Hollywood is perhaps the perfect training ground for future politicians. After all, you have to know how to look good on camera and answer questions from journalists at the drop of a hat. Maybe that’s why so many Hollywood stars turn away from the industry and head for the spotlight on the political stage. Here are 10 celebrities who left Hollywood to work in politics.
When it comes to “celebrities turned politicians,” Donald Trump may be the most famous of them all. He gained celebrity in his youth as a New York real estate mogul, and started making notable TV appearances in the ’80s. His public fame perhaps started with his 1980 interview with Tom Brokaw at the age of 33 and only increased when he made the rounds promoting his hit book The Art of the Deal in 1987. He became such an iconic New York figure he even made a memorable cameo in the film Home Alone 2.
He is said to have started considering running for president as early as 1987, and in 2000, he had a failed presidential run as a Reform Party candidate. Then, he became a TV ratings juggernaut as the star of the reality show The Apprentice in 2004. That show helped propel his popularity, and when he decided not to renew his Apprentice contract in 2015 rumors swirled of a presidential run for the Republican Party. This time, Trump was successful, and in 2016, he was elected president of the United States, a move that took him away from Hollywood but not away from the cameras.
Cynthia Nixon has played a number of engaging roles in TV and film over the years. However, she is best known for playing Miranda Hobbes in HBO’s popular and provocative TV show Sex and the City. Her character on that show was known for being a driven workaholic. And this quality may well apply to Nixon herself and her push into politics!
She decided to campaign for governor of New York in 2018 against incumbent Andrew Cuomo. She ultimately lost to Cuomo in the Democratic primary, but her passionate campaigning helped raise awareness for issues such as income equality and access to healthcare. She is set to make her Hollywood comeback in 2020 with the Netflix series Ratched, based on the novel One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest.
A former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger gained fame in the ’80s as a tough action hero, playing a highly imposing figure in features such as Conan the Barbarian, Predator, and The Terminator.
It surprised the entire world when the actor turned his eyes towards politics. He was very successful, though, winning a recall election in 2003 to become the governor of California.
He ended up being quite good at his job: he was re-elected for two full terms which he completed back in 2011. That’s why you’ve started seeing him return to the world of acting since.
Clint Eastwood spent literally decades portraying badass movie characters. He portrayed The Man With No Name in A Fistful of Dollars back in 1961, and he would later play Dirty Harry into the 1980s and a tough-as-nails Secret Service agent in the 1993 movie In The Line of Fire
Somehow, he still found time to play politics amid this whirlwind career. He served as mayor of the California city Carmel-By-the-Sea in the ’80s and served on the California State Park and Recreation Commission in 2001.
More recently, he has used his fame to endorse Republican politicians such as Mitt Romney.
To many younger people, it’s tough to imagine Ronald Reagan as anything but the president. As a two-term president with a heavy media presence, Reagan basically defined what 1980s America was all about.
Before that, though, Reagan was an actor. This included starring in Dark Victory with Humphrey Bogart and in Knute Rockne, All American where he played as George Gipp. It is from that movie that he drew the lifelong nickname of “The Gipper.”
American actor Steven Seagal is a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger in that people mostly think of him as an action hero. He is well known for his martial arts career and rose to fame in the late ’80s starring in action vehicles. His hit films in the ’90s include On Deadly Ground and Under Siege.
Seagal would later use his fame to add his voice to the political realm, gaining Russian citizenship in 2016 and voicing his support for Russian president Vladimir Putin. You may be surprised to learn that in 2018, Russia appointed Seagal as Special Representative for Russia-U.S. Cultural Links, Cultural and Historical Heritage. The voluntary position is similar to a U.N. goodwill ambassador and his job is to strengthen “mutual understanding and trust between the Russian and American peoples,” according to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Shirley Temple is one of those actresses that helped define what celebrity actually means. She made waves as Hollywood’s biggest child star in the 1930s. Her film career spanned hits such as Bright Eyes, Poor Little Rich Girl, Heidi, and much more.
After her retirement from film in 1950, she embraced an extensive political career. At the age of 39, she had a failed run for Congress in 1967, running as a Republican. But she went on to serve as a U.N. General Assembly delegate and U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. She even ended up being the only woman to serve (so far) as the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia! If that wasn’t cool enough, she also helped to end communism in Czechoslovakia as part of the Velvet Revolution.
To put it mildly, Jesse Ventura has had a colorful career. He went from being in the military to being a professional wrestler, which is when he earned his nickname “The Body.” He also found time to star in major Hollywood movies such as The Running Man and Predator (both of which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger).
In the early 1990s, Ventura pivoted to politics. He became mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota from 1991 to 1995 and later became governor of Minnesota from 1998 to 2002! Next time you watch Predator, just think: that action movie about hunting down an alien warrior stars two future governors!
Stacey Dash has had a varied acting career that includes roles in movies, TV shows, and even music videos. However, to fans of the movie Clueless, she will always be best known for playing the character Dionne Marie Davenport (a role she reprised for the Clueless TV show).
She became more politically outspoken later in life, and sometimes for different parties. This included supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. In 2016, she offered her support to Donald Trump, and served as a commentator on Fox News from 2014-2017.
In 2018, she began to run for Congress as a Republican, but ended up withdrawing her nomination a month after she announced her campaign. In interest in politics remains, however, and she stars in the 2019 film Roe v. Wade, about the landmark Supreme Court decision.
Depending on where you’re from, Shabana Azmi may not be well-known. But she’s a household name across the world, starring in over 100 Hindi films. She has won major awards for films such as Swami, Ankur, and Libaas.
She has leveraged her fame to become an outspoken activist for many causes. This includes speaking out against communism and for the support of child survival and AIDs survival organizations.
In addition to her activism, she has spent three decades in politics, including serving on the National Integration Council and the National Aids Commission. She also served as the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador to India.