Famous People from Cleveland
Cleveland’s culture and history has long been home to a host of icons and influential figures. Once powered by numerous industries, Cleveland is not just a city on the shores of Lake Erie, but it’s a birthplace of talent and stories of success that have circled the globe. Peeling back the layers of Cleveland’s legacy by exploring the lives of Cleveland’s finest whose work has earned them a place on the world stage.
Top Famous People from Cleveland
LeBron James is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history. Born just outside of Cleveland in Akron, Ohio, LeBron was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Throughout his illustrious career, he has played for the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron is a four-time NBA champion, four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Off the court, LeBron is known for his philanthropy, notably founding the “I PROMISE School” in Akron to support at-risk children and their families, and for his outspoken stance on social and racial justice issues.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony debuted in 1991 after signing with Ruthless Records and Eazy-E. After their debut album Creepin on ah Come Up, they gained fame with the 1995 hit “Tha Crossroads,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Comprised of members Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, and Flesh-N-Bone, they have released several albums that have incorporated a fusion of fast rap styles and harmonized vocals.
Their albums E. 1999 Eternal and their double disc classic The Art of War are among their most notable works. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are recognized for their influence on the hip hop genre, particularly with their fast-paced flow and the combination of singing and rapping in their music.
Halle Berry is a groundbreaking actress who made her debut in the television series “Living Dolls” in 1989. Berry is the first African American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, a feat she achieved for her performance in Monster’s Ball (2001).
Her filmography spans across various genres with notable roles in movies like Swordfish (2001), the X-Men film series where she portrayed Storm, Die Another Day (2002), and a host of others, from the early 1990s with Eddie Murphy’s Boomerang, to recently with John Wick: Chapter 3 and Moonfall.
Steve Harvey is a multi-faceted entertainer and media personality, renowned for his work as a comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author. Born in Welch, West Virginia, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Harvey first gained prominence as a stand-up comedian in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
His career skyrocketed with the WB network show The Steve Harvey Show from 1996 to 2002 and as one of the “Original Kings of Comedy.” He gained even wider popularity hosting the game show “Family Feud” beginning in 2010, along with his daytime talk show, “The Steve Harvey Show,” which ran from 2012 to 2017. Harvey is also known for his motivational book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” which was later adapted into the film “Think Like a Man.”
George Steinbrenner was a businessman and sports executive best known for his ownership of the New York Yankees. Born in Rocky River, Ohio, Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973 and transformed the franchise into a baseball powerhouse, leading to numerous World Series Championships under his ownership.
Known equally for his unique management style, including frequently changing managers, Steinbrenner became an iconic figure in sports, known for his dedication to winning and considerable influence on the game of baseball. His legacy in sports and business extends beyond the field, including the creation of the YES Network, one of the most successful regional sports networks in the country.
Dorothy Dandridge was an actress and singer, and one of the most famous African American film stars of the 1950s. Dandridge is best known for her groundbreaking role as the title character in the film Carmen Jones (1954), for which she became the first African American woman to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
With her performance in Porgy and Bess (1959) and other films, she broke barriers for black actresses in Hollywood, although she faced racial discrimination throughout her career. Her glamorous image, combined with the tragedies she encountered, including personal and professional struggles, made her a legendary figure in Hollywood history.
Travis Kelce has established himself as one of the top tight ends in the National Football League. Hailing from the suburban town of Cleveland Heights, Kelce was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He has since become an essential part of the Chiefs’ offense, known for his elite route-running skills, reliable hands, and versatility.
A multiple-time Pro Bowler and a key player in the Chiefs’ success, including Super Bowl LIV victory, Travis Kelce’s has also become extremely popular outside of football, from his dating life with Taylor Swift to hosting his own podcast with his brother.
John Davison Rockefeller
John Davison Rockefeller was a business magnate widely considered the wealthiest American of all time and the richest person in modern history. He founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust.
Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy. In his life, he donated more than $500 million to various philanthropic causes. He passed away during the late 1930s, but his legacy continued through his founding of several institutions, like the University of Chicago, Rockefeller University, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Jesse Owens was a track and field athlete who made history at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by winning four gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4×100 meter relay, defying Nazi propaganda about Aryan racial superiority. Born in Oakville, Alabama, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Owens’ achievements in Berlin were complemented by his setting of multiple world records.
His victories are celebrated not only for its achievement but also for their broader social impact during a time of deep racial tension. Owens remains one of the most praised and inspirational athletes of the 20th century, especially as his legacy includes countless accolades and honors.
Drew Carey is a comedian, actor, and game show host. He first gained public attention with his stand-up comedy in the late 1980s and made a successful crossover to television with his own sitcom, The Drew Carey Show, which aired from 1995 to 2004.
His portrayal of a middle-class office worker earned him widespread acclaim and solidified his place in the entertainment world. Additionally, Carey hosted the improvisational comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” starting in 1998. In 2007, he took over the role of host on the beloved game show “The Price Is Right,” continuing to charm audiences with his humor and affable nature.
Kid Cudi is a rapper, singer, and actor who has left a significant imprint on hip-hop and alternative music. Debuting in the late 2000s, Kid Cudi gained prominent attention with his mixtape A Kid Named Cudi in 2008, which led to his collaboration with Kanye West’s GOOD Music label.
His first studio album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009), was praised for its unique blend of hip-hop, rock, and electronic music and introspective lyricism. With hits such as “Day ‘n’ Nite” and “Pursuit of Happiness,” Cudi has a reputation as an innovator, influencing a generation of hip-hop artists with his signature melodic flow and exploration of mental health issues. Additionally, he has extended his talents into acting, with appearances in films and television series such as How to Make It in America.
Machine Gun Kelly
Machine Gun Kelly is a rapper, Rock N Roll singer, and actor known for his rapid-fire lyrical delivery, hence his stage name derived from the notorious criminal George “Machine Gun” Kelly. He burst onto the music scene with the release of his first mixtape, Stamp of Approval, in 2006.
MGK’s break came with his first studio album Lace Up in 2012, which featured the hit single “Wild Boy.” Over time, his style has evolved from hip-hop to a more rock-oriented sound with the album Tickets to My Downfall (2020), showcasing his versatility and earning him a number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart. Apart from music, MGK has also pursued acting with roles in films like Beyond the Lights (2014) and The Dirt (2019), where he portrayed drummer Tommy Lee.
Logan Paul is a YouTuber, social media personality, and actor who rose to fame through the video-sharing platform Vine before transitioning to YouTube, where he obtained millions of followers for his vlogs and comedic sketches.
Born in Westlake, Ohio, Logan has since expanded his reach into wrestling and boxing, podcasting with his show “Impaulsive,” and launching his own clothing brand, Maverick by Logan Paul. While his career has been marked by controversy, Logan has also embarked on various business ventures and continues to maintain a significant online presence. His ventures into boxing, particularly an exhibition match with Floyd Mayweather Jr., have attracted widespread media attention.
A former professional football player and sports media personality, Golic had a successful NFL career as a defensive lineman from 1985 to 1993, playing for the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins.
After retiring from football, he transitioned into sports broadcasting, finding widespread fame as the co-host of ESPN’s radio show “Mike & Mike” from 2000 to 2017, alongside Mike Greenberg. Known for his affable personality and insightful sports commentary, Golic became a beloved figure in sports media. Post “Mike & Mike,” he continued his broadcasting career with “Golic and Wingo” until its end in 2020.
The younger brother of Logan Paul, Jake Paul also found fame initially on the Vine platform before transitioning to YouTube. Jake has cultivated a massive online following through his provocative vlogs and various publicity stunts. Aside from his digital career, Jake has delved into the music industry with singles like “It’s Everyday Bro,” and made his foray into acting with appearances on the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark.
In more recent years, he has gained notoriety in the boxing world for his professional bouts, fighting and defeating several athletes and former MMA fighters, furthering his reputation as a polarizing figure in the entertainment and sports industries.
Gerald Levert was a R&B singer, songwriter, and producer known for his soulful voice and passionate performances. Born on July 13, 1966, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of Eddie Levert, the lead singer of the O’Jays. Gerald first rose to fame in the mid-1980s as the lead singer of the R&B group LeVert, which delivered hits like “Casanova” and “Baby I’m Ready.”
He then enjoyed a successful solo career, with albums like “Private Line” in 1991 and “Gerald’s World” in 2001. Levert also formed part of the R&B supergroup LSG, alongside Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat. His emotive delivery and keen songwriting made him a favorite among R&B audiences until his untimely death in 2006.
A household name as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 2001, Molly Shannon grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Starring on SNL, she created a myriad of memorable characters, including Mary Katherine Gallagher, an awkward Catholic schoolgirl, which Shannon later adapted into the feature film Superstar (1999).
Her comedic talent has earned her several Emmy nominations and led to a successful post-SNL career in television and film, with roles in movies such as Never Been Kissed (1999) and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), as well as in acclaimed TV series like Enlightened and The White Lotus. Shannon is commended for her ability to bring depth and heart to quirky, comedic characters.
Comedian, actor, and talk show host Arsenio Hall rose to fame with his Emmy Award-winning late-night talk show, “The Arsenio Hall Show,” which originally ran from 1989 to 1994. Hall’s energetic style and ability to attract diverse, cutting-edge guests redefined the talk show format for a younger generation.
Hall was also the first African American host of a nationally syndicated late-night talk show. In addition to his talk show career, he appeared in films like “Coming to America” (1988) and its sequel, “Coming 2 America” (2021), showcasing his comedic acting chops. Hall won “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012 and, after a hiatus, he revived “The Arsenio Hall Show” for a brief run in 2013-2014.
Actor, film director, philanthropist, and professional racing driver Paul Newman became a film icon in the 1950s. With a career spanning over 50 years, Newman made his Broadway debut in 1953 and soon after found success in Hollywood. Known for his cool demeanor, Newman’s notable films include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Hustler (1961), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Color of Money (1986), after several nominations throughout his career. Off-screen, Newman was a devoted philanthropist, founding Newman’s Own, a food company that donates all post-tax profits to charity. He was also passionate about race car driving and became a respected figure in the sport.
Bobby Womack was a legendary American singer-songwriter and musician known for his soulful voice and contributions to soul and R&B music. Womack began his career as part of the family group, the Valentinos, and as Sam Cooke’s backing guitarist.
His solo career took off in the late 60s, with hits such as “It’s All Over Now” and “Across 110th Street.” Womack’s gritty voice and emotional delivery won him acclaim, and his work spanned several decades, influencing many musicians and earning him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. His legacy lives on as an artist who provided a soundtrack for the civil rights movement and beyond.
Singer-songwriter known for her soulful voice and socially conscious music, Chapman gained critical and commercial acclaim with her self-titled debut album in 1988, which included the hit singles “Fast Car,” “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution,” and “Baby Can I Hold You.”
Her music, often classified as contemporary folk, reflects her commitment to political and social activism, addressing issues of race, poverty, and injustice. Chapman has won multiple Grammy Awards, including for Best New Artist and Best Rock Song.
Jason Kelce is a football center for the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. Raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Jason became a sixth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has since developed into one of the game’s premier centers, praised for his intelligence and leadership on the offensive line.
He has been selected for multiple Pro Bowls and was a vital member of the Eagles’ team that won Super Bowl LII. Off the field, Jason Kelce is respected for his community involvement and memorable for giving an impassioned speech at the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory parade.
Carl Stokes was a pioneering American politician who became the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city when he was elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1967. Born on June 21, 1927, in Cleveland, Stokes’ tenure as mayor was marked by efforts to address urban decay and racial tensions.
He advocated for the economic and social advancement of minorities and the urban poor. Stokes also served in the United States Army during World War II and after his time as mayor, he continued to impact public policy and serve his community as a broadcaster, judge, and ambassador to the Seychelles. He is remembered for breaking racial barriers and for his dedicated public service to the city of Cleveland and the nation.
An American actress and comedian recognized for her vivacious personality and versatile acting skills, Kym Whitley was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She made her mark in Hollywood with a wide array of roles in both television and film. She has appeared in popular sitcoms such as The Parkers, My Wife and Kids, and That’s So Raven, as well as movies like Next Friday (2000) and Deliver Us from Eva (2003).
Kym Whitley is also known for her reality television work, including her own show, Raising Whitley, on the Oprah Winfrey Network, which chronicled her experiences as a single mother after adopting a son.
Ron O’Neal was an actor, director, and screenwriter best known for his role as Youngblood Priest in the iconic 1972 film Super Fly. Born in Utica, New York, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, O’Neal’s performance in Super Fly solidified his place in blaxploitation cinema history.
The film’s success spawned a sequel, Super Fly T.N.T., which O’Neal also directed. While Super Fly remained his most famous work, O’Neal continued to act in film and television, as well as on stage, until his death in 2004. He left a lasting legacy as a symbol of the 70s and the complex era of blaxploitation filmmaking.
LaWanda Page, born Alberta Peal, was an actress and comedian best known for her portrayal of Aunt Esther on the 1970s television sitcom “Sanford and Son.” Born during the 1920s, in Cleveland, Ohio, Page began her career in show business as a burlesque performer and later transitioned to stand-up comedy, where her fiery and saucy humor was a hit.
She became a household name with her role as the cantankerous but lovable Aunt Esther alongside Redd Foxx, becoming one of the show’s standout characters. Her catchphrase, “Watch it, Sucker,” became a memorable line from the series. After the show ended, Page appeared in various other television shows and films, often bringing her sharp comedic timing and strong presence to her roles.
Professional wrestler, actor, and media personality The Miz grew up right outside of Cleveland in Parma, Ohio. The Miz first gained public attention as a cast member on MTV’s “The Real World: Back to New York” in 2001. He then turned his reality television fame into a successful wrestling career with WWE, where he has become one of the company’s most recognized figures.
The Miz has held numerous titles, including the WWE Championship, and is known for his charismatic “A-Lister” persona. Aside from his in-ring achievements, he has starred in several films produced by WWE Studios and continues to appear on television, including his own reality show “Miz & Mrs,” which gives a glimpse into his personal life with wife and fellow WWE Superstar Maryse.
Politician and former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, who served from 2008 to 2014 gained prominence as a progressive voice in the Democratic Party and as a champion for issues including workers’ rights, education, and criminal justice reform.
She became a national figure during her tenure as the president of the political organization Our Revolution, which was associated with Senator Bernie Sanders, whom she supported during his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. Turner is also known for her outspoken advocacy for Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage. In addition to her political career, Turner has been a professor and is a frequent media commentator and speaker, emphasizing the importance of political engagement and social justice.
Paula Jai Parker
Paula Jai Parker is an actress that has made a name for herself with her versatile acting in film, television, and theatre. Parker first gained attention for her role as Joi in the 1995 comedy film Friday.
Her career continued to flourish with parts in movies like Hustle & Flow (2005) and Idlewild (2006), showcasing her ability to take on a diverse range of characters. On television, she’s known for her roles on shows such as The Wayans Bros. and her voice work on the animated series The Proud Family. Parker’s dynamic acting abilities and comedic skills have made her a staple in entertainment.
Charles Oakley is a former NBA basketball player who played power forward and was known for his tough play, defensive tenacity, and rebounding prowess. Oakley was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1985 and went on to play for several teams, most notably the New York Knicks.
During his NBA career, which spanned nearly two decades, he was widely respected by teammates and opponents alike for his work ethic and on-court leadership. After his playing days, Oakley has had various involvement in coaching and has remained a beloved figure among Knicks fans for his dedication to the team both on and off the court.