It’s hard to imagine being born in the Caribbean and wanting to leave the white sand, hot sun and bright blue oceans for the smoggy cities of America, but there are many Caribbean-born celebrities who have made their way to the U.S. Whether they light up the movie screen, entertain us with their voices, win games or have a seat in our government, their culture and heritage bring an exciting twist to American life. And since they are celebrities, you know their impact will be strong.
Bob Marley is the most notorious Caribbean artist, but celebrities who have made their way onto our current music billboards include Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Shaggy and Wyclef Jean- just to name a few. Trinidadian, Nicki Minaj wowed us with her courageous music style. She's served as an inspiration to young girls, even encouraging two young British girls to showcase their skills on YouTube by singing a cover of Minaj's Super Bass. Minaj showed her soft side by meeting the girls and singing with them on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Shaggy, whose song Boombastic won him a Grammy, never forgot his roots. He started the Shaggy Foundation, which helps the Bustamante Hospital For Children in Jamaica.
Rihanna’s journey began in Saint Michael, Barbados, where she had a rocky childhood. Her father, a crack addict, and her mother got divorced when she was 14. She started singing at age 7, listening to mostly reggae music. In Barbados, she was an army cadet in a sub-military program that trained with the military. Her roots are obvious in all of her work. The Barbados flag and broken trident are featured in her music videos and she is the face of Barbados's tourism campaign. The Prime Minster even named February 20 “Rihanna Day,” when she performed a national concert. Needless to say she will never forget her Caribbean roots.
Athlete Tim Duncan, born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, plays basketball for the San Antonio Spurs. His skills on the court have won him four championships, two MVPs and NBA Rookie of the Year. Originally, Duncan was training to become a swimmer, but a hurricane destroyed the pool he trained in, forcing him to swim in the ocean. Because of his fear of sharks, Duncan gave up swimming and took on basketball. If he hadn’t been born in the Caribbean, where hurricanes are pretty common, he might have never discovered his basketball skills.
Patrick Ewing is another celebrated Caribbean athlete, hailing from Jamaica. Ewing spent most of his NBA career with the New York Knicks. ESPN named him the 16th greatest college player of all time and he won two Olympic Gold Medals. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, retiring his number 33 jersey.
But the buck doesn't stop there. Movie stars like Roselyn Sanchez and Garcelle Beauvis attribute their heritage to the islands as well. Born in Puerto Rico, Sanchez has starred in both American and Puerto Rican films and television shows. Beauvis, who left her home country of Haiti at the young age of 17, found success in New York City as a model and actress, and even worked opposite Jamie Foxx in The Jamie Foxx Show.
The most interesting of Caribbean-born celebrities, though, are probably those who impacted the American government. Alexander Hamilton, who was born in Nevis, and spent his younger years there, became the first Secretary of the Treasury in the newly-declared United States. Working alongside George Washington, Hamilton assisted in creating the structure of the cabinet. Hamilton had a big impact on our country's newly-formed government, which allowed it to improve and grow.
Whether these celebrities influenced us back in the day or continue to impact life today, the impressions they have made on American culture are significant. After all, America is a melting pot, but isn’t that what makes it so special? People can come from all over and contribute to our growing culture. Artists, star athletes, major politicians and shining actors continue to stimulate our ever-changing nation.