Many of today’s top celebrities celebrate their unique diversity. Many stars have a rich African heritage that you might not be aware of. Even one star on this list was not aware of their African heritage until adulthood! Here are 12 black celebrities you might not have known are black.
The star of the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise never knew his biological father. His mother is of English, Scottish, and German descent. He has stated that his parents’ relationship would have been illegal at the time in some U.S. states due to anti-miscegenation laws. “All I know from my mother is that I have connections to many different cultures,” Vin Diesel has said. Nevertheless, he has never shied away from celebrating his diverse background. “I’m definitely a person of color,” he has said.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Dwayne Johnson made his name in professional wrestling before breaking into movies, becoming a major box office draw. His wrestling nickname was “The Rock” and he was one of the sport’s biggest stars. His father (an African-Canadian) comes from Nova Scotia while his mother, a Maori native, comes from New Zealand. Recently, he celebrated this heritage when he voiced Maui in Disney’s Moana. He famously has a feud with his Fast and the Furious co-star Vin Diesel.
The star of “Flashdance” and “The Book Of Eli” is from Chicago. Her father was an African-American grocery store owner and her mother was an Irish-American schoolteacher. Because she felt that growing in that environment made her feel “like an outsider” she had to be extra driven to succeed in the entertainment industry.
Pete Wentz is best known as the bassist for the band Fall Out Boy. He has Afro-Jamaican heritage through his maternal grandfather, who is cousins with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. On his father’s side, he is of English and German descent. Wentz was previously married to Ashlee Simpson, who gave birth to their son in 2008.
This baseball player played shortstop for the New York Yankees for two decades. He is the son of an African-American father and a German/Irish mother. He spent years in the tabloids linked to gossip about his dating life. He’s been romantically linked to such celebs as Mariah Carey, Jessica Biel, Minka Kelly, Hannah Davis, and many others. He is now part-owner of the Miami Marlins.
Maya Rudolph’s unique ethnicity allowed her to play a wide range of roles on Saturday Night Live before breaking out in hit films like Bridesmaids. Her mother is acclaimed African-American musician Minnie Ripperton, while her father is Jewish songwriter/producer Richard Rudolph. Tragically, Maya’s mother passed away from breast cancer when she was a child. Her mother’s 1975 hit song “Lovin’ You” was written as a lullaby for Maya. At the end of the song, Ripperton even sings “Maya, Maya, Maya, Maya” as the song fades out.
She is the daughter of legendary African-American music producer Quincy Jones and Jewish actress Peggy Lipton, who played Julie on TV’s Mod Squad. Rashida became a TV star in her own right, with such series as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Angie Tribeca in her credits. In addition to acting, she has made a mark as a writer and producer. She even directed a Netflix documentary about her father, called Quincy. Her latest work is a co-writing credit on Toy Story 4.
Wentworth Miller has starred in Prison Break and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. He is of English, French, Dutch, German, Jewish, African-American, Russian, Syrian, Lebanese, and Cherokee ancestry. Moreover, he was born in the U.K. to American citizens, so he holds dual U.S./U.K. citizenship. He really is a man of the world.
Nicole is actually the adopted daughter of musician Lionel Richie. Because her parents gave up their parental rights in favor of their friend, he raised her as his own child. Her birth parents were of Creole, African-American, Mexican, and Spanish ancestry. Though she became famous for being friends with Paris Hilton, today she is writing books and acting on various television sitcoms.
Singing superstar Mariah Carey is of Irish descent on her mother’s side and of African-American and Afro-Venezuelan descent on her father’s side. Sadly, her mother’s family disowned her for marrying a black man. Mariah’s parents divorced when she was three years old. She told People magazine of the struggles she faced growing up biracial. “I had to go through so much in my childhood just to feel accepted and feel worthy of existing on Earth because I felt so different from everybody else growing up, because I was biracial, because I was so ambiguous-looking,” she said.
Broadway star Carol Channing did not know she had African heritage until she was 16, when her mother told her. Channing is of African-American and German descent on her father’s side, as well as German descent on her mother’s side. Channing became one of acting’s biggest names and most prominent social activists, especially in the LGBT community. She revealed her African-American heritage to the public in 2002. Best remembered for starring in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, Channing passed away in January 2019 at the age of 97.
This award-winning journalist made waves when she hosted the CNN documentary series Black In America in 2008. She is the daughter of an Australian man and an African-American/Latina woman. She has become a major voice for more inclusive coverage and representation of minorities in media. Since 2015, she has hosted Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, a public-affairs talk show.