Famous People from Pittsburgh
Many of Pittsburgh famous people and most iconic residents have left an indelible mark on our culture and society, spanning fields as diverse as technology, entertainment, sports, and literature. This has included the pioneering spirit of Andrew Carnegie, the enchanting voice of Lena Horne, visionaries like Andy Warhol, and Mr. Rogers, who invited generations of children into his neighborhood. Pittsburgh has been home to a large amount of individuals whose legacies continue to resonate.
The Top 15 of Pittsburgh Famous People
Wiz Khalifa is a renowned rapper and songwriter known for his laid-back demeanor and love for cannabis culture. He gained major recognition with his debut album Show and Prove in 2006 and soared to worldwide fame with the 2010 hit single “Black and Yellow,” which became a sports anthem in his native Pittsburgh.
His 2015 song “See You Again,” featuring Charlie Puth, was a tribute to the late actor Paul Walker and featured on the “Furious 7” soundtrack, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 non-consecutive weeks. Wiz Khalifa’s successful ventures in the music industry have earned him several accolades, including multiple Billboard Music Awards and Grammy nominations.
Lena Horne, an American treasure, was a trailblazing actress, singer, and civil rights activist, whose career spanned over 70 years. After growing up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, she made her debut at Harlem’s famed nightclub the Cotton Club at the tender age of 16. Horne became renowned for her performances, with her music often charting on Billboard’s hits.
She crossed over into Hollywood, where she became one of the first African American women to sign a long-term movie contract with a major studio in 1942. Her film Stormy Weather in 1943 contained what would become her signature song of the same name. Among her accolades, she won four Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Mr. Rogers was an icon of children’s television. With his gentle wisdom, he influenced generations to come. He began his seminal show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1968, which ran for 31 seasons until 2001. Through his show, he created a safe and educational retreat for children, addressing complex issues such as death, divorce, and racial integration in an approachable and compassionate manner.
His work on and off-screen earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, over 40 honorary degrees, and four Daytime Emmy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. His cardigan sweater was even enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution. Beyond television, Mr. Rogers authored numerous books for children.
Mac Miller was a rapper and producer that gained prominence with his 2010 mixtape K.I.D.S. and continued to build his legacy with albums like Blue Slide Park, which debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200.
His artistic evolution was evident with each release, culminating a number of acclaimed albums, like The Divine Feminine in 2016 and Swimming in 2018. Sadly, Miller’s rise and his journey was cut short with his premature death in 2018. His posthumous album Circles was released in 2020 cemented his impactful time in hip-hop.
The only singer of Pittsburgh famous people, Christina Aguilera was a powerhouse and a pop icon in the 1990s and 2000s. Her career took off following her debut album in 1999, which included the chart-topping hit “Genie in a Bottle.” As a child star on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, alongside Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, Aguilera’s talent was evident early on.
She’s since won five Grammy Awards and one Latin Grammy, leaving a mark on the music industry. Her most celebrated songs include “Beautiful,” “Fighter,” and Hurt.” Aguilera has also shown versatility, tapping into various genres like soul, Latin, and R&B, as well as taking on acting roles and serving as a coach on the television show The Voice.
Jeff Goldblum is an actor who made his debut in the 1974 crime film Death Wish. Known for his roles in some of the highest-grossing films of his time, Goldblum gained fame as the quirky scientist Dr. Ian Malcolm in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), as well as the protagonist in David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986).
His extensive filmography includes blockbuster hits like Independence Day (1996) and a wide range of genres showcasing his versatility. Off-screen, Goldblum is also an accomplished jazz pianist and has a band called The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
Joe Namath, also known as “Broadway Joe,” is a former football quarterback who became a cultural icon in the 1960s and 1970s. He played college football for the University of Alabama under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and his professional career spanned from 1965 to 1977, most notably with the New York Jets in the American Football League (AFL) and later in the NFL.
Namath’s brash confidence came to a pinnacle when he famously guaranteed a Jets victory over the favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and then led his team to a win, earning the game’s MVP honors. This victory not only cemented his legacy but also played a key role in the AFL-NFL merger. Known for his flashy lifestyle and charismatic personality, Namath remains one of the sport’s most legendary figures.
Michael Keaton is an actor praised for his wide-ranging roles. He first gained national attention with the comedy hit Mr. Mom in 1983 and achieved superstar status as the title character in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and its sequel Batman Returns (1992).
Throughout his career, Keaton has deftly alternated between comedic roles, as seen in Beetlejuice (1988), and dramatic performances, such as his portrayal of a beleaguered newspaper editor in Spotlight (2015), which earned him critical acclaim and the movie an Academy Award for Best Picture. His career experienced a resurgence with his lead role in Birdman (2014), where he played a washed-up actor attempting a comeback performance that earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Arnold Palmer, viewed as the king of the golfing world, was a professional golfer that won over numerous fans and numerous victories. His professional career began with his first tour win in 1955 and spanned more than six decades. Palmer’s greatest years came between 1960 and 1963, when he won seven of his total 62 PGA Tour titles including four Masters Tournaments, two Open Championships, and one U.S. Open.
He played a pivotal role in popularizing and commercializing the sport of golf, and his legacy includes the drink combination known as the “Arnold Palmer,” which mixes iced tea and lemonade.
Dan Marino is a retired football quarterback who played 17 seasons for the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. Marino was known for his quick release and powerful arm, establishing numerous passing records throughout his storied career.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft and quickly became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in league history, earning nine Pro Bowl selections and setting single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns in 1984. Although a Super Bowl victory eluded him, Marino was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and is remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks never to win a championship.
Another football player on the list of Pittsburgh famous people is Johnny Unitas, known as “Johnny U” and “The Golden Arm.” He is widely considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. He spent the majority of his career with the Baltimore Colts, delivering outstanding performances and memorable comebacks from 1956 to 1972.
Unitas set several records, including most consecutive games with a touchdown pass, a milestone that stood for decades until it was eventually broken by Drew Brees. He led the Colts to three NFL championships, including the historic 1958 NFL Championship Game, and his accolades include 10 Pro Bowl selections, 3 MVP awards, and his 1979 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
Andy Warhol was an iconic figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His work explored the relationships between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertising that proliferated by the 1960s. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol gained notoriety with his controversial yet pioneering works like “Campbell’s Soup Cans” and “Marilyn Diptych.”
He debuted as an artist in the 1950s and opened his own studio known as The Factory, which became a famous gathering place for celebrities, the wealthy, intellectuals, playwrights, and society’s most interesting and unique. He sadly passed away in 1987, but his works remain among the most expensive paintings ever sold.
Billy Porter is an actor, singer, and writer known for his flamboyant style and trailblazing performances across theater, film, and television. He made his Broadway debut in the original cast of “Miss Saigon” in 1991, and his poignant portrayal of Lola in “Kinky Boots” won him the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2013. Porter has also made a significant impact on television as Pray Tell in the critically acclaimed series “Pose,” for which he won an Emmy.
Gene Kelly was a dancer, actor, singer, director, producer, and choreographer synonymous with the golden age of Hollywood musicals. He is probably best known for his innovative and athletic dance style and likable characters he played on screen. Kelly debuted on Broadway in 1938 before signing with MGM and rocketing to stardom with dozens of performances in the top films of the 1940s and 1950s.
Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist whose name has become synonymous with vast wealth and the rise of big business. Born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland, Carnegie’s family emigrated to the United States in 1848. Starting from modest beginnings, Carnegie worked various jobs before founding the Carnegie Steel Company in the late 19th century.
His business, which revolutionized steel production in the United States, ultimately led to the creation of the U.S. Steel Corporation when he sold his company in 1901. By the time of his death in 1919, he had given away approximately $350 million (the equivalent of billions in today’s dollars) to fund a variety of causes, such as education, peace, and public infrastructure.