fall. It’s easy to see why Brooklynites say their borough is the best in New York.
Another thing Brooklyn has: bragging rights for being home to some of the most influential Americans in pop culture. Famous Brooklynites include Aaliyah, Walt Whitman, Bobby Fischer, Barbara Streisand, and more. On the one hand, it’s hard to pick a handful of influential people from Brooklyn. The borough fosters artistic expression with its diverse creative history. However, several revolutionary artists hail from this neighborhood, here are five we find notable.
A list of Brooklyn celebrities is not complete without a mention of Hova. He literally made the Brooklyn anthem, with help from a hook by fellow Brooklynite Santigold. Jay-Z was raised in the housing project Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. As a teenager, he attended the George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School with a couple of guys later known as The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes.
From these humble Brooklyn roots, Jay-Z grew to be one of the biggest moguls in the music industry. Three of his albums ranked as Rolling Stone‘s 500 greatest albums of all time. Additionally, the same publication ranked him the 88th-greates artist of all time. He served as President of Def Jam Recordings, founded Roc Nation, and is even a certified NBA and MLB sports agent. To top it all off, he married Beyoncé. It doesn’t get better than that.
2. Bernie Sanders
The Vermont senator got his start as a boy in Midwood. Growing up, he visited neighborhood institutions including Kingsway Jewish Center, eateries along Kings Highway, Lundy Brothers Restaurant, Prospect Park, Coney Island, and Brighton Beach. He attended James Madison High School in Midwood and Brooklyn College in Flatbush. Obviously, Sanders’s roots in Brooklyn run deep, and many residents were left feeling the Bern.
3. Jean-Michel Basquiat
For many people, Jean-Michel Basquiat is the most important visual artist of the 20th century. This Neo-Expressionist grew to fame in the 1980s and collaborated with great pop artists like Andy Warhol. Born on December 22, 1960, in Brooklyn to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat drew inspiration from his family and upbringing.
He garnered attention as an artist as part of SAMO– a group of street artists who left their mark on the city via subversive graffiti. Basquiat worked several jobs in the New York art scene, but he gained notoriety as a visual artist as there was a high demand for original, neo-expressionist pieces. Basquiat tragically died from a drug overdose in 1988.
4. Clara Bow
Clara Bow may not be a familiar name to everyone today, but in her time she was the first “It” girl to take the world by storm. She successfully transitioned from silent films to “talkies” in the late 1920s– one of the only actresses able to do so. She was a living sex symbol representing the Roaring 20s.
Born in Prospect Heights, Bow grew up in poverty. She cared for her epileptic mother and played sports as a tomboy. As a means of escape, Clara began auditioning for acting roles. Her energy and confidence caught the eyes of casting directors, and the rest is history. Bow went on to star in subversive films that reflected the wild nature of the 20s. Her movie “It” earned her the nickname “The It Girl,” a term we use today to describe young, fashionable women with an influence in style and pop culture.
5. Mel Brooks
Growing up in Williamsburg, Mel Brooks had an especially lovely childhood. This happy upbringing helped shape one of the sharpest minds in comedic history. Brooks wrote, directed, and starred in films including Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, History of the World, Part I, and The Producers.
As a small, sickly boy, Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky) learned to use humor to defend himself. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School, Eastern District High School, and spent a year at Brooklyn College before he was drafted during World War II. Eventually, Brooks returned to New York and began his career in the entertainment industry. Finally, Brooks is one of the only people in the world who received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony– an accomplishment dubbed EGOT.
Feeling inspired by Brooklyn?
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